smart spending

It pays to get ahead of late fees

Late fees are potentially everywhere
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Late fees are potentially everywhere

Did you know late fees are assessed on just about all your monthly bills? These include bills related to your mortgage, cellphone, cable, utilities, insurances, credit cards, library books, traffic tickets and even kids' activities. And, of course, Uncle Sam assesses severe late fees and penalties if you're past due with your tax payment.

"Issuers claim they are a way to account for risk, but our research in the credit card industry shows that is not the case. They are trying to maximize revenue with late fees," says Josh Frank, senior researcher for the Center for Responsible Lending.

Financial experts agree that credit card late fees have been reined in somewhat by the Credit Card Act of 2009, which limited late fees to $25 for the first violation and $35 for subsequent violations. But these rules have substantial loopholes and do not apply to small-business credit cards or any other type of late fees, which can ring up at $39 each and more for past due payments -- on your mortgage, for example.


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