On Calling Credit Card Companies.

Hey all, a guest post today from Betty with lessons from her own financial journey.  It’s a touching story about reasoning with other humans to overcome computers.  Enjoy!

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Do you have a credit card? I bet you have at least 2-3, and if you add the store credit
cards you opened up in order to get 15% off your Gap purchase, you probably have 5-7. And I’m going to guess you have no idea what your APR is on most of them.

However, if you’re a responsible adult, you always pay your credit card on time (and maybe even in full).  Then something happens: you slip, you forget, you’re distracted by your dog/kid/invisible friend. The credit card company will then hit you with a variety of nasty things like late fees and higher interest rates. Now you owe money you did not intend to owe, and it seems to never go away as you try to pay it off and…

STOP. When’s the last time you called to say, “Hey, I’ve been your customer for 5 years, and I’m never late with a payment. Can you please do something for me?”  Here’s the thing: Credit card companies need YOU, not vice versa. Without your trips to Home Goods and a certain pillow addiction, they would not exist. Ergo, they have some incentive to be nice to you, and if you call them up to nicely say, “Please help me, I promise to be good”, chances are you can make that late fee go away.  Or did you have an extra $35 to be giving away for no reason? Because they are making money hand over fist every time someone thinks, “Oh well, I was late” or doesn’t even bother looking at the statement and just pays the minimum.

Case in point: I purchased a couch in August, and opened a store credit card so I can get 6 months interest free. I did the math, split the total in 6 so I can do it without paying extra, and went “yay”. I got the first bill, and put the info in my bank’s online bill pay system because it’s easier for me.

Then I moved in September 2012, and due to a confluence of mail forwarding issues and accounting problems, was suddenly notified in June 2013 that I owed interest AND have $75 payment due, stat.

Well, I don’t have $75 to give away for NO REASON, when in fact I’ve been good and responsible and paid off my whole couch online, without receiving all these bills. So, I call GE Capital Bank this morning, and nicely explain the situation. And the kindly customer service rep REFUNDS me all of the interest I had accidentally paid, which actually turns out to mean that they owe ME $18 and will be mailing the check in 5-10 business days. Now if that’s not “new Home Goods pillow” money, I don’t know what is…

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3 thoughts on “On Calling Credit Card Companies.

  1. I have also learned that you can just ask for random things on the phone, such as a lowered line of credit and lower interest rate (both of which I have done). I was on the phone with the bank the other day transferring my student credit card to a rewards credit card and asked if they can offer a better interest rate while they are at it, since I never carry a balance on this card. Done. I think they quietly inflate and expand these things as a business model, so I like to kick them back down every once in a while.

  2. Really? My mom has been on me to get a lower interest rate on my student loan and I haven’t done it because I felt like I had no leverage. I couldn’t believe that I could just call them up and ask for a lower rate. I am still having trouble processing this.

    • Well, not sure about student loans. I think bank credit cards sometimes get stuck at a higher rate and you can get them to lower it if the current rate is better, and you have no reason to have a penalty. I am pretty suspicious that banks will try to do almost anything to wrench a few more dollars out of you and make it look like paperwork so you won’t notice.

      With respect to loans.. federal loan rates are pretty regulated. In fact it is big news right now that the federal student loans will go back up to 6.8% in July if Congress does not agree on a way to keep the rates lower, as they are now. But private loans might be more negotiable. I haven’t tried that. You can also consolidate federal loans to a lower interest rate but not private loans…

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