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How to find hidden internet fees

BY Nicole George | Thu Jan 03, 2019
How to find hidden internet fees

Different internet service providers offer deals that catch your eye, but when you get your first bill, you might be shocked at the charges. What are all those extra internet fees for? Sometimes these costs feel like hidden internet fees, but often, they are listed out in a provider’s terms and conditions or in a plan details page. And sometimes, they’re buried elsewhere in a provider’s website. To help you wade through a swamp of internet options and provider websites, we’ll talk about different costs that come with new internet service and how to find those “hidden” internet fees.

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Typical hidden internet fees and where to find them

While there are plenty of miscellaneous costs that pop up with an internet service, we’ll discuss typical fees that most internet providers charge because even the typical fees can be tricky to find.

Introductory price vs. normal price

This “hidden” internet fee takes many people by surprise. You’ve signed up for a great, low-price plan and then after a year, your bill increases by 50% percent. What? Most internet service providers offer great deals as an introductory price for a limited amount of time. After the introductory term, your monthly rate will rise to a price or a rate written in legalese as “the standard rate” or “the prevailing monthly rate.”

Where to find standard internet rates

  • “See offer details” – You might see a line of text under a plan price that says “see offer details” or “pricing info” which usually outlines the complete details on pricing and how long deals last.
  • Superscript symbols – If you see an asterisk or dagger next to a promotion, check for the corresponding note, typically in the footer. Usually, you’ll find tiny print explaining the details of the current offer and what regular pricing rates are.
  • Page footer – You’ll probably see language in the footer such as “One-year internet offer” or “Limited time offer,” and the surrounding text usually alerts you to when the future price hike will occur. Unfortunately, this may only alert you to the term change, not the amount the rate will increase.
  • Online shopping cart – One way to search for the normal price of monthly internet service is to begin the online purchase process. As you select options, an internet provider may tell you the typical monthly rate in your shopping cart.

 

Are introductory rates worth it?

While the introductory rate may not reflect the normal price, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth signing up. The perks of these limited time promotional pricing offers are:

  • You can guarantee your internet price rate for the next year, two years or however long your contract lasts.
  • You have the opportunity to reevaluate internet providers at the end of your contract and potentially find a better deal. If you’re locked in for life, or paying month to month, you might not be as motivated to find the best deal or best fit for you.

 

The modem and router rental fee

Even though renting is an easy option, most internet providers typically charge $10-15 a month to rent modems and routers. Owning a router or modem router combo can cost less in the long term, even if it means a higher upfront cost. You can get your money back after about a year of service since a variety of wireless routers sell for $120 or less online — just make sure it works with your provider’s services.

Certain providers may give you the option to purchase a modem or modem router combo from them. Many providers have pages outlining what equipment or “authorized devices” are compatible with their service.

Where to find modem and router rental fee information

Providers tend to be pretty upfront about whether or not you need to rent their equipment or have the option to provide your own. However, each provider seems to put the information somewhere different. Possible online pages with information about modem and router rentals or requirements include:

  • A provider’s internet equipment page
  • A provider’s internet plan options and details page
  • A service support page
  • An “authorized devices” page
  • A terms of service page

If you’re still unclear about whether to use your own modem or not, call a provider you’re interested in to ask about equipment requirements.

Internet data limit fees

The average person using the internet to stream videos, scroll through social media and manage bills will probably not need to worry about data limits and fees. However, it really depends on your internet service plan (some providers have different cap levels for each plan) and your internet activities (whether you’re downloading videos or simply emailing).

Data fees vary by provider and their cap levels, but many providers charge a fixed amount (around $10) for every additional 50 GB you use.

Where to learn about internet data limit fees

Again, buttons like “See offer details” under internet plan options will likely have information about that plan’s data allowance. It will also probably tell you how you can purchase unlimited data or purchase additional data amounts per month. With certain providers who offer cable, internet and phone, you might also see language that tells you how to combine your services and get unlimited internet data for no additional charge.

A provider’s support page may offer FAQs or topical articles about their policy on household internet data usage and limits. Some internet providers keep track of your data usage and email you if you’re coming close to your cap.

Late payment fees

Some people hope for, or even expect, a grace period for paying their internet bill. However, most internet providers have an explicit late payment fee outlined. With the potential of being charged late fees ranging from $5 to $25 depending on the provider, it’s good to set up an automatic payment draft with your internet provider.

