In Part 1, I discussed key points that customers need to be aware of prior to negotiating with Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) and Personal Financial Representatives (PFRs). In this post I will go over a few talking points and provide explanations on why they are effective. Try them, they work… most of the time.
Here’s what you need to say:
1. “I have a late fee, as a courtesy, can you please reverse it?”
This should always be your opener because some banks have policies where you are allowed 1 late fee reversal per every rolling 12 months. Sometimes it will be reversed immediately if you are lucky. Sometimes, you need to ask twice or three times. Here’s why. Cardholders don’t know this but CSRs need to show that they are not handing out free money. If every CSR said “Sure, I’ll waive that fee for you”, credit card companies will lose a lot of money on one of the most, if not the most, profitable aspects of their business. Credit card companies hate it when their agents are pushovers. So even if the CSR says no, keep asking politely. If they sense your resilience, they may eventually break.
2. “I’ve had this account for X years and this is the first (second, etc) time I was ever late”
Know your history with the company. I personally believe that every customer should be allowed one fee reversal per every rolling twelve months policy. Of course, that is my wishful thinking on how it SHOULD work. However, I know it isn’t always the case. Keep stressing your long history and loyalty. If they value your business, they may help you out.
3. “I have other accounts with your bank”
If you have a mortgage, large deposits, CDs, and other financial instruments with your bank, CSRs may be more willing to help you out. These are easy sells for Personal Financial Representatives (PFR), those agents that sit behind those desks at your local bank. PFRs are on the frontlines of customer retention. More often than not, they will cater to most needs to make sure their customers continue to walk through their doors. Walk into your bank and get to know your local PFR.
4. “This is what happened….”
A great story will give you the best chance to have a fee reversed. The easiest way to get that reversal is through sympathy. Let that CSR know that you were just robbed, your bank accounts were frozen due to identity theft, that you were sick, had a vicious accident, etc. Be descriptive, be exciting, be compelling, and be HONEST.
5. “In your marketing you say….”
Use their marketing against them. For example: Chase says “The right relationship is everything”. You say, “I’m sorry but this relationship isn’t working. How are WE going to build a long-term relationship when you can’t work with me. I’ve been with you guys for X years….” See where I was going? If you had a marketing item with a slogan / motto on it in hand while you plead your case would be stellar.
6. “I did not receive my statement”
The effectiveness of this phrase may vary from company to company, CSR agent to another. Here is my reasoning. We live in the technology age where mail is not the only means of communication. If you’ve been with your credit card company for a while and have paid your bill around the 10th of the month, then regardless if you have received your bill or not, you have the obligation to pay it. You have payment options. You can pay it online, mail, money gram, western union, within a branch, and over the phone to name a few. I suggest you contact your credit card company for more info about payment methods.
I believe this statement would be a lot more effective if you lived in a rural area where you are miles away from the closest town center. Also, if this was your first bill on your brand new card, you may be able to get away with an easy fee reversal. Lastly, if you recently moved and you actually sent out or called for a change of address a month before, a fee reversal would be understanding.
7. To a Personal Financial Representative say, “I received a late fee on my credit card. Can you help me out?” while you have a frown on your face and your statement is in your hand.
As I mentioned in Part 1, PFRs are there to help. Use the same tools about having a long-term relationship and loyalty. Kudos to you, if you are a regular customer and have built a strong rapport with your local branch and its associates. PFRs will do anything to keep resident customers happy.
8. “I want to close my account.”
Only use this if every tool in your arsenal has already been used. Understand that in today’s economy, a CSR will have no problem closing your account at your request. So you must tread lightly here. In fact, I would probably use different words like, “Do you have a retention department?” If they do, they’ll likely get you over to it and your needs would be sufficed. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did not have one. It is more cost-effective if CSRs took on that job with additional training. In this case, the CSR should be pulling up retention offers on screen if they exist.
Warning: Do not go overboard when you use this statement. If the CSR does not provide you with any retention offers right away and begins going over a closing script, stop him/her in their tracks. I once advised a friend to use this method and he ended the call with a closed card and a whole lot of disappointment. In today’s market environment, credit card companies have changed drastically. Lending practices have become stricter and some companies will not reopen your account if you do not meet the preliminary cardholder qualifications even if you just closed the account minutes earlier.
Also, know that credit card companies are in the business to make money. If they cannot make money off you, they could care less if you closed your account and went elsewhere. Google the phrase “Inactive Account Closures”. If you did, you would see that credit card companies are voluntarily closing cards. In a cost cutting effort to increase bottom line and to decrease risk exposure to the credit markets, credit cards have no issues with letting you go.
Please remember that these methods work for email or letter writing as well. If you are that non-confrontational type, it is definitely worth your time to express your request in writing.
What works for you? I would love to hear your thoughts and effective talking points for reversing credit card late fees. In Part 3, I will go over how to rebut and points of discussion that are better left unsaid.