10 Fees You Can Avoid Paying

Fees may be just a part of life, but that doesn’t mean you have to simply accept them.  Fees can easily be overlooked when it’s just a few bucks, but even small fees can really destroy your budget.

Fortunately, there are ways to get around these unnecessary charges with a little extra effort.

Related: 35 Ways I Save Money

Here are 10 fees you can avoid paying with some careful planning or creativity:

1. Landline telephone

More than two million Canadian households have replaced their landline telephones with cheaper wireless service.

Ditching your landline does come with some risks; 911 emergency services have a harder time identifying your location, monitored alarms and other services require either a landline or added-cost wireless technology, and during periods of unrest or bad weather, call volumes can increase exponentially causing disruptions to cell phone service.

Related: Why I cancelled my landline

But if you’re only receiving telemarketing calls at home, consider dropping your landline service to reduce household expenses.

Skype, Google Voice, and Voice Over IP services can often bring phone service costs down to just a few dollars a month.

2. Cellphone roaming fees

Talk to your mobile carrier about a pre-paid long-distance and roaming package before traveling to the U.S. or elsewhere.

Paying a bit up front could save you hundreds of dollars, and they usually last for 30 days so if you don’t use them on a first trip you have them for the remainder of the month.  But beware – data and text roaming may not be covered, and there are other pitfalls to avoid.

Related: How to avoid cell phone roaming charges when travelling to the United States

3. Cancellation fees

Cancelling a cell phone contract or a cable package before the end of the contract (or “service agreement”) can bring fees of several hundred dollars.

Bell and Rogers both charge up to $400 to cancel a cell phone contract early – plus additional fees if you have a data plan.  Be aware of the fine print in your service agreement and choose your time to change contracts wisely, or don’t sign a contract in the first place.

Related: How I Saved $300 On My Cable And Internet Bills

4. Prepaid credit cards

Visa, MasterCard and American Express offer prepaid gift cards that can be used just like credit cards at merchants across the country.  Unlike regular gift cards, prepaid credit cards come with a host of unnecessary fees.

The BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard comes with a $6.95 annual fee.  After the initial expiry date, a $5 inactivity fee will be charged monthly until the balance reaches zero.

Stick to buying regular store gift cards that come without the fees and expiry dates.  If your bank offers Visa Debit technology then you can use your debit card in the exact same way as a credit card, while avoiding the fees that come with prepaid cards.

Related: Top Cash Back Credit Cards In Canada

5. Airline fees

Pack carefully – Air Canada and WestJet charge $20 for checking a 2nd bag, and bags that exceed the maximum weight or size can cost you an additional $50.   And book your tickets online to avoid a telephone booking charge.

Related: Redeeming Your Aeroplan Miles

6. Banking fees and ATM fees

Banks and credit unions usually offer accounts that waive monthly fees if you maintain a minimum monthly balance.  Online banks like ING Direct and PC Financial offer no-fee banking and don’t require a minimum balance.

Avoid non-bank cash machines in convenience stores, bars and plazas.  You’ll be charged $1.50 to $2.50 at the machine and often another levy by your own bank for a total of up to $4.50 a transaction.

Plan ahead, use a smart-phone app to locate your bank’s own closest machine or be aware of other locations.

CIBC customers, for example, can use President’s Choice machines without fees.  Credit unions have their own extensive shared ATM network.

Related: Debit Card Fees Are Costing Us Money

7. Coin-counting fees

Rolling loose change is a tiresome chore.  Many people use coin-counting kiosks, found in grocery stores and malls, which quickly convert your loose change into paper currency.  This convenience comes at a steep price, however, with companies like Coinstar charging a hefty 11.9 percent processing fee.

Skip this fee by rolling your change at home.  You can buy coin wrappers at a discount store, or buy a small coin-counting machine for home use.

If you insist on hauling your loose change out of the house, most banks offer free coin counting to their customers.  Bank of Montreal Coin Counters are free to use for both BMO and non-BMO customers.

Related: Why More Banks Are Extending Hours, Opening On Weekends

TD added coin counting machines earlier this year.  The service is free to TD customers, but non-TD customers will be charged 8 percent!

8. Credit report

You’re allowed to check your credit report to see what information financial institutions are sharing about your credit history.

It’s a good idea to make sure the information is correct before you apply for a loan or mortgage.  However, the consumer reporting agencies want you to pay $15 to order your credit report online, despite the fact it’s your right to get it for free.

