Negotiate Credit Card Fees Like a Banker

Have you ever gotten that dreaded notice? You know, the one that reads something to the tune of:

“Dear Ms. _________, we have not received your payment for your credit card this month. A late payment of $25 has been charged to your account as a late fee. Please send in your payment plus the late fee promptly.”

If you’re like me, those notices make my heart sink. I feel like I’ve just donated $25 to a cause I didn’t want to participate in.

I had not seen one of those notices in a long, long time (in my college days, I saw them far more often than I’d like to admit to).

Until yesterday.    {Sigh}

Credit image:  Missus Martian on Flickr 

Really, there was no excuse. I have alerts on my account that remind me when my payments are due. I knew that I needed to pay the bill. But I went on vacation and oops! Forgot to pay. (Why my payments weren’t on auto-pay is another story. Don’t make the same silly mistake I did.) Has this ever happened to you?

If it has, let me tell you what you should never hesitate to do.

Call your credit card company and ask for your money back. That’s what I did and now I’m $25 richer.

Here’s why you should always ask for late fees back. Aside from the simple fact that, it’s your money – remember “a penny saved is a penny earned”. (This notion will get you far on the road to wealth).

As someone who analyzed bank cash flow statements in my former job and dealt with clients asking me to refund bank fees day in and out*, I know that these types of fees serve as pure, guaranteed revenue for financial institutions for little or no effort.

Case in point: when my credit card company charged me the fee this week, they didn’t provide me with any kind of service in exchange for the $25. It’s just more money added to their bottom line.

So, how do you ask for your money back? Call the company’s customer service line. In your nicest voice, tell them you’re calling to request a refund on your late fee charged on your January bill, for example. Then wait, see what they’ll say. Normally, they’ll ask you a few questions – maybe they’ll give you push back. Don’t take it.

They’re trained to keep your money.

However, don’t be defensive or rude either. Just be honest and sincere. Normally, if you’ve been a good customer and you typically pay on time, you shouldn’t have much discussion before they refund your fee. If you do, ask to speak to their supervisor.

Once you've gotten your fee back, don't hang up yet. Thank the customer service representative and then ask for his or her name. Make a note of it along with the time and date of the call. Why? If you don't get your money credited back to you, when do you your follow-up call, you're going to come across as more credible. Let's take a look at two different scenarios.

Scenario 1: "Hi, last week I called you guys and spoke with one of your representatives about refunding my fee. I never got it refunded. Can you help me?"

Scenario 2: "Hi, on February 19th at 12:50, I spoke with Rosa Garcia about refunding my credit card fee. She agreed to refund it but it has not posted to the account. Can you check on that for me?

Which sounds better to you?

I also think that if you ask the representative their name, they may feel a sense of urgency to refund your fee more quickly. The person at the end of the line is just another busy employee on the job who answers 100s of calls a day. He or she may have good intentions but may forget to refund your fee.

I should make a note that being a good on-time client is your best defense in these cases. If you’re late each and every month, you can try this strategy but it may not work for you. If you’re late each and every month, I beg of you – find a solution to start paying on time, like automating small month payments. It’ll help you in the long run. Trust me.

*It was always the wealthiest clients who insisted on getting their fees back. Habits of the rich…

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