Credit card negotiation is something that the average credit card holder can and should do on a regular basis. Sure, there are numerous financial planners, tax lawyers, and debt consolidation companies that will gladly handle the negotiations for you; but if the idea is to put yourself in a better financial position, why would you pay someone to do what you can do yourself? This article explains how credit card companies make their money, why they are willing to negotiate, when to negotiate, and how to negotiate a better deal on your credit cards. There is even a bit of a script included, in case you are unsure of what to say in your first negotiation.
How the Credit Card Companies Make Money
A credit card gives you the ability to spend money that is not yours. Of course, you have to pay it back, and unless you pay off the entire balance within the first billing cycle, you will pay interest on the amount of your debt. That interest is one of the primary sources of revenue for credit card companies, but it is by no means the only source.
According to CreditCards.com, the credit card industry took in a whopping $43 billion in late payment fees, over-limit fees, and balance transfer fees in 2004. That is enough to support the entire industry, though you will never hear the CEO of a major credit card company admit it.
Let’s talk about the people who do not incur late fees, over-limit fees, or balance transfer fees, and who keep their accounts in good standing. They usually have above average credit limits and below average interest rates. Why do credit card companies treat them so well if they are making so little money from these people? If they pay their balances in full each month, the credit card companies don’t even get to collect finance charges; the credit card companies make zero from these folks, right? Wrong! When a business sets up a merchant account, which gives them the ability to accept credit cards, they sign a contract allowing the credit card companies to collect a small fee for each transaction. This fee generally ranges from five cents to half a dollar; but when you consider how many millions of credit card transactions are executed each day, you can see that it adds up! The fact that credit card companies have several methods of generating revenue is exactly what gives you the opportunity to negotiate with them. They are not one-dimensional with their finances, and neither should you be.
Why Credit Card Companies Will Negotiate
Credit card companies make scads of money from their worst customers through late-payment fees and over-limit fees. As we now can see, their best means to make money from their best customers is to entice those customers to use their cards more often. A savvy consumer can use that fact to his or her advantage.
When to Negotiate
First, be sure your account is in good standing. To be in good standing, your account should meet these criteria:
If you are not there yet, get there. If your most recent payment was a late one, don’t get discouraged. Buckle down, get organized, and start making those payments on time. If you have to wait six months before you can begin negotiating, remember that financial success is an endurance race, not a sprint.
Once your account is in good standing, you are ready to call up your credit card company, unless you have too recently negotiated a new deal. Here again, the rule of thumb is six months between negotiations. You may be able to get away with once every three months with some credit card companies, but do not call more often than that. If you call too frequently, the best that could happen is nothing, so don’t waste your time. Simply make a note in your calendar or planner to call your credit card companies twice a year.
How to Negotiate Your Credit Card Terms
Negotiating with your credit card company for better terms is easy, and there is no reason why every cardholder in good standing does not do this regularly. Even if you are neck deep in credit card debt, you can get a better deal as long as you make your payments on time and do not spend over your limit.
To begin, you will need your most recent credit card statement and your credit card number. Call the customer service number and push whatever buttons you have to push to speak to a human. Now, here is your script, starring “You” and the credit card company customer service “Rep.”
You: Hi. I was just reviewing my account, and I think my APR (Annual Percentage Rate) is a bit high. I would like to have it adjusted, please.
At this point, either the rep will begin reviewing your account, or he will transfer your call to the appropriate department. In any case, you will likely be placed on hold once or twice. It is a good idea to have twenty to thirty minutes free when you call.
Rep: Yes, I see you have been maintaining your account well, so we should be able to help you.
The rep will then make you an offer. Is it the best offer you can get? Probably not. Be prepared to make a counter-offer.
You: Hmm, 15.9 percent, you say? I was really looking for about 13.9 percent. Is that possible?
Your counter-offer should be aggressive, but not ridiculous. You may have a target number in mind before you dial the phone, or you may take whatever number the rep gives you and drop it by one or two percentage points. The worst-case scenario is that you will end up with the rep’s first offer; more likely, you will get a compromise offer that you will happily accept.
This simple, twice yearly procedure can save you several thousands of dollars in interest over the years. Knowing how the credit card companies make money helps you understand why they can give you a better deal. The script above, though simple in form, is all you need. It is your financial future. Don’t squander it – pick up the phone and start bending it to your advantage!
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