Americans are doing a better job curbing credit card debt – although there’s always room for improvement. The average U.S. credit card balance per cardholder stood at $6,194 in 2019, according to Experian’s Consumer Credit Review. That’s an increase of 3% compared to 2018.
Yet during the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent business lockdowns, Americans have done a solid job of working to pay off debt. The New York Federal Reserve noted that U.S. credit card balances “declined sharply in the second quarter, by $76 billion, the steepest decline in card balances seen in the history of the data and reflecting the sharp declines in consumer spending due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related social distancing orders.”
For credit card consumers looking to further cut credit card debt, or get on the debt-reduction bandwagon, one way forward is to negotiate card interest rates with credit card providers. Here's what you need to know about negotiating the interest rate on your credit card.
How do you negotiate a lower interest rate?
“The average credit card rate is typically most reflective of your credit score but the national credit card rate average sits at 16% as of rate now,” said Adem Selita, president and co-founder of The Debt Relief Company. “However, consumers can get a good or even exceptional card rate right now if they ask. The typical store credit card rate sits at around 29.99% and ‘bad credit’ average APRs (annual percentage rate) hover around 24%. A good credit card interest rate target right now is a 10-12% APR.”
Those looking for balance transfer cards, which typically come with a 0% intro APR – or fairly low APR – for 6 to 18 months, can use Credible's free online tools to view their options and choose a card that best meets their needs.
Many creditors and lenders lowered rates due to COVID-19, but they will not do it automatically – they need some prodding. “You need to be proactive and reach out to them,” Selita said. To get the best results when engaging with a credit card company, follow these tips:
Know your credit score and use it to good advantage
State your case
Leverage time spent as a cardholder
Work with a credit card company’s competitors
Be nice – and not confrontational
Avoid online chat tools
Make a counter-offer
1. Know your credit score and use it to good advantage: Negotiating a lower rate usually starts with knowing a credit score. “Find out what your credit score is right now and do some research on the average credit card rate you can expect based on that score,” said Jake Hill, chief executive officer at DebtHammer.com, a personal financial content platform. “If your lender has the interest rate set higher than this level, you have good grounds for negotiation.”
If you already have a good credit score, then maybe you'll want to consider opening up a new credit card. In that case, use Credible to help you compare cards – including annual fees, welcome offers and required credit history – instantly and find one that best fits your needs.
2: State your case: Your first step should be to reach out to your credit card company and explain that you’re paying too much in interest and that, due to the pandemic, you need a lower APR. “Explain any financial hardship you are going through – that’s very likely to increase your leverage during the negotiations,” Selita said.
3: Leverage time spent as a cardholder: Reach out directly to the creditor and explain that you have been a customer for a long time and would like a lower interest. “If you want to play hardball, tell the card company that you’re seeing better rates with other credit card providers,” Selita said.
4. Work with a credit card company’s competitors: “Call your existing credit card company and, simultaneously, start the process of transferring your current balance to another card, provider - and let them know it” said Phillip Allen, CEO of Common Sense Retirement Planning in Greenville, South Carolina. “In my experience, this is the best way to get your existing credit card company to offer you a lower rate.”
Credible can help you compare credit cards and companies with the click of a button.
5. Be nice – and not confrontational: “Remember the saying, ‘You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar’? The same is true when dealing with a credit card company’s customer service representative,” Allen said. “People respond well to kindness. Instead of saying, ‘I need this’, try asking ‘Would you do me a favor?”
6. Avoid online chat tools: While you can use the live chat feature on your card issuer's website, doing so likely won't yield the same results.
“Instead, call and speak with someone directly,” said Leslie H. Tayne, founder and director of Tayne Law Group, P.C., headquartered in New York City. Phone agents typically have more power to make account changes or can escalate the case to a supervisor, if needed. “Once you have a representative on the phone, ask the representative if they have the authority to get you a better rate. If not, ask if you can speak to a supervisor or a department where those decisions are made.”
7. Be specific: When you get a credit card supervisor on the line, having specific numbers in mind can be beneficial. “For example, if you have an 18% APR, ask for the lowest amount,” Tayne said. “Also, ask if there are other products you'd qualify for with a lower interest rate. You never know what's being offered by that card provider at that time.”
8. Make a counter-offer: If the card company declines your request for a lower interest rate, have a counter-offer ready and try to get them to reduce the rate. “If they don't budge, you can also ask if any promotional offers are available for your account, which is a temporary adjustment for a certain amount of time,” Tayne said.
“If you still don't have any luck, you can hang up and call again at a later time,” Tayne advised.
It's always good to have more than one credit card, especially to prepare for a financial emergency. Consumers can compare their current credit cards and the rewards and benefits offered with other ones by using Credible.