Unnecessary fees? Get them waived. Here's how.

Companies love to tack fees onto your bill. But there's a good chance you can get those fees to disappear, especially if there's any competition for your business, by following these three tips.  

Romeo Ranoco/Reuters/File
A worker counts US dollar bills at a money changer in Manila in this August 2011 file photo. With persistence, you can get rid of unnecessary fees on phone bills and bank accounts, according to Hamm.

Companies love to tack fees onto your bill, no matter what service they’re providing.

Why wouldn’t they? Fees are pretty much pure profit for them, and for most customers, fees are glanced at and forgotten. A couple monthly fees per customer times a million customers and you’re talking about a pretty nice chunk of change.

However, for most services, we live in a buyer’s market. There are usually several different companies competing for customers, and that means the customer has an advantage. A customer has the power to negotiate a bit.

What’s often available to negotiate with? Those fees.

Let’s say you’re thinking about signing up for a new cell phone service. You’re looking at the contract and you notice a few fees involved. Ask right then if those fees can be waived because, if not, you’ll look at another service. Chances are some or all of those fees will disappear.

This goes hand in hand with the idea I mentioned yesterday. Let’s say you’re looking at a service that you’re not under a long term contract for and you notice a fee on your bill that doesn’t seem to be for anything important. It’s probably well worth your time to call up that company and ask for that fee to be removed.

Simply put, if there is competition in your area for a particular service and you don’t have a contract, you’re in control. Ask for any and all fees to be removed and, if they’re not, don’t be afraid to shop for a different service.

A few tips:

If you’re calling a customer service number, don’t expect that the first customer service rep you talk to will be able to eliminate any fees. You might have to talk to a supervisor before you see any action.

Make it clear that you’re looking at competing services. It should be clear to them that you’re considering switching services because of cost issues. This often gets fees eliminated from bills.

If this is due to a personal mistake of yours, stand on your reputation. If you’ve been a good customer for a long while, fees such as overdraft fees or late payment fees can often be waived. Companies tend to be good at doing this unless you establish a pattern of late payments.

The fewer fees you pay, the better off you are. Keep an eye out for them, whether it’s when you’re signing up for a new service, shopping around for a replacement service, or fixing a mistake that you’ve made.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 

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