Credit Cards Debt Help Debt Settlement Personal Finance

How To Speak With Your Credit Card Company

There is an art to conversation. To get what you want, you’re going to have to transmit your desires in an effective way.

When it comes to credit cards, there may come a time you need to request help from your issuer. Perhaps you want to negotiate a debt settlement. Certainly a creditor won’t offer it; that idea will be driven by you. Same goes for needing lower or no payments for a period of time, or the interest rate is so high you can’t get ahead.

Most people contact the credit card company or other creditors when they’re angry or frustrated. Things aren’t going right and they want them changed. Immediately. So they scream, threaten, insult, or weep. This approach is terrible. The person on the other end of the phone has heard it all, and is less apt to give a break to somebody who is acting rudely or irrationally.

Instead, follow these steps for successful creditor communication.

  • Be prepared to discuss your relevant financial circumstances. You may be the most private person in the world, and if so, get over it. If you’re going to ask for help, you’re also going to have to explain why you need it.
  • Understand your options. Don’t expect the person you’re speaking with to come up with a series of options from which you can choose. Instead, think about what you would like to have happen.
  • Have all your account information in front of you. Obviously you will know your name but you may also have to provide account numbers, passwords, and anything else that identifies you as you. Be prepared before you talk on phone.
  • Ask to speak with a supervisor. After finally getting through the long series of numerical prompts, you should and up with the real life human being. But don’t stop there. Explain that you’re calling because you need assistance with a problem and ask who might be the best person to speak with regarding a solution. In most cases it will be a supervisor. Jumping straight to that person will save you the aggravation of having to explain yourself repeatedly.
  • Calmly summarize your situation. Once you have the correct employee on the line and and have all your information at the ready, start talking. But be succinct. Nobody needs your full life story, just the facts. And don’t lie or exaggerate either.
  • Ask for what you want. In a clear and polite voice, request the resolution that you’ve already come up with and ask if its available. It’s best to have a backup resolution is well, just in case the first doesn’t work out.
  • Listen. It’s common for people to keep talking when they’re nervous or upset. Resist. Close your mouth and open your ears. Consider all reasonable options and then choose one.
  • Write down the name of the employee and the solution. As you’re speaking, make notes. Ask for the person’s email address or the company’s mailing address and explain that you will send a brief overview of the conversation and agreed-upon resolution. Trust me: this earns you respect. They’ll know you are serious and professional.
  • Follow up and follow through. When you’re done with the conversation, summarize everything send a letter or message to the person you spoke with. Thank him or her for assisting you and then do as promised.

Just remember, a creditor is under no obligation to cut you a deal. You are the one breaking the terms of the original contract, not them. However, if you’re calm, persistent, and reasonable, chances are you can work something out — without ever raising your voice or shedding a tear.

About the author

Erica Sandberg

Erica Sandberg

Erica Sandberg is a freelance editor at large, reporter, and advice columnist covering all things fundamental finance. She’s been KRON-TV’s on-air money and credit expert for over 15 years, and has appeared on virtually every national news show, from Fox to CNN. She hosts Making it with Erica, a video program highlighting ways to live adventurously on any budget.

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