Your Creditors Want to Talk to You
If you want a late fee removed or an interest rate lowered, just ask.
If you don’t talk to the issuers of your credit cards regularly, you may be missing out. According to a survey of 981 credit card holders in the United States by CreditCards.com, almost 9 out of 10 cardholders who asked for a creditor to reverse a late fee were successful. Additionally, over 3 in 4 cardholders (78 percent) successfully asked and received an interest rate reduction.
One big problem – of those surveyed, only one in five cardholders had made any kind of request to their creditors. The other 80 percent of survey respondents have never tried talking to their creditors for any kind of rate reduction or fee reversal. As a result, these cardholders may be paying a little more for the convenience of using their credit cards than they really need to be.
“It’s in a credit card issuer’s best interest to keep their customers happy so they remain loyal and regular card users,” explains Gary Herman, President of Consolidated Credit. “By keeping you happy, they help ensure you keep using their card. As a result, creditors are far more willing to negotiate than most people believe they are.”
Tips for getting rid of late fees
Let’s face it, even if you’re on top of everything in your financial world, mistakes can happen and you can end up with a late payment. It’s not because you’re using credit irresponsibly, it’s just a one-off situation where something got screwed up and the bill didn’t get paid on time.
If this happens to you, call your creditor immediately!
Loyal cardholders who’ve paid on time for a period of years and then have a late payment are perfect candidates for calling to have those late fees removed. Just call to speak with a general customer service representative. Explain any extenuating circumstances that led to the late payment and ask to have the fees removed as a loyal customer who’s paid on time for X years before this one late payment.
In most cases, the rep will have to pass you to a customer service supervisor, who will be able to authorize the fee removal for you. The call shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes, so you can knock it out fairly easily. Try to call as soon as possible after the late payment is made to further show you’re on top of your debt and trying to do the right thing with your account.
Tips for asking for a rate reduction
First, look at the current interest rate on each credit card you’re holding. Also check how long you’ve had the account and how many months or years you’ve been managing your debt effectively and making payments on time.
Next, check average interest rates on credit cards. According to CreditCards.com, the average APR on credit cards is 12.10 percent. However, keep in mind that’s for all credit cards, including things like low-interest credit cards. If you have rewards credit cards, the rates tend to be a little higher. ValuePenguin.com has a listing for average APR on different types of cards.
At this point, knowing your credit score can be a big help, because the “low” end of the APR ranges available for different types of cards are generally given to people with excellent credit scores. So if you have excellent credit and you’re still paying 22.99% APR on your cash-back credit card, then you’re a good candidate for a rate reduction.
Again, you simply call customer service and ask to speak with a rep that can help you with an interest rate reduction. They may have to pass you to a supervisor to complete the reduction, but it should only take about 15-20 minutes total. The rate agreed will become your current rate moving forward.
A note on “balance subject to interest rate” charges
One final thing you may consider wanting to call and negotiate on is paying interest charges on debt that you eliminated in-full during a billing cycle. True story – this actually happened to me, the writer of this article…
In December I used a debt consolidation loan to pay off three credit card balances in-full. However, on the January credit card statements for those cards, it indicated that interest charges were being applied to about half of each balance. So even though I eliminated all of the debt I owed in that month, I was somehow paying interest on the eliminated debt.
So I called the credit card issuer to ask why I had this odd “Balance Subject to Interest Rate” amount on my bill that was being used to calculate interest charges. It turns out it’s a product of how interest gets calculated on those accounts. They take the total debt owed and divide it by the number of days in the billing cycle. So since I paid off my debt halfway through the month, for half of the month I had high balance, while for the other half I had no balance. So the “balance subject to interest rate” that was being applied equated to about half of the debt I paid off on each card.
This seemed kind of wrong to me – a big point in paying off the debt in-full was to cut off more interest charges on those balances. Still, they were charging me according to a policy that the rep could explain, so I thanked them for the clarification and was about to hang up when they offered to remove those interest charges! That’s right, just by calling to inquire – not even by asking – my creditor gave me a break.
Again, if you haven’t talked to your creditors in a while, this story shows why it may be in your best interest to review your statements and do a little research, then give your creditors a call to negotiate. It could help you save a little money on interest charges this year.