How to Avoid These Common Hidden Fees

By Emily Guy Birken on 3 March 2020 0 comments

When I found out that my favorite comedian was coming to town, I couldn't wait to buy tickets. Each seat in my preferred section cost $84, which was a little high, but I figured it was worth it to see someone who consistently makes me laugh. But after adding in the service charge, taxes, and a fee to email the tickets to me, the two $84 tickets came to a total of just over $200.

Anyone who has recently bought tickets to a music, sporting, or comedy event has had a similar experience. Hidden fees increase the price of your seat, but you won't even realize until it's time to enter in your payment information. At that point, you're already excited about the event and don't want to back out because of an unexpected cost.

Buying tickets is not the only time you find yourself staring down a hidden fee. Here's what you need to know about the surprise extra charges on common purchases, and how you can either plan for them or fight them.

Events

Buying tickets to events has changed a lot in my lifetime. Back in high school, I actually had to visit a box office or local retailer to purchase tickets to an upcoming event. I even camped out to be among the first in line for a popular band that came to town. When buying them in person was the only way to get tickets, the face value of the ticket was much closer to the amount you would pay for it. In general, you'd only pay sales tax on top of the ticket price.

All of that changed when Ticketmaster became the primary method for buying tickets. The event sales giant started charging everything from service fees to delivery fees to processing fees to facility charges. These additional fees are revealed only after you have chosen your seats at the base ticket price, and while you're watching a clock tick down the amount of time before the tickets are released to another hopeful concert-goer.

These fees add 25% to 35% to the price of your ticket, and the use of the countdown clock and the belated reveal of the fees both work to make you grumble but ultimately fish out your credit card to pay anyway.

For a short time, Ticketmaster held an absolute monopoly on tickets, and it still represents more than 80% of the market share of the ticket-sales industry. However, that doesn't mean you have no choice.

Avoiding the fees

The savvy concert-goer and sports fan has several options available for reducing ticket fees. To start, you can purchase directly from the venue to reduce your fees. Even if you buy the tickets online through the venue's online portal, you can usually get a lower price than you would through the big ticket brokers. This is what I did to buy my comedy tickets. As unhappy as I was paying an additional $32 for them, it represented only a 19% markup. Had I gone through Ticketmaster, the markup was just over 34%.

If you have more time than money, rocking the old school method of buying tickets in person at the box office can save you even more money. 

Airline tickets

Within the past 10 years, airlines figured out they could increase profit by reducing the freebies they used to offer. They started by levying a checked baggage fee, which ranges from $10 to $150 per bag, depending on which airline you fly and how many bags you're checking.

From there, travelers started seeing seat selection fees when booking online. While there are always a few "free" seats that are covered by the cost of the ticket, you'll often find they're sparsely spread throughout the cabin and often not next to each other. This means that you (and your traveling companions) will each have to pay a seat selection fee if you'd like to be seated together.

Additional fees may include charges to watch the onboard entertainment and for drinks and snacks. All of these fees can inflate the cost of your flight by as much as 50% or more.

Avoiding the fees

Within the airline industry, fees vary a great deal. That means it's still possible to shop around to avoid extra expenses on top of your airline ticket. Some low-cost airlines allow you to bring up to two checked bags for free, skip seat selection fees, and enjoy complimentary snacks, drinks, and entertainment onboard. 

Even if you don't have many airline choices because you don't live near a major airport, you can still keep your fees lower by purchasing your tickets as far in advance as possible. The sooner you buy your tickets, the more likely it is you'll be able to pick your seats for free. 

In addition, making sure you understand exactly what fees your airline charges can help you to avoid last-minute surprises. Knowing before you reach the airport that you'll have to pay for a checked bag gives you the option of packing light with just a carry-on. And you can come to your flight prepared with snacks and entertainment to avoid paying for them on the plane. (See also: How to Save Money on Flights Using Fare Alerts)

Hotels

Booking a hotel room online allows you to easily compare room rates so you can find the best deal. Unfortunately, the rates you see online don't necessarily match the amount you pay once it's time to check out. That's because of charges like resort or amenity fees, parking fees, online booking fees, and Wi-Fi.

These fees vary and can be difficult to determine ahead of time. For instance, the resort fee is a daily additional charge levied for your use of the hotel's amenities, from gym and pool access, to using the hotel's private beach or enjoying the breakfast spread. Even if you have no plans to use any of the amenities covered by the resort fee, you're still on the hook for the fee. Most hotels charge a flat daily rate for their resort fee, but some charge a percentage of your room rate or a per person rate per day.

Avoiding the fees

Parking fees and Wi-Fi charges tend to be the easiest fees to determine ahead of time. Calling around and asking what these fees will be can help you decide where to stay. You may also be able to ask for discounts on these fees based on membership to groups like AAA or AARP or a hotel loyalty program.

Many countries prohibit charging undisclosed fees like resort fees and online booking fees, but the United States has no specific prohibition — although deceptive pricing is against the law. This means you can find the information about resort and other fees by either looking on your preferred hotel's website or by calling and asking. However, the fees are not necessarily going to be easy to find or calculate ahead of time.

There are several options for opting out of resort fees. The first is to only book rooms at hotels that do not charge them. You can check if a hotel charges resort fees at ResortFeeChecker.com.

In addition, booking a room using travel rewards points often means that your resort fee and your booking fee are waived. Hotel loyalty programs can also potentially earn you fee-free stays. (See also: How Travel Rewards Cards Can Help You Score Luxury Travel Perks)

Finally, opting out of hotel stays altogether can be another method of avoiding fees. Finding a place to stay through a peer-to-peer homeshare like AirBnB or VRBO can offer you cheaper per-night costs that have no fees tacked on.

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Have you ever been stung by hidden fees? Here's what you need to know about the surprise extra charges on common purchases, and how you can either plan for them or fight them. | #personalfinance #financetips #savemoney

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