Ramit Sethi first introduced me to the concept of negotiating bills. It was a normal part of his cultural background, but it was a foreign concept to me. I Will Teach You To Be Rich, one of the most important books I read as a personal finance newbie, gave me the courage to pick up the phone (find Ramit’s 6 telephone scripts here if you don’t know what to say) and take more control of my cash flow. I hope this post does the same for you.
1. Would you please change my bill due date?
You can actually apply for this change online for some companies. This option is good if you get paid 2 times a month and most of your bills are stacked heavily in 1 half of the month. Been there. Done that.
Here’s are 2 workarounds:
- Use 1 paycheck to pay some bills early.
- List all your bills. Divide that number in half. Each pay period, try to set aside that amount plus a little cushion in a separate checking account than the one for discretionary spending. When bills come due, the money’s already there.
2 Can you lower my interest rate?
The worst they can say is “No.” Old Navy never ever gave me a reduction, but Bank of America did. True story!
In early 2015, I got my first balance transfer card in hopes of paying the bill in full before the 0% interest promotion ends in April 2016.
Well, I took advantage of another promotion. My main bank, Bank of America, mailed a promotional offer to get 0% APR on balance transfers and direct deposits through November 2016. Initially, I just threw the paper aside. Then the bill for a major surgery arrived. I needed $1,800 and credit seemed like my only option. Previous medical bills had eaten most of my HSA and regular savings.
So I called up B of A to learn more about the offer. The representative, Denise, was so helpful. We talked for 40 minutes. She helped me understand the conditions of the promotional offer, talked about her past issues with credit and gave advice on how to repay my credit card debt.
Denise said she was trying to keep up with the Joneses in Atlanta. She was charging purses and whatnot on her credit cards to look fly. Before she knew it, she had a major problem/ Just like me, she took advantage of balance transfers with 0% APR promotions to climb out of debt.
I decided to go ahead and get a direct deposit to pay for my surgery. Denise said she knows so many people who are using credit to pay off medical expenses.
I told her about the credit cards I’m paying off. Then she asked how much interest I was paying on a store card. When I told her, she was like, “Girl, go ahead and transfer that balance to this card.”
She said it doesn’t make sense to continue to pay that high interest rate, when you can use this offer to pay it off without accruing interest until November 2016.
Then she asked if I had more questions.
“Could you lower my interest rate?”, I asked.
“I’m so glad you asked,” she replied.
It cracked me up because although I’d read about asking for interest rate reductions, I hadn’t asked in such a long time. “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”
Denise lowered my interest rate on that credit card and another card, which I paid in full. She also gave me an extra year on the promotion.
See! You just gotta ask!
“Closed mouths don’t get fed.”
3 What discounts, deals or promos can you offer me?
Every 6 months, call your insurance, cable, Internet and phone vendors to ask for a deal. Twenty bucks saved here. Fifteen bucks saved there. All of that adds up. Shang of @savemycents still does this. She achieved FI/RE (Financial Independence/Retiring Early) at 31. What’s your excuse?
4 Would you please dismiss this fee?
Annual credit card fees, late payment fees, etc. Again, the worst they can say is “No.” When I was making un-wise money decisions years ago, I did this a few times to eliminate late payment fees. In my experience, companies will tend to do this for first-time offenders who pay bills on time. I also asked a credit card company to waive the $35 annual fee with success. Try to avoid credit card companies with annual fees.
5 Can you sign me up for equal payments?
Electric bills that went up and down with the seasons got on my nerves! I took advantage of Duke Energy’s equal payment plan to budget better. On the 12th month, they gave me a credit or I paid them more money to call it even.
More words from the Wise
To be clear, you DO NOT want to ask 1 and 4 often. Those questions could indicate that you have more outgo than income or have problems with scheduling and prioritizing a.k.a. budgeting. Solutions to those problems include making more money, reducing expenses, making a bill calendar, separating bill and spending money, and prioritizing a.k.a. budgeting!
I hope these questions show how you can be empowered. If you’re in a pickle, TALK to your lenders and bill providers. You could figure out a solution together. Always ask for a lower interest rate if you’re still carrying debt. Always look for deals when you’re out shopping. Hopefully, you’ll keep more money in your wallet.
Have you had good luck with your creditors or bill vendors? We’d love to hear your success stories. Let us know in the comments below.