How to negotiate a lower interest rate on your credit cards – CNET

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Credit cards can be a convenient way to pay for things while building credit and earning rewards. Those benefits, however, can be acutely undermined by a high interest rate. Currently, the average credit card interest rate in the US is 16.15%, according to CreditCards.com. At that rate, paying off a balance of $10,000 over four years would cost you an extra $3,422. 

An open secret of the industry is that credit card interest rates are negotiable. And we’ll tell you exactly how to do it.

What you need to know first

Before calling up your credit card company and starting a negotiation, we recommend some advance preparation. 

Figure out your credit score

Some of the first things your credit card company will look at are your payment history and credit score. You can order a free annual credit report to ensure it’s accurate and to see your payment history and debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Reviewing the report — checking for late payments or other blemishes — will give you a sense of how assertive you can be when asking for a lower rate.

Read more: The best credit monitoring services

Collect competing offers

You’ll also want to research rates competing credit cards are offering. (We recommend checking out our best credit card lists to see the most competitive offerings right now.) Save any preapproval emails or postcards you receive, or look for similar cards with lower rates to learn what other offers are available. Coming to the conversation with information ammunition will give you a stronger position for negotiation.

How to ask your credit card provider for a lower interest rate

Once you feel ready to ask for a lower rate, the negotiation can begin. Here are four steps you could take to negotiate a lower interest rate.

  1. Call your card provider: Contact your credit card issuer and explain why you would like an interest rate reduction. You could start by pointing out your history with the company and mention your good credit or on-time payment history. Now is the time to mention any lower credit card rates you’ve been offered or found in your research.

  2. Don’t settle: The credit card company might initially deny your request or offer a minimal reduction — but you don’t have to settle if the resolution doesn’t meet your expectations. You can always ask for more or an explanation of the decision. If you feel like you’re not getting anywhere on your first phone call, be diligent. Call back another time and try your luck with a different representative or ask to speak to a manager and make your case to a higher authority.

  3. Ask for a different benefit: If the company refuses to lower your interest rate, ask what else it could do to keep you as a customer; reps might offer bonus points or additional incentives. 

  4. Request a temporary rate reduction: If you’re worried about paying down a balance with your current high-interest rate, ask for a temporary reprieve, which could offer you a lower interest rate for a short period of time.

Alternatives to consider

If your credit card company doesn’t provide you with the reduction you were hoping for, there are alternatives.

  1. Apply for a balance transfer credit card: Many balance transfer cards have no or low introductory APRs for a certain period, after which the APR will dramatically increase. But it could buy you some time. That noted, balance transfer cards always charge a fee for transferring debt — usually between 3% and 5% — so make sure your potential savings outweigh the cost. 

  2. Create a debt repayment plan: Start a budget (or tighten your existing one) and make a plan to pay off your credit card debt faster. If you have multiple card balances, employ the avalanche method by making the minimum payment on all cards — using any extra funds to pay down the card with the highest interest rate first. Work your way down until they’re all paid off.

  3. Apply for a debt consolidation loan: A personal loan may be a practical way to pay off high-interest credit card debt. In the case of a debt consolidation loan, you could roll the balances of several cards into one loan with a lower interest rate.

The best advice: Avoid credit card interest altogether 

The best way to avoid high interest rates is to eliminate paying interest in the first place. Get into the habit of paying your credit card balances off every month, so you never have to worry about how high your interest rate is. Enroll in automatic payments to pay your balance in full each month or make payments each time you use your card. 

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