I’ll never forget the day I received an email from my favorite money management tool that said I had overdrafted my checking account and owed a $35 fee to my bank for an account I rarely used.
“Impossible!” I thought to myself, trying to figure out what had happened. When I realized I had grabbed the wrong card from my wallet at dinner the night before, it all made sense — but I was both angry and disappointed about that $35 charge from the bank.
So I asked them to waive the fee. After all, I had been a long-time customer, had perfect credit, and had never overdrafted before. With hardly a moment of hesitation, they said yes and waived the charge.
I didn’t have a secret phone number to a special support line. I was far from a high-net-worth client for that bank. But just by asking, I ended up with $35 I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Overdraft fees are just one place you can save money by picking up the phone and asking. Here’s how to save some of your hard-earned dollars with a quick phone call.
1. Negotiate a lower cable or internet bill
Big companies like Comcast, Cox, and Charter spend a lot of money on advertising to bring in new customers. This customer acquisition cost is significant, so cable companies are often willing to give a little to keep an existing customer rather than spend on acquiring a new one.
That means that as an existing customer, you have leverage. If you call in and ask for a discount, they often do so happily to keep you paying each month. For example, if you got a special deal as a new customer that has expired, call in and ask if there are any new offers that can be applied to your account.
Sometimes extra persistence pays off. Last year, I called my provider for a discount and was connected to someone who didn’t seem to understand what I was asking. My wife gave it a try the next day and got both a retroactive refund for the last three months and a discount for the next nine months, for a total one year discount on our internet bill.
2. Get a fee waived
That overdraft fee was one of my more embarrassing financial mistakes, but it wasn’t the only time I have called in to ask that a fee be waived by a financial company. There are many reasons you can call in to ask for a fee to be waived.
Here is a list of some fees your bank may be willing to refund:
- Overdraft fee
- Credit card annual fee
- Late payment fee
- Wire transfer fee
Once, a credit card issuer waived my $95 annual fee thanks to a phone call that took less than ten minutes. That is the equivalent of a nearly $575 per hour return on investment!
3. Ask for a higher credit limit
Your credit limits are an important factor in your credit score and credit report. In fact, 30% of your FICO credit score is determined by your open credit balances in relation to your credit limits. In simple English, using the lowest percentage possible of your credit limit increases your score.
If you carry a balance month-to-month, you have two short-term possibilities to increase your credit score.
The first is to pay off your balances, which you should do as soon as possible to save the hard-earned cash you are paying towards interest each month. The second option is to increase your credit card limits.
Let’s look at an example to make things a little clearer. Say you have two credit cards: One has a $5,000 limit and a $1,000 balance, while the second has a $5,000 limit and a $1,500 balance.
Combined, you have a balance of $2,500 and a limit of $10,000. That means you are using up 25% of your available credit. This percentage is called your credit utilization ratio, and the higher it is, the lower your credit score.
You can lower that 25% by paying off your balances or increasing your credit limit.
If you call those banks and one of them offers to increase your limit to $10,000, you now have a $2,500 balance on a combined $15,000 limit.
That lowers your credit utilization to under 17%, so your credit score will increase the next time your issuer sends an update to the credit reporting bureaus.
It doesn’t cost anything to ask
Beyond the time spent on the phone, there is no cost to ask for anything. It just takes a few minutes of your day, and your savings could add up to big bucks.
Keep more of your money by picking up the phone. You might be surprised at the deals you can find!
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