It's often possible to negotiate terms, interest rates, and payments on credit card debt. You can also try to negotiate a settlement of the amount you owe. The steps you take and the options available will depend on your situation and the credit card company you're dealing with. Your options might include:
Your negotiating strategy will primarily depend on timing. If you're not struggling with your payments, you might be able to get a better interest rate. If, however, you're in financial hot water, you might be able to get better payment terms or dates, perhaps a reprieve from payments, or settle the debt for less than you owe.
If you're not having trouble paying your debts and you have a good credit history, you might want to contact your credit card companies to ask for a lower interest rate. While the answer could initially be no, if you tell them that you're considering switching to a card with a lower rate, they might be willing to work with you.
While credit card companies encourage you to call them if you anticipate having problems repaying your debt, some are more amenable to working with you than others, and it's almost impossible to guess how they will react until after you call. With most companies, you should call if you know your payment will be late by a few days, or if you think a change in the regular payment date—such as moving it from the first of the month to the middle of the month—will make it easier for you to pay on time. Many companies may also provide you with relief if you are temporarily out of work or if a sudden illness or family emergency arises that you need to tend to.
Other companies might cut off your credit if you provide any hint that you could have trouble making the payments. So, you need to be careful when you decide to negotiate, who you choose to negotiate with, and how much you tell them about your financial woes. If you do call, be prepared to respond to the credit card company's concerns. Finally, don't let a bad experience with one creditor discourage you—others might take a different approach.
A few of the many options to explore when you're seeking assistance with credit card payments include:
If you need more significant concessions from the credit card company, the company will likely cut off your credit, at least until you're paid up, but often longer. If you're having severe financial problems that aren't likely to be resolved in a few months, you can explore these possibilities with the credit card issuer:
(To find handy forms to help you craft a settlement offer, check out Nolo's eForms: Offer to Pay Debt in Installments, Offer to Settle Debt With a Reduced Lump Sum, and Request Short-Term Lower Payments.)
Who you talk to depends on what you want to negotiate.
Change payment date. If you just need a change in the regular payment date (to coincide with your pay day, etc.), you can probably talk to anyone in customer service.
Interest rate reduction. Asking for an interest rate reduction might require a manager to get involved.
Your payment will be late. Many companies have a specific department that you'll be transferred to if you're calling because you anticipate that a particular payment will be a few days late. You might even be able to have the late fee waived if you call in advance on this.
Negotiating settlements or long-term payment plans. If you're calling for a more serious problem, the customer service department probably won't be able to help you, even if it says it can. Be polite and talk with the representative, but if, in the end, the representative says no to your request, ask if you can speak to another department, or ask for a supervisor. You might need to go through more than one level before you reach someone with authority to negotiate.
No matter what agreement you ultimately reach, make sure you get the agreement in writing and stick to your payment plan. If you have more financial trouble, contact the creditor before you fall behind so you can renegotiate. If you wait until you default, the creditor might not be willing to renegotiate with you.
If your credit card company won't work with you, consider getting help from outside sources. These include: