credit_card_interestYou can’t put it off any more. You need to – drum roll please – call your credit card company. If the thought of talking to a credit card company employee over Alexander Graham Bell’s invention makes you queasy, just keep in mind that being prepared is half the battle. You can get through this and you might even – gasp – get what you want.

Know when to call…and when to keep quiet

You should call your credit card company if:

*You always pay on time but are charged a late fee after missing a payment once. In this case, you can usually get the credit card company to waive the fee, but don’t try this if your record of payments is spotty.

*You don’t recognize a payment on your credit card. Sure, it may be embarrassing to realize on the phone that you charged Aunt Ethel’s present and forgot about it, but you need to report any suspicious activity just in case you are a victim of identity theft.

*You need a limit increase, a waived transfer balance, or a lowered interest rate. You should call when you have been a cardholder for some time and have made payments on time for at least six months. If your payment track record is not great, try paying on time for at least a few months before the phone call.
Get ready to call

Have your credit card in hand, as well as your past statements, arranged by date. If you need to find information about a past payment, you want to have proof on hand and you’ll only get flustered if you have to weed through months of statements to find it. Have a pen and paper ready to note down any information. Find a quiet area of your home where you are unlikely to be interrupted and find something to read or work on in case an agent can’t take your call right away.

Know what to say

When an agent picks up, make sure that you get their name so that you can address them by name (and so that you can report any trouble if they are less than polite). Introduce yourself and state what you are looking for in a sentence or two. Then sit back and wait for the agent’s first response. When talking on the phone, it’s important to stay professional and to avoid over-talking. If you give the entire back story of why you need a late fee waived – your dog died or you had a terrible cold – you will sound desperate. You have very little to lose in your phone call – you’re not even paying long distance – so try to keep it cool and calm. In fact, it’s a good idea to check your emotions before you pick up the phone. Work on the facts: “I am in need of a limit increase and I wonder if you could help?” Do not be afraid to mention that you are willing to take your business elsewhere, but don’t make silly threats. Something as simple as “I’d like to continue to be a cardholder, but Card Company X is offering me a much better rate so I am facing a tough decision” should do the trick.

Finally, stay persistent. If the first phone call doesn’t get you the results you want, call back again the following month.

*This post was contributed by Jonathan Leane, who writes on the  subject of how to tame your credit card debt now, at  Master Your Card. He invites your feedback at contact at masteryourcard dot com.