Sure-Fire Tips To Renegotiating Your Credit Card Debt

There’s a lot to be said for paying your bills on time, but some quick and easy negotiation can actually save you money each month on your credit card account if done properly.

The key is to never take the number on your billing statement for granted, as everything from the fees to the interest rate can usually be lowered with some tact.

However, you cannot expect to simply ask for a lower debt and get it without effort.

Instead you will need to take a more skilled approach along the following lines:

Request a Lower Interest Rate

Like most other aspects of your credit card debt, the interest rate you are paying is negotiable.

Provided that you have been a good customer with a solid history of on-time payments, the credit card company should find little issue in lowering your interest rate.  Simply call your credit card company and request a rate that is at least 2% below the national average.  Using your good payment history as leverage, you should be able to get this done without much hassle.

Fees Are Negotiable

More often than not, credit card fees can also be negotiated away.

The easiest fee to get waived is the late fee, provided you paid your bill within a few days of the due date.  If you have a solid credit history and are rarely late, use this as leverage on the phone.  Stress the fact that you paid your bill only two or three days after the due date, and that as a reliable, on-time customer, you would like that fee waived or you will not be using their card any longer.

Other fees, such as annual fees or cash advance fees, may not be as negotiable as late fees, but it’s worth the phone call to see if you can get them reduced.

Offer a Lump Sum

If you have the means to do so, try offering the credit card company a lump sum payment that is 25% of your total outstanding balance.  This technique is a shot in the dark, because some creditors will immediately reject your offer, but you might be surprised at the willingness of others to accept such a proposal.

Creditors are used to people avoiding their payments, paying late, and declaring bankruptcy, leaving them with nothing to collect.  By offering a lump sum, you are essentially offering them less money for less hassle. Some companies will take your offer without question, while others may try to negotiate you a little higher, perhaps up to 33% – 50%.

Of course, it is up to you how high you are comfortable going during these talks. {Editor: Note that this technique would be for people who are way behind on their payments and are close to going to collection.}

Request a Lower Minimum Payment

This strategy is most effective if you are behind by several months on your payments.

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Credit card companies would rather get some money rather than no money, so if you request a different payment plan they will likely be willing to work with you.  Make sure you determine how much you can afford to pay monthly before calling so that you know your limits when the negotiation begins.

[Editor: By paying only the minimum, and especially a lower minimum payment, you increase the interest added to your balance as well as increase the time it will take to pay off your debt.  This is a "worst case" method where you absolutely need to pay less each month.]

Rephrase Your Request

If a credit card company representative is giving you a hard time on the phone, you don’t have to take no for an answer.

Customer service representatives are not supposed to hang up on a customer who is still in need of service, therefore if you simply rephrase the question several times, the representative will likely begin to try to work with you.

You will no doubt feel silly asking the same thing over and over again, but this is a proven strategy that has been shown to get results.  In short, if you ask something along the lines of, “since I have been such a loyal and timely customer for the past year, I wanted to see what we could do about this late fee on my statement,” and the representative replies, “I’m sorry, those fees are final and cannot be waived,” you should reply saying, “right, but it’s just that I have always paid my bill on time, and I would really like to see this fee waived on account of my good standing.”

Continue this game as long as it takes to get a favorable response.

Ask To Speak With The Manager

If you get the sense that the customer service representative on the phone is giving you the run around, request to speak with the manager.

You don’t have to be rude or aggressive here – simply say “alright, I understand you cannot help me, but I still feel I deserve to have my request met, so I would very much like to speak with the manager on duty.”  Frequently, the managers are the real decision makers on the floor anyway, and you have a better chance of getting somewhere with them.

In addition, managers are primarily concerned with retaining your business, even if that means meeting you halfway on a request they wouldn’t normally grant.

Get Your New Terms In Writing

Verbal agreements are nothing to bank on.

If you successfully negotiate a favorable new contract for your credit card debt, request that the company mail you a brief statement of the new terms in writing.  This provides you with proof of your new terms and conditions, so that if your next statement comes unchanged, you have something on paper to point to.  Without it you will be forced to call the credit card company and play the “he said, she said” game as you go through the pains of renegotiating the same terms.

Do you have any other credit card tips for re-negotiating your credit card debt?  What’s worked for you?

About the Author: Chris Bennett is a freelance writer at Business Owner’s Toolkit. Business Owner’s Toolkit provides information on starting a business. They also provide useful tools and articles to help business owners with their business planning.

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Published or updated May 22, 2013.

Comments

  1. I tried to negotiate a lower interest rate last summer on my card that had a 19.24% rate. I was trying to get to 15….with the hopes of trying again 6 months later and getting it lower.

    The customer service person was no help, so I asked to speak to a manager. After a few minutes with him….he decided to CUT my limit to $189 above that card’s balance. No rate decrease. No help. Instead, he told me it was for my own good.

    Be careful in this day and age. They aren’t as willing to help as you think.

    • It is true that credit card companies had tightened their grip. I would try again though. If it still doesn’t work you could consider transferring to another card with a lower interest rate (keep in mind that opening a new card could affect your credit score).

  2. @Mysti
    I agree. With the new rules, the suggestions in the article are not always as easy to get as they used to be. I had a card with a low balance that I had for years, and had my interest rate doubled! No reason. No late payments. Just because. Crazy!

