Facebook Twitter

Stop these sneaky bill charges from draining your wallet

SHARE Stop these sneaky bill charges from draining your wallet


Forget what is in your wallet and take a look at your bills if you want to save money. Taking a look at the individual charges on a bill can often reveal not just errors, but ongoing costs that you might not be aware of.

Mikey Rox at WiseBread warns about four sneaky charges to be aware of.

The first one to watch out for if you use a cable company for your Internet service is the dreaded modem fee, Rox says. In the good ol' days, things like modems were included in the service, but in the age of added-on fees, companies are charging people monthly for the modem. Time Warner Cable, for example, started charging for modems that people already had in their homes — and in less than a year, jacked up the fee. At about $5 to $8 a month, it wouldn't be long before you would save money by buying your own modem and sending theirs back. Just make sure they don't keep charging you the fee.

Rox also warns about the service call fee. "Are you having problems with your Internet, cable or phone connection?" he says. "Your utility company or service provider may gladly come to your home to fix the issue, but it'll be at your expense."

Sorry, it doesn't matter if it is the company's fault — and they probably won't tell you about it before they come.

Beware of the rise of paper statement fees as well. Want a paper statement, you may now get charged extra for it, Rox says, about $2 to $3 a month. He also warns about what he calls gray charges, "such as auto-renewal and memberships fees that continually show up on your credit card bills, although you canceled the services. Then there are phantom charges, which occur when a simple online purchase results in ongoing monthly payments or a charge for a product you never requested."

On top of these sneaky charges are the bill errors that can creep into your wallet. Karen Haywood Queen at Bankrate.com says to look for transactions you do not recognize on your credit card bill. It could be the name of the business on the charge is different than what you expected or remember, but it could also be a mistake — or an unauthorized use.

Also, Queen says, keep a close eye on medical charges — even if you don't owe money. A spending account can be drained without you realizing it. "Read your health insurance explanation of benefits, or EOB, statements even if you don't owe money," she says.

Telephone bills are also a place where bogus charges may show up. Read them carefully. As hard as it may be to believe, there are companies that still charge monthly rental fees for phones that people could buy for $10.

M. Diane McCormick wrote an article for PennLive about how over time, bills with certain phone, Internet or cable providers can get higher. One tip is to monitor actual usage. Are you paying for channels you never watch? Are you paying for more Internet usage than you actually use?

"Unlike, say, a car payment, the bills for household communications fluctuate monthly," she says. "Still, don't assume that differences are normal. Review every bill for new charges, indications of changing usage habits, and mistakes."

It is also a good idea to keep in mind, as with all fees and expenses, sometimes if you ask nicely but firmly, they will remove the fee. If not, you can always remove future fees by dropping the service and taking your business elsewhere.

Email: mdegroote@deseretnews.com, Twitter: degroote, Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote