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How to Negotiate Your Way to a Better Credit Card

Jason Steele

The simple pieces of plastic in your wallet don’t seem that interesting, but most people don’t know what they are capable of. I am not talking about scraping snow off a windshield or jimmying open a locked door, I am talking about some of the really neat tricks that you can perform with your credit card account. Here’s how to reach out and talk your way into a better credit card.

1. Waive your fees.

Because the credit card business is incredibly profitable and competitive, card issuers will bend over backwards to retain their customers. So if you don’t feel like paying an annual fee, a late fee or some foreign transaction fees, just call and ask that they be removed. This won’t always work, but if you have a good payment history, it probably will.

2. Increase your sign-up bonus.

Banks constantly extend and withdraw exceptional sign-up bonuses offers for applicants. And in many cases, the offer varies depending on where you apply. But when you apply for a card only to learn that a better offer was available, or was introduced later, that seems unfair.

Don’t worry, just contact your bank and ask them to apply the better offer to your account. The bank has already decided that the additional rewards were worth extending to attract new customers, and they will often agree to grant these deals retroactively in order to keep you happy.

3. Get a retention offer.

After spending so much time and effort attracting new cardholders, the last thing a bank wants to do is to lose them. That is why banks will offer customers nearly anything when they indicate they would like to cancel their card. Customers who do so are immediately transferred to a different department where a retentions specialist is empowered to offer them rewards, interest rate reductions or fee waivers necessary to keep customers from closing their accounts.

If at First You Don’t Succeed

Politely hang up and call again. Anyone who has contacted a bank has learned that not all customer service agents do their jobs equally well. So if you were unable to have a fee waived, or a reward increased, don’t be afraid to call back and try again.

Try a different communications path. On a recent phone call with a major bank, I was unable to convince the customer service representative to apply the correct sign-up bonus that I thought I had applied for. Instead, I received only half the points available from their best offer. Instead of calling back, I logged into their Web page and sent a secure message requesting the additional points. I received a reply the next business day granting my request. In addition to secure messages, try using online chat sessions, Twitter, or just send an old-fashioned letter in the mail.

It is easy to use credit cards for years without thinking about the hidden possibilities. But by persistently employing these tricks, you can receive benefits that you might have never thought possible. And even if you don’t ultimately get what you want, it will never hurt to ask.

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