    • With the Credit CARD Act in place, many card companies are looking for ways to make up revenue they will potentially lose.

      Still, if you don’t try then the answer is no and your debt stays the same. Of you do try to re-negotiate you at least have a shot.

  3. I usually ask to shut down the credit card and that magically makes it easier to get your needs met.

    • Sometimes asking for a manager isn’t enough; you need to ask for “retentions.” Then let them know you are unhappy and may move your business elsewhere.

      Be careful though, I’d have a card in mind to transfer to in case they call the bluff.

  4. Very good tips! I’ve just asked them to forgive a couple late payments b/c i forgot, and they did!

    • As long as your account is in relatively good standing, they should forgive a late payment here and there. Make sure it isn’t and everyday thing though.

      And if you find that the date doesn’t work for your cashflow you can ask them to move the date.

  5. I best advice I have it close the account and just pay them off!

  6. I called one of my credit cards companies that I had fallen behind on and attempted to negotiate for zero interest if I agreed not to use the card anymore and paid the amount owed in full. I told her that I would send the amount I was behind on plus the current payment as a gesture of good faith in hopes of sealing the deal with them. The representative spoke to her manager three times during the call and took my information with the promise of calling me back with a decision. Not surprisingly, she didn’t call back. I made the payment I had promised via my online banking account and then I followed up three days later and spoke with a different representative who told me that my offer of full payment with zero percent interest had been rejected but that my account had been closed and marked paid in full upon receipt of the payment I had just made. Mind-boggling! I was willing to pay the whole amount but they wiped out nearly seventy percent of the balance on the account and marked it paid in full! I still haven’t gotten over the shock of it!!!

    • Wow, that’s a great story! See, you only have to gain in asking.

      • What if I just stop paying my credit cards? What are the consequences? Can they take my apartment (which I own in full)? What can happen other than my score will go down?
        I have been a loyal customer for 15 years with great credit history, have not been late ONCE on my payments, but now my situation has changed for the worse and I have not worked for over 2 years. The credit cards jacked up my APR to 19%. I have spoken to them several times and they tell me they can’t lower the rate at this time because “of the interest rates”!!! Can you believe this? The rates at historic lows, they get free money fron Central Bank and charge me 19%!!!
        I am looking for a straight-forward answer – what a possible implications as far as me not paying my cards. I will offer them a payment of 25% of the entire balances in a lump sum. I just want to know can they mess with my condo or my ROTH IRA account? Appreciate any help!

        • I really think not paying at all has to be absolutely your last option. Do what you can to at least pay the minimum. At a certain point they will send collections after you. And yes, it will affect your credit score. Understand though that your credit score affects more than just loans. Your credit score could be used in job offers or for insurance. Also, I’ve heard of cases where if your credit card is with the bank you use, they can take the money from your account if you do not pay.

          Can thy take your apartment? I don’t know what you owe on your cards but I could imagine have a lien put on the apartment so you couldn’t sell it (just speculating there).

          I’m guessing you can’t transfer the balances to a lower APR card? Again I don’t know all of your details.

          Bottom line – make those minimum payments. Call the card companies if you need to re-negotiate and let them know you want to pay but aren’t able right now (if that is the case).

  7. My husband is recently been laid off of work (since November 2). He has been looking like crazy and nothing is happening (very frustrating). So far we have been able to pay bills on time. However, our “panic” time is coming quickly–the time when we may not be able to pay some bills. We have not used our credit cards in years (debt is left over from bad decisions when we were first married). I had wondered if calling out cc companies (only 3) and asking for a “hold” of sorts would help. Can we “put on hold” payments to them until my husband gets a job? One cc is a very low payment ($25) one is medium ($60) and the other is what hurts ($175). Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    • I’d say give the credit card companies a call. Speak to someone who has some authority and ask about lowering the rate and seeing about what they can do about the amount due. Let them know you don’t want to miss any payment or pay late (understand that it helps a lot if you already have good credit).

      Certainly watch your expenses and see what you can cut back on or eliminate if only for the time being.

      And if work isn’t coming then try to find alternative ways to make income. Sometimes being out of work can be a blessing in disguise as you can do what your passions are and turn that into a career.

      Best of luck, truly.

  8. George,
    Your 401k is definitely protected. Roth IRAs, if I remember what I’e read correctly, depends on the finer points of your Roth IRA contract.

  9. I recently had a zero percent interest promotion expire. I was not clear on whether the “expiry date” of the promotion meant that I had to pay by the next statement date (which I did — several days in advance) or if it meant I had to pay in full by the EXPIRY date (it did)! I was shocked the next statement when I had a $119 interest charge on my account. I called the bank and explained the circumstances, not necessarily expecting anything, but asking for a reduction in the interest (not a forgiveness). The CSR was very fair, and proposed a 50% percent reduction of the interest. I was thinking in my mind that that was really what was fair, and what I was expecting, so I accepted their offer, and paid the balance (including the interest) immediately, and received the interest credit. It is always worth asking nicely, and often when you do, they will be fair. If not, then ask to speak to a manager.

    • Glen Craig says:

      A little honey is alway better than vinegar! If you don’t at least ask then you don’t get. Worst that happens when you ask is they say no but if your account is generally in good standing and you are nice then you have a good shot at getting a break.

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