Common Money Traps to Avoid

Ever feel bamboozled into paying more than you should? Hidden fees and clever marketing can sneak up on you, especially when you seek convenience or shop in a hurry. When money's at stake, here's where and how to avoid getting trapped:

Online Fees

While it's convenient to book events and pay some bills online, keep an eye out for miscellaneous fees. For example, according to, ticket service charges can cost you anywhere from $2 to $50 more per ticket. "Ticket sale agents will sell you the ticket to the production or to the concert but they don't make any money on the concert itself," says Janet Bodnar, Editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance. "They make the money on selling tickets to you." How to skirt these fees? There's always just going to the box office and buying tickets directly from the venue. Or, if you do use a ticket agent, pick up the ticket at Will Call instead of having it mailed to you overnight. "Ticketmaster also has its own little kiosks in some Wal-Mart and Kroger stores. So if you buy the ticket there you can escape some - but never all - of the fees," says Bodnar.

And ever go to pay a bill online and get charged a convenience fee? Happened to me when I paid my real estate taxes this year. For the convenience of tracking and recording my online payment I paid $15 more. To make up for the cost, I opted to pay my entire annual bill at once - instead of in installments - and received a more than $100 discount from the county.

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Impulse Add-Ons

Ever feel last-minute pressure to buy something you don't really need?

One example is the upsell at the vet. You think you're going in for a check-up but before you know it, you've signed on for teeth cleaning and diagnostic tests. Ask your vet lots of questions before agreeing to any add-ons. Remember: you can give your pet free preventative care at home by brushing his teeth and providing a balanced diet.

Impulse add-ons can also occur while renting a car. You arrive to pick up your vehicle and before you know it, you've been talked-into last-minute extras like a vehicle upgrade, GPS, and most frequent of all, unnecessary insurance. "When you rent a car the biggest fee you're going to be asked to pay is the infamous collision damage waiver and that is collision and liability insurance on the car. What you need to know is that if you already drive a car and already have this insurance you are probably covered. You don't need to buy an extra coverage," says Bodnar.

Retail Return Policies

Stay informed or this could be another "gotchya!" For example, some electronic stores have strict policies about returning opened packages. They'll take it back, but could charge you a 15% restocking fee.

And while some return policies are clear and straightforward, others can only be found in the fine print. Is the store's return policy two weeks or four? Is it store credit or cash back? It's important to keep up. The last thing you want is to be "trapped" in a case of buyer's remorse.

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Physical Entrapment

And finally, when you get stuck paying too much, sometimes it's because you're actually, physically trapped. Concerts, movie theaters, and of course, sporting events are prime examples where outside food isn't allowed, bur a stadium dog could cost you $6. Time your meals so you don't come to the game starving!

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Another annoying money trap that people fall into that they're aware of is the infamous baggage fee on airlines, says Bodnar. "Airlines will charge you to check a bag, to carry on a bag, overweight luggage," she says. Coming soon to an airline near you: fees for seats. "You've always had to pay for primo seats near the exit rows but now you may actually have to pay to reserve any seat in advance," says Bodnar. One clever way to avoid extra luggage charges is to wear a specially designed jacket with lots of spacious pockets, she says. Check out Jaktogo for some examples.