No one likes to spend more money than they have to — whether it’s for a snazzy new pair of shoes or an everyday purchase such as gasoline.While you can’t make an offer at the mall or haggle at the pump, there is room for negotiation when it comes to the interest rate on the credit card you might be using to make those purchases.
You can dramatically lower your credit card’s annual percentage rate, or APR, with a single phone call. But first, you’ll have to do a bit of prep work and know the right words to use.
Credit card companies generally aren’t looking for ways to do you any favours, but pulling your phone out of your pocket, dialling an 800 number and asking the right questions could be all it takes to convince the company to slash your high rate. If you carry a balance from month to month, that decrease will save you some serious cash.
Let’s say you owe $5,000 on a credit card with an 18.9% APR and you make monthly payments of $150. Assuming you don’t add to the balance, you would spend four years paying it off to the tune of $2,146 in interest. One phone call to the credit card issuer to negotiate the interest rate down to 15.9% would shave $504 off the interest. Drop it down to 12.9% and the savings jump to more than $900. (And, of course, it helps to up your monthly payment when you can, too.)
Gather the Facts
First things first: Leverage lies in knowledge. Read through your statement to locate your current interest rate. Check past statements online to confirm how long you’ve been making regular, on-time payments. Take a look around the website to find the low introductory rates offered to new customers. All of this information can be used to make a case for why you deserve a lower rate.
Here’s a glimpse of the current norm: Bankrate.com’s latest survey of interest rates (from July 5, 2012) shows that the average fixed APR was 13.81%, where it’s held steady since early March.
Think — and Talk — Like a Diplomat
Negotiation is tricky business. Beyond being prepared, you’re more likely to get what you want with the right attitude: polite but firm, patient but not timid. Call the customer service rep by name and speak with a friendly tone. It’s easier for the person on the other end of the line to answer with a flat “no” if you meekly ask, “Do you think you could maybe lower my rate somehow?”
Instead, try opening the conversation with a line like this, plugging in your own details: “Hi, Josh. I’m calling because I’ve been looking over the terms of my account. Because I have a good, 12-year credit history with Discover, I would like you to lower my interest rate.”
You can also try this script: “I’m considering an offer that came in the mail for a card with a 0%-interest balance transfer. But I’d prefer to stay with this company because I’ve been with you for so long now. I’d like to have my standard interest rate reduced to 9%.”
Remember, you’re a valuable customer, especially if you’ve had your card for a number of years. So don’t be shy about asking for exactly what you want. If you ever pay interest, it’s to the company’s benefit to keep you on board — and happy. And if your negotiations don’t seem to be going anywhere, politely ask to talk with a supervisor who has more authority to make adjustments to your account.
I’ve put these scripts to the test with my own credit cards. By being straightforward with my request and pointing to the facts that prove my current APR is too high, I hung up the phone with a new rate 3% lower than before.
The Investing Answer: Don’t pay credit card companies more than you absolutely must. Make the call! Becoming more knowledgeable about the terms of your credit card and asking for a better deal can’t hurt, and any rate reduction can only help to save you money. Get the facts on the rate you’re paying and practice your tactic for bringing it down as low as possible.