12/5/2011 10:45 AM ET|
7 secrets of credit card companies
With the right approach, you can significantly improve your credit card situation. But to get the best deals, you'll have to ask.
It's not that your credit card company deliberately wants to keep you in the dark. OK, maybe some do. But most major banks are pretty good about disclosing their terms and conditions on credit cards. The tips I'm talking about here fall into the "I didn't know that!" category -- things you can, indeed, negotiate with your credit card company.
If you've had problems making payments on time or have had other difficulties being a responsible cardholder, though, you might not want to initiate contact with your card issuer. It can backfire (see No. 7). That's my "don't try this at home" warning to anyone whose records can't pass scrutiny.
Here are seven secrets for turning your relationship with a card issuer more in your favor:
No. 1: You're the boss
Card issuers work for you, not the other way around. You have more power than you know. Really, you do. And the higher your credit score, the more power you have.
How high does it have to be? At least 700 to wield a moderate amount of power. Over 750, and you're in a sweet bargaining position. It's easy to fall into a trap of complaining about how you're being treated. But if you don't like something, take action. That could mean "firing" your credit card issuer or just having a serious talk with someone at the bank about your concerns.
But even if your credit score suffered in the wake of the Great Recession, you're still in command. You don't have as much negotiating power as those with excellent credit do, for sure. But you're still in charge of your credit life, and you're the one who will choose how to get your credit back on track.
No. 2: You can lower your current interest rate
The best tactic here is flirting with the competition. Let's say you get an offer in the mail for a good-looking credit card that has a lower interest rate than your current card. Call your issuer and be your nicest, most cordial self. Tell the customer service rep that you're considering getting this new credit card so you can have a lower interest rate.
If there are any other features the new card offers, such as waived baggage fees, then mention those, too. Say that you'd really prefer to stay put, emphasizing that you've been such a loyal customer for so long. If you've indeed been a stand-up customer, you have a chance of making this work.
If you don't get anywhere with the service rep, ask to speak with a supervisor. And through all of it, be polite and don't get frustrated. Even if you don't succeed on the first try, make a note of the supervisor's name. Be the best-ever cardholder for six months, then try again.
No. 3: You can play hard to get before you apply for a new card
You'll need a little bit of confidence to pull this off. It also helps if you've had acting lessons, because no matter how much you want the card, you must act indifferent. Your attitude is: What will you offer me to get my business?
The card issuer needs you more than you need it, and that's why this tactic can work. Again, having competitive offers in hand helps give you the necessary clout. Explain that you'd like to become a cardholder, but that you're looking at an offer from a competitor and the other card doesn't have an annual fee. Or the other card has a lower interest rate. Ask your would-be issuer to waive the annual fee or beat the competitor's interest rate.
No. 4: You don't actually get 45 days' notice when your bank decides to raise your interest rate
According to the Credit CARD Act, the issuer does have to give you 45 days' notice when your interest rate is being increased. That just means that you have 45 days before you have to pay the higher rate. You actually start accruing interest at the higher rate on any purchases you make 14 days after the notice was mailed. So on the 15th day after the notice is mailed, you start paying a higher interest rate on new purchases.
Legally, credit card issuers aren't doing anything wrong. But don't you suspect a few of them are counting on consumers to be unaware of this loophole in the law? As soon as you get the notice in the mail, look at the postmark date so you know when the new rate takes effect.
No. 5: You can get a late fee removed
Many issuers say they don't report a good customer if they're slightly late just one time, but don't take any chances. As mentioned in No. 2, call the issuer and be really polite while you tell the story of why you're late this one time.
In the South, we say that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I've never understood why you'd ever want to catch more flies (the imagery alone is kind of disgusting), but the basic principle is valid. If you don't have a history of tardiness, you have a good chance of pulling off this one.
No. 6: You can eliminate -- or at least reduce -- an annual fee
This is usually presented as an all-or-nothing tactic. By all means, do try to get the whole fee waived, but if it looks as if you can't make it happen, ask to have half the fee waived. I know a few people who have succeeded at getting a 50% fee cut. You can also plan ahead and say something like "How about a 50% cut for the next two years?"
See? You're in charge. You don't always get what you want, but if you aim high enough, you can end up in a better place than the one you were in when you started.
No. 7: You can ask to have your credit limit raised
I know an attorney who called a major issuer and asked to get his credit limit raised. The customer service rep took a look at his payment history and balance.
