3 ways to dodge rising fees

To offset their losses, banks, credit card companies and mutual funds are charging you more. Here's what you can do to soften the blow.

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By Carolyn Bigda and Ismat Sarah Mangla, Money Magazine

1. Credit cards
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(Money Magazine) -- Why fees are up: President Obama just signed off on major reforms. Card issuers aren't happy. They're doing everything they can to make money off you before the regs kick in next year.

What you're getting socked with: Up to 3% extra for foreign goods you buy in dollars (such as a ticket on Air France). Balance-transfer fees are up too: Several issuers have raised them as high as 5%.

What you can do: Swap for a lowerfee card, such as the IberiaBank Visa Classic card, which charges 0% for the first six months and has no transfer fee. For more, look on CardRatings.com or LowCards.com.

2. Mortgages

Why fees are up: Banks are still nervous about lending, so they're bolstering their coffers against potential defaults.

What you're getting socked with: You'll have to pay the 0.25% "adverse-market fee" that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have tacked onto every loan they insure. If you're refinancing and have less then 40% equity or if your credit score is below 720, expect fees of up to 3% of the value of the loan.

What you can do: Boost your credit score by trimming credit card balances and paying your bills on time. For more specific suggestions, use the simulators at MyFico.com or CreditKarma.com.

3. Mutual funds

Why fees are up: Talk about rubbing salt in your wounds. As assets dwindled, fund firms had to hike fees to cover their costs.

What you're getting socked with: Higher annual expense ratios. The one on American Funds Smallcap World, for example, went from 1.07% to 1.15%. Even low-fee champ Vanguard upped the cost of its U.S. Value Fund by 0.09 of a percentage point. You might also get hit with a $10 to $20 fee if your balance has slipped below the funds' required minimum.

What you can do: Don't love the fund? Ditch it. After all, if it's in a taxable account, you can write off your losses. Then replace it with a similar fund that's cheaper too.  To top of page

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