Reduce Credit Card APR: It Never Hurts To Ask

Acambras got her Citibank APR dropped from 13.99% to 2.99% just by asking.

Oh, and threatening to leave.

While we’ve heard this one before, we think the way she went about it is pretty classy.

Her letter, inside.


Acambras writes:

    “So I’m on the phone with Citibank last night. I wanted to find out exactly what my interest rate was on my Citi Mastercard, but didn’t have a current statement available and the website was asking for a scary amount of information. So I go through the rigmarole of calling, entering my account number, telling the CSR my account number, verifying my identity, etc.

    She told me my rate was 13.99%. I mentioned that was the highest rate on any of my credit cards and asked if I could qualify for anything lower. She said no, but that I could try back in a month or so.

    I thanked her for her time and began to wrap up the conversation (very politely) something along the lines of this:

    “Well, you can probably see on my account activity that I’m no longer charging any purchases to my Citibank card, and that in fact I’ve transferred some of the balance to other, lower interest cards. There are plenty of offers out there for much better deals, so don’t be surprised when you see my Citibank balance get transferred elsewhere.”

    And presto! She quickly transfers me (to a “retention specialist,” I suspect, although she never used that term). “Travis” bumped my rate down to 3.99% (on the current balance and future purchases) for the next 9 months. Sure, I would have liked more than 9 months, or less than 2.99%, but this wasn’t a bad deal for less than 10 minutes on the phone (plus about 5 minutes of hold time).

    The moral to this story: IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK. In fact, I think I’ll call the other credit card companies tonight.”

Comments

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  1. Good advice, but you have to be ready to move them if they call your bluff…

  2. acambras says:

    Yep, I basically told Citibank that “there are lots of tempting offers out there, but first I want to give you a shot at this.” Had they refused to help, I would have started shopping for balance transfers — like I said, 13.99% is the highest rate on any of my cards.

    BTW, thanks, Consumerist, for referring to my approach as classy — it made my day. Patience isn’t my strong suit and I typically have a short temper when it comes to dealing with big companies. But in the time that I’ve been checking out The Consumerist, I’ve learned a lot about dealing with this stuff. I’m thinking the outcome wouldn’t have been quite as good if “the old me” had called Citibank. Thanks again for all that you do! :-)

  3. Gena says:

    This also has been known to work when you get those ‘convenience’ checks from the credit card companies for a specific interest rate. I’ve called Chase and told them I’ll use them, but not with that rate. “I’d be happy to move all of my balances to your company with these checks, but so and so company just sent me checks for a lower interest rate. What can you do for me?” It’s making them compete for my business…which is the way it SHOULD BE!

  4. thrillhouse says:

    FYI – be sure to get that in writing. You can tell when these guys are lying because their mouth is moving. And by ‘these guys’, I mean credit card companies, debt collectors, car dealers, and other general scum. Otherwise, when you get your next statement and its not chaged, you’ll get the ol’, “Travis? oh he doesn’t work here anymore, but he used to say all kinds of crazy stuff like that. Now when can we expect your payment?”

  5. billhelm says:

    citi has done that for me before, then quickly bumped it back up a few months later citing “changing market conditions”

    caveat emptor. they can basically change it whenever they want.

    I got sick of that cycle and finally cancelled.

  6. missdona says:

    I did that with an MBNA Mastercard and had it dropped from 13.9 to fixed 9.9. I called back a year later and they said that’s as low as they could go with that one, but I could open an AMEX (with points) with a fixed 7.9.

  7. acambras says:

    Yes, thrillhouse and billhelm — I demanded everything but Travis’ grandmother’s social security number as evidence to document — he also said he’d get written confirmation to me in the mail within 10 days. Once I get said documentation, I’ll hang on to it for the next 9 months.

    While I was on hold I thought that I really should get set up to record phone conversations – haven’t researched if it’s legal in Connecticut – anyone know offhand?

    Document, document, document — another thing I’ve learned around here.

