GRS reader Dan recently wrote to share a story I hear often. Many people are afraid to ask for a better deal — they think it’s not worth the effort. Dan has decided that it is:

I thought I’d share a short story about credit cards.  I’ve been using them for eight years now, and have always paid my bill in full every month.  I use Quicken to keep track of what I’ll owe at the end of the month.  I reconcile my bill against quicken when I receive it in the mail and schedule payment online at the same time. 

Well, this month I must have told Quicken I paid my bill without actually going online and scheduling it (or I didn’t click the ‘authorize’ button).  I noticed my checking account was high from what Quicken said and looked into the matter. 

My credit card company said I hadn’t paid and it was too late to pay and avoid a late fee.  I asked them about it, but since my next bill hadn’t been sent out yet so they couldn’t tell if I’d be dinged.  The customer service guy wrote a ‘note’ in my account about what we’d talked about and that was that. 

A week later, my bill posted and I called back to see if I could get the $39 late fee and $18 finance charge reversed.  I actually had to call twice because I didn’t see both charges on my bill, but both calls took about 10 min combined. 

Here’s the important part:  all I had to do was call and ask! 

I told them I was a good customer, explained what happened, and simply asked for each charge to be reversed.  It was that easy!  They even told me the reason they were doing it: “good history”.  If you do the math, that’s $342 an hour.  Not bad and not stressful. 

I’m one of those people who is naturally shy to use the telephone. I’m just not very assertive. But even I have learned that it’s worth my time and effort to call and complain about unjust charges, or to attempt to get certain fees reversed.

One final note: a recent Business Week article notes that although credit card companies may still be waiving fees for good customers, they’re not as willing to reduce interest rates as they once were. All the same, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask.

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