credit & debt

How to Negotiate a Lower Credit-Card Rate

Your card company might grant your request if you have a good credit score.

Is there any hope for me to negotiate my credit-card rates? I’ve been getting mailings for new cards with low rates, but I’d rather not apply for any new credit cards if I can avoid it.

It’s certainly worth a try. The fact that you’ve been getting solicitations for new cards is a good sign: It means that you probably have a good credit record, which makes you a hot commodity among lenders. Stung by defaults from risky borrowers, lenders have been cutting credit limits on millions of cardholders, canceling some risky accounts and making it tougher for people with average or poor credit to get approved for a credit card. Meanwhile, issuers have been competing to attract customers with good credit records, says Bill Hardekopf, of LowCards.com.

“People with excellent credit scores are the consumers every issuer wants right now,” says Hardekopf. “Issuers are not as likely to grant a lower rate as they were a couple of years ago, but if any group could negotiate a better rate, it is those with good or excellent credit.”

A recent survey by Lending Club found that 93% of people know they can try to negotiate a lower rate on their credit cards, but only 29% have tried. And of those who tried, two-thirds were successful.

Gather ammunition by collecting those credit-card solicitations you’ve been receiving, and come up with a target rate, says Jennifer Openshaw, chief consumer adviser for Lending Club. Call your card company and mention that you’ve gotten offers from other card companies (and if you’re a longtime customer, make sure to say so). Let the company know the specific rates and ask what it can do. “If you don’t make progress, ask for the supervisor,” says Openshaw. “The most important thing is to be confident.” If you don’t carry much of a balance, consider asking to get the annual fees waived rather than the interest rate lowered -- especially because many card companies have boosted their annual fees over the past few months.

It also helps to make moves to boost your credit score before you call -- see Fast Ways to Improve Your Credit Score for tips.

If your negotiations don’t work and you don’t have too many cards already, consider one of the card offers. However, be careful about balance-transfer fees before making the switch. From July 2009 to March 2010, the median balance-transfer fee has increased from 3% to 4% of the transferred balance, according to a study by the Pew Health Group. If the balance-transfer fee is too high, you could end up paying more in transfer charges than you’d save by getting a lower interest rate. See Are Balance Transfers Still a Good Deal? for more information.

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