Combat Junk Fees: Review the Bill Before You Pay

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In writing last week about hidden “junk fees,” I ended with a recommendation. Before choosing a phone plan, booking a hotel stay, buying an airline ticket, or making many other types of financial commitments, ask, “What other fees or charges are there I need to know about?”

That’s easy to recommend but harder to implement. Our brains just don’t automatically adapt new habits overnight. In addition, there are times when you receive a bill with added charges and fees you had no reason to anticipate. A post-COVID added restaurant fee is one example.

What can you do?

The first and most obvious action is to review any bill before paying it. That is fraught with money scripts and emotions. When you’ve enjoyed a meal and engaging conversation with friends, the last thing you may want to do is break the flow by taking time to review the bill line by line. It could be easier to just hand your credit card to the server, trusting everything on the bill to be accurate. Unfortunately, my experience with restaurant bills is that there is an adjustment needed on one out of every three – not even counting any hidden service fee.

What else might prevent someone from stopping and reviewing the bill? Possibly a money script that scrutinizing the bill would be insulting to the server. Or fear of what your guests might think: giving them the perception that you are a penny-pincher, can’t afford the cost, or are overly focused on the money rather than the experience. The possibilities are endless.