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There is plenty of free money to be found by reducing or eliminating fees and finding unclaimed funds — as long as you know where to look.
TODAY financial editor Jean Chatzky is here to help with tips to lower or erase fees on credit cards, avoid bank and travel fees, and hunt down money you may have left unclaimed.
Credit card fees
First up are those pesky credit card fees, which Chatzky said can be trimmed or even eliminated by simply picking up the phone.
Eight out of 10 people who call their credit card company and asked to avoid or reduce annual fees, raise their credit limit, or get late fees waived end up getting what they wanted, according to a survey from CreditCards.com cited by Chatzky.
"Ask nicely first,'' Chatzky told Savannah Guthrie. "If you get no action, ask for a supervisor and eventually you may be transferred to the retention department. Those are the people who have extra power to give you something just to keep you."
Bank fees are another area to save money with Chatzky's tips.
- Find a bank that does charge checking account maintenance fees.
- Opt out of overdraft fees.
- Avoid ATM fees by getting cash back at grocery or drug stores.
- Go with electronic bank statements to save money on paper fees.
When it comes to avoiding extra media streaming and download fees, Chatzky sees Amazon Prime, which costs $99 a year, as a great bargain. The unlimited photo storage, access to millions of songs and huge video streaming and book library can help save money by not spending on other companies for those services.
Another place to find some extra cash is by avoiding travel fees with these tips.
- Join loyalty programs to save on everything from wireless internet to drinks at the bar to breakfast.
- Use your own Wi-Fi instead of the hotel's carrier.
- Find a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees when you're traveling abroad.
- Call and ask hotels and resorts to waive fees when you're booking.
If doing any of that legwork yourself sounds like a headache, there are now companies like BillFixers, BillCutterz, Billshark and Shrinkabill that offer to do it for you in exchange for anywhere from one-third to a half of the savings they can offer you, according to Chatzky.
There also are sites that help you find unclaimed funds like savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends, refunds, gift certificates, insurance payments and much more in every state where you have resided.
Chatzky recommends starting with MissingMoney.com, a free service that contains the official collective records from most state unclaimed property programs. There also is Unclaimed.org, which allows you to search by state.
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