Shopping online is undoubtedly convenient, but there are times when picking up the phone can save you some cash or, at the very least, score you a nice upgrade.
"Having that human element really helps," says Laura Oliver, a deal expert who runs AFrugalChick.com and who has scored plenty of deals just by making a phone call. "If you call and it's not working, hang up and call right back," she advises. "The phone lines are on a queue. You've got 15 to 20 other people you can try."
She also points out it doesn't have to be you who does the haggling for a better price.
"You probably have someone in your house that's your best negotiator," Oliver says, advising consumers to let that person make the call.
Negotiate a Lower Credit Card APR
For people with average-to-good credit, the annual percentage rates associated with a credit card aren't necessarily set in stone.
"Call your credit card company and say "Card X just sent me an offer for a card with 0% APR for a year and then a fixed rate of only 12%, which is much lower than the rate I'm currently paying you," says Derrick Kinney, a financial adviser who specializes in helping families.
He says you should ask your current issuer if they can match the competing rate and, if not, it makes financial switch to transfer your current balance to take advantage of their competitor's better offer.
"The fear of losing your business will usually make them match the offer," Kinney says.
Call Your Cable Provider
Similarly, Oliver suggests calling up your cable company to ask if they'll match a lower rate being offered by a local competitor.
"These providers are having a hard time in the recession," she says, and they are not alone.
She says this tactic can be used on any provider, such as a home phone company or newspaper subscription service, which are known to offer 90-day trial services that don't immediately lock you into a contract.
Those who live areas with more than one cable provider should check out this step-by-step guide to bargain for better cable.
Get a Nicer Rental Car
Oliver suggests booking the cheapest rental car a company has to offer online and then calling up the bricks-and-mortar store where you will pick it up to see if they'll give you an upgrade.
"Sometimes, [store clerks] will give upgrades on the vehicle or offer a special discount that's not featured on the website because it's reserved for walk-ins," she says.
Inquire About Hotel Deals
Similarly, Oliver says that travelers can call a hotel's front desk a day or two before checking in to see if there are any rooms you can upgrade to for free. She says this is especially effective when you book directly through the hotel's website.
Talk to Your Retailer About a Refund
Just a day after MainStreet Staff Reporter Seth Fiegerman purchased a jacket from Banana Republic, fellow staff writer Matt Brownell found out the retailer was offering 30% off on all merchandise sold on its website. Fiegerman was able to get the store to retroactively apply the deal to his purchase simply by calling the retailer's customer service hotline and asking them to.
So anyone who thinks they've just missed out on a deal might be able to get in on the savings with one simple phone call.
Shop for a Car Over the Phone
Car dealers are known to keep customers inside dealerships for long periods of time in an effort to get them to commit to a purchase price. To avoid making a bad deal, car experts suggest negotiating over the phone or online.
"[Dealers] are very good at holding you hostage and not letting you go without purchasing the vehicle," Phil Reed, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com, told MainStreet in May. "You need to be able to get in and out safely without committing."
That's not the only way to save money at the dealership.
Get a Car Insurance Agent to Come Clean
You should also call your car insurance agent to inquire about whether they are any discounts available that you aren't taking advantage of. "Some commonly overlooked discounts include programs that allow teens with high GPAs to save and programs that offer discounts to anyone who takes a defensive driving course," Merrick says. "Since it's cheaper for them to give you a discount than lose your business, most agents will tell you about the discounts."
Conversely, you can find out about one or two of the little things in life that can send your insurance shooting in the opposite direction in this MainStreet roundup of small reasons for big insurance hikes.
Work Out a Payment Plan
Consumers in dire financial straits should call a lender or creditor if they find themselves faced with a bill they simply can't pay. As previously reported, lenders are often willing to negotiate a payment plan or make changes to an existing obligation instead of selling the debt to a collections agency.
Kinney says this tactic works especially well when dealing with medical bills.