Gen X: Boxed In by Hidden Fees and Fake Rebates


Remember your last vacation? If you're part of Generation X (1966-1983), you probably worked all year to afford some much deserved rest and relaxation -- pulling extra shifts or staying late in order to take one week off out of your two-week allotment.

But you did not put in all those hours just to pay hidden fees that corporations squeeze out of consumers like you. As times get more difficult, many companies -- especially those in the travel and leisure business -- often turn to hidden fees to boost their revenue per customer. This is creating a culture of mistrust for our generation.

Unlike our parents, who could buy an all-inclusive hotel stay for $100, we must read the fine print to find the stay's real cost (an extra $50 a day for beach entrance and $5 for a towel).

We experience hidden fees constantly with airlines, such as American Airlines (Stock Quote: AMR), United Airlines (Stock Quote: UAUA), and Ryanair (Stock Quote: RYAAY).

Redeeming miles and changing flights will also cost you -- and way too much! Last year, the airline industry made $2 billion on charge fees and cancellation penalties alone, according to the Department of Transportation.

Travel plans change all the time, so why should our wallets bleed as a result? In this sense, we would expect consumers to flock to airlines like Southwest with no hidden fees. But it has not seemed to make much difference.

No travel is without its extra charges, and Ryanair captures that so well. Airline tickets from London to Barcelona are listed with no cost for the fare (if you book at least two months in advance)!

Their colorful Web site even states "book cheap flights" as you purchase their tickets. But with the airport tax (28 pounds), online check-in (5 pounds) and baggage cost (5 pounds per kilo), you could end up paying the same amount as a standard carrier. If you have an oversize bag, it might even be cheaper to rent a yacht and sail there yourself (and without all the advertisements draping over the overhead compartments).

In terms of international travel, purchasing anything abroad adds to this culture of deception for our generation. The high foreign transaction fees and interest rates charged by credit card companies, including American Express (Stock Quote: AXP), Visa (Stock Quote: V) and MasterCard (Stock Quote: MA) are unnecessary as most transactions are done electronically these days. By adding all these irrelevant fees, credit card companies are taking away our generation's purchase enjoyment abroad.

Finally, let's talk about rebates. A rebate card is really your money locked up in a shiny card that is used to increase quarterly earnings for mobile phone companies, like AT&T (Stock Quote: T) and Verizon (Stock Quote: VZ). But you cannot exceed the amount on the card without incurring a high interest rate. In this sense, you are actually losing money by not spending it all. And to add insult to injury, you even have to pay for the 44 cent stamp to send in the rebate!

Aside from companies trying to boost their revenue targets, these hidden fees have serious consequences for Generation X. They have created a culture of restraint. As a result, our generation may be less risk taking and entrepreneurial because we know we need to read the fine print before we spend. The emphasis on the "terms and conditions" of contracts makes us act like this.

Whereas our parents' generation could happily pay for travel and leisure, without worrying about numerous hidden fees, we have become wary of travel and leisure companies taking our hard-earned cash. There is a missed opportunity of enjoying a well deserved vacation in full as we often focus on the money lost in these fees.

As we enter the August vacation month, we have all worked hard (and harder) this year in this tough economic climate -- it's our turn to have a relaxing vacation. Let's hope the costs don't diminish our generation's enjoyment.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at

Show Comments

Back to Top