Money Talks, So Should You

Talk your way out of credit card debt

Scott Bilker
by Scott Bilker, Dimespring Contributor  (@scottbilker)

Would you like a part-time job that pays from $50 to $50,000 an hour? Obs (obviously)!

The great news is, you can start this job today, at home. Yeah, a work-at-home job that actually is real. That job is simply negotiating with your credit card banks to waive fees and reduce your interest rates.

If you’ve been charged a $35 late fee and spend 15 minutes on the phone getting that fee waived, then you were just paid $140 per hour for your time. Say that call was to the bank to reduce your interest rate and that saves you $1,000 in interest fees. If the call takes 30 minutes to get done, then that’s $2,000 per hour—it’s soooo worth the effort. You can talk your way out of credit card debt.

In the 20 years I’ve been doing this, there have been quite a few changes in the economy; however, one thing that is still a constant is that banks want your business and will work with their customers. They have no choice. There are numerous competitors for your spending dollars, and every bank that issues credit cards wants to cash in when you go shopping. Banks make money on both sides of a transaction: charging stores a piece of each sale and charging you interest fees.

READ: Ask Jane: Is my spouse responsible for debts I incur?

Transform yourself into your own money superhero by charging up with these three powers:

Power of Knowledge

It’s important to know your credit card account history.

• How much you’ve spent recently.
• How much you’ve spent over the past few years. (At least a general idea.)
• How long your account has been open.

You want to be able to tell the account rep, “Hey, I’ve had my credit cards for 10 years and spent over $30,000 in purchases, plus I paid $2,000 in interest. Now I need you to help me out with a better deal.”

Power of the Dealbreaker

This is your bargaining chip—your leverage. It’s what you’re going to do if the bank doesn’t move toward your demands. The deal breaker is going to be your most important weapon. Deal breakers that I suggest you think about using are:

• I’ll transfer my balance to another bank. Tell the rep, “Listen to this great deal I just got in the mail from XYZ credit card bank.”
• I’ll close my account(s).
• I’ll claim bankruptcy.
• I’ll pay off the card and never use it again.
• You might as well give me the lower rate now, because when I transfer my balance, you’re going to offer me an even more reduced rate to get me to come back.

Power of Patience

If you have ever called your credit card bank before, you know that you’re in for a torturous process of not speaking with a human. You’ll have to enter your card number, make other menu selections, and then when you finally get to talk to the representative, they’ll ask you for all that same information again. It’s like they want you to give up—and they do. You have to be persistent and patient. Once you speak to someone:

• Explain your story to the rep and ask if he/she can help.
• If that person cannot waive your fee or lower your rate, then ask to speak to their supervisor. The rep will probably say, “My supervisor will tell you the same thing,” or “They’re busy.” Reply with, “That’s okay. Please get the supervisor on the phone.”
• Start from scratch when explaining your story with the supervisor.
• Never blame any of the bank staff for the problem. “I know you don’t make the policies, however, I cannot continue to do business with XYZ bank if they charge me this late fee when I can simply cancel this card and use another bank. I have many credit cards.”

Go take a look at your credit card statements now, and start calling the banks to get any late fees, overlimit fees, and annual fees waived. While you’ve got them on the phone, ask them about lowering your rate. You can do it. Start calling today.

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Scott Bilker is the founder of DebtSmart.com and author of the best-selling books, Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt, Credit Card and Debt Management, and How to be more Credit Card and Debt Smart.