How To Avoid Hidden Fees


Young black woman sitting at a table in front of a laptop while going through bills.

Learn how to avoid or reduce fees that seem to be appearing everywhere.

Hospitality fees at hotels. Kitchen appreciation fees at restaurants. Service fees on concert tickets. More fees than ever are making it harder for consumers to know how much a purchase really costs. Here’s how to stay on guard for hidden fees—and in some cases avoid them.

Be wary of extremely low prices

When you comparison shop, you get a good idea of what something costs. An especially low price is a signal to dig deeper. Low promotional prices are often paired with added fees that jack up the final price. If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Navigating airline fees

Airlines fees can be a significant travel expense. Travelers need to decide which services are worth paying for and which ones they can live without.

Seat selection fees can be avoided if you’re willing to be seated wherever the airline assigns you. However, if you want to be seated with family or friends, you’ll have to pay for seat selection.

If you travel only with a carry-on, you can skip upcharges for baggage. If you must check a bag, paying for this at the time of booking is usually cheaper than paying at the airport. Also, choosing a better seating class sometimes includes a checked bag in the fare.

Before heading to the airport, review your carrier’s policy about checking in. Some airlines now charge a fee for checking in with a counter agent; the fee can be avoided if you check in with the airline’s app or at their kiosk.

Cleaning fees at vacation rentals

Before booking a vacation rental, carefully examine the cleaning fees. A single charge for the whole stay may be reasonable. However, if the fee is charged for each night, costs quickly escalate. Many people avoid excessive cleaning fees by booking their stay at a hotel and tipping the housekeeper who makes up their room each day.

Hotel and resort fees

Online hotel shopping is more transparent when hotel websites offer an option to see rates with taxes and fees. If such an option isn’t available, navigate to the reservation page to get the billing summary that does include taxes and fees.

In most cases hotel and resort fees can’t be avoided. If there’s a parking fee at the hotel and you didn’t travel there by car, you may be able to get it waived if you ask.

Restaurant fees

Tipping restaurant servers has long been the norm. What’s newer are fees for kitchen staff or living wages that are automatically added to the bill. Those who dine out can learn about possible fees in advance by checking the restaurant’s website or calling them to learn about their billing policy. If the fees seem unreasonable or will hurt your budget, opt for a different restaurant or have dinner at home.

Food delivery fees

Food delivery apps make getting meals convenient, but they come with added service fees. See if you can order directly from your favorite take-out spot and look for restaurants that offer free delivery. Even if you skip the app services, be sure to tip your delivery driver.

If you’re a frequent user of food delivery services, consider the apps with premium services that charge a monthly fee; the subscription fee may be less than the multiple delivery fees.

Ticket service fees

Buying tickets directly from the venue’s box office often helps buyers avoid or at least reduce service fees. Skip ticket purchases from middle-man ticket sellers when possible.

Review bills

With every purchase, take time to review the bill. If you see objectionable fees, don’t be shy about questioning them. In many cases, unexpected fees will be removed for those who complain.

Avoiding fees whenever possible and objecting to those you don’t expect can help you save money.


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