Make Credit Card Companies Your Bitch

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity reminds us that savvy consumers can take advantage of credit card companies hellbent on turning a profit. Most credit card companies will go to great lengths to keep their customers happily spending away. Use these tips to make them cater to your every financial desire:

  • Ask: Most companies will waive or reduce fees upon request.
  • Consolidate Credit Lines: If you have several cards with one provider, boost your credit score by asking to consolidate your charges and credit limits onto one or two cards.
  • Boost Your Credit Limit: Creditors will usually increase the credit limit of loyal customers with good credit without harming their credit score by requesting a credit report. Wait at least a year before making the request.
  • Escape Foreign Transaction Fees: If you are planning a hop across the pond, ditch your Visa and Mastercard in favor of Discover or Capitol One. Neither levies a foreign transaction fee of 1% or more.
  • Switch Rewards Programs: Stuck with frequent flier miles when you want cash back? Most creditors will allow you to switch programs if you ask nicely.
  • Warranty Protection: Cards often extend, or even double, manufacturer warranties. Know what protection your card offers, and take advantage when making large purchases.
  • Insurance: Like warranty protection, some cards will provide insurance on car rentals.
  • It should go without saying, but none of these tips work unless you use credit responsibly: don’t take on more debt that you can afford, and always, always, always pay your credit card bills in full each month.

    7 Unwritten & Often Forgotten Credit Card Secrets [Blueprint for Financial Prosperity]
    (Photo: Getty)

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    1. yg17 says:

      I wanted to lower the interest rate on my Chase Visa, so I called them up, said “I’ve had the card for a couple years, pay my minimum payment on time every month, blah blah blah could I have a lower interest rate” and without any hassle, they dropped me about 2.5%. It was surprisingly easy.

      Also, ESCALATE. The CSRs who answer the phones can’t do jack except read from their scripts. I had an issue with my HSBC Mastercard where I paid off the card entirely, and the next statement, I had an interest charge of $14 and change. I called them up asking what the hell it was, and the outsourced CSR told me it was interest for the balance I was carrying through the middle of the month. I told him it was misleading, and I was under the assumption that paying off the entire balance would actually pay off the entire balance, and nothing on their website said otherwise. He refused to waive the fee, so I asked to speak with a supervisor, and again, without hesitation, she waived the fee.

    2. thepounder says:

      @yg17: Nice. You know, I never really thought that sort of stuff works… I’m a believer now.
      Next time I actually bother to use a credit card,I’ll call my CC company first and ask to lower my rate & see what happens.
      No harm in asking.

    3. SOhp101 says:

      @yg17: You’re actually lucky. Credit card companies commonly use a practice called something like “double billing” where through the magic of math and percentages they charge you the entire month’s interest up front from the beginning of the billing cycle and they also charge you interest up to the day you either paid off your balance or the end of the cycle.

      Sad to say that this is usually spelled out in the T&C but most people don’t realize it.

    4. jeff318 says:

      Too bad Discover card doesn’t work in most places outside the US.

    5. hektik says:

      I own a business and don’t accept Discover.

      Also, cc companies don’t try to keep you as a customer, like they used to. I called to try to get a lower rate on a card yesterday and was told “There is nothing better at this time.” I then asked to have the card closed, and the agent simply said, “We are sorry to lose you as a customer. Anything else I can help you with?” Usually, they pass you on to a different department to keep you or convince you to keep the card open, but not use it. This was for a Chase card, btw.

    6. yg17 says:

      @thepounder: I didn’t believe it myself either, but I had nothing to lose and gave it a shot, and to my surprise, it worked.

      @SOhp101: It may be spelled out in the T&C somewhere, but what really pissed me off was the 1st rep I talked to said that I should have used the “Payoff quote” option in the online banking. Except, there was no payoff quote option. I looked all over and couldn’t find it, so that’s why I escalated and insisted they reverse it. If they want me to pay off my card while following the exact terms of the T&C, then they should actually make that an option.

    7. Amelie says:

      Another “hot consumer tip” article that not only tells me nothing new, but fails to realize there are credit cards out there which charge no foreign transaction fee or cash advance fees. I got cash out of ATM’s all over Europe and the credit card interest (the only extra money I paid) for a month long trip, amounted to less than two dollars. It might have been less if I was more johnny-on-the-spot about my online payment.

      Did I mention that my Visa credit card is from a credit union?

    8. waxigloo says:

      I agree with Jeff318. I lived in the UK for 4 years and no one has ever heard of Discover there. I am pretty sure that is true throughout Europe.

      So, don’t ‘ditch’ your mainstream CCs like Visa/Mastercard/AmEx whilst abroad.

    9. FLConsumer says:

      Something to keep in mind — most of the highly-featured cards (rewards/concierge/etc) will have a higher interest rate or require that the bill be paid in full each month. The banks have to pay for these extra things somehow, and most of them will do it through higher interest rates.

