10 Outrageous Travel Fees That You Can Totally Avoid
Hotels that want to hold down their room rates and airlines determined to offer low fares have found an easy and sneaky way to raise prices: by charging add-on fees. Tons of them.
The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics says airlines raked in $7.5 billion during 2017 from just two of the many fees flyers loathe: the charges for baggage and for making changes to airline tickets.
The fees are devious and expensive — but they’re also avoidable, in many cases. Here’s how to get around many of the worst travel surcharges.
1. ‘Resort’ fees
Resort fees were originally charged by, well, resorts, supposedly to cover their extra amenities like towels at the pool and classes at the fitness center.
But the practice has become so widespread that an estimated 8% of hotels in cities are charging resort fees this year. The fees are rising, too: The average is now about $21 per night but can be as high as $160 a night.
You might dodge these charges by booking your room with hotel rewards points or a rewards credit card. Or, use a site such as ResortFeeChecker.com to find hotels with low or no resort fees.
2. Baggage fees
Whether you bring too many or pack them too heavily, your bags can attract a stack of airline fees.
Most airlines charge you to check luggage, and there can be additional fees for bags weighing more than 50 pounds and even for carry-ons. Several airlines charge $25 if you want to put a carry-on bag into the overhead bin.
Some carriers waive baggage fees for flyers who have the airline’s co-branded credit card. You also can avoid bag fees by flying Southwest Airlines, the only U.S. airline that gives all ticket holders two free checked bags.
3. Credit card foreign transaction fees
Before you travel abroad, check the terms of the credit and debit cards you plan to use. Many cards hit you with a 2% or 3% fee for any transactions made outside the U.S. in a foreign currency.
The fees may not sound like much, but they can add up quickly, especially on a longer trip.
To get around the unnecessary expense, apply for a new credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction charges. The cards are easy to find — for example, Capital One and Discover credit cards don’t have these fees.
4. Airline ticket-change fees
Travel plans can change, and airlines love to capitalize on that. If you want to fly home a day sooner or postpone your vacation to a different week, you’ll be charged a ticket-change fee that can cost as much as your fare.
The best way to avoid these fees is to be reasonably certain of your plans before booking your ticket. Or, book your flight on Southwest, the only U.S. carrier that doesn’t have change fees.
Note that under U.S. Department of Transportation rules, all airlines will allow you to change or cancel a ticket free of charge within the first 24 hours after purchase.
5. Booking-by-phone fees
Several airlines charge up to $25 for buying your ticket over the phone.
This is any easy enough charge to escape. If you’re wary of booking your ticket online — get over that. It’s faster and more convenient than trying to relay your information to a customer service agent on the phone, and often live chat is available if you have questions.
Why throw away $25 on a phone call when you could save that money for dinner or shopping during your vacation?
6. Car rental insurance fees
Amid the blur of questions and forms to sign when you rent a car, the rental company will try to get you to agree to pay a daily fee for insurance, called a collision damage waiver (CDW).
This coverage can be pricey, increasing the cost of your rental by up to $30 per day. And it’s usually completely unnecessary.
Your own auto insurance policy may cover you for damage to a rental, so be sure to have your insurance card with you at the rental counter. And note that many credit cards offer rental insurance that will pick up whatever your auto policy won’t cover.
7. Airline seat-selection charges
Some airlines nickel-and-dime passengers for basic stuff that’s free on other airlines, including the right to choose your seat.
If sitting in a specific seat is very important to you, book with an airline that offers free seat selection.
And be aware that airlines with seat fees typically allow any passenger to make a free choice in the last 48 or 24 hours before the flight. But you and your traveling companions may find it difficult to get seats together.
8. Cellphone roaming charges
When you’re traveling overseas, a call down the street can be an expensive international call if your mobile plan doesn’t have international service built in. Data charges can be astromical, too.
Before you go, check to see what your plan offers, and see if you can make changes so you won’t get hit with stiff roaming charges for calls and data usage outside the U.S.
If you forget to look into that before a trip, keep a lid on your cellular charges while traveling by relying on Wi-Fi wherever you can. Just be mindful of security when connecting to public Wi-Fi.
9. Hotel Wi-Fi fees
For years, frequent travelers have been complaining about this bit of weirdness: Upscale, expensive hotels have tended to charge for in-room Wi-Fi, though it’s been free at cheaper places.
Recently, those annoying Wi-Fi costs have been disappearing — because Wi-Fi is often included now in those irritating resort fees we told you about earlier.
If you still encounter a hotel Wi-Fi fee, it’s easy enough not to have to pay it. Just use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hot spot and tether your laptop or tablet to it.
10. ATM fees
When you withdraw cash from some other bank’s ATM, you might be hit with fees totaling $5 or more, coming from both your own bank and the other one.
This can be avoided if you stick to using debit and credit cards whenever you’re away from your bank’s network of ATMs.
Plan ahead for any cash purchases you’ll need to make by bringing plenty of money with you. If you do find yourself needing cash, you might be able to make a debit card purchase at a supermarket or drugstore that will give cash back.
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