Saturday, August 23

Hello low(er) interest rates!

We got back from the in-laws' as of early evening, so my posting should get back onto a more normal schedule. It's kind of hard to do a post when the Olympics are on (though you can hear two TVs thanks to the living room one's volume) and your MIL is talking to you.

I thought I'd just save up all my wit and wisdom for when I got back.


I could have sworn it was around here somewhere....

But seriously:

I'm here with an "I tried it" for a well-known frugal hack: getting your card rates lowered.

This took perhaps half an hour, total. If you haven't already done this, here are the couple of (very basic) steps.

First, I called my credit card companies to find out the exact APR. (I know, I know, it's awful that I was ignorant about them. Ostrich. Sand. You get the idea.)

One was prime plus 9.99, for a total of about 15.99%. Another rewards cards, which I had signed up for to get free honeymoon airline tickets, was actually the best rate: 14.99%. I was shocked.

The third I didn't have to call on. There was a bill in my mailbox. So I just checked the bottom of my statement. And nearly swallowed my tongue!

APR: 28.41%
Effective APR: 31%

Oh man I'm an idiot!

So, once I had extricated my tongue from the back of my throat, I called up that third card's company.

Here's the second (and last) step: Tell them politely, but bluntly, that you need them to lower the card's rate.

The representative was polite but said the company would not lower rates based solely on a customer request.

Accounts were periodically reviewed, he said, and rates were adjusted based on numerous factors. Notices would then be sent out in the mail, along with special promotions. I would just have to wait for that.

Ah, I said, but that is a promotional rate. I want my regular rate lowered.

He said no. I explained that, while I didn't want to do it, I was prepared to close the account. I love this card, I told him, but financially it would be ludicrous to keep it open. It was nearly double my other two cards' rates.

A little more back and forth and he still wasn't relenting. But if there's one thing I know it's that no major changes get made without a supervisor. Which is why I requested (politely) to speak to one.

What was amazing is how fast everything went from there. I didn't even have to say anything.

A supervisor came on the line and requested a few minutes to look over my account. Two minutes later, she came back on the line and said she'd lowered the rate. It would be reflected in the next one to two billing cycles.

Define "lowered," I said.

Turns out my new rate is 16-18% (though she had to give me the obligatory spiel about keeping the account in good standing or the rate would be yanked).

So, maybe 18% isn't exactly ideal, but it's a heck of a lot better than 28%. And when our financial situation is better squared away, I can lobby for a lower rate.

Next, I think I'll try my Citi card. I've had it since I was 18. I think I can convince them that, as a long-time customer, I deserve a lower rate for loyalty. Of course, I'll also argue that I'd be far more inspired to use the card (which I haven't in over a year) if the rate is lowered. Which means they'll make more money off me.

Have any of you tried this? What were the results? What kind of interest rate would you shoot for?

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Blogger lot 2 learn said...

I did it with my AmEx card. It took about an hour, and a supervisor, and me starting the process of closing my account, but I went from 13% to 9%.

August 24, 2008 at 2:45 PM

Blogger Abby said...

Thanks for reading, lot2learn. I'm impressed that you stuck with it. But it sounds like it paid off!

August 24, 2008 at 3:29 PM


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