    10. shoegazer says:

      whoa! I just came off an interest free period and paid my balance in full for the last month. Surprise, surprise – I still got £9.00 in interest charges. Yup, defintiely double cycle billing. I rang up my CC company to dispute it and as a “gesture of goodwill” they’re crediting that back and also some interest charges that have sneaked in for this month as well.

      The TOCs on my card (NatWest Platinum) state that purchases do not accrue interest for 56 days, but ONLY IF the account was fully paid for the past 2 MONTHS. Onerous, no? I’m glad they didn’t put up too much of a fight. I’m also glad I spoke to them just after 100,000 customers deserted them for massively overcharging on bank charges. Sometimes, timing is everything.

    11. olegna says:

      The “just ask to lower the interest rate (or cancel a fee)” thing doesn’t work as much as to deserve to be the No. One most common form of advice.

      I paid off over $26,000 in CC debt (long story) on four cards (plus a couple of merchant cards) in two years recently.

      After doing so I asked CapitalOne to lower my interest rate from 32.99 percent.

      The CSR person said the same thing somebody else mentioned above. AND I HAD A ZERO BALANCE! The CSR person indicated that it would go down in the next six months (“I’m sorry, but that’s the best rate we can give you at this time; it will go down eventually.”)

      Eventually isn’t good enough. 32.99% should be illegal — people who are deemed that high of a credit risk shouldn’t have access to that credit, period, because it’s bad for the economy in the long run to issue this credit. And I am not a 32.99% credit risk. The problem is that the CC companies can do whatever the f**k they want in our country where busineses are considered “entities” and so much seems to operate int heir favor (thatnks to the myth that unfettered capital
      gains mechanisms uplifts all of society).

      To add insult to injury, I made this phone call in APRIL (to CapOne) and immediately asked them to cancel my account with them — yet I’m still getting statements from CapitalOne: 32.99%, no balance due. (I checked yesterday and I can no longer log onto my account, so I assume my account has been closed by now, but my login was still active last month.)

      SO they not only tell you to go f**k yourself, but it’s taken months, two phone calls, and four letters, for me to have my account closed. And I’m still not 100% sure if my account is closed.

      PS: I also recently attempted to lower my 29.99% on a Chase Card, WITH ZERO BALANCE, and they have also refused.

      Again: I have no credit card debt, and recently paid down $26,000 in unsecured debt.

      They all tell me that since I recently paid it off, the interest would go down in the coming months of continued zero balance or no late fees.

      But this is ridiculous. They don’t give you six months to make a payment before ratcheting up the interest rate; they do it the second you violate their terms.

      It should work the other way around, too. The second you get out of debt (I have a cumulative unsecured credit limit of over $30,000, and I owe nothing) the interest rate should go way down, too.

      Right now the biggest on my shit list are Capital One and Chase.

      Here’s a breakdown of the interest I paid the entire two years of paying off $26,000 and NEVER getting a break on lowering my interest:

      CapitalOne: 32.99%
      Citicards: 29.99% (went down to only 17.99% after I paid off my CC debt)
      Chase: 29.99% (zero baleance, APR hasn’t changed)
      Universal Savings Bank: 13.99% (this was the best one because the APR never changed, never went up, etc, and most people would think that’s also very high.)

      The first three cards listen above haven’t budged on the APR, two of them have refused. One of these two took five months to cancel my account.

    12. olegna says:

      Oops,I mean Citicards was 22.99%

    13. vitonfluorcarbon says:

      We charge everything we can on our MBNA 529 card, pay it off each month and gain 2% back for college savings. I’m probably not the kind of customer that MBNA loves, but they must do okay to get even 1% of my annual spend (assuming they charge 3% to merchants.)

      I’ve had the card for 4-5 years and have accidentally missed paying it on time a couple of times. Each time, they have waived the late payment fee. Just this last month, I realized I missed the payment. I called, explained that I just plain forgot, and asked what I needed to pay today to stop any interest charges from accruing – I even told them that I was not opposed to paying for the interest during the 5 days I was late – I just wanted it to stop accruing.

      Without any arguement, they waived the late fee and canceled all interest charges. They even asked me if I wanted to do an instant payment over the phone for free – this normally costs a premium.

      Excellent Customer Service and good rewards (2% is no longer available to new customers. 1.5% is the rate now) will keep me with MBNA.

      p.s. I have absolutely no idea what my interest rate is on this card

    14. jrdnjstn78 says:

      Most cards only take away that “late fee” only once a year.

      I had a WaMu (Providian) card a few years ago. They lowered my credit limit causing me to go over the limit. I called them and asked why and they said they see me as a credit risk. I had always paid my bill on time and always paid over the minimum amount. I told them that with them doing that, that now I would be slapped with a “late fee”. I told them that I would pay off the card and not ever use it again. That’s exactly what I did. I’ve heard of cards now charging for not using the card!

      Credit cards are getting crazy with all these fees.