The average US household with debt carries $15,355 in credit card debt — and that doesn’t even touch on student loans, auto loans, and mortgages.
Everyone’s situation is different, and there is no universal strategy for climbing out of debt, but a simple place for anyone to start may not have crossed your mind: Renegotiate the interest rate on your debt.
“The basic goal here is to make paying off your credit card balance as easy as possible,” writes David Bach in his book “The Automatic Millionaire.” “The easiest and most effective way to do this is to get your credit card company to lower the interest rate it charges you.”
Bach breaks the strategy down into three steps.
1. Start by finding out how much interest you are paying, which may require reading the fine print on your credit card statements. If you can’t find it, call up the company.
2. Next, politely explain that it’s too high and request a lower rate. “If the company says no, tell them that you will be closing your account this week and transferring your balance to a competitor who offers better rates,” writes Bach. “So there’s no doubt about your seriousness, tell them the name of the competitor you have in mind.”
At the end of the day, companies want to retain their customers. “In many cases, you can cut your rate in half simply by asking,” he explains, and you may even get them to waive the annual fee for your card.
Another pro tip from Bach: Ask to speak with a supervisor, particularly if the first customer representative you speak with doesn’t seem willing to help lower your rate. Supervisors can give you a lower rate right then and there, he explains.
3. Finally, consolidate all of your debt onto one card. “When you are negotiating with the credit card companies to lower your interest rate, tell them that you’re prepared to move all your credit card debt to the company that offers you the lowest rate,” advises Bach.
Do your research ahead of time and find the current credit card interest rates. Once you’ve found the national average, ask for half of that, Bach says. “Even better, ask the credit card company what it is offering to customers like you who are willing to consolidate their debt. Let them try to sell you!”
While we can’t guarantee a lower interest rate — and there are several other steps to follow to pay off debt — it can’t hurt to pick up the phone and ask.