It’s easy to overlook a credit card payment that’s due during the busy holiday season. But it’s an expensive oversight. Companies are allowed to charge you $25 when you’re late with a payment and an even higher fee if you’re more than once in a six-month period.
So is it possible to talk the credit card companies into giving you a break on that late fee? It depends.
If you’re a customer in good standing who normally pays your bills on time, you have a good chance of convincing a company representative to take the late fee off your bill. Here’s how to approach it.
- Pay the bill before you call—but consider deducting the late fee charge so the bank can just waive the fee rather than refunding it.
- Prepare your arguments and have them ready before you dial the credit card help number. If you’re a long-time customer, tell them so. If you’ve never been late with a payment before, or are rarely late, have the facts ready to make your case. If there’s an underlying reason you’ve missed a payment—a death in the family, an unexpected hospitalization, etc.—let the CSR know.
- Once you call, be patient. It can take some time you get through the phone menus and the customer wait queue. It’s very frustrating, but remember that the CSRs do their best to serve you as quickly as possible.
- Be courteous. It’s not going to help your case if you yell at the CSR. It’s not their fault that you were late with your payment.
- If the initial company representative can’t help you, ask to talk with someone who can.
- Understand that you’re not always going to win. Some companies have hard and fast rules about when they’ll waive their fees. If you don’t meet those criteria, you may be out of luck.
- Consider signing up for auto pay for that bill. If the credit card issuer knows that you will definitely be paying your bills on time in the future, it might be more inclined to waive the late fee this time.
- If you don’t want to use autopay, set up an alarm system on your cell phone that notifies you a few days in advance of when your bill is due. Better yet, set up a day each week to review your bills and make sure that you’re paying anything that needs to be paid in the next seven days. That way you avoid the late fee and the hassle of trying to get it refunded.
One more thing to remember: a late payment charge is not the only fee that can be negotiated. If you’re considering a balance transfer from another card, call the company and ask if they can give you a better deal. Ask if they can waive a card’s annual fee, or give you a better deal on interest rates if you intend to carry a balance. The higher your credit score, the more likely a credit card issuer is to grant your request—but it doesn’t cost you anything to ask.