The holiday season is a time to celebrate, but it’s also a time to pay close attention to your budget. Extra expenses, such as travel costs, gift purchases, holiday fees, and party preparations can add up quickly, so it’s that much more important to dodge as many extra fees as you can.
Here are some common ones and advice on how to avoid them.
If you’re traveling over the holidays, be sure to keep an eye out for mandatory hotel fees for everything from WiFi to parking, often added to your bill whether or not you have used those amenities.
For example, Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas, charges a mandatory resort fee ranging between $30 and $40 depending on your room. The fee covers high-speed internet and access to the fitness center. Loews Miami Beach charges $26 for WiFi and fitness-center access, as well as meditation classes, beach supplies, and banana boat rides.
How to avoid them: Be sure to ask about mandatory fees when you book the room so that you know the true cost of staying there.
Joining the loyalty program may also get you out of some fees—members of the Starwood Preferred Guest program (Marriott’s loyalty club), for example, get free in-room internet access when they book through the hotel site and free in-room bottled water.
All the additional spending during the holidays increases the likelihood that you may overdraw your account. Many banks cover the overdraft but charge you a fee that can average around $30, according to Moebs Services, a Chicago-based consulting firm that tracks bank and credit union pricing and products.
How to avoid them: Opt out of overdraft protection. If you choose not to accept this “protection,” the bank will simply decline your debit card at the point of purchase or the ATM machine but won’t charge you a fee for it.
Another way to avoid overdraft fees is to sign up for mobile alerts if your balance falls below a certain level. That way you’ll be able to transfer money into the account or choose a different form of payment before you overdraw the account.
If you do end up incurring overdraft fees, call your bank to explain what happened.
“If you’re not a frequent overdrafter, many banks will reduce multiple overdraft fees to just one, or they’ll just let it go,” says Michael Moebs, an economist and CEO of Moebs Services.
It has become standard for airlines to charge passengers a checked-bag fee of at least $25 per piece of luggage stowed, and more for pieces considered overweight.
How to avoid them: Consider using a co-branded credit card to pay for the flight. The cards have annual fees, but they can still be a good deal because they sometimes offer free checked bags.
The Citi AAdvantage Card, for example, charges an annual fee of $95 (waived in the first year), but it lets you avoid paying a fee on the first checked bag for you and up to four passengers flying on the same reservation. That means a family of four could earn that fee back on the first leg of one trip.
Luggage weight requirements can vary by airline, so check before your start packing. Investing a few dollars in a hand scale to weigh luggage at home can ensure that you stay within the limits.
“There’s nothing like putting your bag on the scale at the airport and learning that it’s overweight,” says Rick Seaney, co-founder of FareCompare.com. “The overweight fees can be really onerous.”
Paying outrageous prices for shipping costs can negate any great deals that you’re able to get shopping online.
How to avoid them: Shop early. Many retailers offer free standard shipping, which may take a week or two, but will charge a fee for expedited shipping.
In addition, making multiple purchases at once (rather than buying one item at a time) could help you hit the minimum purchase amount to qualify for free shipping.
“If you aggregate your online buying, you’ll have a better chance of getting the shipping charges waived,” says Richard Barrington, senior financial analyst at MoneyRates.com.
If those options don’t work, see whether the store offers in-store pickup, which allows you to place the order online but pick it up at a walk-in location. Though the item won’t arrive at your doorstep, you’ll save on shipping and avoid having to make your way through the crowded store to find the exact item on the shelves.
Keep in mind that Dec. 15 is Free Shipping Day. Go to the Free Shipping Day website to get codes for participating merchants that will provide you with free shipping plus other discounts.
If you’ll be spending time in a different part of the country or world, you might find yourself without easy access to in-network ATMs. Holiday expenses may also cause you to spend more cash than usual, so it’s easy to rack up fees every time you withdraw money from the account.
How to avoid them: Take out the cash you’ll need in advance or consider opening an online checking account—many reimburse all ATM fees. If you’re traveling internationally, make sure that the account doesn’t also have foreign-transaction fees.
“ATM fees are easy to avoid, but you just need to think about it at least two weeks in advance of traveling, so you have time to open the account and get the card in the mail,” says NerdWallet credit card expert Sean McQuay.
The above was first reported by Consumer Reports.