Monday, February 27, 2012

It doesn’t hurt to ask

If you spend just a few minutes making a few phone calls, you can save hundreds of dollars with very little effort.  It’s surprisingly easy.  Did you know that many of your bills can be negotiated?  All you have to do is ask.  Companies want to keep you as a customer.  It costs companies much more money to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing customer.  Often times, they will be willing to “bend the rules” to keep their existing customers happy.

When you call to negotiate a bill reduction, you’re speaking to a faceless person hundreds of miles away from you on your phone.  There’s nothing to be nervous about.  It puts you in the least uncomfortable position to negotiate.  What’s the worst that can happen?   

Here are some tips to keep in mind:
  1. Always be polite and friendly.  
  2. Do not be argumentative or confrontational.
  3. Be specific with your requests.
  4. If you get turned down, try again later or in a few days.
  5. Accept that some costs simply cannot be negotiated.

Remove bank overdraft fees
I learned this in while I was in college.  I never used to balance my checkbook and I would get overdraft charges on my account all of the time.  I had a friend who worked for the WAMU bank across the street from my college.  He would remove fees for me all the time.  He explained that customer service reps are trained to keep the customers happy, and it was a simple process to reverse any bank fees.  These fees can include: overdraft fees, bounced check fees, etc.  

After a while, I didn’t want to inconvenience my friend, so I would call the customer support number and have the reps reverse fees for me.  Thankfully, I’ve learned to track my expenses so this never happens again.

ME: “I noticed that I accidentally got charged an overdraft fee on my account and I would like to have it removed.”

SERVICE REP:  “I’m sorry we cannot remove these charges.”

ME: “It was my mistake and it won’t happen again, can you see what you can do for me?”

SERVICE REP:  “Let me review your account… okay I have removed these charges as a one time courtesy.  Thank you for banking with us.”

Remove credit card fees
You can remove many types of fees credit card companies try to charge you such as: late payment fees, interest fees, and foreign transaction fees. I’ve gone out of the country a few times this past year.  I’ve used my credit card when out of the US.  When I got back, I got all a few foreign transaction fees on my account.  Usually it’s around 2.7% for any charges you make outside of the U.S.  These fees can be removed.  I have done it on the last 2 trips out of the country.

ME: “I see that I recently got a fee charged to my account and I would like to have it removed.”

SERVICE REP: “Sorry we can’t remove these fees.  These are foreign transaction fees.”

ME: “Is there anything that can be done to remove these fees?  I’ve been a credit customer of your company for over 12 years (it helps if you’ve had a long-term relationship with this company). 

SERVICE REP: “I'm sorry I can’t help you with that.”

ME: “Can you transfer me to your supervisor?”

When the supervisor comes on the line, repeat your previous statements.  “I’ve been a happy customer of your company for x amount of years and I want to continue this relationship.  I have some foreign transaction fees I wasn’t aware of that I would like to have removed from my account.

SUPERVISOR: “Let me see here… okay I have just removed these charges as a one time courtesy.  Just be aware that next time we will not be able to remove these charges again (don't worry they will still remove these charges next time).  Thank you for being a loyal customer of our company.”

Negotiate your bills
Like I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I have recently reduced my cell phone and internet bill.  It's a lot easier than you would think

ME: “I see that so and so cell phone provider is offering cheaper plans than the one I am currently on and I would like to have my bill reduced to match.”  Make sure this statement is true.

SERVICE REP:  “I’m sorry those promotions are only for new customers.”

ME: “I’ve been a happy customer for x amount of years and I would like to continue my relationship with your company.  These other companies are offering very tempting deals that provides the same service for a cheaper cost.  Is there any way you can help me?”

SERVICE REP:  “I am not authorized to make these changes to your account.”

ME: “Can you transfer me to your supervisor or to the cancellation department?”

SERVICE REP: “Please hold, I’m going to transfer you to our retentions department.”

RETENTIONS: “Hello Mr. C, how can I help you today?”

ME: “As I’ve previously explained, I would like to lower my bill by $15 a month so that I can have a competitive rate plan compared to the other choices I have available from other providers.”

RETENTIONS: “I see that you have been a customer of ours for x amount of years.  I will be happy to give you a courtesy adjustment on your monthly bill.  This $15 discount will start on your next billing cycle and is automatic and permanent.  Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

As you can see, businesses want to keep you as a customer.  Banks are not losing money by refunding your fees.  Credit card companies make money off of transaction fees they charge to merchants; they continue to make money even if you pay off your balance in full every month.  Cell phone companies, internet and television companies are losing many customers due to the economy and unemployment.  They will do whatever they can to keep you happy.  All it takes is one phone call.

Make sure you document:
  • Date called
  • Time called
  • Name and ID number of the customer service agent helped you
  • What was accomplished with the phone call.  “Lowered cell phone bill by $15 a month." 

Negotiating your bill doesn’t work every time.  But when it does work, the savings amounts can be huge.  $15 a month saved on bills = $180 a year = $1800 over 10 years.  And this was just one bill.  

Go ahead and try it; it doesn’t hurt to ask.

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