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Talk Your Way Out Of Credit Card Debt: Phone Calls To Banks That Saved More Than $43,000 In Interest Charges and Fees!
By Scott Bilker
Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt: Phone Calls To Banks That Saved More Than $43,000 In Interest Charges and Fees! by consumer-advocate Scott Bilker shows people how to negotiate with credit card companies to reduce or eliminate fees, lower interest rates, and deal with credit card disputes and billing errors.
For himself, friends, and family, Bilker made hundreds of phone calls to credit card companies in an attempt to achieve a better deal and evaluate what works and what doesn't when calling credit card companies.
The full transcripts of fifty-two recorded phone calls are given and analyzed in Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt. The names of Bilker's friends were changed to protect their identities. Probably to prevent lawsuits, the names of the banks were changed to the names of dog breeds. And, the names of the account representatives and supervisors were changed to insect names. (Bilker suggests keeping notes and writing down the name of each person you talk with regarding your account. That way, if a representative claims he'll lower your interest rate, but doesn't, you can call back and say, "Mr. Tumble Bug said he was going to lower my rate to....")
The savings Bilker achieved were significant. In one phone call, Bilker got the bank to lower the interest rate from 13.72% to 8.75%, saving $4,320.00, based upon the existing credit card balance. (An appendix shows us how to calculate the savings we achieve by reducing credit card interest rates.)
In another case, Bilker absolutely couldn't get Mr. Mosquito or Ms. Glowworm at Shih Tzu bank to lower it's rate, but the bank offered a low rate for transfers from other accounts. So, Bilker promptly transferred the full balance out of Shih Tzu and then back again to get the lower transfer rate. Bilker speculates banks believe people are too lazy to transfer money around like this, even though the savings in interest paid by doing so are often in the thousands of dollars.
Bilker says it's crucial to keep your credit options open so you have bargaining power. He points out that banks with which you have established relationships are most likely to give you a good deal. So, Bilker argues, for people who carry credit card balances, there's little advantage in closing a no-fee, zero-balance account. With a phone call, they might lower their rate or might offer a great rate on transfers. Bilker writes: "Play all your credit card banks against each other. Make them fight for your business."
Bilker says credit card offers received in the mail (that most of us throw away) can also be used effectively when negotiating with your present bank. Be prepared to read the offers you have to your current bank to show that you have options.
Bilker writes: "It's easy for someone to say 'just call the bank and get the fees waived,' but actually calling is a different story. Without training you might risk not knowing exactly what to say in a highly pressured moment.... The key to success is knowing who to talk to and exactly what to say."
Bilker notes that Americans expect a rigid pricing structure and often don't know what to say or feel intimidated when speaking with bank account representatives, who often give customers the run-around. (There's something quite empowering about having your account representative named Mr. Mud Wasp or Ms. Deer Tick.)
Bilker says consumers should be prepared when they call, including having a "deal breaker" handy, which is the action the person will take if the credit card company fails to make a reasonable compromise.
Chapters in Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt discuss:
* Getting The Annual Fee Waived
* Reducing Or Eliminating Late Payment Fees, Overlimit Fees, and Cash Advance Fees
* Lowering Your Interest Rates
* Shopping Around To Get The Lowest Credit Card Rate
* Negotiating Settlements
* Dealing With Disputes, Chargebacks, And Errors
For consumers carrying credit card balances, the chapters about lowering interest rates and shopping around for the best interest rate are the most valuable. Bilker writes: "The key to repaying your debt efficiently, and I mean cheaply, is to keep your finance charges as low as possible."
In about 70% of the calls, Bilker got the bank to reduce its interest rate. Bilker tells us that at a high 19.8% APR, making minimum payments on $5,000 worth of credit card debt might take 46 years and cost $24,000 to pay off. Even a small reduction in the interest rate can save thousands of dollars.
Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt gives especially useful advice in dealing with run-around. Through reading the phone call transcripts, you'll gain experience in negotiating with a bank. Bilker points out that an account representative might tell you he/she can't change your rate. He/she might tell you that the supervisor can't change it either. It's their best offer. Bilker says you should ask to speak with the supervisor, anyway, who will often lower your rate as requested.
Bilker gives some great tips for dealing with awkward moments. For example, if a representative asks if you want to close the account (you don't want to) or leave the rate where it is, Bilker says you could respond that you don't want to close the account, but that you plan to transfer the balance to another card and not use their card unless the rate is later lowered. Under pressure, unless you're familiar with what might be said or requested, you might say things that only sound like whining, which won't get you what you want.
I highly recommend Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt to anyone who carries a balance on his or her credit cards or anyone who wants to gain skill in negotiating with a credit card bank to reduce interest rates or eliminate fees. Following Bilker's advice can save thousands of dollars in credit card interest and fees. Scott Bilker is also the author of the best-selling book Credit Card And Debt Management.