CHICAGO (CBS) – It is hard enough for some to pay bills when it’s that time of the month but now comes news that more and more companies are charging you a fee, even if you pay on time.
CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker takes a look at who’s tapping your wallet and why.
Jeromy Sauls is among the many consumers who complain about the fees some companies charge when you try to pay everyday bills by phone, “It’s anywhere from $1.75 to $4.95.”
But paying your bills by phone isn’t the only way you can rack up those unwanted fees.
When CBS 2 checked online to see how local companies handled online payments, we found customers could be charged a fee to pay their bill depending on how and when they pay.
“It’s just unacceptable that businesses charge you a fee for the privilege of paying for the service that you’re already paying for,” said Ed Mierzwinski of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
But, here are a few that do just that.
People’s Gas charges a $3.95 service fee if you pay online or over the phone with either a debit or credit card.
ComEd charges a $3.50 convenience fee for credit, debit, or E-check payments that are through the phone or online.
Nicor’s fee is $1.65 per transaction if you use the N-C-O payment option online, no matter what type of method you use to pay.
CBS 2 found that some retailers also use similar fees.
“I had a $5 balance on my Macy’s credit card. I called them by phone to pay it. They were going to charge me $14 to pay it,” said card holder Christa who was just trying to make a last-minute payment by phone.
Macy’s responded by saying they do charge a fee for expedited phone payments but only if the payment is made on the due date.
Legally, credit card issuers can do that.
Jessica Aguiar complains about the fee her mortgage company charges if she pays by phone, even if it is on time, “They said it would be $20 and I was just a little bit angry and shocked.”
But, banks argue that providing a live person on the phone is expensive.
“The fees intended to help cover the cost of the workers wages and benefits,” said Nessa Fields of the American Bankers Association.
Consumer advocates say that is not fair.
“The banks already had those people working on the phones and if they’re not collecting payments, they’re trying to sell something else,” Mierzwinski adds.
Nicor and ComEd both say they don’t make money off the fees which they say go to a third party and People’s Gas did not make a comment.
People can still pay some bills last minute using a Currency Exchange, EZ Pay Stations, and Walmart stores. That could cost you about a dollar.
You can often avoid fees altogether by paying in person or using your own bank account’s online bill pay feature.