You’ve just opened your latest credit card statement and there are overdue interest charges on it.

Aaargh!

Turns out you paid the bill late and got dinged with the extra fees. What do you do? Grin and bear it? Or call and get the charges waived?

Wait what? You can do that?

After all you did pay the bill late and the charges are entirely your fault. How could anyone get those fees waived?

Simple. Just call and ask.

Pick up the phone

What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll refuse. But I kid you not – more often than not all it takes to get any pesky fee dropped is addressing the issue immediately with a polite but determined call.

It doesn’t matter what the fee is:

  • Interest.
  • Service fees.
  • Annual fees.
  • Mistaken charges.

All of them can be waived if you have the courage to make a call to your credit card provider.

What’s the secret?

Not much more than Canadian politeness in most cases.

You see, even when in the wrong – being nice is the way to go.

The bank is doing you a favor so being argumentative or combative is only going to put the agent you’re dealing with in a negative mood and not want to help you.

Think about it – if I called you up at your place of work and started demanding you do something for me right now – how would you react? Not too favorably I bet.

So be Canadian!

Be polite!

And if your first call doesn’t work…try again.

As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, there’s no harm in trying again.

Call back.

Sometimes you’ll have better luck with a second employee.

My go to script

Don’t know what to say? Fair enough.

You don’t want to be a polite pushover. And you don’t want to go all passive-aggressive on an agent. What you’re aiming for is a simple direct request delivered politely.

Something like this:

Opening salvo

“Hello! I was checking my latest statement and noticed overdue interest charges of $50. I’m calling because I’d like to have those charges reversed.”

Then wait. Stop talking.

The strategy

Ask directly for what you want. Don’t be wishy washy about it.

Don’t phrase it as a question. State it.

If you say “Can I have those charges reversed?” Guess what. You’ve just given the agent an opportunity to say no.

Make your request politely and then wait. Now the ball is in the agent’s court and they’re going to feel pressure to respond.

They don’t want to lose you as a customer. They want to keep you happy. More often than not – this is all you’ll need to do and they’ll respond with “Sure we can do that.”

Thank them for their time. Tell them it was a mistake on your part and it won’t happen again. Wish them a good day and voila.

But what if they say no?

So don’t wilt and give up. Stay polite. Offer an excuse. And reiterate:

“Hmmm. I’m really sorry it happened. It’s unlike me to miss a payment. I’ve been a loyal customer for XX years and I’d really like to have those charges reversed. What can you do to make that happen?”

You’ve expressed remorse. Apologized. And asked again – politely.

Still No luck?

Give a little. If you’re getting nowhere with the full ask. Negotiate. Maybe what you’re asking for is beyond what the agent can offer. Try splitting the difference. It’s still better than nothing.

“OK. I understand I’m in the wrong and asking for something unusual. Can I have the charge reduced to $25.”

That shows you’re accepting responsibility and still trying to play nice.

Striking out?

At some point you can play the ‘lose my business’ card but I generally don’t recommend it. But if you do I’d approach it like this:

I’m sorry the bank is unable to waive this charge for me. I’ve always had good relations with the bank prior to this and I’ve been a loyal customer for many years. Can you put a note in my file indicating customer is unhappy with banking policies and you will likely lose this customer in the near future to another credit card as a result.

You never want to make it personal with the agent. It’s the bank policy they’re following. Try to keep the conversation casual but direct. They likely deal with jerks all day. You do not want to be one of them. Thank them for their time. And hang up.

Then, call back and try again with a different agent.

You’ve got to be kidding me. Really? I just struck out. Why would I want to go through that humiliation again?

Because maybe you reached an agent who’s more experienced in saying no. Or having a bad day. Or likes to stick it to customers.

Keep in mind you need to be reasonable and pick your spots. If you’re paying your bill late every month it’s unlikely this will work after the first or second time. If paying your bill on time is the problem – address that issue and you won’t need to call in to get charges reversed. Is it worth calling up over a $5 charge? Probably not. Though with charges that small, bank employees likely have the leeway to reverse them on the spot with no hassles. I prefer spending my time on larger amounts.

So the next time you’re fuming over a bank fee – pick up the phone and be polite and friendly. Be Canadian!

Why would they do this?

Because you’re more valuable than you think and they don’t want to lose you.

Credit card companies make money in multiple ways:

  • Every time you make a purchase with your card, there’s typically a 1.5% to 3% fee for each transaction charged to the merchant for providing the service.
  • Late payment fees.
  • Cash advance fees.
  • Returned payment fees.
  • Balance transfer fees.
  • Foreign transaction fees.
  • Annual fees.
  • And finally the lucrative interest charges on unpaid balances.

According to the Canadian Bankers Association, there were over 68.5 million Visa and Mastercard credit cards in circulation as of 2015 with gross transactions of over 3.9 billion dollars resulting in average sale of $102 per card.

Think for a moment about your card usage. Maybe you eat out and there’s a $10 charge to A&W for a burger. $30 worth of gas added to your tank. Another $50 in groceries and a $80 online purchase of that cycling jersey you just had to have. And maybe that’s the day your monthly internet fee for $80 was billed to your card. Five transactions totalling $240. A 2% transaction fee of that is $4.80.

And that’s just you on one given day.

Multiply that by 68.5 million cards and you can see how credit card companies make millions of dollars on every day Canadians going about their daily lives using credit.

True, much of that is given back to you as rewards if you have one of the best Canadian credit cards, but I’m sure they still try and keep a little bit for themselves.

The bottom line

You’re a revenue generating customer every time you choose to use your credit card even if you are a responsible user paying your balance in full every month.

That’s what makes you valuable and gives you leverage.

So next time you see a fee on your credit card, don’t be afraid to call and get it reversed. Use your power.

Pick up the phone and be yourself – a polite Canadian!