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Credit Cards

Lower Your Credit Card Rate (Really)

Sam Sweet has become a master at getting credit-card issuers to cut the rates on his cards. Over the past several months he has persuaded no fewer than three major banks to roll back interest-rate hikes. He talked Capital One down from 12.9% to 7.9%, got Chase to reduce its rate from 17.9% to 11.9%, and cut the rate on his Washington Mutual card in half -- from 23.9% to 11.9%.

What's Sweet's secret? He has a stellar credit record, has owned each of his cards for more than two years and has never made any late payments. It also helps that he's very, very persistent.

1. First, he calls the customer service department and asks for a lower rate. "Naturally, they say there's nothing they can do," says Sweet, who lives in Erial, N.J.

He's told that he can pay off the balance at the old rate and then close the account. But he wants to keep the account open and make new purchases at the lower rate. So he asks for a manager -- who says there's nothing he or she can do, either.

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2. Next he calls the company's corporate office. "Ask for the president," advises Sweet. "If you know his name, that's even better. Be stern and firm." When asked why you're calling, "explain that you can't believe the company has such horrible customer service."

3.That tactic usually gets Sweet transferred to escalated customer service, where "you tone down your act and say you can't believe that the company treats customers this way." Remind the customer-service representative that other card issuers want your business, and "remember to be nice here."

The response is always the same, says Sweet. "They say they need to look into it and will get back to me." He figures the card issuer checks his credit score and account history. The company always calls back to offer a lower rate.

"Those steps have worked every time," he says.

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