When it comes to your credit card debt, you have more power than you may realize.
You already know your card’s interest rate plays a major role in how quickly your debt adds up — and how soon you’ll be free of it. But did you know that the interest rate you have isn’t necessarily the rate that you’re stuck with?
You can negotiate your interest rate with your creditor. A poll conducted by CreditCards.com found that only 25 percent of cardholders contact a credit card issuer to negotiate. But the astounding news is that nearly 70 percent of those who did landed a lower interest rate.
Best of all, joining that 70 percent is easier thank you think. Here’s how to negotiate your credit card interest rate and pay down your debt faster.
STEP 1: CHECK YOUR NUMBERS
Do a little homework upfront. You want to know exactly where you stand with your credit cards so you can decide the best place to direct your efforts.
Write down some basic information for each of your credit cards:
- Your outstanding balance
- Your current interest rate
- Your monthly minimum payment
- The percentage of each payment that’s going just to interest
- How long it’ll take you to pay off that debt
Tip: This handy debt payoff calculator can help you calculate #4 and #5 for each of your cards.
Once you’ve created your summary, choose a card that you want to negotiate. For you, that might be the card with the highest interest rate, the card with the largest balance or something else.
STEP 2: CREATE YOUR STRATEGY
To succeed in an interest rate negotiation, you’ll want to give your creditor a compelling reason to work with you.
The very best incentive for your card issuer is a competing offer. That could be a lower interest rate on an existing card or the promise of better card terms from a new card. If you have a solid offer in your inbox or mail for a better interest rate, use it. Your card issuer most likely wants to keep your business and might be willing, at a minimum, to match another company’s promised interest rate.
Even without a better deal, you can still secure a lower rate. Point to the reasons that make you a customer they want to keep — like years of card loyalty or on-time payments.
Keep in mind that the card rep is much more likely to help you out if you’re respectful and polite during your conversation.
STEP 3: MAKE THE CALL
You’re ready to negotiate! For the best possible results, don’t send a letter or fill out an online form. Instead, take a deep breath, pick up the phone, and call your card’s customer service department. You’ll want to talk with an actual human being.
Once you’re connected, confirm that that you’re speaking with someone who has the authority to change your interest rate. (Ask to be transferred to the right person if you’re not.) Then make your case clearly and succinctly. Keep in mind that the card rep is much more likely to help you out if you’re respectful and polite during your conversation.
STEP 4: EXECUTE PLAN B (AND C AND D … )
Odds are, you’ll get a yes when you ask for a lower interest rate. But that doesn’t mean you should give up if you get a no. If you’re turned down, you still have plenty of options for getting that lower rate:
- Find out why. Respectfully ask why your request was denied. Maybe, for instance, you haven’t been a customer long enough to warrant a review of your interest rate. The insight you gain might tell you what you can do to improve your chances next time.
- Move up the ladder. If the phone rep denies your request, ask politely to speak with that representative’s superior. That person may give you a different answer.
- Call back later. It’s possible that a different representative might be more willing to negotiate with you. If you strike out with your first call, try again later and pitch a different person over the phone.
- Negotiate fees instead. Even if your card issuer won’t budge on your interest rate, it’s likely that you can coax them into eliminating some pricey card fees. Even if you score just a reduction in fees, that could add up to big savings for you.
- Negotiate the rate for a different card. If your card company isn’t interested in negotiating, go back to your credit card summary table. Pick another card whose rate you’d like to lower and give them a call. You may get some traction with that other company.
- Consider a balance transfer. If you can’t change your interest rate, you may be able to move your debt to a less costly card. Research the cost of shifting your balance to a lower-interest card in your wallet. Or explore the possibility of opening a card with a 0 percent balance transfer promotional offer.
- Improve your credit. The better your credit history, the more in-demand you’ll be as a customer. More card issuers will entice you with great terms on their cards, and your current card may be more willing to negotiate. So play the long game, and take decisive steps to boost your credit score.