Whether you realize it or not, your credit score tells an important story about you and your financial history that can follow you around for your entire adult life.
Most of us are familiar with the idea of our credit reports and credit scores impacting our ability to get a home loan, car loan, or perhaps open a new credit account. But there's so much more to it than just that.
Your credit report can also go a long way toward determining if you can rent an apartment, condo, or home, or whether you'll get the job of your dreams. Landlords and prospective employers often ask to take a peek at your credit report to see if there are any abnormalities. More than a few red flags on your credit report, such as repossessions and collections, could spell trouble in your efforts to land your dream job or rental.
Similarly, insurance companies and utilities can make life more difficult for those with poor credit reports. For insurers, studies have shown that those folks with poor credit scores tends to cost a lot more to insure than those with good or excellent credit scores, thus they're often saddled with higher premiums. As for utilities, while they can't outright deny service to a person because of their credit report, they can make folks who have a questionable credit history put down a hefty deposit prior to starting service.
It's up to you to ensure that you've crossed your "t's" and dotted your "i's" to put the best credit report possible forward for lenders.
Six questions to never be afraid to ask your credit card company
Still, one of the biggest stumbling blocks consumers run into is themselves. In other words, they're far too worried about being told "no" by their lender than to make simple requests that can, in many instances, be honored. Here are six questions that are perfectly OK for you to ask your credit card company -- with a "please" at the end, of course.
1. "Can you lower my interest rate?"
First and foremost, never be afraid to ask your lender to lower your interest rate. Though the worst thing you'll be told is "no," data from a CreditCards.com survey earlier this year shows that 69% of consumers were successful in getting their interest rate lowered if they asked for it to be lowered. Note the emphasis on the previous sentence, because your lender isn't going to lower your interest rate if you don't ask.
They also have no incentive to lower your interest rate if you have a poor history of paying on time. If you want a lower interest rate, make sure you've made your payments in a timely manner over the past six, 12, 18, or preferably 24 months. This way you can point to your solid payment history as the evidence they'll want to lower your interest rate.
2. "Can you reduce or waive my annual fee?"
Along those same lines, you shouldn't be afraid to ask your credit card company to reduce or waive your annual fee, assuming your credit card has one. The same CreditCards.com survey found that 82% of respondents were able to get their annual fee reduced or waived completely simply by asking their lender.
Why did so many credit card companies cave on their annual fee? The answer lies in customer acquisition costs. If you're a valued customer (i.e., you have a good or excellent credit score), it's cheaper for the lender to cave into your demands and reduce or waive your annual fee than it is for them to spend marketing dollars to find a new customer to replace you.
3. "Will you forgive my late payment?"
Despite the popular belief that we're all perfect, mistakes do happen. Sometimes payments are made after their due date, resulting in a late fee and a red mark on your credit report. Should this happen to you, don't willingly accept the late fee and ding to your credit report. Instead, call your lender and ask if they'll forgive your late payment, thusly saving you the fees and the knock against your credit score. If you have a solid history of on-time payments, the chances of your lender saying "yes" go way up.
When CreditCards.com asked consumers in their survey if they'd requested a late-fee waiver, 87% were granted one! I have a perfect credit score, and even I've had to request a late-fee waiver at one point over the past decade. Mistakes happen, but they don't have to cripple your credit score if you're willing to request a late-fee waiver.
4. "Can you increase my credit limit?"
You should also never be afraid to ask your lender for a higher credit limit. If you have a good history of on-time payments and have a reasonably low credit utilization ratio (i.e., what percentage of your aggregate available credit you've used), there's little reason for your lender not to boost your spending limit and hope that you'll spend more. Nearly nine out of 10 people (89%) who requested a higher limit in CreditCards.com's survey received one.
Why would you want to increase your credit limit? A higher limit lifts the aggregate credit you have at your disposal, which can also reduce your credit utilization ratio, especially if you're carrying credit card debt from one month to the next. Since your credit utilization ratio accounts for about 15% of your FICO credit score, the short-term hit you might take to have your lender look into your credit history in order to lift your limit is countered by the long-term benefit of a lower credit utilization ratio.
5. "Can you change my due date?"
Cardholders shouldn't be afraid to ask their credit card company to change their due date, either. While not all due date requests may be available (e.g., not every month has a 29th, 30th, or 31st), most lenders are willing to cooperate with the requests of their cardholders because ultimately, they want to get paid. If you can work your due dates around your paydays, you can reduce your stress and make life a whole lot easier for you and your lender.
6. "Can we work out a payment plan?"
Finally, if you do run into financial trouble and are struggling to pay your bills, call your lender(s) and ask if you can work out a payment plan that'll be amicable to all parties involved.
While it's true that your lender will turn you over to a collection agency if you fail to make a payment for an extended period of time, that's not what they want to happen, because a portion of the money received while in collections will go to the collection agency. Your lender would much rather work out a reasonable payment plan with you to get as much money as possible back rather than send your account to a collection agency.
Here's the real shocker: Fewer than one in four cardholders requests a lower interest rate, annual fee waiver, higher credit limit, or late-fee waiver. Yet, as the study shows, most people are successful in their request, if they ask. So do yourself a favor and stop being afraid to make requests from your credit card company that are perfectly OK.