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Fee Falling

by Steve McDonald on 08/19/08

Fee FallingWithin the vast billing network of your various goods and services, fees are affecting everyone these days. Banks, credit cards, mobile phones and even your retirement fund, for example, can siphon funds from you without your oversight. Make it a resolution now to look for the following hidden fees and gain extra money in your budget. There are many books about this topic, one of which is written by Bob Sullivan called Gotcha Capitalism.

Checking Account
The old checkbook is going the way of the horse and buggy, but not yet. Now is the time to scrutinize the monthly statement for service fees, ATM charges, even insufficient balance penalties.

Often with either comparing other types of checking accounts that your bank offers or looking into competing institutions, there can substantial savings.

Credit Cards
Take all of your plastic out and do a survey. Which one has the highest interest rate? What are the fees on late payments or cash advances?

This is a time where the intense competition between credit card companies can work to your advantage. Transfer funds to a lower interest account or begin to pay the highest one off first are two ways to tame the plastic beast. Compare fees from other companies and give your business to the card that serves you best.

Going Mobile
That super convenient mobile phone also conveniently sucks money out of your pocket. An assessment of your phone plan is necessary especially if you are consistently exceeding your monthly talk minutes. An upgrade to a new plan may be in order, and even if your monthly cost goes up slightly, the additional minutes may cover your overage fees. More importantly, get rid of excess add-ons that you don’t use. Text messaging is the mobile phone company’s best profit friend. If you don’t use it much, it’s an easy savings. And if you still find the costs too high check out alternatives such as Skype Mobile.

Fund Follies
The 401k plan can be your best ally for retirement savings. But first you have to interact with it beyond monthly contributions. Get together with the advisers that either your company provides or get in touch with the persons who sold the fund to your company: you can also do your own research through several websites including the Department of Labor’s employee benefits site. No question is too stupid and understanding the allocations is not difficult if you have the basic explanations. These advisers can also help you allocate your investments within the fund and provide knowledge on fees.

It should not be so hard to find out about the fee structures of your accounts but somehow it is made difficult – not transparent. It is one of the reasons Prosper is so refreshing – all the fees are easy to find, nothing is hidden.

Knowledge has no fee… unless you go Ivy League!

Steve McDonald is a freelance writer and Prosper member since October 2007.

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