credit card debt

If You Have Credit Card Debt, Now Is the Time to Ask for a Break on Fees and Interest Rates

A survey from Lending Tree shows you are likely to get help with fees and interest rates if you ask your credit card issuer the right questions

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If you are struggling with credit card debt, now is the time to pick up the phone.

Ask for your card issuers to give you a break on fees and interest rates, and a recent survey from Lending Tree shows that you are likely to get it.

"I was actually really scared and nervous to kind of attack my debt," said Jacquelyn Velazquez of Leominster.

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Velazquez has paid down about $16,000 of her credit card debt so far, and she wasn't afraid to ask her credit card companies for help reducing her interest rates and waiving some late fees.

"If you're nice and you talk to them, they'll take it off for you," said Velazquez. "It's happened to me five or six times, I just explained my situation. You just work with them, and pretty much everyone that I've asked, they usually take it right off."

"More people are asking and more people are being successful than ever when it comes to asking for breaks from their credit card issuers," said Matt Schulz, Lending Tree's chief credit analyst. "The most common thing that people are asking for is getting a late fee waived, getting an annual fee waived, getting a bump in your credit limit and getting a reduced interest rate."

The more fees you can avoid, the better, but lowering your interest rate is the most important move in knocking down debt.

"You can say, 'Hey, I've been a good customer for many years,'" said Schulz. "'But I've got a 22% interest rate, and I just got offered a card with a 17% interest rate, are you able to match?' And there is a good chance that, at a minimum, they are going to work with you to some degree."

"A five-minute investment of time can save you a lot of money in interest and stress," said Nora Yousif, financial advisor at the Empower Wealth Group with RBC.
"Credit card companies, in the midst of COVID, are being really lenient to consumers because they understand people are going through hard times."

Yousif says ultimately, you have to establish an emergency fund and stop spending beyond your means to get out of the cycle of debt, but these small moves can help.

"Ask for a new billing due date to give yourself some more time. You can also ask for a credit line increase, which helps better your credit score because it helps to keep your credit utilization ratio down," Yousif said.

She says that you should have an idea of what options you have available to you so you can negotiate, and that you should remind your credit card company of your loyalty as a customer.

"It just really takes the courage to want to change your life and your financial future, to be honest," Velazquez said.

If you're nervous about making the call, try the live chat feature on your card issuer's website. And if you get turned down the first time, try again, because you may have better luck with a different customer service representative.

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