How to detect hidden charges in the hidden cost economy

To: Better Business Bureau


Has been updated:

As the price of gas and everything else rises, restaurants, travel agencies, rideshares, and other businesses are charging new prices on the basic cost of their services. Businesses are feeling the effects of inflation just like us, and some are adding fees to survive. Consumers should be aware of the fees companies add. That way, you can make informed decisions about where to spend your money.

These hidden charges are not obvious at first glance. So if you want to avoid paying, or at least plan to stay within your budget, there are a few things you should do. BBB recommends the following tips to spot and avoid fees as much as possible:

  • Don’t believe promotional prices. More and more businesses are implementing “drip pricing,” where additional charges are added as you progress through the buying process. However, please check the fees that apply to your purchase before visiting the store or clicking the checkout button. Beware of low advertised prices as you may discover expensive cleaning fees, facility fees, administration fees, fuel surcharges, kitchen appraisals, non-cash adjustments, and more.
  • Don’t be afraid to move your business elsewhereA Harvard Business School study found that shoppers typically continue to make purchases even when unhappy with additional hidden fees. If you think the fees are too high, keep shopping, we recommend The Washington Post.
  • Comparison shop with commissions in mind. Prices make comparison shopping more difficult. Be prepared to do a little research before you buy. Consider each business’s fees and do your research when calculating the total cost of your purchase.
  • Please pay in cash. Rising credit card swipe fees have forced many retailers to add or raise non-cash surcharges for consumers to purchase goods and services with their credit or debit cards. If possible, avoid these fees by paying cash.
  • File a complaint. Consumer Reports found that 64% of consumers who complained about hidden or unexpected fees were successfully removed from their bills or refunded. If you are unexpectedly charged a fee during checkout, try to speak tactfully and politely.
  • fee budget. In most cases, hidden costs are not illegal. Incorporate required fees into your monthly budget to avoid breaking the bank.
  • Please be careful about packing. Cramming is the illegal act of adding unauthorized service charges without your knowledge or approval. Unscrupulous companies will add a small charge to your bill and describe it in general terms like “service charge”, “voicemail” or “miscellaneous charges”. Learn more about stuffing with this BBB tip.
  • Check your monthly bill. Take a few minutes each month to check your statement for new or unexpected charges. If you find hidden fees, talk to the company. In some cases, we may reduce or waive fees. If not, you’ll still want to know what you’re paying and how much you can afford to pay each month for recurring bills.

Learn more about how to keep costs down during inflation. If you think hidden charges are particularly inappropriate, report them to your state attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission. If you come across a commission scam, please report it at To find companies you can trust, visit

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