How to Avoid Hidden Fees on Your Internet Bill

Watch out for these hidden fees to keep your internet bill as low as possible.

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Last Updated: Apr 1, 2024
A couple sitting on a couch, arguing over a bill
Hidden fees can cause nothing but frustration. (Image: Shutterstock)

Nobody looks forward to paying bills each month, but nothing can turn it from a minor hassle to a major one faster than paying more than you expected. This is especially true when it comes to your internet bill. While most internet service providers (ISPs) offer straightforward pricing, you may be saddled with hidden fees located in the fine print when you sign a contract. Here are seven costly hidden internet fees and ways to avoid them when opening your next bill.


Don’t Get Caught by Early Termination Fees

When you sign a contract with an ISP, you expect to stick with it long term most of the time. However, situations can change, causing you to cancel your service early. Depending on your internet provider, breaking this agreement can result in unavoidable fees, also known as early termination fees (ETFs).

These fees can be steep enough to negate anything you might save by switching. So if you find a better deal with another company, or you’re planning to axe some of your services, you may want to wait until your contract ends before you cancel your agreement. ETFs can vary based on how long you have left in your contract at the time of cancellation. So, if you just signed on, it’s best to stay the course.

One of the best ways to avoid ETFs is to sign up for an ISP that offers contract-free internet plans. You can terminate these month-to-month agreements at any time without facing cancellation fees, but they may cost more upfront.

If you’re planning to move, stop service, or shop around, try one of these internet providers without cancellation fees:


Take Advantage of Self-Installation

A woman installing a router in her home
Self-installation saves you time and money. (Image: Shutterstock)

You’ll only get an installation fee once, but it can be a nasty surprise if you don’t expect it. One-time installation fees cover the cost of sending a dedicated technician out to install your indoor equipment. On average, most providers charge a one-time installation fee of around $99 (with exceptions). If you’re a little handy, you can save money by installing equipment, such as your router or modem, by yourself.

Self-installation is a more straightforward process than many assume. The main thing is to ensure that everything is plugged in properly before contacting the ISP for activation. If the cords are not plugged in correctly, they won’t be able to activate the service. If this happens, they’ll send someone out to fix it, negating any savings you would’ve had from self-installation.

Buy Your Equipment Outright to Avoid Lease Fees

Your ISP will likely offer a modem, but you might be in charge of providing a router and any Wi-Fi extenders for your home. Some companies do offer routers and extenders, but only as a leasing option. This will leave you with two options: either paying a monthly fee that also covers repairs, or buying them yourself with no insurance for technical difficulties.

Instead of paying extra each month for your equipment, you might want to buy one flat-out. Providers typically have a list of products they recommend for compatibility if you plan on buying your own equipment. For a fraction of the overall cost, you can keep whatever you buy. Of course, there’s the downside that you’ll be paying for your own repairs should something go wrong. Still, many will find owning the equipment preferable.

Monitor Your Data to Stop Overage Charges

A woman working on a computer
Data caps can force slower speeds and harsher fees. (Image: Shutterstock)

When you have data caps (limits on how much data you can use per month) on your plan, it’s crucial to know how much data you’re using. If you go over your allotted amount each month, you could face slower service and overcharge fees. Some providers may even have a hard cap – when you hit it, you can’t use it anymore.

These fees can quickly add up if you go too far over your monthly cap. The typical charge is around $10 for every 50 GB of excess data. If you’re in a rural area, these caps might be even lower for you due to the nature of your internet service. Satellite and fixed wireless services, the most common kinds of internet in rural areas, have stricter data caps.

Return Your Equipment or Get Charged on Time

You’ve reached the end of your contract with a large provider and have settled all outstanding fees. Then another bill arrives, and you realize you’ve never returned the equipment you leased. Naturally, this isn’t an issue if you buy your equipment, but if you rented from the company, you’ll be expected to pay. This stands, even if you never return the modem or were merely late in returning it.

So when you’re ditching your current provider, either mail back the equipment (they’ll usually send you a box) or take it into a store or kiosk yourself. Just make sure you get it back to them within the time they allot, or you might owe them even after your contract ends.

Get Ahead of Late Payment Fees

A person at a table, paying bills
If you stay on top of payments, you’re less likely to be charged extra. (Image: Shutterstock)

Paying your bill on time every month is one of the easiest ways to avoid extra fees. So if you struggle to remember which bills you’ve paid and ones you haven’t, try setting up automatic payments with your provider. Most ISPs will allow you to enter your bank or debit card details securely on your account and enroll in auto-pay so you never miss a payment.

However, if the reason you’re having trouble paying on time is because of your bank balance rather than your memory, you may qualify for some help through the Affordable Connectivity Program. In addition to lowering your bill by up to $30 per month, this program helps low-income families by waiving late payment fees.

Don’t Activate Plans With Activation Fees

Your monthly bill might be in the right ballpark, but if your first bill is higher than you expected, it could be because you’re paying an activation fee. While not all plans levy these extra charges for new accounts, fees can be $100 or more.

Ultimately, though, since so many providers offer plans without these fees, it’s best to avoid them altogether, even if they’re relatively low. Compare your options and find a plan that offers the appropriate level of service and data, but at an affordable rate, and without an unnecessary fee for new accounts.