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How to Get a Break on Your Credit Card Payments Right Now

Illustration for article titled How to Get a Break on Your Credit Card Payments Right Now

Photo: SaiArLawKa2 (Shutterstock)

A recent LendingTree report suggests that it’s an opportune time to ask your credit card lender to lower your interest rate, cancel a late fee, or waive an annual fee, noting the success rate for such requests has been over 80%. All you have to do is pick up a phone and ask—and knowing what to say helps too. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you make that call.

It never hurts to try 

The truth is, for most borrowers, breaks on late fees and interest rates aren’t all that hard to come by if you’re claiming temporary economic hardship, and they’re even easier to claim during disasters like the pandemic. The problem is that only 53% of cardholders have asked their card issuer for a break in the last year, despite these success rates for different types of requests:

  • Lowered APR: 83% 
  • Waived late fee: 88% 
  • Higher credit limit: 83% 
  • Waived/reduced annual fee: 92% 

These numbers are based on a February to March timeframe, so the sands may have shifted somewhat in terms of what card issuers will approve now, but considering the success rate has been consistently high since the pandemic began, it definitely won’t hurt to ask.

How to ask for a discount 

Before calling, make sure you have a solid understanding of your current income and expenses. You’ll want to present yourself as a borrower who’s responsible but struggling with debt payment at the current interest rate. Also, try to find a similar credit card from another lender that has a lower interest rate, as you’ll want to use it that leverage if it’s needed.

While there are a few types of credit card breaks that you can request, you’ll probably want to start by asking for a lowered interest rate, as that will have the biggest impact on how much money you’ll spend on interest overall (successful requests averaged a 10% reduction to their interest rates, according to the report). For each type of request, LendingTree offers the following tips, based on what worked for the cardholders in their report:

Lowered APR

Take [another credit card] offer and use it to frame the conversation: “I’ve been a good customer of yours for a long time and I like my card. However, the APR is 25% and I’ve just been offered one with a 19% APR. Would you be able to match it?” As our survey data shows, they’ll likely be willing to work with you, at least to some degree. 

Waived late fee 

Just pick up the phone and be polite. If you’re a long-time customer with good credit and this is your first offense, the odds are in your favor. In fact, some card issuers will even waive a first late fee as a matter of policy. If you’ve been late multiple times in the recent past, however, your chances probably aren’t as good. Even so, it never hurts to ask.

Higher credit limit

Start with a number in mind based on your current limit. The average increase reported in our survey was about $1,500, but your situation will vary. If your current limit is $500, a $1,500 bump might be asking too much. However, if your current limit is $5,000, that request might be just fine.

Waived/reduced annual fee

Before you make the call, think about what you will accept. If you ask for a fee to be waived altogether and they only offer to reduce it, is that good enough? What if they offer you extra rewards points or miles or make some other counteroffer instead of a reduced fee? And perhaps most important, what if they say no? As with many negotiations, you have more leverage if you’re willing to walk away, so that could be an option. However, you shouldn’t make that threat unless you’re willing to follow through with it, and you shouldn’t follow through with it unless you’ve thought about what that would mean for your credit.


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