Learn to Negotiate Your Bills

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It's actually very simple.

This is Day 16 of the #MONEY30, a month-long bootcamp for personal finance novices. You can read more about the challenge here, and follow along with us on Twitter, Instagram, or email us at feedback@moneymail.com.

TIME BUDGET: 10 MINUTES


Many of the financial firsts that must be endured in the course of growing up can be harrowing. The specter of filing taxes, constructing and funding a retirement account, or bargaining for your first car looms large over the burgeoning adult. Almost no one looks forward to dealing with this stuff for the first time.

These feelings are understandable, but misplaced. Just as fortune favors the bold, those who confront and get into the mud with their financial commitments and co-parties are likely to come out far ahead, money-wise.

Take credit cards. By following the simple three- (and-a-half-) step process described below, you can dramatically improve some of your card’s terms and conditions in approximately ten minutes.

Here you go:

Step 1: Contact a member of the relevant credit-card company’s consumer relations team, either by phone or via instant messaging over the Internet.

Step 2a: Ask for your APR to be reduced.

Step 2b: Ask for a recent late fee payment to be waived.

Step 3: Enjoy the lower APR or retracted fee

That’s it, according to survey data from CreditCards.com.

Almost 90% of credit card holders who asked their issuer to lift a late fee were successful, and nearly 80% were able to lower their APR through a simple request, per CreditCards.com.

There’s just one problem: Only about one in five cardholders actually asked for either. That’s lower than last year (22% down from 28%). Young borrowers, who already avoid credit in favor of debit, are the least likely to make a request.

Issuers didn’t discriminate by income or education level, according to the survey, although African Americans reported a much lower success rate (33%) at getting their interest rates reduced compared to whites (81%) and Hispanics (88%).

Why were some so successful? Credit card companies are fiercely competitive for your business. If you take the time to actually ask for financing charge relief, then they are inclined to give it to you. Otherwise you might flee to another lender.

The act of just asking for a discount works in any number of settings, incidentally. One Consumer Reports survey from a few years ago found that 89% of those who engaged in the art of the deal were successful at least once.

If you squirm at the idea of asking to pay less than the listed price, start with your credit card features. You’ll probably be less delicate discussing prices if it’s your not-too-popular credit card issuer on the other end of the call.

—Taylor Tepper

Have a question, comment, or suggestion? Email us at feedback@moneymail.com.

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