A Simple Trick for Getting Credit Card Interest Charges Waived

Congratulations if you can figure out the connection between this picture and the story.

There are those who steadfastly insist that credit cards are evil, and that credit card companies are greedy heartless scallywags that care only about one thing: making a profit.

I’ve got news for them: Credit card companies aren’t evil.

Neither are profits. Besides, when it comes to profits, credit card companies are no more heartless or greedy than, say, the Hollywood movie industry.

As someone who has been a credit card user for over 20 years, I’ve never once been screwed over by a credit card company. In fact, they’ve always gone out of their way to ensure they keep me a satisfied customer — despite the fact that I’ve never paid a single penny of interest to them. That’s just one reason why I’ll never cut up my credit cards — and why maybe you shouldn’t either.

I know what you’re thinking: But, Len, how can that possibly be? Credit card companies don’t care about their customers!

Yes, they do. Here’s why: The competition out there between the credit card companies is fierce — especially for their best customers.

And who are their best customers? Are they the sorry saps who exceed their credit limit and make the minimum payment each month on a balance of $15,576 — at an interest rate of 29.9 percent? Nope. Despite conventional wisdom, high-risk individuals who are always one missed-payment away from defaulting on their debt aren’t a credit card company’s best customers.

The reality is a credit card company’s best customers are folks like you and me: financially responsible people with superb credit who charge nearly everything they buy to their card and then pay the balance off in full at the end of each month. True, credit card companies never collect a penny of interest from us — but we typically provide them with a steady stream of risk-free monthly income via merchant transaction fees.

Which brings me to the subject of today’s post.

Awhile back I almost fell out of my chair after opening up my credit card bill and discovering that it included an interest charge for $107.47. Obviously, my credit card company screwed up. So I immediately called customer service to inform them of their mistake — except that it wasn’t.

Oops.

It turns out the credit card company received my payment one day beyond the end of their specified grace period. As a result, the interest charge rightfully applied, as per the terms of the contract I agreed to when I first got the card. Fair enough.

This was the third or fourth time in twenty years that I had interest charges applied because a payment got to the credit card company a day or two late.

Hold on, Len. But you said you’ve never paid a dime of credit card interest in 20 years. How did you get the interest charges waived each time?

Well … I simply asked. And the customer service representative’s reply was as swift as it was decisive: “No problem, Mr. Penzo. The interest charge has been waived.”

Done.

Hey, why wouldn’t my credit card company waive the interest charges? I’m one of their best customers!

Well-run corporations aren’t in business because they’re stupid. They know I’d leave them in a New York minute if they let those charges stick — and I’m worth much more to them than $107.47.

Just keep in mind that if you make late payments more than once per year, it’ll probably take more than simply asking to get your credit card company to waive those interest fees. And who can blame them? Credit card companies aren’t dirty rotten scoundrels — not by a long shot. But they’re still in business to make money.

Photo Credit: Miranda Granche

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I half-heartedly agree that credit card companies don’t set out to be evil on purpose. It is the user’s fault if they can’t manage their finances and find themselves deep in debt at atrocious interest rates.

    But that’s where I think credit card companies could be kinder (and in some ways more responsible): the interest rates they charge! It’s quite pitiful that there are cards out there with 29.99% interest rates making it very difficult for people who want to pay off their balance do so. If they really did want to make sure that risky consumers were going to pay off their debt and not leave them holding the bag, they’d lower the rate to a more reasonable 10 or 12%. At least then the person could pay off the debt in a reasonable amount of time and not pay the same amount in interest than in original debt.

    *Do I sound a bit bitter? Well, I am! I’m currently paying off a line of credit we took out before we were financially savvy about interest rates (and paying our balances in full-which we now do). I’ve pretty much paid the same amount in interest payments than in original debt. I even pay more towards the loan every month (grumble, grumble). As it stands, by the time I’ve paid them in full, it will be more than twice the amount of the loan. Nice for the financial institution, right?

    Of course, I suppose I’ve learned my lesson: never borrow money for more than 25-days; be sure you can pay it off in full before interest accrues!

  2. 2

    Jenna says

    The key is to ask and NOT GIVE UP, ask to speak to a manager if the first person doesn’t remove the fee. And if that doesn’t work, ask to shut down the card, that usually works for me.

  3. 3

    says

    Fantastic article. I’ve never had a credit card fee but I have gotten the bank to refund certain fees and they’ve always fulfilled my requests with me simply asking.

  4. 4

    says

    I’m glad that worked for you Len but I had a very different experience with Chase several years ago. Not only would they not waive the interest (I was a customer for 8 years) but they jacked up the interest rate to something ridiculous. A supervisor agreed to cut it down a few percentage points but that’s all. I was still trying to pay off the balance from some hard times a couple years before that. I informed them that I would just transfer the balance to another card with 0% interest and I did. Fortunately my excellent credit score helped me out.

