Are you stuck in credit card debt?
Do you faithfully pay your credit card statements each month yet your balance never seems to go down?
The primary reason for this is your interest rate. Credit cards carry hefty interest rates.
The Federal Reserve reports that the average interest rate on a credit card is 13.8% meanwhile, that of a mortgage is 3.80%.
As a result, if you are paying a minimum payment on your credit card debt, the majority of your payment is just going towards the interest rate.
In fact, Americans will pay $110 billion on credit card interest charges and fees by March 2019.
If you want to get free of credit card debt, interest charges are your number one enemy.
The good news is, there’s a way to lower your interest rate, and it’s simple enough that anyone can do it.
If your payments barely cover your interest each month, call your supplier and ask for a better interest rate.
The worst they can tell you is no. But chances are you may get a YES and have your interest rates lowered.
According to a survey by CreditCards.com, 69% of people who asked for a lower interest rate in 2017 received one.
Not only that but 84% of people who asked, received a higher credit limit.
Another 84% had their late-payment fee waived. And 70% got an annual fee dropped or reduced by asking.
The reason why asking is so successful is that very few people do it.
Creditcard.com reports that only 1 in 4 customers ever ask their credit supplier for a lower interest rate.
For many, asking is not an option–meaning they don’t know they can ask–while others don’t know how to ask/negotiate.
We will show you four ways on how to ask for a lower interest rate that actually work:
What qualifies you for a lower interest rate?
This is what your credit card company considers when you make your request:
Your loyalty: how long have you had your card? Do you use it regularly? If you’ve been loyal to the company and use your card often, you have a huge advantage. Credit Card companies put their repeat customers on a pedestal because it costs them a ton to get new customers. They are more than willing to reduce your rate if it means keeping a loyal customer satisfied.
Your card limit and how much of it you’ve spent: if you’ve spent below 35% of your card limit, the company will feel safer reducing your interest rate.
They also check your credit limit on other cards and how much you’ve spent on them. The same 35% rule applies.
Finally, the card company wants to know how many times you’ve made a late payment. If you always pay on time, you have more leverage.
If you feel you qualify for a lower interest rate, make the call. Even if you don’t qualify, calling puts you on their radar.
It’s not unusual for companies to tell customers to call back after a few more months of consistent payments.
Before making the call, however, do a little research. Find out the rate other companies offer to a person with your credit score.
You can use this information to negotiate a better deal–as you’ll see in our script below.
Start with your oldest card first. Loyalty pays, so start with the card you’ve used the longest.
Call the customer service phone number on the back of the card.
Identify yourself and tell the customer service rep that you’d like to lower your interest rate.
If you’ve been a long-time customer, it’s time to say it.
Also, mention you always pay on time or your high credit card score.
Here’s a script you can use:
Hi, my name is ________. (exchange pleasantries). I would like to speak to someone about my interest rate. I’ve been a loyal customer of Company’s name for ______ years. And I would like to remain one, but my APR is high. I get offers from–name competing companies– and they give a lower APR to someone with my credit score. I regularly use this card for purchases and pay on-time each month. I believe I qualify for a lower interest rate. Who can I speak to about getting one?
The customer service rep will either handle your request or transfer you to a supervisor. If they agree to lower your interest rate, thank them and collect the details for your new rate. Ask if the new rate would go into effect immediately. And clarify that the new rate is your annual percentage rate (APR) going forward and not just a short-term promotional offer.
Persistence is key
What if they refuse? Call again.
Often the difference between a yes and no is who picks up the phone.
If the first rep you speak to says no, call again.
You might speak to someone more receptive this time.
If you hear a no the second time, ask to speak to a supervisor.
If they also refuse, ask them what you can do to be in a better position for a rate reduction.
They might give you some conditions and/or ask you to call back in a few months–which is progress.
How many times can you call? There’s no limit.
But once every six months–till you get a yes–is okay.
Too many calls can you put you on a blacklist. After you get the first rate cut, maybe wait a year, then ask again.
Often the difference between a yes and no
is who picks up the phone.
Your Tone is Important
Be polite to the service rep.
They may be more willing to help if you’re calm and courteous.
Don’t be verbally abusive. Not only is it inappropriate, but banks tag customers who are abusive, and this tag pops up to alert the reps every time you call–even years after the event.
That said, banks don’t give you a lower interest rate based on how nice you are.
That decision rests on your credit limit and (number of) late payments.
So be firm with your request if you need to. But don’t lie to be convincing.
The bank keeps a detailed record of your activities.
The customer service rep can look up any claim you make, and you will lose credibility if you lie.
Call in the morning: People are in a better mood at that time.
Don’t call on weekends: on the flip side, you might not meet a manager if you call on a weekend.
Stress your willingness to pay off your balance: don’t give the impression you are trying to weasel out of paying your debt. Instead, stress how a lower interest rate will help you pay your balance faster.
Document all conversations: If they ask you to call again after three or six months, write it somewhere and the name of the person who asked you to call back. This not only reminds you to make the call, but you might have more ground if you say something like “I spoke with “Mr. Smith” in June, and he asked me to call back after three months of consistent payment.”
Try their online chat: Some folks have testified that they asked for a lower APR on their company’s online chat and got one. So it might be worth the try.
Is a Balance Transfer a Good Alternative?
For many people who can‘t get a lower interest, the next best alternative is a balance transfer to a new card with a 0% APR.
But balance transfers are tricky.
On one hand, a new card with a much lower interest rate–sometimes as low as 0%–sounds enticing.
But after a short time, the interest rate sometimes rises even more than your previous rate.
You also have to pay a 3% transfer fee, and the process can take up to two weeks while you continue to make payments on your current card.
And don’t forget your credit score takes a ding each time you open a new credit card because of the inquiry into your credit history.
If you have a small balance you can pay off in less than a year, I suggest you stick to your current card.
Also, steer clear of a balance transfer if you struggle to pay on time.
One late or missed payment can void the contract, and your interest rate will spike.
How to Keep your New Interest Low
Now you’ve got a new (lower) interest rate, try to keep it that way.
Several factors affect your interest rate; some you can’t control–like the prime rate–, and some you can–like paying on time and using less of your credit limit.
Focus on those you can control.
Pay your credit card bill in full and on time every month: When you are late beyond a certain number of days–usually 60 days–your credit supplier applies a ‘penalty’ APR to your card. This penalty APR can be as high as 27 – 30% on every charge you make. The result? Your balance will double in half the time. To avoid late payments, subscribe for autopay, it’s convenient and comes with small discounts.
Use less of your credit limit: Ideally, your credit card balance should be zero each month. But if you’ve racked up a revolving balance, keep it below 35% of your credit limit. So if your limit is $15,000, your balance shouldn’t exceed $5,250. Spending beyond 35% can trigger a fee, hurt your credit score, and bump up your interest rate.
Numbers Don’t Lie
If you still think asking isn’t worth it, here is a quick calculation.
Let’s assume you owe $6,000 in credit card debt at an interest rate of 18%, and make only the minimum payment of $180 each month (3% of $6,000), you will pay $2,380.33 in interest charges over the life of the debt.
Whereas if you negotiate a 3% decrease in your APR to 15%, you will pay $1,988.18 in interest charges over the life of the debt.
You save almost $400 ($392.15 to be exact) by making a painless fifteen to twenty-minute phone call.
You Have More Power Than You Think
The credit card market is fiercely competitive.
As more people switch from cash to credit, companies have increased their rebates and incentives–including offering better interest rates–to lure customers.
This gives you more negotiating power now than ever.
Take advantage of this power to get a lower interest rate and escape the credit card debt trap.