  8. holocron says:

    This works all well and good….except when you’ve run into a bit of debt. I went through a period recently where I was out of work. I then had to move for a new job. During the extended unemployment and subsequent move, I did everything I could to keep current. After a couple of late payments most of my cards have bumped up to ungodly rates. I’ve asked to have them lowered but all refuse, based on credit past. So now I’m stuck.

  9. holocron says:

    Phone recording: as long as you verbally note at the beginning of the call that you are going to record it, and the other party does not object, i believe you are legal.

  10. ADM says:

    I tried this a few months ago — almost verbatim — but they didn’t take the bait, claiming that they didn’t want to due to some black marks on my record (guilty as charged). But, I followed through with my “threat” and transferred 80% of the somewhat large balance to a 0% APR account elsewhere. Now that I’ve put my money where my mouth was, I think I might have some leverage to get the rate reduced on the remaining balance.

  11. alicetheowl says:

    BTW, thanks, Consumerist, for referring to my approach as classy — it made my day.

    Really, any time an approach doesn’t involve making explicit threats or raising one’s voice, I’d call it “classy”, just because so many people try to get their way by throwing a tantrum.

    They wouldn’t try it if it didn’t work . . .

  12. Paul D says:

    I’ve been a USAA customer since I was 16. Now, at 29, I applied for a USAA mastercard. They gave me something ridiculous like 15%.

    I called immediately; I believe my exact words were “you’ve GOTTA be able to do better than that.”

    Without hesitation they dropped it to 10-point-something. Not spectacular but damn well better than 15.

  13. Chongo says:

    I tried this with all three of my credit cards and it WORKED perfectly. Some of my rates were between 19-23% (please don’t hit me consumerists).

    I got them all down to around 12-14%.

    The only problem I have no though is the stupid minimum payments. Since that new policy went into effect across the board, all my minimums are like 30-60 a month per card. (I pay 100 but it still just dosn’t feel right).

    BTW my CC’s are Citibank, Capital one and Providian. I’m sure it helped with citibank that I’ve been a customer since I was 16 (am now 28)

  14. nightsweat says:

    Chongo, please be smart and don’t live off your credit cards. Don’t charge anything optional on your cards and pay that balance down.

    Paying minimum balances is a sucker’s game and just makes the guys wearing the bad suits rich.

  15. Elara says:

    I’ve done this twice now with USAA, and both times they dropped my rate by quite a bit (4% the first time, and 3% the second). It’s amazing what a bit of polite threat can do!

  16. tz says:

    Citicard sent me a flyer a few months ago with many options – I have a dividend payback (a check for USD, not points or miles or whatever). I had the option of getting a low interest rate, but no dividend. Or I could get a higher dividend on limited items. And I can change my statement date! I forgot but I think a low rate was one of the options (and there was another low temporary rate for transfers or something over the holidays last year).

    They have a “current offers” at their web site too.

    It is a game, but if you play right you can get good deals.

  17. thrillhouse says:

    Chongo –
    here’s something that will feel better. Pay the minimum on all the cards except for the smallest, and attack it with every spare penny you have. Once its done, move on to the next smallest with everything you were paying previously + that card’s minimum. Its called the snowball method and it will actually get you out of debt rather than staying in debt forever by just paying the minimum plus a little extra.

    And the best feeling? When you pay it off, cancel the account and shred the card.

    O, the FREEDOM!

  18. nomorecredit says:

    Keep your eye on CITIBANK…They’re starting to play with our minds…e.g. the Sears Card is owned by Citi.

  19. NAMEUNKNOWN says:

    Sounds like the ‘Dave Ramsey’ method.

  20. jwissick says:

    I actualy make money on my cards. I have rewards cards that pay 5% on grocery, gas and drug store stuff. I pay it off each month. Every few months, I get $50 from Chase.. no arguments… just a free $50 check.. and they make 0.0 on me in interest. It’s free money.

  21. laughingdove says:

    Actually thrillhouse, you should not cancel the account. I recently learned that if you cancel an account, that it actually will lower your credit score. The idea is that it lowers the amount of money you can borrow, and makes you less desirable for any future loans or credit. So bring it to zero, yes, but don’t cancel. Just sit on that $0 balance, shred that card, and enjoy the good credit!

