How to Talk to Creditors
At one time or another you’re probably going to have to talk to your creditors. Even if you’re a stellar cardholder, there will come a time when you have a question or want to ask for some increased benefits. Then again, if you have some issues with getting your credit card paid on time each month and you make a habit of going over your limit, there’s a good chance that you’re already familiar with talking to your creditors…or, at least, avoiding their phone calls! There’s a right way and a wrong way to deal with your creditors, regardless of the reason you’re talking to them.
Don’t be mean. What are the odds that the person who answers the phone at your credit card company is the very person who hacked into your account and – out of pure spite for random cardholders – peppered your statement with inane fees and then eagerly awaited your angry phone call? The answer is: not likely.
Don’t call up your creditor and unload your anger on the customer service representative who in all likelihood is more than willing to help you. Haven’t you ever heard the old saying you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar? When talking to a customer service rep, use honey. You don’t want to pour a bunch of vinegar down the throat of someone who has access to all your personal financial information, do you?
Don’t be a pushover. If you’re calling to request a lower interest rate, or to get a higher available credit, or anything else that they don’t necessarily have to give you but it sure would be nice, don’t sound apologetic. Think of it this way: If you’re a customer service rep at a credit card company, which of these two customers would you take more seriously?
“Uh, hi…I heard that some people have lower interest rates than me, and…uh…I don’t suppose there’s any way I could get a lower rate, is there? I mean, I understand if there’s not, but I’m just wondering.”
“You guys have always been great, but I did some research and my interest rate is higher than the average rate offered for people with my credit score. I need to know if you will lower my rate or if I’m going to have to close my card and go get a different one.”
Be firm, but don’t be snotty.
Move up the chain. Customer service reps who answer the phone aren’t usually allowed to waive every fee and make major changes to your credit card account, but they are usually trained on how to turn down your request diplomatically. If you’re asking for something that isn’t unreasonable (like a credit line increase after two years with a perfect payment history) then don’t simply accept a polite “no” from the customer service rep. Thank the rep for his or her time and then ask to speak to a supervisor. A manager has the authority to approve things on the spot, and by asking for a supervisor they know you’re serious. After all, they don’t want to lose your business.
Don’t avoid your creditors. When you’re having money problems, the last thing you probably want to do is to have a chat with the people you owe money to. You’d be amazed at how benevolent creditors can be when you keep them informed of your situation and don’t give them the runaround.
Offer to send them a copy of your budget to show that no, you really can’t afford to pay them $100, but you’ll gladly send them $10. They’ll be more willing to work things out with you if you’re upfront and you don’t go into hiding.
Don’t fear your creditors, but at the same time you shouldn’t turn yourself into a nightmare customer. Be civil, but be persistent. Remember: If you can’t get satisfaction from your credit card company, go find another one. There are plenty of them out there.