  5. 5

    says

    I haven’t had to ask for a waived fee yet (thankfully), but Discover has come through for me on two double-charges and one awful Ebayer. I will keep my rewards cards as long as they still give me 1-5% cash back and have no annual fees. Between Discover and PenFed, I think I get the best deals – 5% off on gas, 2% on groceries, and 1-5% on everything else. Nope, not evil. :-)

  6. 6

    says

    While I don’t think they are evil….I don’t think they really want to help you either. Long story short….I got screwed last summer while asking for help.

    I just paid off a credit card with a 10k balance using a peer to peer lending loan. I got charged $73 in interest for the small amount of time that month I had a balance. Think I should try and get it waived????

  7. 7

    says

    … credit card companies are greedy heartless bastards …

    There is way more than enough evidence to support this claim in my mind.

    I’m not excusing consumers who charge over their limit and don’t pay on time. But, dirty tricks the credit card companies came up with, like universal default, trigger lists, double-cycle billing, 10 AM cut-offs and Sunday due dates are not even remotely fair. I think reform was way overdue.

    By the way, you should always pay your credit card using their webite, instead of using snail mail. Then, you won’t get a late fee. I learned this after Capital One was sued for holding people’s paper mail to create late fees. I got a 50 cent refund on a $35 fee.

  8. 8

    says

    @LittleHouse: If the credit card companies were forced to lower their interest rates to, say, 12 percent the number of people that would qualify for credit cards would be greatly reduced. Although I would be completely against forcing credit card companies to lower their max interest rate charge to that level, I have no problem with them doing it voluntarily – which would make it much more difficult for high risk / low income folks to get a credit card. (Of course, then we’d be hearing from those who would complain that it is unfair that credit cards aren’t readily available to everybody and anybody who wants one.)
    @Jenna: That certainly will work if you are one of their best customers. That means you do not carry a balance on your credit card from month to month (and – this is important – you’ve shown a LONG and CONSISTENT history of paying your card off in full at the end of each month). Otherwise, all bets are off.
    @Jennifer: I’m happy you were able to get some relief by switching cards! :-) I think it was most likely that Chase chose not to accommodate your request because you carried a balance on your card. Still, that they agreed to reduce your interest rate some – when they weren’t legally obligated to – shows they were at least trying to meet you in the middle. They weren’t totally heartless, right? :-)
    @Mysti: It would be a waste of time. Like I was telling Jenna, unless you can show a LONG and CONSISTENT history of paying your card off in full every month it gets a lot more difficult to get the credit card companies to cooperate with you. (That should be additional incentive for everyone to make sure they always pay off their credit card in full at the end of every month!) :-)
    @Bret: Thanks for the tip! Here are my thoughts on your list of dirty tricks: 1) I agree with the first two items you mention – they are dubious practices to be sure. 2) Double billing cycles are a scourge – but to be fair, it is disclosed in the agreement the card user signs. 3) Sunday due dates and 10 Am cutoffs are definitely annoying, but I wouldn’t say they are unfair at all – especially if you can pay via their website. :-)

    • 9

      says

      Well Len, it was reduced from 18% to 16% when they were getting money from the Fed for basically nothing. That’s why I was able to get 0% for a year from someone else. Chase lost my business for several years over it.

      Also, I agree with Bret that the major credit card companies are evil. MBNA wrote the bankruptcy law passed in 2005 to make it harder to discharge credit card debt in bankruptcy. Providian which was bought by Washington Mutual had a policy of finding the most vulnerable borrowers and tricking them into paying outrageous fees. (And no, these weren’t always in the agreement). This is why these companies get sued all the time and settle.

      • 10

        says

        Let me turn the tables on you for a second, Jen. :-)

        Let’s say you opened up your own CC company, JB Credit. Let’s also say I applied for – and received – a credit card from your company with a $15,000 limit, and then ran up my debt until I surpassed my credit limit. Knowing that your $15,000 “loan” was completely unsecured, would you, as the CEO of JB Credit, be satisfied with the old laws that allowed anybody to claim bankruptcy with little or dubious justification? Is that really evil for you to ask for tighter restrictions, or simply a smart business practice? I am not sure how that is unethical. I think that is a very reasonable request. (I know. You probably want to bonk me on the head right about now, Jen. Twice.)

  9. 11

    says

    Yep – I’ve done this very thing with Chase when I’ve forgotten to pay for that month. The lazy mind I have sometimes. But it’s been awhile since I’ve forgotten to pay. If for some reason they won’t do it, just argue until they do, or call back to another rep, eventually you’ll get if you have been a good customer.

  10. 12

    says

    Just ask, ask again, and keep asking. It pays to be persistent if they don’t cooperate right away. My luck hasn’t been as good in terms of instant positive response, but by asking for a supervisor, I have gotten it done.

    I have rarely had to do this, though, as I do pay on time. This is precisely why I am persistent, because I know I’m a reliable customer to them.

  11. 13

    says

    Another great post Len. I am also tired of the demonization of credit card companies. Its simple – if you cant use them responsibly, dont use them at all… PERIOD. There is a movement in our country where people refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

  12. 14

    Amack says

    Yes, the credit card companies are little angels, which explains why they are strategically headquartered only in states that have no (anybody? anybody?) USURY laws.

