You've gotten yourself into some financial trouble - overspending when work is slow or nonexistent. You are hoping to negotiate with your credit card issuer to give you some wiggle room with those monthly payments.
Go for it, says Mike Sullivan, director of education for Take Charge America, a non-profit credit counseling organization in Phoenix. "I can't think of any credit card terms that can never be negotiated," he says.
However, Sullivan and other credit experts warn: Be careful about what you ask your credit card company for and when you ask for it.
You could end up damaging your credit score and lowering your credit limit just by making inquiries, says Beverly Harzog, a credit expert and consumer advocate in Atlanta and co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending."
Here are some requests you're least likely to have granted and may wish to avoid:
Extending the promo offer
You took advantage of the zero-percent balance transfer card offer and transferred your $10,000 balance from your credit card that had a high interest rate to one that had zero. You had a full 18 months of zero percent interest, but somehow you didn't manage to pay off the balance. Now you're facing interest rates of 21.99 percent. Phew. You can ask the card card issuer to extend the zero percent for a few more months, but the answer is likely no.
One of the reasons credit card companies offer zero transfer balance cards is to reel you in. They really don't expect you to pay off the balance during the promotional period whether it's six months or 18 months. They're hoping you don't because they make money from the interest you pay on the balance due. So they're not likely to extend the zero interest rate beyond the original terms, Harzog says.
Rather than pay the higher interest rate you can always look for another zero balance transfer card offer, Sullivan says. But you can only do that if your credit is good and if the math makes sense because you'll likely have to pay a fee again. Most cards charge a 3-5 percent balance transfer fee when you make a balance transfer.
Dropping late fees
Forget to make at least the minimum payment by the due date once and you likely can negotiate with your credit card issuer to drop the $35 late fee. Be late a second time - especially within the year - and you aren't likely to win this negotiation.
"If you've been repeatedly late, you won't be in a good position to negotiate," Sullivan says. If you're repeatedly late and only pay the minimum due month after month, you might not even want to go there with your credit card issuer, Sullivan says. "If you're a marginal client, you don't want to shake that tree because they're just as happy to get rid of you." You could end up with no card versus one that you're paying more than you have to thanks to your own sloppiness when it comes to financial matters. And if you have bad credit, good luck trying to find a replacement card.
You shouldn't be late anyway, Harzog says. Set reminders on your phone or have the credit card company automatically email you reminders of when payments are due.
Not paying for using convenience checks
Most people receive at least two or three checks in the mail from their credit card issuer every month. The solicitations encourage you use the checks to make that dreamy home improvement, or go on on a well-deserved vacation, or to transfer the balance you owe another credit card company to it. The credit card company makes it look so easy and affordable. But hidden in the fine print: a 3 percent transaction fee for using the check and an interest rate that may sound wonderful but only lasts a few months. Don't use the checks and then expect to negotiate the fees and interest rates with your credit card company, Harzog says. They likely will tell you the terms were spelled out when you received the checks and you have to live up to your end of the deal.
Raising your credit limit
You probably can negotiate a higher credit limit with your credit card issuer. That's if you have good credit and you pay your bills each month on time, Harzog says. But the answer is likely no if you need a higher credit limit because you lost your job or you're going to be out of work for awhile because of a medical emergency. Don't call the credit card company to negotiate a higher credit limit if your financial circumstances have changed and you're a greater risk to default, Harzog advises. Knowing you're a greater credit risk, your credit card issuer is not only likely to say no, but it also could cut your credit limit because it fears you won't be able to pay. You could alarm your credit card issuer and it could end up canceling your account, Sullivan agrees.
Avoiding annual fees
Most secured credit cards have an annual fee. The fee may not be that high - typically it's about $29, Harzog says. "But if you have poor credit, it's very difficult to get rid of the fee that comes with your card. They're going to want that annual fee from you in case you don't pay it back."
Consider Your Credit Score
Before you decide to negotiate with your credit card issuer, think about the consequences. If you're a good customer, "it never hurts to ask," Sullivan says.
But if your credit is shaky and your history of repayment poor, Harzog says, "your chances of successfully negotiating terms and fees are going to be far less."