Opening my mouth usually gets me into trouble. It’s a mystery how the space between one’s nose and chin can cause so much chaos, but it can. If you’re human, then it’s possible you’ve wreaked a little havoc by smacking your gums around too. Kudos.
Now, there are indeed times when it’s better to remain silent (and be thought a fool) than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. But this is not one of those times. When it comes to paying high interest rates on your credit card(s), only the fools keep their gobs smacked shut.
If you’re constantly carrying a balance, you really must call your credit card company, open your mouth, and ask for a lower interest rate. Yeah, I’m saying you should negotiate down your APR.
Asking for a lower rate is free. And since most credit cards charge anywhere from 0% to 25% in interest (gobsmacking!), making a simple five minute phone call could save you hundreds, even thousands of bucks in interest charges.
See 5 Ways To Screw Your Credit Card Company for more legal ways to beat the debt game.
Five Steps: How to negotiate with credit card companies
Here’s how to do it:
Step One: Get your wallet
Grab the card you’ve had for a while — your oldest piece of plastic shows you’re a long time customer with an established credit history. Also, you’re more likely to win the war on rates if you’ve never been late with payments.
If you’re late to the payment party every month, I still want you to make the call. But don’t be too disappointed if someone says, No. A big meany ‘No’ doesn’t mean never, or forever impossible. It just means you need to do your best to make at least the minimum payments for several months for future negotiating success.
Step Two: Dial
Call the customer service number located on the flip side of your card. You can do this, so don’t flip out.
Step Three: Speak the script
Take this sample script for a spin. Don’t get tongue-tied or feel silly about reading someone else’s words — customer service agents read from scripts all the dang time. Today is payback, baby!
You: Hello, my name is , here’s my account  number.
Clickity clank typing.
Credit Card Agent: How can I help you?
You: I’ve been a good customer over the years. I just got an offer for a new credit card with a rate of 6%. I’d like to stay with you, but I’m paying 19% on my balance. Since I’ve consistently paid the minimum balance I’d like you to lower the interest rate on my credit card.
More clickity clank typing. Yeah, the agent is looking over your payment history. Stay strong.
Credit Card Agent: I’m sorry. This is the best we can do with this rewards credit card. You’re getting our best rate.
You: Please put me through to your supervisor.
Enter annoying elevator music. La, la, blah, blah.
Supervisor: How can I help you?
Repeat the previous script. Be polite. You may not get your uber-low ask, but you could score a rate far lower than your previous number. It’s likely the supervisor will counter with a better rate. If so, take it.
Step Four: Don’t give up
You can’t always get what you want. The Rolling Stones knew this. So if you don’t succeed at first, go ahead and try again. Call back in a few days and hopefully you’ll get a new customer service agent and supervisor to play with. Still no satisfaction? Call back in a month. Keep a record of your calls, and don’t give up.
Step Five: Pay that sucker off
Phone your other creditors and continue to ask for lower rates on all your credit cards. Make the most of this rate relief period by paying off your plastic in full. Keeping up with the minimum balance is nice, but you’ll prolong the paying pain for years, maybe even decades, while forking over piles of cash to your lenders.
Don’t believe me? Try my Credit Card Calculator to see your total interest paid based on your balance and minimum payments. Results WILL SHOCK YOU! Sorry.
Does asking for a lower rate really work?
Yeppers. A national survey conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) found that a whopping 56% of consumers who called and asked their credit issuers for a lower rate, succeeded. Those who were successful reduced their APRs by around one-third, from an average of 16% to an average of 10.47%. Not too shabby for a five-minute phone call.
Canadian results are similar. In an unscientific experiment, the CBC asked ten mall shoppers to negotiate with their lenders. Six were promised a lower rate by citing a simple script. One shopper cut his rate in half, from 18% to 9%, just by making the call.
Improve your chances
Based on survey numbers, around half of you guys will succeed on the first negotiation call. Here’s how to increase your shot at a credit card rate decrease:
- End your script statements with strength. Don’t ask, “Can you reduce my rate?” Say, “Please reduce my rate.” If you give the agent a little wiggle room, he will take the out and wiggle away. Squirmy suckers.
- Negotiate on older cards. Established customers with credit histories are worth keeping, so creditors are far more likely to respond to rate reduction requests.
- Don’t be close to the max. Ask for a better rate before you’re maxed out or close the limit. Running out of credit room is a red flag for creditors.
- Pay your balance on time. Late payers and those paying less than the minimum balance should work to improve their payment history. Credit card companies are far more likely to give you a rate cut if you’re a proven payer. TIP: Try this nutty trick if you have sticky spending fingers: Curb credit card spending with a jar of peanut butter.
- Be polite. Asking for a better deal is free. But being an a$$hole during the call could cost you. Nice people don’t always finish last, so be strong yet courteous during your call.
Now stop surfing the interwebs and start dialing your phone lines. Moving your molars for a few minutes could save you thousands — you just need to smile and ask.