The rep said, "Sorry, sir, but given your high balance and payment history, we need to reduce your credit limit." This not only infuriated him, but it also lowered his credit score when his utilization ratio went up.
When you contact the issuer, give a few reasons why you're worthy of an increase (you have stable employment and just got a raise, have never made a late payment, etc.). Whatever you do, don't sound needy. This is another situation when acting lessons might pay off.
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In the 30 plus years that I've had a credit card, I can count on one hand the number of times I've carried a balance over to a second month...and still have fingers left over.
That means for 99.99 percent of the time, I've essentially gotten a 25 or 30 day interest free loan on my purchases, since the cards I have carry no fee. Some will give you a rebate on top of that, if that's the kind of program you like.
Used wisely, credit cards are fine. It's when people start looking at them as free money that they get themselves in trouble.
When we had to replace a car a few months ago, the dealership said the two credit agencies they used, reported we had scores of 791 and 820. I don't know that much about how scores are calculated, but I would hope that a consistent record of paying on time, over the course of 30 years, was part of it.
It ain't rocket science. The key is to spend less than you net. Do that consistently and you will sleep well at night. There's no reason you can't use credit cards, just pay the balance off IN FULL every month making sure you live on less than you net.
I know quite a few people who make good money (some in the neighborhood of $150,000/year) but who are always complaining that they don't have enough money. 'Course they live in McMansions mortgaged to the hilt, drive Beemers and the like (leased more often than not) and just have to have the latest football field sized plasma TV.
If you feel that life ain't treating you right because you don't have a 3,000 sq. ft. house, a pair of $45,000 cars in the driveway and the largest plasma TV available, your problem ain't money, it's your sense of entitlement. If you're up to your neck in debt because you actually do have those things, money ain't your problem, it's your sense of entitlement. You don't need that stuff. You may want it, but you certainly don't need it.
Go ahead, give me a thumbs down for speaking the truth the way you have with others. I don't care. The wife and I are debt free. We've never paid interest on a credit card. NEVER. The less you owe, the less income you need to make ends meet.
Don't need a cc, never had the desire to get one, never will have one either... I prefer my debit/check card...safer, a lot more easier, don't have to pay no high fees, interest or late fees, I couldn't care less about my credit score anyway....someone stoled my identity and ruined it....oh well....
"No. 4 You don't actually get 45 days' notice when your bank decides to raise your interest rate"
This is hard for a consumer to protect themselves for a couple of reasons. 1) You can NOT depend on the USPS to deliver within 5 days which should be reasonable. But with the recent announced cutbacks look for this to get worse. 2) I don't know what bank or credit card company you use but a lot of them use Bulk 1st Class statement billing envelopes and those will NOT have a postmark or postage meter mark on them. They also will not have a USPS cancellation mark on them either for the same reason. HSBC uses these envelopes. When the USPS delivered a credit card bill 10 days AFTER the payment due date (I had already paid it because I didn't receive it) I tried to follow up with both HSBC and the USPS. HSBC denied it was mailed late and would not investigate and the USPS says that they can't investigate because of the lack of cancellation or postage meter marks. Looks like another law that will have to be changed due to the changes in the USPS.
I use to get 2-4 calls per week asking me if I'm the home owner and if I would like to get some money. Every week it seemed. I use to tell them I'm doing ok with what I have and thanks for calling and being so concerned about my financial position. Then one day I asked them how it worked knowing it was just a re-fy. I told them to send someone over to talk to me which they did. Once we got through all the polite conversation I told him I would like to re-fy but not take out any equity. I explained I wish to turn my 30 yr. loan into a 15. Was he surprised. 15 yr loan no equity barrowing just straight get out of financial servitude as quickly as possible. I still pay an extra $100 per month on this loan. America and it's banking institutions depend upon financial servitude. Call me un-American for not falling for this corrupt BS. I read everyday what this country is doing to self destruct and when it goes, I'll be prepared. Beans, Blankets and Bullets. Completely out of debt.
I was offered a Chase cc. I don't need CCs but they offered me 30,000 bonus points ($300.00)back on my first purchase. I was going to buy a PS3 to my son for Christmas, but when I received the invitation from Chase, I decided to wait until they send me the card. I got the card, my son got his video game, I sent the payment in full, and I have the $300.00 from chase.
I do this ALL the time, never pay interest, never spent more than what I can pay.
Who said that credit companies just laugh on me ?. CC companies are looking for stupids. Will you volunteer to be one of them?.
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