Americans, in general, dislike paying fees on things like bank accounts, credit cards, and mortgage-related services, among many others.
But what fees do they despise paying the most?
According to a recent Magnify Money/Lending Tree study, Americans hate paying bank ATM fees the most, with bank overdraft fees a close second. Annual credit card fees ranked third on the study’s list. Other hated fees included bank account maintenance fees, airline baggage fees, and late payment fees.
While U.S. financial consumers obviously have a big problem with certain fees, like the ones listed above, financial experts have their own list of fees they hate the most – and believe that consumers can’t stand them, as well.
Here’s a list of fees financial gurus hate – along with the reasons they hate them. Chances are, you despise them, too.
10 Fees Financial Advisers Hate the Most
1. Overdraft Fees
“By far, my most despised bank fee is the dreaded insufficient funds fee,” says Dylan Houlihan, a personal finance specialist at Swift Salary. “I don't get charged for them very often, but when I do, it's a massive pain. Not only do I get charged a whopping $35 by my bank, but I'll also typically have to deal with another fee from the service provider who was trying to charge my account.”
Fortunately, as long as you keep an eye on your bank account, it's pretty easy to avoid overdraft fees. “Just make sure to always keep a small savings buffer (like $500) just in case a recurring charge you weren't expecting hits your account,” Houlihan says.
2. Mutual Fund Fees
“The financial fee that I hate the most is the 12b-1 fee,” says Austin Weyenberg, founder of Logic for Money, a financial education web site.
A 12b-1 fee is a fee that mutual funds charge every year for “marketing and distribution costs”, Weyenberg says. “It’s a fee that costs investors millions and millions of dollars. It can completely kill your retirement savings if you don’t watch out for it.”
Weyenberg says there’s no point of a marketing fee for a mutual fund, as the returns should speak for themselves. “If the mutual fund is worth investing in and offering good returns, people will find it,” he says. “It doesn’t need to be marketed.”
The good news is that there are hundreds of mutual funds out there that offer competitive returns and no 12b-1 fees. Just make sure to do your research before you invest your money.
“You could end up saving yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars over the long-haul,” Weyenberg says.
3. Late Payment Fees
“I really hate these fees,” says Kari Lorz, founder of the financial education web site Money for the Mamas. “I understand why they are there, and what makes them necessary, as people need to pay on time, and there needs to be a consequence if they don't.”
But late payment fees are easily avoidable, Lorz says. “Just set up automatic payments for the minimum balance due and you'll never have a late payment fee again,” she says.
4. Early Termination Fees
These fees are the worst, says Mike Collins, owner of the DadSense.co money blog. “Years back I switched cellular providers to save money but the service was less reliable and I experienced bad connections and dropped calls. I waited too long to cancel and missed the grace period.”
Collins says he hoped the service would get better as they updated their infrastructure, which is what the provider promised. “Ultimately, I had to choose between paying a $300 early termination fee or waiting two years for our contract to expire. It was a scam.”
5. Utility Company Late Fees
“Without a doubt, the financial fees I hate the most are the late fees charged by utility companies,” says Rebecca Lake, personal finance journalist and blogger at Boss Single Mama.
Though small, these nuisance fees can easily add up if you forget to pay regularly, Lake notes.
“The easiest way to beat them is automating your payments, so you don't have to worry about ever paying late,” she says. “And if you do get charged a late fee, call up your utility company and see if you can negotiate a waiver if it's your first time paying late. Sometimes they'll be willing to cut you a break if you typically pay on time.”
6. Financial Advisers Who Charge Assets Under Management (AUM) Fees
“This is essentially a tax on an investor's wealth,” says James Pelletier, a senior vice president at Wedmont Private Capital. “For successful retirees and other successful individuals, these fees (typically disguised as "basis points" or "bips") can add up to tens of thousands of dollars a year - mostly without the investor ever realizing.”
Wall Street and the big banks have made this the status quo, Pelletier says. “But there's a growing movement afoot to move towards a more transparent fee structure, including flat fees and hourly rates,” he notes.
7. Medical Fees
Miguel A. Suro, a Miami attorney and personal finance writer at The Rich Miser, says he despises surprise medical fees with an intense passion.
“Even if you have good insurance, you can have a medical emergency and be subject to all sorts of fees, even at in-network providers,” he says. “For example, you can get sudden appendicitis and need surgery, and wind up with ambulance fees, surgeon fees, anesthesiologist fees, and other charges. It’s absolutely insane, burdensome, and unfair.”
Suro says his daughter was born in December of 2018 with a very serious infection and spent weeks at an in-network hospital (she’s doing fine now). “To this day, we’re fighting bills from doctors,” he notes.
Unfortunately, it can be impossible to completely avoid these fees. “The most you can do to curb them is probably to try to make sure you’re always treated at in-network facilities, which is not always possible (especially in cases of emergency),” Suro says. “But even then, you can get billed by out-of-network providers.”
“There is some legislation in some places that helps address some of these fees, but more help is needed,” he adds.
8. Hotel Resort Fees
Anyone who has flown to Las Vegas expecting a $35 hotel room at a brand name casino, and faces a surprising $40-a-day surcharge hidden in the fine print, knows all about hotel resort fees.
“There is no worse fee out there today than hotel resort fees,” says R.J. Weiss, a certified financial planner and founder of the personal financial web site The Way to Wealth. “They exist primarily as a way for hotels to show a lower rate on many of the comparison sites. Furthermore, unlike airline fees, where you have options as to whether to pay the fee or not, resort fees are often mandatory.”
Before booking a hotel, make sure to call ahead and see whether or not a resort fee is charged,” Weiss advises. “Another tip is checking the web site Resort Fee Checker when you're comparing prices to see the likely fees you'll have to pay to book a specific hotel,” he says.
9. Online Subscriptions
These subscriptions may not technically be a fee, but they might as well be, says Patti Podnar, content strategist, at Podnar Consulting, LLC.
“Fees for 'free trials' of online services are a big problem,” Podnar says. “Some don't require a credit card to get the free trial, but many do. The problem is that people forget to cancel their free trials, and they end up paying for an unused service.”
The kicker? The companies offering these credit-card-based free trials make more than $6 billion a year from people who forget to cancel them. “And unless people audit their credit card statements, it could go on for years, Podnar says.
10. Banking Inactivity Fees
Leaving your bank account alone, even as it’s active, is enough to generate an inactivity fee.
“It’s my most hated financial fee,” says Erin Elam-Duque, managing member at Southern RockPointe Realty, LLC
Elam-Duque says she once had three bank accounts at a local bank, for three different businesses owned.
“One of the business accounts was for an exercise class I taught one hour per week,” she says. “I stopped teaching the class and thus stopped using the account even though there were still funds in the account.”
Over a year went by with no issues. “I had all the accounts set up to receive text alerts, Elam-Duques says. “One evening I got an alert saying $10 had been taken out of my account. I immediately thought someone had hacked into my account and signed in online to see what vendor received $10. I was thoroughly surprised and disappointed to see it was in fact my bank that had taken my money.”
According to Elam-Duques, macroeconomics 101 explains that banks use money to make money. “The fact that they charged me for not using my money was infuriating.”
She subsequently received a survey from the bank asking why the accounts were closed. “I told them their asinine fee was the reason and I'd never open another account with them,” Elam-Duques says.