To avoid paying this fee, request your report to be mailed via Canada Post.  Here’s the contact information for Equifax and TransUnion:

Equifax Canada

  • Tel: 1-800-465-7166
  • Fax: 514-355-8502

TransUnion Canada

  • Tel: 1-866-525-0262
  • Fax: 905-527-0401

Related: What Does Your Credit Score Really Mean?

9. Mortgage life insurance

If you own a home, chances are you were offered mortgage life insurance on your property.  Homeowners should be aware that mortgage insurance is not required and must not be a prerequisite for qualifying for a mortgage.

Term life insurance is much cheaper and offers greater protection than mortgage life insurance offered by your bank.  Mortgage insurance is the one financial product which declines in value as you continue to pay.

Related: Understanding Life Insurance

10. Gym sign-up fees

Fitness centres are known for pushing a sign-up fee on unsuspecting new customers.  Initiation fees can run up to $129 or more and are pure profit for the fitness centre.  This is an unnecessary cost when buying a gym membership.

The fitness market is extremely competitive, so shop around for a gym that will waive the sign-up fee.

Which fees do you try to avoid paying?  Alternatively, here are 10 fees that are worth the money.

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  1. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle on June 3, 2013 at 4:08 am

    Banks have a real racket going with mortgage life insurance. People think they have to buy it and the bank does nothing to discourage this thought.

    Life insurance is important but you get better value when you shop around and buy from someone other than your bank.

  2. Rosemary Wells on June 3, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Recently got rid of my landline. I used to pay for a cellphone from Bell at $50 per month as well as a landline from Cogeco at $49 per month. I signed a 2 year ZoomerWireless contract using the promo code (AMB21613). ZoomerWireless arranged it so that I kept my landline phone number that I have had for years. Both Bell and Cogeco have been cancelled and my monthly bill has reduced from $99 to $18. The ZoomerWireless phone was free and I got car charger, Bluetooth, subscription to Zoomers and membership in CARP for free as well. The phone is a basic phone. I decided I would use the free upgrade in the future if I found that I needed more than the basic phone but so far I can’t see as I will need that upgrade. Don’t miss the landline because I now get those calls on my cell. Win-win!

  3. Echo on June 3, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Hopefully the new CRTC ruling will put an end to the outlandish cancellation fees on three year cell phone contracts. Starting December 2, 2013 you’ll be able to get a 2-year contract and new rules will cap charges for data usage and roaming.


  4. Bernie on June 3, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I’m one of the elite few that have never owned a cell phone. That said, I would seriously consider dumping my land line if the costs warranted it. I’m paying just under $26 per month right now. Are there cell plans with all-in costs under this amount?

    • Echo on June 3, 2013 at 9:22 am

      @Bernie – check out 7-Eleven’s Speak-Out prepaid cell phones and minutes. You can get a phone for $29 and add 200 minutes for $20.


      • Bet Crooks on June 3, 2013 at 5:42 pm

        Is that with one of the plans? The rates at
        say it’s $50 for 200 minutes, and that the cost/minute for local calls is 25cents and for long distance calls is (25+20) cents.
        I see that they have quite a variety of plans, though, which could be where the $20/200 comes from.

  5. CJ on June 3, 2013 at 9:04 am

    One correction: in Canada, you can request your free credit reports (aka “consumer disclosures”) from Equifax and TransUnion as frequently as you’d like.

    It’s in the USA you can only obtain in once per year.

    • Echo on June 3, 2013 at 9:26 am

      @CJ – You’re right, and I’ve updated the post. Thanks!

  6. krantcents on June 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Good tips, I would add activation fees. You can negotiate a lot of those fees too.

  7. LoonieLover on June 3, 2013 at 12:00 pm


    Robb beat me to it; 7-eleven Speakout phones are a great deal, especially if you only use your phone very occasionally, or truely for “emergencies only”. My wife and I have been on Speakout for about three years now, and we’re very happy.


    Has anybody here used Ooma as a landline replacement? The online reviews are generally pretty positive, but as my use of 7-eleven phones shows, I’m not exactly a cutting-edge technology kind of guy. Any opinons out there?

  8. Gary on June 3, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    My cell phone contract with rogers is up this month. i want a new iPhone. any tips out there on negotiating a new contract? thanks for great post.

