Most people who call their credit card company can get out of paying late payment fees — and more.
Five minutes could save you $35 or more.
It pays to call your credit card company if they’re trying to hit you with a fee, according to CreditCards.com, which finds that most creditors will back down if you simply call them out.
The new survey released Monday reports that 84% of major credit card holders who asked to waive a late fee were successful during their most recent inquiry. And they didn’t just talk their way out of late payment penalties: seven in 10 were able to lower or even eliminate an annual fee, and more than half (56%) were able to lower their interest rate. And those who requested a higher credit limit were also successful 85% of the time.
Those numbers dipped slightly from last year’s report, which found 87% of people successfully had a late fee waived, eight in 10 got the annual fee waived or lowered, and 69% got a lower interest rate. But the odds are still well in your favor.
Yet CreditCards.com previously noted that only about one in four consumers actually pick up the phone to tackle these fees. Big mistake: Late fees tend to range from about $15 – $38; annual fees average roughly $17 but can easily top $200; and interest rates hover around 15%, which on the average card with a balance can set you back $2500 in a year.
And the saddest part is that the most common reason people haven’t asked for lower or eliminated credit card fees is because, “I didn’t know I could ask this,” followed by “I didn’t think I’d be successful,” according to the new survey.
“To get a late payment fee waived, often all you have to do is call and say, “Could you waive my late payment fee, please?” It really can be as simple as that,” Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst, told Moneyish.
What’s more, calling your credit card company typically isn’t as irritating and time consuming as a phone call to the cable company or airline. “When it comes to getting a late payment waived, it really could take as little as 5 minutes to call,” says Schulz. Lowering your interest rate or waiving an annual fee may take longer, but because the savings can top $100 and sometimes $1000, it may be worth it.
You won’t always be successful. “For example, don’t expect a fee waiver if you’ve been late with your bill multiple times within a few months,” warns Schulz. “But today’s credit card marketplace is so crazy-competitive, that if you want to change something about your card and you don’t ask, you’re doing yourself a disservice.”
Just don’t go on the offensive with the customer service rep. It pays to be courteous.
“Ask politely,” Schulz says. It may help to point out that you’re a long-time customer who tends to pay on time, and this missed payment is a blip on your perfect record.
Schulz adds that telling them that you’ve already sent in your payment, so your account will soon be back in good standing, is another smart tactic. “Also consider setting up automatic payments for the future, and telling the bank you did it so they won’t have to worry about you being late again,” he says.
“Of course, you can’t pay late every month and expect to avoid fees every time,” he adds, “but once in a while, you can absolutely get out of a fee just by asking nicely.”
Or come armed with other credit card offers, so that the company knows you may be serious about leaving. “For example, say you have a credit card with a 24% interest rate and you received an offer in the mail for a card with a 19.99% interest rate,” says Schulz. “Hold onto that offer, and when you talk to your current issuer, you can say, ‘I like using your card, but it has a high interest rate and I’ve just received this offer for one with a lower rate, and I wanted to see if you would match it.’ If they don’t, you can tell them that you will cancel your card if they don’t. Just don’t threaten to walk away if you’re not willing to actually do it.
“People have much more power with their credit card issuers than they realize,” adds Schulz. “They simply need the confidence to wield it, and if they do, they can save themselves some real money.”
This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated with the most recent CreditCards.com report.
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