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Lower the Interest Rate on Your Credit Card

With a little homework and a good track record, the odds of getting a reduced rate from your credit-card company are pretty good, says our financial columnist, Frank Zocco

Can I Lower the Interest Rate on My Credit Card?

The simple answer is: It never hurts to ask. A recent study found that more than half of those who called their credit-card issuer and requested a lower interest rate were successful. On average, the rate was lowered by between 7 and 10 percentage points.

Now that most of the provisions of the federal Credit Card Act have finally gone into effect there is no better time to review your own credit situation with an eye toward making improvements.

Getting to Yes

Your chances of getting a lower rate are improved if you meet most of these qualifying factors:

  1. A good credit rating. A good rating applies both in terms of your payment history with the card issuer and your overall credit score. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. To save time, log on to www.annualcreditreport.com to access reports from all three. For a small fee, these agencies also provide personal credit scores.
  2. A low card balance. You have a history of paying off the entire balance or paying more than the minimum required each month.
  3. A good track record with the card issuer. You have held the card for a year or two before requesting the rate change.
  4.  Your card is not classified as “subprime.” The credit card is not marketed solely to consumers with bad credit.

The Law of Averages

To negotiate successfully with the credit-card company, be prepared. Know what your current interest rate is and make sure that it is not a promotional rate that will expire within months. Also research what other banks and credit card companies are charging their customers. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on existing credit-card balances is approximately 13.5 percent.

 If you are paying significantly more than that and have done your research, you are ready to make the call. Be sure to remain upbeat, confident and persistent. If the first person you speak with turns you down, ask for his or her manager. Base your argument on logic and facts and politely threaten to take your business elsewhere unless you get some satisfaction.

Remember, the better your payment record with the card issuer and the higher your credit score, the better your bargaining position.

One final word of advice: Be careful about getting overly zealous in your search for the lowest rate card. Applying for multiple new cards at the same time (three or more inquiries in one month) could cause your credit score to be lowered.

Doing Your Homework

Visit these Web sites for competitive rate information and more:

 http://www.creditcards.com

http://www.lowcards.com/CreditCardIndex.aspx

http://www.bankrate.com/brm/rate/brm ccsearch.asp

victor February 13, 2011 at 06:29 PM
upcoming issues: with recent changes in allowing people with higher incomes, is there a good time to convert your qualified monies into a ROTH IRA? I am only 44 so I do have time before retirement
Frank P. Zocco, Jr., CRPS, AIF February 16, 2011 at 03:07 PM
Victor, Being that tax rates are the lowest they have been at in years and the Federal deficit is at the highest level its been at since World War II, leads one to believe that tax rates will be going up in the future. The good news is that these low tax rates are locked in for two years. Based on this, its a good time for most people to convert now, providing you have the cash outside of your retirement account to pay the taxes. If you have to cash in your IRA to pay the taxes to convert, then it usually doesn't make sense to convert. As with all decisions regarding your finances and taxes, I would suggest you speak to your personal financial advisor or accountant to see if converting now is appropriate for your specific situation. If you'd like more information, feel free to email me at FrankZocco@FrankZocco.com I hope this helps. Frank

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