What is a Surcharge?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2019
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A surcharge is typically an extra charge added to the price of something or a stand-alone charge that exists for using something. There are many of these charges in varying types of businesses, and they can’t always be avoided. Another name for surcharge is the term “fee,” though this may be more loosely defined.

One common type of surcharge that many pay frequently is an ATM charge. Many banks won’t charge people to use an ATM if it is run by the same bank with which a person banks. A Bank of America customer, for example, doesn’t face a surcharge when using a Bank of America ATM. This may be very different if that same customer pulls out money from a different bank’s ATM. The second bank may assess a charge for giving money and the home bank might also charge some money. It could end up costing $2-3 US Dollars (USD) extra to withdraw some cash.


This isn’t really a charge over a charge or a surcharge in the first definition because the person at the ATM is not paying for anything, but is simply withdrawing money. For savvy customers looking to avoid this charge, they can usually withdraw a small amount of cash from local grocery stores. They may have to buy something, but a package of gum or a bottle or water is cheaper than an ATM surcharge. Alternately, some banks make arrangements with others not to charge a fee, or the customer can simply make sure to go to ATM run by the bank with which he does business.

People may note extra fees in plenty of other settings. Hotels and sometimes restaurants may list surcharges on a bill. Travel agencies and discount travel sites typically assess a surcharge. Air flights are another place where additional charges are common. These are only the tip of the iceberg.

Some utility bills have additional charges, or cell phone bills may include a $1-2 USD charge per month for access to 911 calls. Surcharges may be attached to certain things by state or federal governments to pay for different kinds of programs. Land line phone bills may have a couple of different charges to serve this purpose, including those that may help provide low cost phone service to people with low incomes.

While most surcharge amounts are small in comparison to what is purchased, they do add up, and they can contribute to higher spending. It’s pretty difficult to avoid these extra fees in most cases. An airline or a cruise line is not likely to lower their fuel fees just because a person wants the company to do it. This is frustrating to some consumers since they feel they’ve already paid the asking price and don’t want to pay any more. Unfortunately, just about the only thing people can do in these instances is to make sure to inquire about surcharges, so that expenses stay within budget.


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Post 1

Surcharged also means to be overloaded. Example: The football stadium was overloaded with people and there was nowhere to sit.

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