You can also set a bill reminder for yourself a couple days before the bill’s due date. Along with late payment charges, a provider may also charge a returned check fee if your payment doesn’t go through. Returned payment fees could possibly be applied to debit and credit card payments, too.

Where to find late payment fee information

One place you can find information on late payment fees is a provider’s support pages. You can also look for a provider’s explicit “billing terms and conditions,” which usually outlines the terms for late payments, returned payments and even reactivation costs if your provider turns off your internet service because you’ve waited too long to pay.

Fees for dropping, moving or canceling your internet service

Not all internet providers require internet service contracts, and you can get good internet deals without a contract. The ones that do require contracts, though, will charge if you cancel service before the contract period ends.

Often, large providers that have service cancellation fees will have prorated early termination charges. That means they reduce the early termination fee a certain amount based on how many months of service you’ve already paid for. Keep a close eye on the terms around early termination fees, though, because some providers are moving away from prorated bills.

Although it’s not necessarily a fee, certain internet providers may require a contract extension if you change your service address. So, even though you avoid an early cancellation fee by transferring service to a new address, the internet provider may extend your contract length.

Be careful to read the terms for bundled services, too. A provider may note that if you cancel one portion of your bundled service before the promotional price period in your contract ends, you will lose all promotional rates on the bundle. Again, this isn’t necessarily a fee but is a pricey consequence of canceling early.

Where to learn about fees for dropping, moving or canceling service

Your provider terms of service page or document is the best starting place. Service support pages can also be helpful, especially on provider websites that have search capabilities.

Setup costs and fees

If you’re signing up for new internet service, most internet service providers give you the option to set up equipment by yourself. Setting up your modem and router connection yourself is free with most providers. If you want a professional technician to set up your internet service, your service provider will likely outline how much the installation fee costs.

Don’t forget to look for and ask about free installation, especially if you’re ordering fiber or satellite internet, which require unique equipment. Different internet providers may offer free setup and installation as part of their latest promotion.

Where to find information about internet setup fees

Setup and installation fee costs can typically be found coupled with information about the equipment you need for internet service. Sometimes, that means you’ll find setup and installation fee information in a provider’s terms of service.

If a provider is particularly forward with information, you might also find setup fee details on a provider’s internet plan pricing page, especially if waiving the setup and installation fee is part of the provider’s latest promotion.

Real life example: How much are Comcast XFINITY taxes and fees?

Curious about how these fees might add up? Let’s take a look at Comcast XFINITY fees for an internet-only plan as of December 2018:

  • Introductory rate: $39.99/mo.* for first 12 months with No Term Agreement
  • Normal rate: $74.95/mo.* (found in “Pricing & Other info” link near introductory offer)
  • Equipment rental: $11/mo.* for xFi Gateway modem-router combo (found in shopping cart with option to use own equipment)
  • Data charges: $10 per 50 GB block after 1 TB data limit (found in 1 Terabyte Data Plan Details page)
  • Late payment fee: Varies by location. For instance, Maryland residents may be charged 10% per month of the amount not paid. (Found in Comcast Agreement for Residential Services policy)
  • Early cancellation fee: Varies by contract. Early termination fees are outlined in your contract and typically go down incrementally as you get closer to completing your contract. (Found in XFINITY Community Forum)
  • Installation fee: $15 for self-install kit or $59.99 for professional installation (found in shopping cart)
  • Taxes: Varies by plan and location. You’ll typically be charged federal, state and local taxes as well as a Federal Communication Commission tax for internet.
*Price per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. As of 12/17/18.

 

Where to go if you can’t find fee and charge information

If you start your search for any hidden internet fees, but can’t find information in these typical provider internet pages, go to the provider’s community forum. Often, community forums are monitored by the company’s employees who can give you insider information on internet costs and why you were charged specific fees. Certain community forums even show discussions with employees where the employee has been able to credit a person’s account when they were mischarged.

If all else fails, or a provider doesn’t have a community forum, call the provider’s customer service team. But since most of us don’t want to call someone, we’ve done most of the labor for you and have compiled a list of our top providers’ unexpected fees and where to find them.

Originally published 05/21/18. Last updated 12/17/18.
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