By Andrew Housser
The list of things credit card companies are required to tell you is quite long (that's why you need a magnifying glass to read all of the tiny print on their disclosure statements). But there's more information than even meets the magnifying eye. For instance, did you know that if your credit score is 700 or higher, you may be able to negotiate certain changes to your account? All it takes is a phone call to find out. Here's a look at the things you might be able to do:
1. Lower your rate. Lower interest rates are a possibility if you're in good standing with your credit issuer (no late payments and you haven't gone over your credit limit) and your credit rating is good. If you've heard from another company offering a lower APR, call your current issuer and see if they're willing to match it, or better yet, go even lower. Even if you have made a late payment or two or have gone over your credit limit, ask how long you have to be in good standing before they will consider giving you a break.
2. Skip fees. Credit cards issued by some businesses, such as airlines and hotels, charge annual fees. But if you have a solid payment history, you can ask to have these fees waived or removed. If that's not a possibility, ask to have the fee cut in half – for several years. You also can ask for balance-transfer fees to be waived.
3. Move your billing due date. If you pay significant expenses like mortgage, rent, car payments and utilities at the start of the month, you can move the due date of your credit cards so that your payments fall in the second part of the month (or vice versa). For some people, this can be helpful in paying in full and on time.
4. Increase your credit limit. You may want to do this if you're making a large purchase and need more cash to cover the costs. It also can help to improve your credit score, which is based, in part, by the percentage of available credit you have. Agencies prefer "available credit" to be at least 65 percent. If you have a credit card with a limit of $10,000, for example, and you owe $3,500 on it, that's a 35 percent utilization rate, and 65 percent available (unused) credit. Keep at least this much available credit on credit cards can help increase credit scores, and be careful not to fall into the trap of using available credit just because you have it.
5. Talk to a higher-up. The decision-making power of customer service representatives is very limited. If you're unhappy with the responses you're getting, ask to speak to a supervisor and cite key points relevant to your goal. For instance, you might mention your good standing with the company; the fact that you use the card heavily; or the fact that as much as you'd like to continue doing business with them, you will switch to another company if things can't be resolved to your liking.
6. Fix Negative Information. Slip-ups from a few years ago need not haunt you forever. Some creditors may, in certain circumstances, be willing to make a "goodwill adjustment" to strike a late payment from your record. You can ask for this over the phone, but chances are you'll have to make a more formal request in writing with a clear and concise explanation of why the creditor should do this for you.7. Get a do-over. Credit card companies don't openly publicize this, but many will allow you to "re-age" a delinquent account. The process enables you to bring the account current and stop late fees from accruing if you meet these criteria: you've paid at least three consecutive minimum monthly payments; you have a renewed willingness and ability to pay; and the account is at least nine months old. You'll still owe the same amount, but your account will no longer be considered delinquent. Re-aging only makes sense if you have the ability to get back, and stay on, track.
As the saying goes, it can't hurt to ask. You might not always get exactly what you want, but you'll gain more information and may end up in a better financial situation than when you started.