Negotiating a Better Interest Rate

Maybe you can’t fight city hall, or escape paying taxes. But when it comes to your credit card rates, you can definitely negotiate.

Like any other lender, credit card companies charge you interest for using their money. However, unlike a fixed-rate mortgage or an auto loan, your credit card interest rate can change. You may have a variable interest rate, which is tied to the prime rate, and the amount of interest you pay will fluctuate as the rate does. Perhaps you forget to pay your bill on time, thereby violating your agreement with the card issuer – your rate may rise.

Your rate can also go down – if you ask for it and can make a case in your favor.

One survey by the Lending Club found that even though nearly everyone surveyed knew they could ask for a lower rate (93 percent), less than a third (29 percent) had made that call. Yet nearly two-thirds of those who took the initiative and asked for a lower rate actually got one.

To negotiate a lower rate, first gather ammunition. If you’ve been getting credit card offers in the mail offering lower rates than you’re currently paying, have them on hand before you call. This will give you an idea of a target for your negotiations. Also, pull your credit report and score. If your score is good, and you have a history of making on-time payments, you should have extra bargaining power when talking to your card company.

Next, make the call. Start with customer service and be patient. You may have to go through multiple layers of customer service representatives before you reach someone with the authority to help you.

When you reach the right person, state your case calmly and concisely. Point out your outstanding credit history and lengthy relationship with the card issuer. Mention competitor offers and your desire to remain loyal to your current card company. Finally, suggest a lower rate that you feel would be fair.

Sometimes, the answer will be yes – and you’ll win a lower rate that may last for a few months or longer. Sometimes the answer will be no. When that happens, ask why they’ve refused and what you would have to do to qualify for a better rate in the future.

Finally, realize that negotiating your credit card rate is probably not a one-time deal. You’ll likely have to do it again when the lower promotional rate expires. It’s well worth the time and effort to do so. Every percentage point you lower your rate by puts money back in your monthly budget and that’s worth fighting for!