Avoid high fees and hidden borrowing costs

Some credit cards and loans can come with higher fees when compared to other forms of borrowing. Here’s what to watch out for and what to do if you think you’ve been charged unfairly.

Late payment charges

If you make a payment on a credit card or loan after its due date or miss the payment altogether you will usually have to pay a late payment charge. This can also affect your credit score, meaning it could be harder to borrow money in the future.

Cost: usually around £12

  • Make sure you never miss a payment by setting up a Direct Debit to your credit card provider or lender.

Charges for going over your credit limit

If you go over your agreed credit limit on your credit card, you will also have to pay a charge.

Cost: up to £12

  • Ensure you know how much money is left on your credit card each month – check your balance online or on the phone.

Returned payment fee

If your credit card company tries to take a payment via Direct Debit or a cheque but you don’t have enough money to cover it you’ll be charged a returned payment fee.

Cost: £5–£12

  • Make sure you have enough money to cover your repayments.

Cash withdrawal fees


Over two-thirds of people who made credit card cash withdrawals didn’t know how much it had cost them. Don’t be one of them!

Source: uSwitch.com

Using your credit card to withdraw money from a cash machine is a bad idea. You’re often charged a percentage fee with a minimum level (usually £2–£3) plus interest from the day you make the withdrawal, whereas spending on a credit card usually has an interest-free period if you repay in full at the end of each month.

The interest rate you’ll pay for cash will also be higher than the rate for spending.

Cost: £2–£3 plus any interest charges

  • Avoid withdrawing cash using your credit card. If you are having problems paying your bills, talk to the companies and tell them your situation.

Dormancy fees

Some credit card companies actually charge you a fee for not using your card. This is known as a dormancy fee and it varies depending on the card company.

Cost: £2–£20, depending on the card company

  • Check the terms and conditions of your credit card agreement to see if this applies to you and cancel any cards you no longer use or switch to one that doesn’t charge a dormancy fee.

Fees for paying with your credit card

Beware of credit card fees when you pay for things, as they can increase the cost of whatever it is you’re buying considerably.

In many cases, the charge is only revealed during the closing stage of the payment process, for example when you’re paying for a flight or event tickets online, making it difficult to compare prices.

Cost: £2–£3, but can be more or a percentage of the cost of the purchase

  • If the cost is under £100, consider using a debit card instead. If it’s over £100, bear in mind credit cards give you extra protection if there is a problem with your purchase.

Using a credit card abroad

Using your credit card abroad can also be very expensive. When you pay for something, a charge called a loading fee is added onto the exchange rate by your bank. Once your bank adds this, your exchange rate won’t be so favourable and fees for withdrawing cash may be slightly higher.

The loading fee may not show up on your statement either so you won’t even know you’re paying it unless you check your terms and conditions.

Unfair credit card charges

It may be possible to get your current or old credit card provider to repay the last six years of late payment fees or charges for going beyond your limit.

In 2006 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) ruled these charges of up to £35 were unfair. While the OFT ruling had no technical power, across the board, most card companies reduced their charges to this £12 level.

You can seek to reclaim back the difference between what you were charged and the £12 figure.

Cutting the cost of your borrowing

Beyond avoiding high fees and charges there are other ways you can cut your card and loan costs. Read our guides for more tips on how to pay less.