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10 things that used to be free

Remember when TV and food delivery were free? Today we're paying for those services and many more.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 17, 2012 1:27PM

This post comes from Renee Morad at partner site Money Talks News.


Image: Airport baggage claim. Copyright: Digital Vision, Getty ImagesWe love free stuff, whether it's an autograph after a concert, a towel to wave during football games or chocolates on a hotel pillow. Sure, we paid for the tickets and the hotel room, but nevertheless, the extras were "free" -- and that feels good.


But in recent years, freebies, ranging from no-fee checking to in-flight meals, have vanished.


So what types of goods and services now require that we pay a pretty penny? And what can we do to make sure we get these items as cheaply as possible? Here are some things to consider:

1. Airline services

From baggage and leg room fees to charges for in-flight movies, meals and even bottles of water, airlines have "unbundled" many of their complimentary services and passed on these costs to the consumer.

How to save: Consider all of the extra charges before simply selecting the carrier with the lowest fare. Also fly prepared: Pack snacks and consider bringing your own entertainment, like a mini DVD player or a tablet.




2. Food delivery

Many restaurants now charge a delivery fee, usually anywhere from $1.50 to as much as $6. Then you're expected to tip the delivery person on top of that.


How to save: Simply ask if there's a delivery fee before placing your order. If so, consider doing takeout, or call another restaurant that offers free delivery.


3. Banking

Today, charges abound -- from monthly charges to overdraft and ATM fees. Some banks have even charged for talking to a teller. According to Bankrate's 2011 Checking Account Survey, only 45% of non-interest checking accounts were free, and maintenance fees averaged $4.37 a month last year, up from $2.49 in 2010. The average AMT withdrawal fee for a noncustomer was $2.40.


How to save: Comparison-shop for checking accounts, just as you would for, say, a new flat-screen TV. Ask about hidden fees to make the most informed decision. Also, limit ATM withdrawals to the financial institution where you hold that account.


4. Television

Years ago, TVs with "rabbit ears" might have looked silly, but the programming was free. Today, local TV is still free, but more than 100 million American households pay for it through cable and satellite providers, according to research company SNL Kagan, and monthly costs average $50, or $75 for the digital version.


How to save: Negotiate the best rate, and don't be shy if a competitor is offering a better deal. Your cable company might match it.


5. News

Sure, there's still plenty of news out there for free, but 20% of U.S. newspapers require readers to pay to access online content, according to Mashable.


How to save: If the news outlet that you can't live without has a pay wall, keep an eye out for special promotions to reduce monthly or annual fees.


6. Trash pickup

Trash removal is certainly something we wouldn't want to pay for, and often it's included in your property taxes. But in some areas, that's changing. According to a survey of 70 Indiana cities conducted by Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman, 46 of those cities have a trash fee, while only 24 have no fee.


How to save: If your city charges for trash removal, make a conscious effort to limit your household waste. Recycle more or take your trash to your local landfill yourself -- although some counties charge a fee to do that too.


7. Gas station services

There was a time when gas station attendants would pump your gas and clean your windshield for free. Today, this complimentary service is nearly gone, with the exception of New Jersey and Oregon, where state laws prohibit self-service. Often, you'll even have to pay to pump air into your tires.


How to save: Since gas stations aren't exactly rolling out white-glove service these days, focus on navigating the car-wash scene instead to find the best deal.


8. School activities and facilities

As if college tuition wasn't high enough -- the average in-state tuition at public colleges is $8,244 a year, according to the College Board -- schools are increasingly charging extra fees for fitness facilities, parking garages or even campus health services.


Some public elementary and high schools have jumped on the bandwagon too, collecting fees for extracurricular activities and lab or course activities. Even field trip costs are on the rise in some schools.


How to save: Ask if a specific fee can be waived if you're not going to use the service.


9. Directory assistance

Back in the day, you weren't charged for calling directory assistance. Today, calling or texting your carrier's 411 service could cost you a couple bucks.


