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

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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.