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.
This is SO true!
I haven’t personally had to resort to calling the credit card company to lower interest rates because I pay off my balance every month and always plan to.
However, if I did ever carry a balance on my credit card you better believe I would be riding the credit card company day and night to give me a lower interest rate. I’d be all over balance transfer promotions and anything else I could do to lower my rates!
In reality, I’d probably just use my HELOC to pay of the credit card instead – but we’re talking worse case scenario here!
Nothing wrong with that scenario however I have called on several occasions to get my rate lowered [even if I’m not really carrying a balance] and I often get a lower rate, and if not they usually give me a date to call back to ask again with more success – they obviously will lower it at least some without much huhu
[…] Squawkfox offers lessons in negotiating to lower your credit card interest rate. […]
This is not in regards to lowering interest rates, but my husband and I have differing opinions about paying cards off and increasing our credit scores.
He thinks that you should pay off MOST of your balance, leaving a small amount each month, in order to raise your score as quickly as possible.
I think that you should pay OFF your balance each month because it makes you look more responsible, plus who wants to pay 20% interest, even on $10?
Basically, I’m asking what the best way to raise your score is, as quickly as possible, using credit cards.
I look forward to your response, always enjoy your posts, so informative and helpful.
Great idea~ anything to help get out and stay out of credit card debt is worth it. My husband and I learned this lesson fairly cheaply (about $500.00 worth of debt) and we got out of debt quickly as he was making good money. Jump forward 7 years and through no fault of our own we now live below the poverty level, something very few people that know us realize. We have lived carefully, frugally and with no credit card debt for years. And our 18 year old has learned some valuable lessons.
Great site Kerry ~
This also works with monthly bills, like satellite television or cell phone bills. I do this once or twice a year. Great post!
[…] Squawk Fox has some ideas for negotiating lower credit card interest rates. […]
I literally just got off the phone with my credit card company and they lowered my rate from 19.5% to 10.9%. At first they were going to lower it to 12.9% with a $35/year fee, which still would have been better, but when I asked if they could wave the fee, they said they could lower it to 10.9% with no fees permanently.
So thank you for the advice, it actually works!!
This was great advice. I got off the phone with my credit card company and they lowered my rate from 18.5% to 9.9%. Thanks!
Great advice. Bold, but good advice. I use to work for a large bank and sometimes we would coach our clients on this very sort of thing when they really needed a helping hand with their debt. The funny thing is that our bank staff even did this with their own credit cards. Not all creditors will go for this, but many will.
If you need help getting your debt paid down, this is a great place to start.
Does this advice also work with a line of credit interest rate? TD is raising mine 3.75% beginning April 2 – so I’ll be paying 9%, the same rate as my TD Emerald Visa.
Hi Jenny, I’d call back in a week. 🙂 Chances are you’ll connect with a more helpful Customer Service agent. Also, be super super nice on the phone. Ask the agent how their day is going. I’ve found success with phone agents by being polite — it’s a tough job and many customers are quite short with them. That’s my advice. 😉 Try, try, again.
I tried lowering the interest rate on my TD Visa, which is at 9.75% to something like 5%. He told me it was all dependent on Equifax and that the next time Equifax reviews my file (in my case, it’s June) to call back.
That sounded like bullshit. Was it?
Thanks, Kerry. I have a question about Line of Credits. Since TD is raising my interest rate on the LOC to 9.5% – nearly as much as the Visa I have – would the smart thing to do be to pay off the balance ASAP and transfer the LOC to another bank? Is that even possible?
And would it look bad on your credit report?
Great advice Kerry, and nicely communicated.
I’ve been looking around for decent money-saving tips, just for food for thought and ideas myself; I genuinely wasn’t aware you could negotiate a lower interest rate, but it’s something I talked about recently in an article – basically saying to always negotiate… so this is a great tip.
As I said – nicely communicated too, it’s all very well to give tips but often ‘advice writers’ don’t lay out practical steps for achieving the tip they preach, so this is another useful article, I’m getting to like this blog a lot!
Out of interest, how did you find out that you could do this?
I also tried this, and have been trying for a number of years.
Unfortunately they seem unwilling to help those customers like myself who carry forward a balance close to their credit card limit…despite the fact I always make payments on time and pay more then the minimum required.
I am struggling and experiencing financial hardship (like most of us right now), yet my interest is more than half of my minimum payment required each month.
Frustrating when you have been making double the minimum payment for the past while and your balance barely moves, yet they are unwilling to help at all.