How to save: Look up a phone number for free online or do it the old-fashioned way -- the phone book.

10. Paying a bill by phone

Today, you often have to pay a fee just to pay your bill -- over the phone, that is. For example, DirecTV charges $5, and Verizon charges $3.50 for over-the-phone payments.


How to save: Pay online or send a check by mail. If you sign up for paperless billing, you'll eliminate the cost of a stamp each month. If you tend to forget to pay your bill until the last minute, put reminders on your calendar or make your online payments automatic.


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Sep 17, 2012 3:25PM
I'm going to start demanding fees for things such as
Drawing Blood.  It's my blood, if you want it, it's gonna cost you.
Answer a survey. My time is expensive, if you want answers prepare to pay for it.
Filling out forms multiple times. I was just in here 6 months ago and provide you with this information. If you want it again, crack out your check book. Otherwise, check your friggin files!

Sep 18, 2012 12:22AM

My apartment complex has recently removed the drop box to pay rent and taped notes to our doors asking that we use the new online bill pay, what they didnt say was that to pay online you will be charged an additional $25.00 "convenience fee"!!! What the hell??!! Its more convenient for THEM if I pay online so why would I pay more to save them a trip to the bank?  Drop box or not I still pay by check, if the office is closed I force the envelope in thru the door and if they slip on it in the morning, oh well!  Should've left the drop box where it was!

Sep 17, 2012 2:39PM
Here's a new one on me.  Credit One Bank is now offering its customers who "earned the privilege of a credit line increase", an increase of $100 to their Visa credit card.  To do so now costs $20.  Uh, what?  I earned the right to pay for the privilege of a credit increase. 

Thank you but . . . stuff it!

How lame.

Sep 18, 2012 1:12AM

For 30 yrs we have had to pay for trash pick-up, in addition to that, we have a yearly "fire fee" we have to pay to the local volunteer fire dept. as we are just out of the city limits ( if you don't pay it, they won't pump the water to put out your fire and the insurance company won't pay for your damages) we have to pay for our fire protection and yet, beginning this year we now have a fire fee added to our property tax.  The worst is the water and sewer bills, water bills allow nothing for outdoor usage and the sewer bill is 1 and 1/2 times the water bill.


We cut our electric bill in half by replacing all our bulbs with the compact fluorescents, before incandescent bulbs were eliminated, but what happens ? The power company loses money so they raise their rates, 5 rate hikes in 1 yr, so we're almost back to where we started. How can you win ?

Sep 17, 2012 2:54PM

TV is still free.  I did away with cable 15 years ago and have never missed it.


People are always shocked to find out I don't have cable.  I have the "silly" rabbit ears (and a converter box now that we've gone digital and I still have an old TV - nope, I won't spring for a new one, either) and get about 25 channels, which is more than enough.


Funny thing is, people are shocked to hear I don't have it, but at the end of my conversation with these shocked people, they ALWAYS say the same thing: "Well, there's nothing on cable, anyway."


So why on earth are you paying for it?!  Sheesh! 

Sep 18, 2012 1:07AM
Negotiate with a cable company? Why bother and why pay ANYTHING to watch the commercials! Remember when commercials paid for the TV? Give me a break -- buy an antenna for a few dollars and ditch the subscription to cable or satellite entirely. Stop being a sheep and just don't pay! TV is not a 'need'...
Sep 17, 2012 3:06PM
customer service now nonexistent was free now we just shop online to avoid being disrespected
Sep 17, 2012 10:09PM
Used to get free T.V. with way less ads. Now pay through the nose for mostly garbage and about half the air time is taken up by ads. Used to get someone to pump gas and clean the windshield and check the oil. Very rare now. Blue Cross/Blue Shield was so inexpensive that it was thrown in as a benny almost everywhere. Showed the card and that was it. Now if you can afford it you are probably so wealthy you don't need health insurance. Do I sound old? From way back when? Not quite. Turned 56 this year and remember all this from the seventies on. Not all that long ago.
Sep 17, 2012 9:05PM
As soon as the banks and other large corporations get us used to paying our bills online, they will start charging a "convenience" fee for it. Imagine the nerve that Ticketbasturd had when they charged us to print our own tickets. I saved them the cost of printing the ticket, the envelope, the postage, and the handling and they had the nerve to charge me. I guarantee this will happen with the banks and other large corporations eventually. If you pay by check there will be a check fee, if you pay in person with cash there will be a paying in cash fee, if you pay by phone there will be a phone fee, if you pay online there will be an online payment fee. I will now have to PAY them for the priviledge of giving them MY MONEY! Blank them all to Hell.
Sep 17, 2012 10:13PM
Of all the overpriced,  monopolized serviced we have,  my vote goes to Comcast as the #1 offender.
There's no such thing as a 'good deal',  and no such thing as a deal that stays the same.  Every time you turn around,  there's something new on the bill and 'they just can't do anything about it".

