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.
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.
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 that limited amount of time, 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”
As you’re browsing plan options from different providers, you might see a line of text under a plan price that says “see offer details” or “pricing info.” Click that button and you’ll probably find the complete details on pricing and how long deals last.
- The page footer
If you see a little asterisk next to a promotion on a page, another method to find standard pricing information is to scroll to the bottom of that page. Usually, you’ll find tiny print explaining the details of the current offer and what regular pricing rates are.
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, even if a provider states that rates will rise to “the standard rate,” the standard rate from that provider may or may not be available in the offer details.
- The 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.
Example internet pricing found on 5/21/18. Pricing and offers vary by provider and area.
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.
This cost isn’t so much a “hidden” fee as it is unexpected, especially when signing up for internet for the first time.
Even though renting is an easy option, most internet providers typically charge $10-15 a month to rent modems and routers. If it’s compatible with your internet provider’s service, 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.
If you opt to buy your own equipment, make sure it works with your provider’s services. Amazon lists modem router combos as “certified by” different providers, but it’s good to double check with your provider to see if the modem router combo you want to use is compatible.
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 up front 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 able to provide your own equipment, many internet provider sites have dedicated equipment pages about devices that work with their service. Some large telecommunications providers also have pages where you can order internet accessories that they say comply with their services.
Unfortunately, some providers can be unclear on whether or not you’re required to use their equipment or can provide your own, so it’s good to call a provider you’re interested in to ask about equipment requirements.
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, visit buttons like “See offer details” under internet plan options, and you’ll likely find information about that plan’s data allowance. It will 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.
Another good place to go for different data usage questions is the provider’s Support page. Many have FAQs or topical articles that can give you that provider’s unique policy on household internet data usage and limits.
And if all this fails, some internet providers keep track of your data usage and email you if you’re coming close to your cap. XFINITY allows you to keep track of your household data usage in your personal XFINITY account.
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 and your bill, 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 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.
Not all internet providers require internet service contracts, and you can get good internet deals without a contract. But some internet providers do have contracts, and they 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.
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 part of your service early.
Where to learn about fees for dropping, moving or cancelling your internet service
Your provider terms of service is the best starting place. Service Support pages can also be helpful, especially on provider websites that have search capabilities.
If you’re signing up for a new internet service, most internet service providers give you the option to set up your router or modem router combination by yourself. Setting up your modem and router connection 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.
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.