Sneaky Fees: 7 New Ways You're Paying More

6. Cable Cost

Comcast is preparing to raise its rates in several different ways. The company has acknowledged that it will up its cable billing rates nationwide by an average of 3.7 percent in November. Basic service will jump about $3 in some places. The price for add-ons such as DVR service and premium channels will rise by a dollar each per month, too. Comcast blames the fee adjustment on "challenging economic environment," along with "gas prices, healthcare costs, increases in the cost [it] pay[s] for programming, and technology and service improvements."

7. Text Tax

Our last sneaky fee targets businesses rather than consumers, but all such increases eventually get passed along to the end user in one way or another. Verizon has just announced that it's adding a three-cent fee for all mobile-terminated text messages--texts that originate from a computer rather than from another cell phone. As a result, companies ranging from Google SMS to the slew of free Web-based texting services will be paying extra. And soon enough, those services will start passing the costs on to us.

The Future of Fees

Sneaky fees end up hurting everyone. Companies might make a quick buck, but they take a hit on respect and loyalty--and, sooner or later, they're likely to start losing customers, too. "You can get away with hidden fees once or twice on consumers, but eventually, they get pretty mad at you," Sullivan says.

Still, such added costs are unlikely to disappear. In an era where product comparisons are just a click away, being able to advertise the lowest possible figure as a base price has tremendous commercial value, and annoying the public is a price that many businesses are willing to pay to hit that number. Ultimately you may not be able to avoid the charges--but at least you can know how much you're really paying. And armed with that knowledge, you can make educated decisions about which services you really want to use--and which add-ons you'd rather do without.

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