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Nobody likes paying fees. They make us feel like we’re paying extra for a service we’re already getting.

Credit card fees in particular are often the object of consumer ire — no one likes paying the too-familiar late fee and annual fees can eat away at your credit card rewards. But you don’t have to just pay a fee, especially if you think you were charged incorrectly.

The following three tips will help you combat credit card fees, education fees and more.

1. Read Your Bills & Spot the Fees

My husband recently enrolled in graduate school. Between registering for classes, figuring out financing and preparing the rest of our life for his return to school, we nearly overlooked a rather large fee.

The bill for the upcoming summer semester seemed higher than we expected, and when reviewing it we found it included a charge for student health insurance.

Since my husband is already covered under my health insurance, he doesn’t need or want the school’s coverage. He was able to request a waiver and ultimately will not have to pay for it. But if he had just paid the total amount listed, without looking through the itemized portion of the bill, we would have been paying for coverage twice.

Also, if we had not created an estimated budget ahead of time we might not have noticed that the total amount seemed too high.

Reading your bills is the first line of defense in combatting fees. How do you fight a late fee on your credit card if you don’t know it exists? The short answer — you can’t.

2. Be Persistent

Once you’ve identified a fee for a service you don’t want or need, especially one you are already being billed for, it’s important to follow through on removing it.

In the case of the student health coverage, we had to pay the tuition part of the bill to avoid late fees while signing the waiver to avoid paying for the coverage. It can be nerve-wracking, especially for those of us who make it a point to pay our bills on time and in full, to not pay the total amount on the bill.

So we sent emails to several different people explaining what we were doing — and why —  to avoid future problems.

3. Avoid the Issue

Sometimes, you can end up getting another bill that still has the fee on it. Instead of assuming you have already dealt with it and it will eventually work out, it’s a good idea to reach out again.

If you are speaking to customer service representatives on the phone instead of via email, it’s important to take down their names and titles. Hopefully you reach the right person who can remove the fee, but if nothing else you are creating a paper trail if you have to dispute both the fee and late charges in the future. It can be a hassle but it’s better than busting your budget over fees you shouldn’t have to pay

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