Late fees are a lot like speeding tickets: Even if you usually obey the rules, you'll probably get slapped with one sooner or later. And like speeding tickets, some people seem to have a knack for getting off the hook with a stern warning and promise of future good behavior. You, too, can erase late fees from your credit card record. All it takes is a phone call and a little financial savvy.
Why you need to ax the late fees
Simply put: They're expensive.
Consider the following penalties for missing a credit card payment:
- According to IndexCreditCards.com, issuers nationwide charge up to $39 in credit card late fees. You'll continue to receive a late fee each month that your payment is late.
- Default interest rates mean you can be charged at a penalty rate that is double or triple your regular rate.
- If you have a special balance transfer rate, you'll be in default of the terms of the transfer and will lose your low rate.
The US Federal Reserve recently proposed a new rule that imposes limits on the penalty fees credit card issuers can charge, but the best way to use your card is to pay on time. Should you miss a payment, try to negotiate before paying a late fee and having your interest rate hiked.
How to negotiate out of paying a late fee
If you're normally on time with your payments, it's pretty easy to have a late fee removed. (If you're habitually late, work on your credit card handling skills.) You don't even need to use secret negotiation tactics or threats of cancellation. Most companies will let cardholders waive one late fee per year, and the process is simple.
- Speak up. You have to make some noise to save some money. In other words, pick up the phone. You'll have to press 87 buttons to get to an actual representative (who will then ask you all of the information you already entered), but you need a live person on the phone.
- Be persistent. Tell the customer rep you were charged a late fee and that you'd like to have it waived because you're normally on time with payments. If the rep says "no," repeat that you'd like to have it waived just this once, and ask what she can do to help you.
- Play nice. Keep a friendly tone, and you'll likely get the fee waived.
This also can work with bank fees and even utility bills; it's worth the phone call. After all, the money you'd be charged in late fees is money that could go into your savings account or emergency fund or used as fun money for a weekend getaway!
better to just avoid late fees
To avoid the hassle of late fees in the future, consider setting up automatic bill payments. You can still review your statements for accuracy, and you'll have the assurance that you'll pay on time, even if a bill slips your mind.
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