What do these fees have in common?  Credit card fees that cost you hundreds of dollars per year, in some cases per month!  It doesn’t matter how sweet the credit card program (miles, points etc), they are in it to make money.  So while they may lure you in with a sweat deal, be mindful that it may and will often cost you.

Check your credit card statements and the fine print.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Are there any fees that seem strange or fees that you’ve agreed to pay without knowing it?   When applying for a new card, it’s important that you read all the disclosures around how you’ll be charged or else you risk being charged hundreds of dollars without your knowledge.  Notice I didn’t say “consent”.  It is understood that when you apply for the card that you’ve read through the disclosures and are keenly aware of the fee structure that awaits you upon approval.

The best defense is to read your statements monthly and the fine print prior to applying for a new credit card. Let’s take a look at some pretty common fees charged to credit card users:

Late Fees   This one is easy right?  If your payment is late then you’re charged a fee in addition to the existing finance fees.  This can get costly so be sure to pay the fee in addition to the amount owed to catch up and remain current with your credit card company.  Keep in mind that paying after 5pm on your due date incurs a late fee.  Try to utilize systems like bill pay and Google Calendar to help you remain abreast of upcoming due dates.

Balance Transfer Fee  Transferring a monster balance to a new 0% rate credit card?  Not so fast.  While the interest rate is sweet, the balance transfer fee may sour the deal.  For example, if you plan on transferring a $10,000 balance to a new 0% rate card with a 3% balance transfer fee, then the transfer fee will cost you $300.  As the old saying goes, look before you leap.  In this case, determine if the balance transfer fee will outweigh any potential savings with a 0% interest rate.

Cash Advance Fee  In a bind and need cash fast?  This is often a really tempting option when you need money fast and don’t have many options.  Before tapping your credit card for fast cash, read up on the cash advance fees and the associated interest rates.  Looking at my own fine print, I see that cash advances will run around 19% for the interest rate with a flat rate of $30 per transaction.  In other words, the cash advance route is expensive.  Avoid if it you can but be aware of the fees if you must.

Foreign Transaction Fees  Going on a cruise or vacationing overseas?  Try to withdraw all the cash you’ll need while stateside because foreign transaction fees can cost you dearly.  This is in addition to that country’s ATM fees.  Foreign transaction fees cover the cost of converting the currency in your account to the cash you need to spend while on vacation.

As you can see, there’s no such thing as free when discussing your credit card company.  While credit cards may come with sweet deals and offers, know that lurking underneath that deal is the hope that you’ll neglect to or miss the read the fine print (ever wonder why it’s so small?) and spend your heart away.  Then you get the bill and it’s perfectly OK because you agreed to the charges.  My advice?  Read the fine print.