NEW YORK ( -- It’s happened to the best of us. You’re reviewing your credit card statement and all of a sudden you come across a charge you didn’t expect. At first you freak out and think it’s perhaps a fraudulent charge, but upon closer examination you realize you’ve just been nailed by a credit card fee you simply never saw coming.

These fees can really add up over time if you’re not careful, so make up your mind today that you will never again fall prey to an unexpected credit card fee. Now, check out the following top five surprise credit card charges so you know exactly what they are and how to avoid them:

Foreign Transaction Fees
Save yourself three percent on every purchase by picking up an airline miles credit card with no foreign transaction fees before your next trip overseas. There are a lot of card offers on the market now that waive these fees, and quite a few don’t carry an annual fee either, so there’s no excuse for not having at least one card sans foreign transaction fees as part of your personal credit card arsenal.

Cash Advance Fees
Never use credit cards to withdraw cash from an ATM or obtain foreign currency from a money exchange booth. Not only will you get hit with a cash advance fee of around 5%, but you’ll also start paying a higher rate of interest on the money from the moment it’s withdrawn.

Balance Transfer Fees
Balance transfer fees are nothing new, but they still pack a big punch and take many people by surprise. If you plan to use a 0% interest credit card to transfer high-interest balances and pay off your credit card debt, look for card offers that actually waive the balance transfer fee too.
For example, the Slate from Chase is the only card currently offering 15 months no interest in addition to no-balance transfer fees. Other balance transfer credit cards will still hit you with a fee that ranges anywhere from 3%-5% of the total amount transferred.

2nd Year Annual Fee
Many rewards credit cards waive annual fees for the first year as an incentive to bring on new customers who otherwise wouldn’t try out a different card. The hope is you’ll forget there actually is an annual fee before it’s charged for the 2nd year, and unfortunately some consumers do forget.

Try marking on your calendar the anniversary date for every new annual fee card you have. That way, if you plan to cancel a particular card before the annual fee is charged, you can make sure you do it well in advance of your anniversary date.

Over Credit Limit Fees
Think a credit card charge will just be declined if you go over your credit limit? Maybe not. You might also get hit with a “fat” fee north of $30 if you’ve somehow agreed to allow charges in excess of your credit limit.

Commit to never using more than 30% of your credit limit on any card and you’ll never again have to worry about one of these charges magically showing up on your credit card statement.

By Joshua Heckathorn

Heckathorn runs, a free resource to help consumers learn more about credit and compare hundreds of the best credit cards online. He resides in Seattle and holds an MBA and B.S. in finance.