Even the word “fees” stinks. Think about it: it sort of reminds you of the word “fleas” (another terrible thing), and when you say the word “fees,” your face twists up into a terrible grimace to get the “ees” sound out. Don’t believe me? Go say the word “fees” into a mirror, and you’ll see what I mean. You look stupid when you say it.
While we’re avoiding saying the word “fees” so that we don’t look silly, let’s avoid paying them as well, shall we? Because by definition, fees are something you shouldn’t have to pay — they’re a price for nothing. They’re candy coated as being for “conveniences," — like paying late, paying for intangible services, and (my favorite) paying because a payment didn’t go through… those things are convenient? Bah!
Obviously the best way to avoid fees is to… avoid them. Stay on top of things, make all of your payments on time, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, we know that. But fees happen anyways — they sneak their way onto cell phone bills, credit card bills, even student loans and mortgages. What a load of horse hooey! But it happens to the best of us, and when it does, it’s time for stronger tactics.
Negotiate Your Fees Away
Yes, fees can just *poof* disappear. Most of the time, all you have to do is ask. It sounds too simple to be true, but… when’s the last time you tried asking? For me, it was yesterday. And it worked.
In September, I set up my federal student loan payment for automatic payments. It went through just fine for the month of October, so I thought nothing of it. On Monday, I got an email saying that my payment went through, so I thought all was well. But by Wednesday, the payment still hadn’t been taken from my bank account. So I logged in to see what was up. Well, a payment bouncing back and a $20 fee, that’s what was up!
I used the live chat on the website to get some answers because of course, they want to discourage you from calling. It was actually a fairly helpful chat and not a robot, so I found out that my routing number had been mistyped (I left off a "1", but in my defense the "1"s on checks kinda look like the weird symbols they use right next to the routing numbers!). My payment hadn’t gone through and I’d been charged an "NSF" fee. I asked the woman in the chat if I could get it waived, but she told me I had to contact my school (boo!) and gave me the number.
So I called Financial Services at my college, and all I had to do was explain what had happened with the routing number. I didn’t even really have to ask about getting the fee waived — the woman at Financial Services could tell that’s what I was calling about. She offered to waive the fee, since it was a one-time occurrence and it’s already corrected and set to not ever happen again.
And that’s $20 that can go toward my loan principal instead of fees. Hurray!
I did have to pay a $1.50 fee for a “privilege” of paying online with an instant e-check. My other options were: pay $4.14 for the privilege of paying instantly by credit card, or set my payment up to go through in a week an a half… and hope they didn’t charge me a late fee in the meantime. That’s the thing about fees: they will find a way to get you sometimes.
The next time you’re faced with a fee… try asking not to pay it. This isn’t the first time that simply asking has erased a fee for me, so I know it’s not a fluke. You’d be surprised how many people never even try. But think of it this way: the answer is definitely “no” if you never bother to ask.
(Psst… phone phobia? Not an excuse.)
Great post. You can negotiate a number of fees, especially if you are a good customer. I’ve had credit card payment late fees waived in the past.
We have been taking it on the chin with ATM fees (living overseas) and we are trying to find a way to lead ourselves around this. We may be able to get fee-free ATM access with another bank (military related) that we have insurance through, but that isn’t 100% yet. Anyway, “overseas” is one word that rhymes with “fees” and “fleas” that isn’t icky. Most of the time. =)
Abigail Johnson says
That’s why I hate credit cards… I’m afraid of debts.
Wouldn’t that be great if we could just not pay fees altogether. However this is not the case and negotiating them down is the only way to reduce the burden. You give good advice and it important to let people know they have the power to negotiate down ridiculously high fees and hidden costs.
we impose some unnecessary fees on ourselves sometimes by being impatient like for instance too many small fees due to short term trading in the stock market which add up and eat away at any returns. I highly doubt that one can negotiate their way out of a mess like this
No, you can’t always negotiate your way out of fees that are imposed based on your direct actions. There, the solution would be to A) find a service with lower or no fees (for the stock trading example, Zecco) or to B) change your behaviors so that you incur fewer fees (for example, saving up a bunch of money in a savings account and then buying a large amount of stock all at once).
Nice, just like Cher’s dad said on Clueless, everything can be negotiated. 80% of the times I’ve called a company to negotiate a fee or charge, the people I’ve talked to have been really nice and helpful. It’s not anything to be afraid of, the worst they can say is no!
Great post. I use similar strategies and neogicated an overdraft fee away a couple of weeks ago. Most banks are give you a lot of leeway on the first or second offense.
Great advice, and fantastic title; as soon as I read it, I knew I had to include in my latest round up. It’s good that you were able to negotiate your fee away; I remember doing so when my bank charged me an overdrawn fee when my insurance company lost the check I sent them. It was a pain, but I did get it resolved (and signed up for automatic payment ASAP to avoid having that problem in the future).
A lot of great advice here, and I agree with you, you shouldn’t have to pay half of the fees imposed on you. A lot of times companies bank on the fact that their customers won’t complain about the fee they are paying, because they know their customer will automatically assume that there isn’t anything that can be done about it and therefore it is easy money for them. If you do complain, companies, especially in this economy, are going to work with you and most likely waive the fee…(you may have to do a little work to get there but…) they would rather lose a few bucks here and there in the grand scheme of things than an entire account… You are smart to try and have superluous fees waived…
Josh Heckathorn @ Creditnet says
You’re right…it’s amazing how many people are just plain scared to ask.
I was charged a fee for making more than 5 withdrawals overseas from a non-Wells Fargo ATM a few weeks ago. So, I took 30 seconds to write an email to Wells, and they responded the next day by waiving it and crediting my account immediately. It couldn’t have been easier.
It is hard to avoid fees these days. Every statment you get from all companies has an extra fee on it for something