Did you ever have a teacher tell you that the best way to learn is to ask questions? That's definitely true when it comes to dealing with credit. It's a complex topic, and there's no shame in seeking help when you don't understand something. It will be more upsetting if you simply guess at the answer and end up in a situation where you’ll suffer negative financial consequences.
Here are four questions that you should never be embarrassed to ask:
Can you explain this section of the credit card agreement to me?
Anyone who has ever tried to wade through the legalese of a credit card offer knows how hard it is to decipher its terms. You can certainly get some help from online sites like the Federal Reserve’s Consumer Guide to Credit Cards.
But if, after reading that information, you still don’t understand what interest rate you’ll be paying or what a balance transfer involves, there’s no shame in picking up the phone and calling the credit card customer service department. You won’t be the first person to make this request; it’s part of the job of customer service people to answer questions and explain terminology.
Can I get a better interest rate?
You’ve been a long time, good customer of the credit card company, but you notice that the credit card offers you’re getting are suggesting that you’d qualify for a much better interest rate than you get with your current card.
If you’ve been otherwise pleased with your service, don’t just open a new card or make a balance transfer. Call your credit card provider and ask if they can do better for you. Be polite as you explain the situation, but don’t give up too easily. If you get a turn down from the first person you talk to, ask to speak with a supervisor.
Can you verify this credit card charge for me?
As you check your credit card statement, you notice that there’s a charge that you don’t recognize. The name of the company doesn’t sound familiar, and you can’t recall spending that amount on any purchase that day.
Don’t be embarrassed to call the credit card company to ask for help. Yes, you may feel a little foolish if you remember when talking to them that it’s a charge for your Aunt Heather’s birthday present. But the credit card companies would prefer you to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to protecting your credit.
While you may just be forgetting a charge, it’s also possible that someone has gotten your credit card number and is testing it out to see if they can get away with using it fraudulently.
It doesn’t have to be a large charge either—if you don’t remember where or when you spent $5, it’s better to check now and deal with it if you have a problem. Otherwise you may be looking at a lot more unknown charges—made by thieves—on your next credit card bill.
What rights do I have if I fall behind in my credit card payments and I’m referred to a collections agency?
It’s hard to discuss your situation when credit card companies (and other lenders) have turned your account over to a collection agency. But you do have rights under federal and state laws and you should be aware of them. For example, collection agencies are limited as to the hours when they may call your home, and they may not call you at work if you’ve asked them not to.
If you’re being harassed by bill collectors, don’t hesitate to call your state’s attorney general’s office and/or the Federal Trade Commission even if it is a little embarrassing to admit you’re in a financial fix. You can verify your rights under law and file a complaint against the debt collector if you wish. Learn more on how to deal with abusive debt collectors.