9 Hidden Fees – And How to Avoid Them

If you don’t read the fine print, you’ll often end up paying more than you bargained for.

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Wedding fees. If you're signing contracts for a reception venue, flowers, caterers and the like, be careful. You may not notice that there are fees for just about everything, from alterations that can raise the price of your wedding dress to cake-cutting fees per slice.

How to avoid them. Negotiate to let guests cut their own cake or designate a family member do it free of charge. Basically, read the fine print in all of your contracts before you sign, and bargain with your vendors beforehand.

Prepaid card fees. The fees on prepaid cards can generally be found on the cards' websites, and it may surprise you how extensive they are. Some come with activation fees, swipe fees (that is, you're charged each time you use the card), reloading fees, ATM fees, a monthly maintenance fee and even a dormancy charge if you don't use the card enough.

How to avoid them. Not all prepaid cards are a joke, but many are. Consumer Reports took a look at prepaid cards earlier this year and out of 26 cards it examined, it only recommended three: Bluebird with direct deposit (American Express), H&R Block Emerald Prepaid MasterCard and Green Dot Card (Green Dot Bank).

Mortgage or refinancing fees. If you're buying a home or refinancing, there are numerous fees known as closing costs. They include application fees, loan origination fees and inspection fees, title searches and survey fees. According to Bankrate.com, on a $200,000 house, the average homeowner pays about $2,400 in closing costs.

How to avoid them. You can't avoid them all, but some fees can we waived or negotiated. Many consumers, for instance, have had luck getting rid of the application fee, which can range from $100 to a few hundred dollars. And if you shop around, you may save if you go with the lender that has the lowest closing costs (providing the terms of the rest of the loan are comparable).

Credit card fees. Ever since the Credit CARD Act of 2009, credit cards have had to be pretty upfront about their fees – banks, too. But earlier this year, the software company BillGuard and research firm Aite Group came out with a study that estimates there are about 233 million hidden credit card charges every year, costing cardholders $14.3 billion in 2012 alone. The study termed them "grey charges," referring to, for instance, times when consumers sign up for a free trial for a service and later forget or not notice when a monthly fee begins landing on their credit card.

[See: 10 Saving Strategies That Can Backfire.]

How to avoid them. This one's pretty simple: Scrutinize your credit card statements monthly. If you spot something strange, prepare to do battle with the company charging your plastic – or call your credit card to stop the charges.