  22. YodaYid says:

    When I started to make heavy payments on one of my cards, they sent me a letter along the lines of “We noticed you are making large payments – please don’t go”, and included some “convenience checks” that would lower my APR by 15 pts if I used them. I’d rather just pay off the card, though… a la thrillhouse.

  23. gudrunthered says:

    I just called Citibank and used Acambras’ polite but firm approach and I was transferred to a “specialist” and I now have 3.99% APR for the next nine months effective immediately. “Chad” the specialist said he would send me a letter stating the new rate and terms and he was actually very, very nice and cheery about it all. I also told him that I just got a new Chase Platinum VISA with 0% APR for 12 months (which actually is true!) and I would hate to take my business away from Citi but I would have to if I couldn’t get a lower rate.

    All it all it was a pleasant experience and I highly suggest everyone try it. Just remember to be polite but firm and you will get what you want!

  24. Chongo says:

    In case anyone comes back to this article. Thanks Thrillhouse. Super good advice actually!

  25. donnajean says:

    Dang, I gotta call my places again and be more agressive – 3.99%! I did just get chase on a 24.24% rate reduced to 8.74% but now that just ain’t enough. I do call every couple months though, it is just a good standard practice. If links are allowed, here is some info on the progress this year: http://theweightofmoney.com/2006/10/save-money-make-the-ca

  26. Crimer17 says:

    I am actualy one of the “Acount Specialest” …My name is Jeff and I work for the Retention department at Citi Bank. We are the highest paid call center there at Citi Bank, We make around 40 to 60 G a year. I personly believe Citi has one of the best customer service providers and the best retention department. Our bonuses depend on you leting us apply the offers we give you on your acount, and after we do that we get anywhere form 15C to 2 dollers on every grand you spend on the acount. Its called life sales. Theres to different call flows we go through. And not all customers qualify. After being there from a year I stil ldont know what makes the customers qualify and what does not but the system generates it I know that depending on how profitable you are and weather or not your opening the card to work our system. But like I said theres two different call flows…If your calling and you state to customer service “If I dont get a lower APR im going to transfer my balance to another card” Customer Service will see if your acount quaifies to be sent to us. This is called balance retention. We give you a lower APR just to satisfy you temperaly so you wont transfer your balance. If you call “I want to close my acount” We can do just about anything yo ucan imagine depending on how profitable you are as a customer. If you paid a little bit of intrest over the years we will have very wonderful offers avilable for you. Depending on how many times you tell us no to the offers we give you the better your offers will be. We have offers called “Sweetened offers” which you must say no twice before we give you these because they cost the bank alot of money. Things like 0% nonverable rate for a year on purchases. balance transfers. and 9.99 nonverable rate after that. Thats one offer. THeres everything from crediting back full membership fees on AAdvantage cards to giving you 5% cash back on yoru card purchases on the cash cards….I can assure you. The retention department at Citi bank is the best one out of any bank. We will do anything it takes to keep a customer if there profitable.

  27. Crimer17 says:

    In your case you thretoned to transfer the balance. So you were transfered to our department. The way this generates the bank money is because ofcourse other banks out there want you to transfer your balance to there card, But then were loosing the money were making off of you, If any bank is going to have yoru balance, its going to be us. We can go even all the way down to 0%…If you would of told Travis no. He would of possibly took you down to 1.99% nonverable rate…but only for 6 billing cycles. On that 5 minite call you took, Travis…Which he is in my department but I dont know him personly. Probly makes around 12.50 an hour. and made a doller off of each grand you had on your acount if you keep the balance on it till next month. So give you an example. If you had 4 thousand dollers on that acount, hes going to make 5 dollers off that simple phone call. Because he got 1 doller for you accepting the offer and 1 more doller for every grand you ahve on your card after a one month period. If you were to be transfered to me, I would of first offered you a 7.99 nonverable rate for 9 months. In that case I would of made 2 dollers off of every grand you had on your acount. and 2 dollers for you accepting the offer upfront. We are some of the nicest people you will ever meet, because me make alot of money off of you guys lol. Bank of america Customer service sucks. And I dont even think they have a retention department.