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6 credit card fees you never saw coming

The fact that using a credit card is expensive is hardly shocking news. If you’ve ever carried a balance, the hefty interest rate quickly bears evidence of the compounding cost. Unfortunately, credit card interest is only the start of what a credit card can cost you. In fact, many credit cards have fees you’ve probably never even considered.

The good news: Federally regulated institutions (your bank) are required to tell credit card holders (you) about the fees being charged. More so, credit card applications and agreements must include this information, and consumers must be updated any time these fees are changed.

[More: The credit card blues: The correlation between debt and depression]

The reality: Most people don’t pay much attention to the fine print.

With this in mind, we’ve combed through the more obscure and easy-to-overlook credit card fees, so you won’t have to find out about them the hard way…when they land on your statement.

1) A fee for…buying lottery tickets

You probably know that using your credit card for a cash advance costs way more than simply swiping it at the till. The same goes for using credit card checks. Unlike regular transactions, which rack up monthly interest at the annual rate stated in your credit card agreement, these transactions will cost you a lump sum fee and daily interest until the amount is paid off.

But did you know that one other seemingly neutral purchase might be subject to the same charges: a lottery ticket. Depending on your credit card issuer, the fees attached to this transaction could boost the price of a $2 ticket to as high as $10.

2) A fee for…casino chips or other bets

In the U.S., most states have regulations that prevent you from using credit cards to buy gambling chips. Beyond that, many credit card companies will deny your credit card purchase if you try to use it at a gambling establishment, or even for online gambling. That’s if you’re lucky. If not, you’ll get hit with a cash-advance fee and daily interest charges instead. Talk about a game that isn’t stacked in your favor.

3) A fee for…travellers cheques, money orders and wire transfers

These items are another no-no because they involve borrowing money to buy cash. It’s a restriction designed to cut down on fraud. (Can you imagine what a crook could do with a stolen credit card if it could be used to buy less traceable forms of payment?) Like lottery tickets and other forms of gambling, using money to buy (basically) money is defined as a “cash-like transaction” - which is precisely why the above transactions are charged the same fees as a cash advance.

[More: Common credit card mistakes: The cost is bigger than you think]

4) A fee for…past statements

If you’ve done a little too much spending in the last month, you might dread getting your credit card statement. But you’d better hang on to it, because many credit card issuers will charge you for another copy. Most companies provide the last six months’ worth free of charge. After that, it’ll cost you between $2 and $10 depending on the issuer. You can also get receipts for specific transactions if you need them...typically with another fee attached.

5) A fee for…currency exchange

If you buy something in another currency, such as while you’re on vacation in France or just shopping online, you’ll pay the currency exchange rate (which fluctuates daily) and a currency conversion fee, which tends to be around 2.5 percent per transaction, depending on your credit card issuer. Overall, using a Canadian credit card to buy goods in the U.S. could cost you an extra 4 percent. But here’s the kicker: If you get a refund, you’ll have to pay that markup all over again because the refund will be delivered in U.S. dollars. That means that your credit card issuer gets to charge you for converting your money back to your own currency.

[More: Debt: The good, the bad and the ugly (& how to tell the difference)]

6) A fee for...nothing

If you’re trying to cut back on spending, you may have put your credit card on ice. Smart move, but you’d better check your credit card agreement because with some cards, even self-discipline comes at a cost. Indeed, some cards charge an inactivity fee. According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, this is a fee charged on cards that have been inactive for a long period of time, usually a year. The damage is generally a modest $10 to $25 per year. Even so, it’s a lot to pay for nothing.

You won’t know if you don’t look

Maybe you haven’t heard of these fees. Maybe your credit card issuer doesn’t even charge them. But if you don’t check your credit card agreement, you’ll probably never know – until one of them winds up costing you. is a free personal finance and education site for women.

Nothing contained herein is intended to provide personalized financial, legal or tax advice. Before implementing any financial strategy, you should obtain information and advice from your financial, legal and/or tax advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.

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