Sep 17, 2012 11:14PM
Yes, we pay for commerical TV, and for lousy programs we complain about, but still subscribe to.  How dumb is that?!  We have several TVs, but only one has cable.  I, like most viewers, mute the commercials, or flip to another channel until its over.  I understand that retailers have to get their product before the public, but do they have to yell it at us, and repeat the same phrase over and over, like they are trying to implant it into our brain?  And a commerical every 5 minutes, leaves very little time for program.  The nasal voice of someone yelling the wonders of their product at me, does nothing to cause me to want to rush out and buy it, it just annoys. 
Sep 18, 2012 2:05AM
How about the fee of $3 to pick up the show tickets at "will call" - or $1 for printing out those same tickets on your own printer, with your own ink and on your own paper (plus using your own electricity to run said printer). Yes, the companies that charge you for using your own things - shame on you!
Sep 26, 2012 8:30PM
it's just amazing how you are charged to pay a bill by phone...using an automated service...which basically sends the money right into their account saving them the money of having to hire someone to receive about trying to milk customers!
Sep 27, 2012 11:49AM
The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that
sex for money usually costs a lot less.  Rodney Dangerfield
Sep 17, 2012 10:19PM
I agree that we pay more and get less. Why do we tolerate it is beyond my understanding!
Sep 17, 2012 7:49PM
Sep 17, 2012 11:12PM
The reason these companies are charging you to pay your bill over the phone is so they can employ fewer people who understand another human. If that's the case, then shouldn't our bills be reduced because the company has fewer costs? Not at's the opposite. The cost of my bill should be able to support human customer service when I need to call every once in a while.
Sep 17, 2012 9:21PM
TV is now pleasure and PAIN....pleasure watching 7 minutes of your favorite show...PAIN THE BILL and the endless commericials...tell your doctor, ask your doctor.....and then the commercials for how to SUE your doctor!!!!!     Insurance commercials...stop advertising and lower the rates!!!!!!!
Sep 17, 2012 5:20PM

There was also once a concept for Free Breakfast for Hungry Kids.

Free glasses of water long before bottled came into view

A Salad used to be served prior to the entree atfancy restaurants, now it is an addition menu item.


I'm sure I will think of more!

Sep 27, 2012 2:51PM
Credit Unions folks!  For some reason, the media seems determined not to mention credit unions when mentioning banking.  Most credit unions are federally insured and almost anyone can join even even if they have names like State Employees Credit Union.  Mine, SECU of Maryland is typical.  It's large enough that there are two branch offices within 15 minutes of my home.  There are 68,101 absolutely free ATMs available to me nationwide including those in every 7-11, Target, and Costco.  There is NO debit card swipe fee.  Anywhere.  I pay NO account fees as long as my paycheck, pension check, or social security check is automatically deposited or if I set up automatic bill payments to my checking account or if I have something like a min. $5K in deposits.  If I have a checking overdraft, there's no fee as long as savings can cover it.  And I get free checks.  And my checking account gets 0.15% interest compared to 0.05% for my old bank SAVINGS account.  My savings gets 0.20% and CDs get 2%.

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