Early cancellation, late checkout, and even just avocado can all come at a cost. As if consumers didn't pay enough already, hidden fees and surprise charges seem to be everywhere.
While some fees (like banking fees, hotel parking fees, and processing fees) may not come as a surprise, they certainly leave consumers fed up. But just as not all fees are created equal, neither are the reactions to them. Which fees are most hated by Americans? Are younger generations more tolerant of fees? We surveyed over 1,000 people about the fees they've had to pay, and which ones they dislike the most. Keep reading to see what we found.
When it comes to retail shopping, brick-and-mortar stores are just not cutting it anymore. Consumers have brought their purchasing habits to the internet, causing e-commerce to skyrocket. But the convenience of online shopping comes at a price – mostly in the form of shipping fees. While some online retailers offer free shipping over a certain price point or through subscription programs like Amazon Prime, nearly 75% of consumers paid a shipping fee in the last year – significantly more than any other fees.
ATM fees were also pretty common, with 52.8% of consumers being subjected to them in the past year. Being charged to access your own money may seem counterintuitive, but these charges are easy to avoid. ATMs typically only charge users fees when the customer is from another bank. Sticking to your own bank's ATMs or joining a credit union can prevent the extra fees from piling up.
A fee that is a bit harder to avoid and almost as common is for food delivery. From Uber Eats and Postmates to Grubhub and Delivery Dudes, the options for food delivery seem to be endless. Restaurants may not seat as many customers, but their businesses are still booming thanks to delivery. Of course, the convenience of delivery also comes at a price – one that is often high, unpredictable, and costly to avoid. Depending on the restaurant and time of day, delivery fees through third-party services can fluctuate, and unless you're willing to pay for a monthly or annual subscription, delivery fees are here to stay.
Whether extra costs are in bold letters or hidden in the fine print, fees greatly impact which businesses consumers frequent. Women were more likely than men to say fees had a major impact on the companies they visited – compared to 32.4% of men, fees majorly impacted 44% of women's decisions. Baby boomers were also more likely to say the same, with millennials more likely to report a moderate or minor impact.
The major impact fees have on customers doesn't necessarily mean a major impact on their wallets, though. Customers may be willing to spend more on services, but when small fees for processing, printing, or shipping are added to the end of their bill, it could be the last time they choose to do business with that company.
Delivery and shipping fees may be annoying, but consumers seem to understand their necessity. Fees associated with entertainment, like ticket processing and printing fees, were deemed most unfair by Americans, followed by checking account minimum balance fees.
While Americans may not see the purpose of ticket processing fees and consider them the most hated, they're actually needed to keep businesses like Ticketmaster, well, in business. Without the extra charge, the company providing tickets would have to cover ticket handling, shipping, and support out of their own pocket. An easy way to avoid these fees, though, is making a trip to a physical box office.
Despite Americans rating fees associated with entertainment as the most unfair and hated, the industry to which customers hated paying fees the most was banking and credit cards. Entertainment came in at No. 5 on the list, after utilities or bills, housing, and travel.
Americans' hatred of fees associated with banking may be due to the discrepancy between perceived services and corresponding costs. While banks are supposed to be where people can save and manage their finances, the extra fees can cost them a tremendous amount of money instead – an ordinary customer could lose upward of $1 million to banks throughout their lifetime.
Hatred for banking fees was shared across the generations, but baby boomers most hated checking account minimum balance fees, while both Gen Xers and millennials thought ticket processing fees deserved the top spot. Still, the younger generations were more likely than baby boomers to hate overdraft and ATM fees.
Baby boomers were the only generation who included travel fees in their top five, with checked baggage fees at No. 3. While the recent hike in airline baggage fees affects all travelers, baby boomers likely hate them because they spent a significant portion of their adult lives not paying any baggage fees. It wasn't until 2008 that the first major U.S. airline implemented a checked baggage fee. More than 10 years later, they're a pretty standard charge.
While banking fees are far from new, they too have increased in recent years. From ATM withdrawal fees and deposit fees to annual fees and credit card fees, banks make around 40% of their income just from extra costs. But which banking fees are the most common and hated?
ATM fees were, by far, the most common, with nearly 53% of respondents paying the extra cost in the past year. Overdraft fees were the second most common, but only 21.2% of respondents reported paying them in the past year. Still, having to pay money for not having enough money made overdraft fees the most hated by respondents.
