Saving Money, One Call at a Time

By Mike Peterson
In July 12, 2012

Four Phone Calls That Can Save You Big Money


If you’re looking for a new way to save money this summer (and really, who isn’t?), I’ve got some great news for you:  You’ve already got access to a free, easy, and incredibly powerful tool that can help you slash your cable bill and score a better APR on your credit card.


I know, it sounds too good to be true – but it’s not.  The “tool” I’m talking about is your phone.  And if you know who to call (and what to say once you’ve got them on the line), you can potentially save hundreds of dollars a year in bills, service fees, and finance charges.  All you need is an hour or two and a phone.


Ready to start saving?  Here are four calls you can make that can help you save big.


1.  Your Credit Card Company


In a perfect world, we would all carry a zero balance on our credit cards (in an even-more-perfect world, we wouldn’t even have credit cards, at all).  But life isn’t perfect – according to a recent survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, more than 175 million Americans have at least one credit card – and the average household debt for credit card users is close to $16,000!


If you have a credit card with a balance – any balance – on it, you’re paying interest.  And while there’s no shortcut to paying down your debt, there’s a chance that if you call and ask, you might be able to negotiate for a lower APR.


Helpful Hint: Your Credit Score Matters


The higher your credit score, the more likely it is that your credit card lender will give you a break.  This will probably work best if your score is in the 700 range (or even the high 600’s).

Who to talk to:


Start with customer service – but if the person on the phone is unable to help you, ask to speak with his or her supervisor.  You may need to move up the chain of command before you find someone who can work with you.


What to say:


Start by simply asking for a lower APR.  If you’ve been a customer for a long time, and if you’ve consistently paid your bill on time, mention that, too – you’ll be in a better position to negotiate.  Also, it never hurts to mention that you’re considering a balance transfer offer from a competitor.

If your account is in good standing, there’s a good chance you can get a few percentage points knocked off of your APR.


2.  Your Cell Phone Company


How long has it been since you’ve taken a good, long look at your cell phone bill?  Do you consistently pay extra for going over your data or texting plan every month?  Do you end up with thousands of unused minutes at the end of each billing cycle?  If so, it might be time for an extreme cell phone makeover.


Who to talk to:


I’d suggest calling your cell phone provider’s billing department.


What to say:


If you end up going over your plan most months, ask about plans that will give you a little more wiggle room and help you avoid costly overages (a slightly more expensive plan – with more data and/or texting might still be cheaper than paying for extra usage every month).  If you feel that you’re paying for service you don’t use, ask if you can downgrade your plan to something cheaper.  You may also want to ask about any current promotions, family plans, or other ways to save.


3. Your Insurance Agent


Have you gotten married in the last year?  Had a birthday?  Installed a home security system?  If so, you might be eligible for a slightly better rate on your home or car insurance.


Who to talk to:


If you’ve got a local agent, I’d recommend calling him/her (you’re likely to get more personalized service than you will if you just call the company’s 800 number).


What to say:


Explain that you’re just trying to trim your budget – in this economy, every penny counts.  Be sure to tell your agent if you’ve had any major life changes or added any security features to your home or vehicle.  Newly married couples can benefit from combining their car insurance, and younger guys can usually catch a break on their rates once they hit their mid-twenties.  Some companies reward you for taking defensive driving classes or for having a safe driving record.  Also, ask if you’re eligible to participate in any special promotions.


4.  Your Cable/Internet Provider


Watch TV for more than an hour, and you’ll no doubt see at least one commercial for awesome deals on new cable and Internet service.


But what if you’re already a customer?  Or what if your “awesome introductory rate” has expired, leaving you with a significantly higher bill?   Get your phone ready: A quick call to your cable provider can help you shave a few bucks off your bill, and/or give you a few extra channels to boot!


(Quick note:  I’m bundling these two because, chances are, you get these services from the same company.  But if you get your Internet service from, say, your phone company – or a separate company altogether, this still applies.)


Who to talk to:


You can call the main billing or customer service number – but if you really want to send a strong message, try asking for the department that handles cancellations.

Helpful Hint:  Think Before You Commit


You might be able to get a deep discount on your cable and Internet if you agree to extend your service – but before you commit to one or two more years with your provider, make sure that you ask about the company’s policies on moving and/or transferring service.


Most cable/Internet providers can transfer your services if, say, six months from now your company transfers you across the country. 


But make sure you ask – otherwise, you might end up paying a hefty fee for early cancellation.


What to say:


Start by politely asking if your provider is running any promotions – and if you’re eligible for any of them.  You might be surprised to learn that you can get a better monthly rate if you extend your service agreement for another year or so.  If so, great.  If not, ask (again – politely!) if there’s anything they can offer you in the way of a lower rate, more channels, etc.  It doesn’t hurt to mention that you’re considering making a switch to a different provider who can offer a more competitive deal.


So, there you have it – four quick calls that can help you save more money every month.  What do you think?  Have you had any success in negotiating for lower bills or better interest rates?  Did I miss anything?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

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