Fees may be just a part of life, but that doesn’t mean you have to simply accept them. Fees can easily be overlooked when it’s just a few bucks, but even small fees can really destroy your budget.
Fortunately, there are ways to get around these unnecessary charges with a little extra effort.
Related: 35 Ways I Save Money
Here are 10 fees you can avoid paying with some careful planning or creativity:
1. Landline telephone
More than two million Canadian households have replaced their landline telephones with cheaper wireless service.
Ditching your landline does come with some risks; 911 emergency services have a harder time identifying your location, monitored alarms and other services require either a landline or added-cost wireless technology, and during periods of unrest or bad weather, call volumes can increase exponentially causing disruptions to cell phone service.
Related: Why I cancelled my landline
But if you’re only receiving telemarketing calls at home, consider dropping your landline service to reduce household expenses.
Skype, Google Voice, and Voice Over IP services can often bring phone service costs down to just a few dollars a month.
2. Cellphone roaming fees
Talk to your mobile carrier about a pre-paid long-distance and roaming package before traveling to the U.S. or elsewhere.
Paying a bit up front could save you hundreds of dollars, and they usually last for 30 days so if you don’t use them on a first trip you have them for the remainder of the month. But beware – data and text roaming may not be covered, and there are other pitfalls to avoid.
3. Cancellation fees
Cancelling a cell phone contract or a cable package before the end of the contract (or “service agreement”) can bring fees of several hundred dollars.
Bell and Rogers both charge up to $400 to cancel a cell phone contract early – plus additional fees if you have a data plan. Be aware of the fine print in your service agreement and choose your time to change contracts wisely, or don’t sign a contract in the first place.
4. Prepaid credit cards
Visa, MasterCard and American Express offer prepaid gift cards that can be used just like credit cards at merchants across the country. Unlike regular gift cards, prepaid credit cards come with a host of unnecessary fees.
The BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard comes with a $6.95 annual fee. After the initial expiry date, a $5 inactivity fee will be charged monthly until the balance reaches zero.
Stick to buying regular store gift cards that come without the fees and expiry dates. If your bank offers Visa Debit technology then you can use your debit card in the exact same way as a credit card, while avoiding the fees that come with prepaid cards.
Related: Top Cash Back Credit Cards In Canada
5. Airline fees
Pack carefully – Air Canada and WestJet charge $20 for checking a 2nd bag, and bags that exceed the maximum weight or size can cost you an additional $50. And book your tickets online to avoid a telephone booking charge.
Related: Redeeming Your Aeroplan Miles
6. Banking fees and ATM fees
Banks and credit unions usually offer accounts that waive monthly fees if you maintain a minimum monthly balance. Online banks like ING Direct and PC Financial offer no-fee banking and don’t require a minimum balance.
Avoid non-bank cash machines in convenience stores, bars and plazas. You’ll be charged $1.50 to $2.50 at the machine and often another levy by your own bank for a total of up to $4.50 a transaction.
Plan ahead, use a smart-phone app to locate your bank’s own closest machine or be aware of other locations.
CIBC customers, for example, can use President’s Choice machines without fees. Credit unions have their own extensive shared ATM network.
Related: Debit Card Fees Are Costing Us Money
7. Coin-counting fees
Rolling loose change is a tiresome chore. Many people use coin-counting kiosks, found in grocery stores and malls, which quickly convert your loose change into paper currency. This convenience comes at a steep price, however, with companies like Coinstar charging a hefty 11.9 percent processing fee.
Skip this fee by rolling your change at home. You can buy coin wrappers at a discount store, or buy a small coin-counting machine for home use.
If you insist on hauling your loose change out of the house, most banks offer free coin counting to their customers. Bank of Montreal Coin Counters are free to use for both BMO and non-BMO customers.
TD added coin counting machines earlier this year. The service is free to TD customers, but non-TD customers will be charged 8 percent!
8. Credit report
You’re allowed to check your credit report to see what information financial institutions are sharing about your credit history.
It’s a good idea to make sure the information is correct before you apply for a loan or mortgage. However, the consumer reporting agencies want you to pay $15 to order your credit report online, despite the fact it’s your right to get it for free.
To avoid paying this fee, request your report to be mailed via Canada Post. Here’s the contact information for Equifax and TransUnion:
- Tel: 1-800-465-7166
- Fax: 514-355-8502
- Tel: 1-866-525-0262
- Fax: 905-527-0401
9. Mortgage life insurance
If you own a home, chances are you were offered mortgage life insurance on your property. Homeowners should be aware that mortgage insurance is not required and must not be a prerequisite for qualifying for a mortgage.
Term life insurance is much cheaper and offers greater protection than mortgage life insurance offered by your bank. Mortgage insurance is the one financial product which declines in value as you continue to pay.
Related: Understanding Life Insurance
10. Gym sign-up fees
Fitness centres are known for pushing a sign-up fee on unsuspecting new customers. Initiation fees can run up to $129 or more and are pure profit for the fitness centre. This is an unnecessary cost when buying a gym membership.
The fitness market is extremely competitive, so shop around for a gym that will waive the sign-up fee.
Which fees do you try to avoid paying? Alternatively, here are 10 fees that are worth the money.