High interest rates and fees can make you feel like you’re not in control of your finances, but haggling can put you back in the driver’s seat. “Consumers are going to have much more success haggling over fees than they are haggling over APRs,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com. That said, if your credit is good enough to get a new card with a 0% balance-transfer teaser fee, it can’t hurt to point that out to your current issuer.
“If you’re a good customer, fees can sometimes be negotiated away,” Ulzheimer says. If you’re trying to get a penalty fee like a late fee waived, point out your great track record of on-time payments. If you’re a heavy charger, use that as a bargaining chip too. Even if you pay off your balance in full every month, the issuer still makes money when you use your card via interchange fees.
Settling credit-card debt for less than you owe is also possible; in fact, sometimes an issuer or a third-party collection firm will offer you a settlement first. If this happens, though, be sure to counteroffer, because people who have been through the process say a better offer always comes along if you turn down the first one.
The two crucial things to keep in mind here is to get in writing — before sending any money — that any settlement will be treated as “paid in full,” and to realize that the settlement, while it may provide financial relief, will also leave a black mark on your credit report. Lenders will be able to see that, although you paid, it was for less than the original amount owed.