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14 Things That Were Once Free but You Now Pay for

If something tells you that you are being nickel-and-dimed by the majority of businesses these days, then you probably are. Naturally, the pricing varies from state to region.

However, many products and services that we once knew to be completely cost-free will now ask you to pay. This is somehow weird because once you adjusted to certain things being free, you can’t quite get a grip of why exactly things changed.

However, they did change. So, we thought it would be useful to make a list of all the things that COST now because we wouldn’t want you to be caught off guard!

Here are 14 things that will cost you money nowadays!

hotel pool
Photo by Sean Pavone from Shutterstock

Hotel amenities

You might think that if you go to a certain hotel that’s bragging about having a pool and Wi-Fi, you might have access to those items, as they should be technically included in your room rate.

However, they aren’t. Lots of hotels now tack on resort fees so they can cover the cost of everything that is intended to be “complementary”, such as newspapers to maintaining an on-site gym. In fact, it doesn’t even matter if you actually know how to swim, have a computer or care at all about the news.

The majority of hotels will assess resort fees nevertheless.

However, there is a slight possibility you might be able to negotiate a waiver of those resort fees if you don’t plan on using any of those amenities.

Drink refills

I know exactly what you’re thinking: a while ago, you could go into any restaurant, literally anywhere, and get free refills on drinks, like soda pop and coffee. But things have changed. Since 2013, reports started to show that free refills were being completely phased out in some cities.

Nowadays, businesses might ask you to purchase a refillable mug or even sign up for an app if you still want those drinks that were once free of charge. Unfortunately, this is how these things work now.

The good old drink refill will remain only a distant memory that we will tell our grandkids, and they won’t believe it.

Extras at restaurants

And since we’re at restaurants, there is another thing we could wave goodbye.

Remember how we used to get a ton of dipping sauce when we were asking for extras at our local McDonald’s? Well, these days, if you want to get more than two sauces, you will have to fork over some extra cash. And McDonald’s isn’t the only one. Any pizza place you’ll ever go to no longer gives free extra cheese.

When I first found out about this, I was with a friend at a burger joint that charged me a $1.25 fee if I wanted to share a meal with a friend. As you can imagine, I was nothing less than shocked.

At first, I thought he was making fun of me, but I soon realized he was dead serious.


While the water might still be free in SOME places, others will ask you to pay for the bottled variety, even if it’s technically the same thing as what you would get from the tap. Even more, our willingness to pay for the bottle might seem to have convinced some restaurants to no longer offer free water to diners.

So going back to McDonald’s (because let’s be honest, everyone eats there a lot), I know someone that every time he goes there, orders water. A while ago, he was able to receive free water in a cup whenever he wanted, but now he’s being charged for a bottle of Dasani and he’s being told that the free cup isn’t available anymore.

airplane food
Photo by Aureliy from Shutterstock


I don’t even where to start with this one.

Let’s just put it like this…BEFORE, you would buy a plane ticket, check your bags and probably enjoy a couple of free in-flight entertainment like a movie projected on a wall. The attendants would then give you peanuts, maybe a drink or a meal if you had to fly for long enough.

Nowadays, you buy a plane ticket and then you shell out even more money for absolutely everything, from your checked bag to your boarding pass and an in-flight blanket. And if you want to try to find a low-fee airline, you can easily find online a proper list of fees that are broken down by carrier.

Returning a rental car

Airlines aren’t exactly the only ones who might get a bit crazy with their fees.

Consumer Reports noticed that the rental car companies have also found a way to tack on extra money to the base price of their vehicles. The most egregious one is apparently an early-return fee which you have to pay if you decide to cut your rental period short.

According to Dollar Car Rental, the fee it’s $25, and it is put “to compensate us somehow for our inability to rent your vehicle for the time reserved for your use.” I don’t even know if there’s anything to add to that.


Just like the water, there is still a great chance for you to get free TV. However, it seems that we’ve hit a certain point at which paying for our on-screen entertainment is completely mandatory for the majority of Americans.

Many years ago, cutting the cord on cable was actually supposed to save you more money. However, now, many people would decide to replace one expense with another by simply signing up for more than one streaming service.

Luckily or not, there are still many ways to find free TV, if you know where to look! TV is still one of those things that we can get for free, somehow!


Yes, the air we breathe is completely free for now. But what about the air you put in your tires? Because that’s a COMPLETELY different story!

Before, any gas station in the town I grew up in would have a free air pump. But now, I apparently need two bucks to fill my tires.

At least one station’s pump will take credit cards, so I don’t have to hunt for quarters in my piggy jar. But like with any other item on the list, you might still find freebies if you know how to look for them.

You have to know how to find them!

ATM service

Until 1996, the biggest ATM network, Cirrus, and PLUS banned many banks from charging any kind of surcharge fee on in-network transactions. But once the restriction was lifted, it was off to the races for ATM surcharges.

So last year, customers had to pay an average of $4.59 if they wanted to withdraw money from an ATM, according to Bankrate analysis.

Bill payment

Nothing compares to being charged a fee for the privilege of simply paying a bigger fee.

However, that is exactly what a couple of companies have decided to do now. Many years ago, it seemed that they were happy to get your money without making you pay anything above the amount of money you had to pay.

But now, it seems that we have to keep on running over convenience fees more, even if we decide to pay with our phone. For example, the company that mows my lawn charges me an $11.95 fee if I decide to pay online.

National parks

If you’re old enough, there’s a slight possibility for you to remember those times when all national parks were completely free to enter and even camp there.

Even if some parks have tried to experiment with different types of fees that date all the way back to the year they were founded, it wasn’t until 1972 that a certain federal law was amended to authorize these recreation fees.

So nowadays, 110 national parks are charging you an entrance fee. Luckily, you can avoid it if you visit during one of the National Park Service’s free admission days.

By the way, National Geographic published a wonderful book about all US national parks. It has great pictures as long as lots of information.


When the town I grew up in first introduced curbside recycling, which was probably 20 years ago, it was a completely free-of-charge service.

You’d only pay a $10 deposit for a bin and that was all.

Well these days, I am being charged a fee for biweekly pickups. The price comparison website “CostOwl” said that homeowners have to pay an average of between $15 to $35 every month for weekly or biweekly curbside recycling service.

However, you could still get “free” recycling in a couple of places, such as Seattle and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

school sport
Photo by Erica Lorimer Images from Shutterstock

School sports

When I was in middle school and high school, school sports usually didn’t cost families a single dime.

Those schools that we’re tackling the idea of the “pay-for-play” model were met with a lot of outrage, from both the community and parents.

Nowadays, it’s not so uncommon anymore for schools, even if they’re public or private, to charge you a ton of money if you want to participate in any kind of sport. In fact, the average school sports participation fee is $126.

Information on the Internet

When the Internet was still “young”, anything you’d want to get from there was free.

Even if it wasn’t exactly the same quality of content that you would find these days, it was still free. Nowadays, membership sites aren’t so uncommon anymore.

You might have to join to post on a message board, or even view content or download reports. The best thing you can do is wait for a promotion to sign up.

If you enjoyed reading this article, we also recommend reading 7 Useful Retirement Things You’ll Spend Less On.

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