Watch Out for These 4 Sneaky Charges on Your Monthly Bills


Your days are undoubtedly hectic. And if you're always on the move, you may do everything fast — eat fast, drive fast, work fast, and even pay your bills fast. But while the Internet makes bill paying painless and simple, you could end up paying more than necessary for certain services. (See also: 10 Monthly Bills You Can Cut)

Be honest with yourself. When you receive a credit card statement or utility bill in the mail, how well do you scrutinize it? Do you check your most recent activity to ensure everything is accurate? Or do you quickly glance at the balance and pay — no questions asked?

Just because a bill looks accurate doesn't mean that it is. Sneaky fees — regardless of how minute the amount — can creep onto monthly bills and add up to hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.

Let's see if we can spot a few.

1. Modem Fee

If you have Internet service through your cable company, the cable company probably supplied a modem when hooking up your service. (See also: How to Get Cheap Internet Access)

Like many people, you may think that this modem is available at no charge for as long as you're a customer. And once upon a time, this was the case. However, many Internet companies have started charging customers a monthly modem fee, which can range anywhere from $6 to $8.

Because cable companies don't openly advertise this new charge, you could be unknowingly paying this fee each month. Although you cannot avoid this fee if you decide to use your cable company's modem, you can purchase your own modem for as little as $50, which saves money in the long run.

2. Service Call Fee

Are you having problems with your Internet, cable,or phone connection? Your utility company or service provider may gladly come to your home to fix the issue, but it'll be at your expense, and you may discover an unexpected fee on your next billing statement. (See also: 8 Fees You Need to Stop Paying Now)

Known as a service call fee, some utility providers charge customers for home visits, regardless of how big or small the problem, or whether the problem is on the utility company's end — which hardly seems fair. The rep who schedules your appointment may conveniently forget to mention this fee, at which time the service call is charged to your account.

Anytime you call to schedule a service, inquire about fees. If the fee is ridiculously high, ask tech support to troubleshoot with you over the phone. Often, they can walk you through different options to correct the issue, and there's no charge for this service.

3. Paper Statement Fee

Although there's the option of e-statements, you may prefer paper statements. This way, you can physically touch bills as they arrive in the mail, and bills are less likely to get lost in your inbox.

However, taking the traditional route can cost you, and if you're not checking your statements carefully, you may already be paying a fee for paper statements. This fee can be as little as $2 or $3 dollars a month, but can add up over a year. These fees are charged by banks, mortgage companies, utility companies, and cell phone companies.

You can call your bank or utility provider and ask to have this fee removed from your bill, but they don't have to comply. To ensure you never get hit with this fee again, enroll in paperless statements and have all statements delivered to your email.

4. Gray Charges

If you don't carry a large balance on your credit cards, it's easy to detect sneaky charges that pop on your statement. But if you do have a balance, "gray charges" may go unnoticed, costing you hundreds. (See also: Best Low Interest Rate Credit Cards)

These are unwanted charges that fall into a variety of categories, such as auto-renewal and memberships fees that continually show up on your credit card bills, although you cancelled the services, Then there are phantom charges, which occur when a simple online purchase results in ongoing monthly payments or a charge for a product you never requested.

Gray charges — although sneaky — aren't always fraudulent and typically occur when card users do not read the fine print when buying items online. For example, if you agree to a two-week trial offer, the fine print may clearly state that you'll be charge a specific amount if you do not cancel within the two-week period. Additionally, if you order a so-called free credit report online, the fine print may clearly state that you'll be enrolled in credit monitoring. (See also: How to Get a Free Credit Report)

These unwanted sneaky charges are usually 100% avoidable. Whenever you buy online, always read the terms and conditions before completing a purchase.

Do you know of other sneaky charges we should look out for? Let me know in the comments below.

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