    To state that customers paying 29% interest are of less value than those of us who make purchases and pay off the balance (effectively borrowing at zero percent) is wishful thinking on your part. Unless you have some statistics to back up what you say. No, I didn’t think so.

  13. 15

    says

    Wow, never thought a credit card company would do that since interest charges are a core part of their business model.

    Mind me asking which company/card was this?

  14. 16

    says

    @Amack: At the risk of sounding like an arrogant jerk – I know, too late… :-)

    Common sense, my experience, and key evidence presented from one commenter in particular that irrefutably backs up that fact. The proof is in the pudding.

    Jen was an 8-year customer (eight years!) with Chase who was carrying a balance and she had to fight them just to get them to lower the interest rates a couple points. They ended up letting her walk. If that’s how a company treats their valued customers – which it isn’t – they have a funny way of showing it.

    Me and lots of other commenters here who consistently pay their bills in full from month to month (which now includes Jen!) have had to ask that our interest charges or other fees be waived for whatever reason and, guess what? The fees get waived. In my case it has happened several times over 20 years. Sometimes on the first request, sometimes after going to a supervisor – but the fees always get waived! Why? Because the credit card companies don’t want us to jump ship and go to another company.

    @Simon: It’s happened with at least two separate companies over the years. At least twice, and maybe three times, with Citi. It also happened with another card I had – I think it was with MBNA.

  15. 17

    says

    I had good luck with this once with American Express too. We have multiple cards, and the payment went to the wrong one.

    I called and they reversed it. It never hurts to ask!

  16. 18

    says

    Yup, I’ve had this experience before. The last time it took 3 phone calls (for some reason my online payment didn’t go through), but in the end things got credited.

  17. 19

    Andy says

    Thanks for this article, stumbled from Google. For the first time in my life I was late with a payment and was thoroughly disheartened by the $37 in interest charges. 1 phone call to MBNA Canada and I (supposedly) have it waived as a one time courtesy. Hope it comes through!

  18. 20

    says

    Can we get real and cease with the tired rhetoric? Please?

    I don’t work for any credit card company, but I agree. They collectively are just a normal business, not Darth Vadar and the dark side…

    Sometimes credit card bill get lost in the mail, or I inadvertantly throw them away with all the other junk mail I get… So, maybe once every 2 years or so, I’ll miss one. When I call, they remove the charges on my account right away and typically apologize for the missed bill, saying that there must have been a printing problem or something similar.

    If my frequency of missed payment was higher, I might get a different response, but I’m one of the customers you describe above…

    Great writeup!

  19. 21

    Can't Leave says

    I spent as many years as I could bear at one of the top 5 credit card companies, and I can tell you from experience that they do everything in their power to try to get you to screw up without realizing it, hoping you won’t have the nerve to call in, or that you won’t notice.
    There is a large portion of the credit card consumer pool that does not read their statement. It’s a hard number and it’s used to project ROI. An even larger number of folks don’t read the fine print on any insert, that is printed that in the smallest font allowed by law. And that is a hard number that can be used in ROI projections. You get your bill on a certain day, you are less likely to open it right away when it comes on one of two days, deemed the most profitable mail dates.
    When the government moved to protect SSNs, the cc companies were happy that you had more hoops to go through to get to a customer service agent, now that you won’t be able to use your SSN to verify your identity.
    The credit card companies are not evil to the people they know have the power to do something about it. If you are smart, well organized, educated on your rights, the ccc’s will cater to you. Everyone else is considered a target.

    Oh, and don’t ever go with paperless billing. That is a huge scam.

  20. 22

    James says

    Well it happens sometime … :) but what I can say that they really do calculate things before they market any product like that and we as a normal consumer cannot get even a hint of what they really do.

    I remembered I had a virtual card attached to my offshore merchant account. They were good and payments were on time but every company charges money. Some few, some more, when you use it on ATM or even on web now.

    Well we can just say good luck to them!

  21. 24

    says

    @MoneyReasons: Yes, I suspect if one misses a payment more than once every 18 months or so, it might make a little more difficult to get them to waive the interest.
    @CantLeave: “The credit card companies are not evil to the people they know have the power to do something about it. If you are smart, well organized, educated on your rights, the ccc’s will cater to you. Everyone else is considered a target.” So it sounds like if people are financially responsible and hold themselves accountable, they have nothing to worry about. :-)

  22. 25

    Lyle says

    I recall one time when I wrote the check wrong by one cent and the computer charged me interest, the bank credited me the interest without even asking as ” no one pays all but one cent of the balance”

  23. 26

    Ronald says

    For late fee & interest charge waivers on a Chase credit card, my sister always gets them via e-mail request without breaking a sweat ever since Indian service reps started answering the e-mails in 2011. Prior to that, she has to make several LONGGGGG calls just to get a $25 LATE FEE waiver. Now she even gets interest charge waivers along with the late fee without asking for it.

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