We have had the same bank and credit card for over 13 years now. Our credit scores are both over 800. We use our card with our everyday purchases so that we can accrue points. I pay off the total bill twice a month so that we never carry a balance. I have asked several times to lower our rate to anything lower than 8% and have been given the same answer every time, “that 8% is the best they can do”. It would be nice to know that the option is available in case we need to ever carry a balance. Is this a common issue with other people?
Bank has first to be able to make money on you. If you don’t have credit card debt bank is not earning any money on you and have no reason to lower credit card interest rate.
I’m going to try it today. Same VISA for 20+ years. Maxed out several times. Paid off completely more than several times. I could use a break. Will also try on a 15+ year old Lowqes card as well.
I want to thank you for all you do for us poor saps who have issues with money, sound common sense and life. Here is an excerpt from the Debtors Anonymous website that may be interesting to some of your readers. Be well, and keep writing!
Most compulsive debtors will answer “yes” to at least eight of the following 15 questions.
1. Are your debts making your home life unhappy?
2. Does the pressure of your debts distract you from your daily work?
3. Are your debts affecting your reputation?
4. Do your debts cause you to think less of yourself?
5. Have you ever given false information in order to obtain credit?
6. Have you ever made unrealistic promises to your creditors?
7. Does the pressure of your debts make you careless of the welfare of your family?
8. Do you ever fear that your employer, family or friends will learn the extent of your total indebtedness?
9. When faced with a difficult financial situation, does the prospect of borrowing give you an inordinate feeling of relief?
10. Does the pressure of your debts cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
11. Has the pressure of your debts ever caused you to consider getting drunk?
12. Have you ever borrowed money without giving adequate consideration to the rate of interest you are required to pay?
13. Do you usually expect a negative response when you are subject to a credit investigation?
14. Have you ever developed a strict regimen for paying off your debts, only to break it under pressure?
15. Do you justify your debts by telling yourself that you are superior to the “other” people, and when you get your “break” you’ll be out of debt overnight?
I just want to thank you for your advice. I just received a new annual percantage rate of 12.75% which its seems high but I live in Canada and it is not uncommon to have 20% or 30% APR. BTW my original APR was 20% so it was a pretty good deal. My advice for whoever wants to negotiate a reduction is to not give up.The first person that I talked to refused to offer anything, I asked to speak to the supervisor and I heard that at this point, this representative was listening to me. Stay strong and be polite.
Hi – I just called Visa to try and lower my 19% (ouch) interest rate on my Travel Rewards card and was unsuccessful! I followed the script, was very pleasant and politely asked to speak to a supervisor after she said she couldn’t lower my rate and she said no! She said there was no way she or a supervisor could lower my rate on my travel points card and recommended me to a card with no points or perks with a 12% interest rate. Is it really true that they can’t lower my rate?
[…] Then you’d repeat that script again, politely. (Source: Squawk Fox) […]
I have two credit cards right now that have been kind of a financial lifeline for me for the past year. I always pay my min payments at least, therefore they keep increasing my limit… I now have almost maxed out both cards (in the high thousands for both.!) and am getting very worried that im in too deep now and will never be able to get caught up with the VERY high interest rates on both (one around 19% the other over 20%.) So far I am still paying my min payments but that literally hardly pays interest never mind repaying balance.!
My question is…. Should I still use the script about another bank offering me lower interest rates..? They may just look at my balance and be like “yeah right lady, your f’d..!!!!” Would being a little more honest work instead of using the script.? Pretty much explaining the above scenario to them.?
Any advice would be great, Thanks.!
Its always better to call credit card companies, and ask them to reduce the interest rates, than to call never. Not only this they might reduce your monthly payment or waive of your annual fees, rather than loosing a good customer.
Be careful however of revealing that you’re seeking a lower rate to ease financial pressures (they’re not stupid, and will often ask questions to try and see if you’re really being offered another lower interest card) – if you reveal this information, you’re screwed! My wife made this mistake, and though was offered 6 months no interest, and a rate of almost half what she had (after the 6 months), she also later learned that her account had a note stating ‘person with financial difficulties’, and upon her annual membership fees date, her credit limit was cut in half (despite not missing any payments and not increasing the amount owing). The credit card company stated they were ‘helping her’ not get further into debt…we canceled the card.
I’ve just been asked this question by my daughter.
Is it bad to cancel a credit card.
So I was wondering what the experts had to say about this.
What a great advice! I had no idea I could do that. I have read your article today and just put the phone down… my credit card company reduced my interest rate 17.6% to 6.9% rate:)
Thanks so much for sharing great tips!
I am so happy for you, Bash. Kudos!