Once again, we’re looking a bevy of fees being tacked on to our credit card statements. They’re small and you can be sure it’s deliberate – most of us don’t want to spend any time questioning a ninety cent charge, but make no mistake – they add up.
There are a host of new justifications, too. Sometimes, they’re auto renewal fees, or maybe subscription fees and our favorite – the cost creep, which occurs when a $1.29 becomes $1.39, then $1.45 and before you know it, you’re paying a three dollar fee on something you don’t even understand.
Billing errors are still common on credit card statements, too. All of these fees are growing – both in the dollar amounts and the number of charges that appear on a statement.
If you’re wondering why no one has stepped up to the plate, namely the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, you’re not alone. Meanwhile, credit card companies are regularly inserting these fees with the hopes you won’t question them.
While most of the fees are small, for some consumers, they can end up paying $300 or more a year. It’s believed up to 20% of Americans’ credit cards have some small monthly fee – and the consumers have no idea what they’re for.
The Federal Trade Commission is well aware of the problems and there are now calls for the government to do something,
Merchants know consumers are busy and don’t read every page of the disclosure, so …they address the $5 monthly fee to access their service.
These charges are legal and that’s one reason why consumers are more apt to just pay it and move on with their day. They also think that just because the charges are legal, they’re not negotiable.
So why is this not big news? It all comes down to the certainty that banks or credit card companies know we are busy every day – chasing our kids and careers. This could all soon change, though.
These fees are once again at the center of lawsuits. More than twenty states are suing for things like deceiving customers. This is another headache for credit card companies, especially considering the Consumer Financial Bureau has come down hard in recent months.
Three major banks were hit settlements and hefty fines. Already there has been a $10 million ruling that includes fees and reimbursements for consumers. Remember, it’s not the fees, but rather, the failure to meet the new high standards of full disclosures.
In one case, a company was found guilty of enrolling customers into recurring charges anytime they click a certain link. The last anything expects is that a pop-up ad on our favorite website with an offer to join the newsletter, only to find out that by clicking on it, we’ve enrolled ourselves into some type of membership.
So what can you do to eliminate these fees and get past the “I’d rather pay it than get stuck on the phone with a customer service rep for an our” mentality? Here are a few tips from the Federal Trade Commission:
First things first – make sure you carefully review your statement. It’s important to know what you’re facing and the only way to do that is to give your monthly statements more than just a passing glance.
Also, and despite the tricky ways card companies can incorporate, reading the terms and conditions is absolutely crucial. This is where companies can bypass any legal repercussions. It’s not the network’s responsibility to highlight it, but there must be a degree of buyer beware in anything we do.
Also, if you’re offered a free product, there’s no need to key in your credit card information – and in fact, if you’re asked to provide it, there’s your cue that this is one transaction you don’t want to complete.
Be sure to dispute any charges as soon as you receive your statement. The sooner you do, the fewer problems you’re going to have.
Still having problems? Contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is the government watchdog group that’s determined to bring transparency back into the financial industry. You’ll be able to submit a complaint and the bureau will move through the process of eliminating those problems. You should also take some time to ensure you’re not getting double charged on things like your annual fee.
Know the law – this is important because not knowing what’s legal or illegal can mean you’ll pay for that via those pesky fees. Also, make sure you’re not paying too much in foreign transfer fees and balance transfer fees.
So have you been hit with those “small potatoes” fees? If so, share your story with us. If you’ve had success with keeping your frustrations to a minimum as you sought to have those fees removed with your credit cards, let us know that too. Come and be a part of our online community.
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