On the other hand, investment fees were only paid by 8.5% of respondents, but they were considered the most fair. Similarly, currency conversion fees were the second most fair, with only 7.2% paying them in the past year. Debit card replacement fees and credit card late payment fees were also deemed to be fair, while account maintenance fees and checking account minimum balance fees were among the most hated. Interestingly, exceeding credit limit fees were deemed one of the most fair but also one of the most hated. Just because people can see a fee's purpose doesn't mean they like paying it.
Gratuity and checked baggage fees were the most common travel fees – 42.1% of people reported paying a gratuity fee in the past year, while 40.7% reported paying a checked baggage fee. Interestingly, people hated paying for checked bags but thought gratuity fees were among the most fair.
Some airlines don't stop at charging for tickets and checked bags, though. Nowadays, airlines expect flyers to print their boarding passes at home or use a mobile-friendly version. Otherwise, getting a boarding pass printed at check-in can cost around $10 and make for a not-so-happy customer.
As if housing prices weren't high enough already, the extra fees associated with bills and utilities can make living even harder to afford. Cable or internet equipment and activation fees were the most common, with 25.9% and 24.3% of respondents paying each in the past year, respectively. Twenty-one percent also paid cable or internet installation fees. However, while installation fees were deemed among the most fair, equipment fees were the third most hated related to utilities and bills. Similarly, late bill payments not associated with credit cards made the top five for the most fair fees but were the second most hated.
Shipping fees were the most common miscellaneous fee – 74.5% of respondents reported paying for shipping in the past year. However, the extra fees were also seen as the third most fair, only beat by food delivery fees and express shipping fees. Restaurant add-on fees were also pretty common and rated among the top five most fair.
While these add-on fees likely consist of adding extra ingredients to dishes, some restaurants in California have added a 1% surcharge to bills to offset carbon dioxide emissions and help fight climate change.
On the other hand, ticket processing and printing fees were the most hated. Around 27% of people paid a ticket processing fee in the past year, while 9.2% paid for ticket printing. Appointment cancellation fees, car dealership fees, and rental application fees were also among the most hated, but for each fee, less than 10% of respondents paid them in the past year.
If Americans dislike extra fees so much, what steps do they take to avoid them? Both men and women were most likely to do prior research on options with no or cheaper fees or skip add-ons or additional services with fees. However, besides speaking with a company representative to negotiate, women were more likely than men to take actions to avoid fees. For example, women were more likely to wait for a promotion or deal that eliminated fees; while nearly 42% of women reported waiting, only 26.7% of men did the same.
There were also pretty significant differences across the generations. While prior research and skipping add-ons were the most common, baby boomers and Gen Xers were more likely to do so compared to millennials. Instead, millennials chose to avoid providers that charged extra fees. The younger generation was also more likely to alter their settings or cancel service to avoid extra costs.
It's no secret that customers hate extra fees, whether hidden or boldly standing out. But even fees deemed fair can irritate consumers so much that they'll take their business elsewhere.
Extra fees can also make or break a small business, so deciding which fees are necessary and which to pocket can be difficult. When extra funds are needed, it may be better to turn to a partner than slip fees in customers' bills. At FundRocket, there's no need to worry about high interest rates, hidden fees, or racking up endless debt – as a partner, not a lender, we only get paid when you get paid. To learn more about how we can help support your business, visit us online today.
We surveyed 1,018 people about the fees they had to pay and which ones they disliked the most. Respondents were 51.5% women and 48.5% men. The average age of respondents was 37.4 with a standard deviation of 11.9.
Respondents were asked what fees they paid in the last year in the following categories:
Respondents were then asked to rate how fair they thought the fees they paid were and how much they liked/disliked them. Only respondents who reported paying a fee in the last year were allowed to rate them on fairness and dislike. Fairness was measured on the following scale:
How much people liked or disliked a fee was measured on the following scale:
Average fairness and like/dislike scores were calculated for each fee based on respondents' ratings.
Parts of this study group data by generation. The options respondents were shown are as follows:
Respondents in the greatest generation, the silent generation, and Generation Z were excluded from our final visualizations of the data due to low sample sizes in those groups.
The data presented here were gathered through self-reporting. There are a number of issues with self-reported data, including but not limited to exaggeration and selective memory. For example, respondents could have answered questions about their dislike for fees based on one negative experience that's prominent in their memory.
No one likes paying extra fees. Feel free to share this study for any noncommercial reuse so that you can commiserate with friends and family. We only ask that you link back here so that they can view our results in their entirety. It also gives our contributors credit for their work.