The fees you pay for absolutely nothing and how to beat them.
It’s a sad fact of modern life that an awful lot of the time the advertised price is not the price you actually pay -‒ additional fees and charges have a nasty habit of popping up just as you’re about to hand over your payment details.
What makes this even worse is that many of these fees are just blatant rip-offs, charges that you have to pay which involve the company doing virtually nothing in return.
These are some of the worst offenders.
Letting agent admin fees
Letting agents have a dreadful reputation when it comes to charging ropey fees, and it is one that is generally well deserved. They are the masters of charging through the nose for very little.
A report from Citizens Advice last year laid bare some of their worst excesses. It found that while most agents charge for checking a reference, the actual fee varied massively, from £6 to a huge £300!
Some charged around £300 for a credit check, which should cost around £25, while others implemented nonsense charges like a ‘check out’ fee when you move out (at £75 a pop).
These tactics have been so underhand that the Government has now announced plans to ban agents from charging tenants these fees. Instead, landlords will have to pay them. The trouble is landlords are often less than impressed with the fees they are already charged by letting agents, and any additional burden is only likely to be passed onto tenants in the form of higher rents.
Changing details on an insurance policy
Insurers always tell us how important it is to keep our details up to date, whether we move house or change jobs. The trouble is, this is often a chance to milk us for a bit of extra cash.
I’ve seen it first-hand. A couple of years ago my wife changed her job, leaving her role as a part-time primary school teacher to become a supply teacher. As changes go, that’s about as small as it gets - no change of industry, simply the addition of six letters to her job title. Yet our insurer wanted to charge a £30 admin fee to update her details.
That wasn’t going to stand with me - I queried it, and the insurer immediately agreed to waive the fee.
When Which? looked into these fees last year, it found that of 44 insurers, the average ‘adjustment fee’ was a whopping £22.79. Just five insurers didn’t charge such a fee.
So next time your insurer tries to weasel yet more cash out of you for such a tiny change, be sure to complain. You may just dodge the fee.
Mortgage arrangement/exit fees
Mortgage rates have never been so low, but there are a host of questionable additional fees to worry about.
For starters, there are arrangement fees. Apparently lenders believe it is appropriate to charge us upwards of £1,500 just for ‘arranging’ a home loan. And they even allow you to add that massive fee to your mortgage debt, meaning you end up taking decades to pay it off, incurring a big chunk of interest on it on the way.
Of course in truth, these fees are nothing to do with the admin involved arranging the mortgage. They are really just another way for lenders to make a few quid out of a low interest mortgage - after all, they are happy to offer fee-free mortgages with inflated interest rates.
However, I find mortgage exit fees even more troublesome. Yes, there will be some minor admin associated with closing your account when the mortgage is paid off. But some lenders charge the best part of £200 for this, which seems awfully steep to me.
Delivery fees for tickets you print yourself
Whenever you buy tickets online, whether for travel or an event, you should always be on your guard for questionable charges being added.
One of the most shameful is the delivery fee. OK, I can accept paying a delivery fee if the tickets are actually being delivered, but some firms see fit to charge a delivery fee even if you opt to print them yourself!
Ticketweb for example charges £2.50 for eTickets which can be downloaded onto your mobile phone or printed off at home. That’s just nonsense.
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