    • Echo on June 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      @Gary – here’s a good post from fellow Canadian blogger Kerry Taylor of Squawkfox, who did a great analysis of buying a phone outright vs. getting a contract or a prepaid phone.


      • Gary on June 4, 2013 at 8:37 am

        Thanks Echo. Information is power!

  9. John H on June 3, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Great advice especially on the Prepaid credit cards, they are a rip-off, never use them. It also never ceases to amaze me that people will put so much time and effort towards saving up their change, and then give more than 10% of it away to a machine no less.

  10. Gary on June 4, 2013 at 8:36 am


  11. My Own Advisor on June 4, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Sorry, can’t give up my landline until I find an alternative for alarm system that is not satellite-enabled. We’re on the lowest possible cost landline product.

    Well done with the list!

    Also, depending upon your spending habits, credit card annual fees. Most folks should be earning at least double in points or cash over their annual fees. Otherwise, it ain’t worth it.


  12. Anton Ivanov on June 4, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I’ve ditched my landline phone years ago and have no regrets. We have two cell phones in our household and that has always been enough, even during some emergencies.

  13. Timothy Mobley on June 4, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Pretty thorough list! One thing to note about banking fees is that these days most banks will offer “no fee” checking accounts if no teller transactions are used. This could be a great option for those who prefer online banking. And these days, isn’t that pretty much everyone?

  14. Jeremy Cook on June 5, 2013 at 10:33 am

    So I wonder if it’s really worth it to roll your own change. Sure, a processing fee is no fun, but if it takes you, say 2 minutes to roll 50 cents of pennies, your time is most likely worth more than this. $70,000 a year works out to be around 1 cent per second, so even at $35,000/year that still might not be worth it.

    Another alternative might be to get the gift certificates that they offer sometimes if you know it’s somewhere you’ll deffinitely shop.

    • Echo on June 5, 2013 at 10:40 am

      @Jeremy – the problem with the whole “my time is worth more than x” is that you’re trying to value your leisure time at the same rate as your working time.

      I have trouble paying an 11.9% fee for something I can easily do while I’m watching TV after the kids have gone to bed.

  15. Michael on June 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Those are all great bits of advice. Amongst those I feel that bank fees over time accumulate into the most costly if you also take into consideration overdraft fess. I also feel that these fees are easy to avoid as well. I also got rid of my landline phone several years ago =)

  16. Ian on June 19, 2013 at 9:08 am

    We axed our land line in favour of our Koodo cell phones. No contract, great rates, excellent reception.

    Our bank fees get waived. We recently re-ordered cheques. The bank wanted about $48. We ordered them from a cheque service company for $24. We are thankful to those who do pay high bank fees. Our bank stock has done very well.

    We dropped all of our high management fee mutual funds. Huge savings over time-no longer deal with the bank for investments.

    We only use our bank for day to day. We place most of cash balances with an ebank that pays 1.9 percent daily interest. All it takes is a flick of the mouse

    We travel in the US and we from time to time get US dollar cheques to deposit. Having a USD Visa and a USD bank account has saved us about 5 percent on exchange and other fees compared to using our CAD funds Visa. When we do need US cash, we never buy it at the bank. The currency exchange store offers much better rates and choices of bill denomination.

    We review our insurance policy for home and car each year with an eye on deductible amounts. We buy extended travel insurance with a $2K or a $5K deductible-it saves us about 30 percent on the premium.

  17. Marvin on September 10, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    One cost I never pay — when switching cell providers, they try to get you to pay $10-$25 for a sim-card. Wow, I have to pay for the privilege of using your network, no thanks! I always get a free sim card. How? Just call competing locations and say “I’m signing up for a new plan, will your location give me a free sim card?” You might have to call 3, but eventually someone will say yes. Or “not free, but we are willing to drop the price to $10 [original price was $25].”

    Just last month I switched from Wind Mobile to Koodo. I called 3 Koodo locations and they each said “no sorry”, and even “no one can give you a free sim card.” Then I called “Best Buy Mobility”, which is a mobile-only version of Best Buy. They said “uh, don’t think so.” Then I said “but I’ll be signing up for a $50/mo plan.” “Oh, hmm, OK I think we can make that work.”

    The truth is that retailers get a large commission on new plan sign-ups, especially when it’s more than $40/mo. They also usually have extra sim cards lying around that came with a phone a customer purchased that they didn’t need (the customer bought a replacement phone, but their sim card was good). So they have an incentive to waive the sim card cost if you sign up.

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