These past few months my family has incurred over $6000 in medical expenses for a variety of health scares and 1 short hospital stay. The medical bills weren't our only expenses, however. We also had to pay a few thousand in estimated taxes around the same time, as well as some various other miscellaneous unexpected charges. In other words, it's been an expensive few months.
During this time we ended up putting about $3000 in medical bills on our credit card, not only to get the cash back on the expenses, but also because we were waiting to fund and be reimbursed by our Health Savings Account. We were planning on paying the card off right way, however, due to a miscommunication with my wife I didn't realize when the due date was.
I realized the mistake when we got a notice in the mail that our payment was late, and that we were being charged a $25 late fee. (*Shudder. Say it ain't so!!)
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We All Make Mistakes
I know I'm a personal finance blogger, and that means I'm supposed to be pretty good with money, but this isn't the first time that we've made a mistake like this. I've had overdraft charges on my bank account before, and at least one time where my mortgage payment didn't arrive for some reason. Accidents happen, and people get careless. But just because you've made a mistake doesn't mean you necessarily have to pay for it!
One study from Credit.com found that 44% of 1,000 respondents said they’d been successful in getting a financial institution to forgive a fee. What kinds of fees do people have luck in getting reversed? From Time.com:
People seem to have luck with both penalty fees as well as service fees. The survey found that some common penalty fees are the most frequently waived, with 35% of respondents getting an overdraft fee waived and 24% getting a late payment fee waived. Another 10% got an annual fee waived and 6% got a low balance fee waived. Overdraft fees can run $35 a pop or more at big banks, and annual fees of $60 or more aren’t uncommon, so it pays to speak up — even if it’s your fault you got hit with the fee in the first place. Credit.com’s survey found that 8% of respondents succeeded in getting a fee of $100 or more waived.
You're not the only one being assessed fees on your financial accounts. Don't be one of the ones actually paying them!
Asking For A Fee Reversal Or Discount
44% of 1,000 survey respondents said they’d been successful in getting a financial institution to forgive a fee.
There have been plenty of times where I've asked for a fee to be reversed, a bill to be lowered, or a price increase to be offset in some way.
- I accidentally overdrew my checking account one time and got $102 in fees. They removed all but one of the $34 charges when I asked them to and explained the situation. (Read about it here)
- We have asked for discounts on medical bills in the past. Often you can get a discount of 10-20% on your bill just by asking. (Read how here)
- The rates on our Dish Network satellite TV went up a couple of months after we signed up with a price guarantee. I called and they gave us a discount to cover the increase. (Full details here)
The point is that we often have fees assessed, or see an increase in prices, and we think we just have to accept it. The reality is, if you just make a few phone calls, often those fees and price increases can be wiped away, reduced or mitigated.
Steps In Asking For A Fee To Be Reversed
So what's the best way to go about having a late fee on your credit card removed?
- Address the fee immediately: As soon as you figure out that fee has been levied, look into it and address it with the bank as soon as possible.
- Pick up the phone: Get the fee resolved quicker by giving your bank or credit card company a call.
- Be polite and respectful: Be nice to the rep that you talk to, and get them on your side. Be friendly and always keep your temper in check. As the saying goes, you'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar!
- Appeal to a solid payment history: Talk about how you've always made payments on time, and how you have never missed a payment in the past (if that's true). Bring up your good credit and long history with the company.
- Remind the bank that your business could go elsewhere: You don't need to make threats, but gently reminding the representative that your business is portable could help.
- Try, try again: Some experts suggest that if you don't get the result you want the first time, try calling back.
- Escalate to a supervisor: If the first line rep isn't able to help you, ask to speak to someone who can make a decision.
- Take it to social media: I've had instances where I received fees and poor service. When I took it to social media the social media team often worked with me to resolve an issue. This works better if you have a larger following.
Be friendly, ask for the fee to be removed, and if they refuse, try again.
File A Complaint
If you think the bank or financial institution has levied fees illegally, you can always file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They have an online complaints desk where people can lodge a complaint about a credit card, mortgage, money transfer, bank account or other financial related matters.
What Happened To My Credit Card Late Fee?
I emailed my credit card company (a phone call may have been quicker) as soon as I realized the error and had scheduled an electronic payment.
I explained the situation in a friendly way to the phone rep, and told them why the payment hadn't arrived on time (a miscommunication). I appealed to the fact that we had never before missed a payment, and the fact that we were loyal customers. We didn't want to go elsewhere with our business. At all times I was respectful and courteous to the rep.
The customer rep obviously has these types of calls every day, and was quickly able to look up our account. As a “one time courtesy” they waived all fees associated with our payment being late. Our account was credited within 3 days.
Just Make The Call And Get Those Fees Reversed
We were able to call our credit card company, and after a quick 5 minute phone call, we were able to save ourselves a $25 late fee. While $25 may not seem like much, it takes almost $2500 in spending to earn that much in cash rewards on a 1% cash back card. A bit more painful when you think of it like that. There's no sense in paying the fees if you don't have to.
By just taking a few minutes of your time, and asking them to remove the fee (even when you are in the wrong), you can save tens or hundreds of dollars. Just ask. You've got nothing to lose except a fee!
Have you ever had a late fee or service charge removed? How did you get your bank to remove the charge?