Welcome to our week-long series on crushing your credit card debt. In this second of five articles, we look at several ways to easily lower the interest rates on your cards.
The average credit card interest rate is just above 14 percent. But averages can be misleading. Actual credit card interest rates range from a low of 0% up to whopping 40% or more!
The first step in reducing the interest rates on your credit cards is to know what rates you are currently paying. You can easily find this information on your card statements. Regardless of the rates you are paying (unless they are 0%), there are steps you can take to lower your rates. To get you started we have specific ways you can reduce your credit card rates.
Ask For A Lower Rate
Believe it or not, credit card companies lower rates all the time. But in most cases, to get your rate lowered you have to ask. In a 2002 report, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group found the following: “More than half of consumers who called their credit card company to complain about their high annual interest rates were successful in reducing those rates by an average of one-third.” Here are some of the specific findings in the report:
- With one 5-minute phone call, 56 percent of consumers who called their credit card company lowered their APRs.
- Those who were successful reduced their APRs by an average of more than one-third, from an average of 16 percent to an average of 10.47 percent.
- Factors improving the caller’s success rate included a longer length of time with a particular card, a low unpaid balance compared to credit limit (being less “maxed out”), and a history of no late payments.
In short, you stand a good chance of getting your rate lowered just by asking. When calling your card company, the best approach is to keep your request direct and simple. Keep in mind that representatives get this type of request all of the time, and they are trained to handle the request in a specific way. Here’s the script I’ve used in the past with success:
I’ve been a card member for the past x years and pay may bill on time. My current interest rate is _____. What can you do to lower my rate?
It’s that simple. And if you are not happy with their response, ask to speak to their supervisor. There’s no reason to get emotional. Just be determined. While you won’t always come away with a lower rate, it’s worth a 5-minute investment of your time.
Take Advantage of A Balance Transfer
One of the easiest ways to lower your rate is to do a balance transfer to a card with a lower rate. There are numerous cards that offer 0% on balance transfers for 12 months or more. There are two approaches you can take with balance transfers:
- Go for the longest 0% offer: Today, the longest 0% offercomes from the Discover it®, which offers 0% for 18 months.
- Go for no fee balance transfers: There is just one offer available today that doesn’t charge transfers fees–the No Fee Slate from Chase offer 0% for 15 months with no balance transfer fee.
There’s no wrong answer here, and if you’re like me, you’ll take advantage of multiple offers. We keep a current list of the most popular balance transfer offers.
If you aren’t in a situation where you can apply for a new offer and get approved, then consider using a card you already have. For example, check the offers on your current cards. You might find you already have a card that offers a special rate for balance transfers.
Improve Your Credit Score
A higher credit score means a lower rates for you. For example, most of the popular cards today have interest rates that range from about 10% to 20%. A high credit score will net you the 10% rate, while a low score results in a rate twice as high.
If you currently have a card with a high rate as a result of your credit score, you can turn that around. First, you want to do whatever you can to raise your credit score. You can quickly see an improvement in your score just by paying down your existing debt. Once you see your credit score rising, it’s a good time to either apply for card with a lower rate or ask your current card company to lower your existing rate as we discussed above.
Stay tuned for our next article in the series coming tomorrow when we discuss how to supercharge your debt repayment with the Debt Snowball.