5 Things Credit Card Companies Don't Want You to Know

No. 1 Most-Viewed CardRatings.com Article of 2011*

It's hard to believe, but sometimes credit card issuers don't have your best interests at heart. There are a few things, in particular, that would really help you save money on your credit cards. If you were aware of them, that is.

So here's a top five list of things you won't find out from your credit card company. Keep in mind that these "secrets" don't always work. Just think of them as new strategies for your credit card survival kit.

#1: You can negotiate your interest rate

You're never going to get a notice from your card issuer about an interest rate increase that's accompanied by: "We're raising your APR to 19.99 percent. Feel free to call and negotiate if you aren't happy with this new rate." But guess what? You have every right--and should, in fact--call and ask to have it lowered. If you've been late with payments or committed some other credit card faux pas, this might not work. But you won't know unless you make the call and state your case.

#2: You can ask for a different due date

Why consider this? Let's say your paycheck comes in the third week of the month, but your credit card bill is due the second week. To improve your cash flow, you can ask to move your due date to the third or fourth week of the month. You don't need stellar credit to make this call and ask for the change. But it's something not many consumers know they can do.

#3: You can ask for a higher credit limit

Proceed with caution. If you're planning to charge more merchandise if you get a higher limit, reconsider taking this step. But if your goal is to increase your credit score, then that's a good reason. Your utilization rate, which is the ratio of the amount of credit used to the total amount of credit that's available, will decrease if you get a higher credit limit on a card.

For instance, if you have a $200 balance on a card with a $500 limit, that's a 40 percent (200 ÷ 500) utilization ratio. If you get an increase to $1,000, your ratio goes down to 20 percent (200 ÷ 1,000). Lower is better, so that's a good move. But don't attempt this if you haven't been a squeaky clean customer. It could backfire if they start looking at your credit history and decide you really should have only a $300 limit.

#4: You can ask to have a late fee removed

Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. You were sure you had your credit card payment ready to go in your online bill payment system. Or you thought your significant other put the payment envelope in the mailbox. But a day after it's due, you find it on the kitchen counter.

Don't panic. If you're otherwise a good customer and pay your bills on time, call and ask for mercy. It's possible they'll remove the fee to reward you for your past good behavior. If they remove it, be sure you follow up and check on your credit report to confirm it's not being reported as a late payment.

#5: You can negotiate an annual fee

There are plenty of credit cards out there that don't have annual fees. But let's say you have your heart set on a credit card that has an $85 annual fee. If you have this card for five years, you will have paid $425 in annual fees.

This doesn't benefit you in any way. It's just money out of your pocket that you could've put in savings or even spent on a vacation. Here are a few strategies to use to try and wiggle out of the annual fee:

  • Ask to have the fee waived. If you have excellent credit, this makes you very attractive to the issuer.
  • Ask to have the fee reduced. Getting the fee cut in half would be a victory.
  • Ask if you can have the fee waived for the first year.

The better your credit history, the better chance you'll have of negotiating the annual fee. But in this case, you have nothing to lose by making the call.

* Based on monthly page views of articles published on CardRatings.com in 2011.