WHEN PAYING REGULAR expenses, you may feel like you’re working with faceless companies that throw out certain prices for their services, take it or leave it. Many people don’t bother to negotiate. They look at the price, decide whether they’re willing to pay it and move on.
The truth is that many of the expenses consumers pay are negotiable. You can often talk businesses into lowering their fees or rates for you. It just takes a willingness to pick up the phone, call a customer service number and stand up for yourself.
Of course, some things are easier to negotiate than others. Here are six common expenses you can easily negotiate to save lots of money.
- Credit card interest.
- Cellphone bills.
- Cable bills.
- Medical bills.
Read on for more information about negotiating each common expense.
Credit Card Interest
The finance charges added to your bill by your credit card company are absolutely negotiable. It’s easy to argue for lower finance charges in the form of a lower interest rate on your credit card. The only catch is that if you’re not a good customer – meaning you don’t carry a balance often or you regularly leave your bill unpaid – it may say no, close your card or reduce your credit limit, so you want to use this on a card that you frequently use and pay down regularly.
Call the number on the back of the card, get a person on the phone and state that you need an interest rate reduction or you may cancel your card. If the customer service representative can’t help you, ask to speak to his or her supervisor. If you have a good track record, your rate will often be temporarily or permanently lowered, saving you significant cash with each and every bill.
As long as you’re not in the middle of a contract, cellphone bills can definitely be negotiated. As with credit cards, the advantage you have is a crowded field of businesses competing for you as a customer.
If you don’t have a current cellphone contract, contact your cell provider either through its customer support line or in-store store representatives and state that you need a lower rate and are considering switching carriers because you can’t afford its current rates. The representative will often find a much better deal for you, particularly if you haven’t negotiated in a while. You’ll find that you’re paying much less for the same service or getting more services for your dollar.
The same thing is true in terms of your cable or satellite television bill: As long as you’re not in the middle of a contract, you have a lot of leverage for negotiating a lower bill, particularly in the current era when many cable subscribers are simply walking away and cutting the cord.
If you want to keep your cable and are not under contract, it is worth your time to give your cable or satellite company a call and negotiate a lower rate. Do some research first and check for competing satellite and cable packages that offer the channels you want, then call up your cable company and tell the representative you’re considering switching to another service due to cost.
As with the previously mentioned options, insurance is a crowded market in which companies want customers, so use that to your advantage. Call up the company that holds your auto insurance, homeowners insurance or rental insurance and request a better rate.
With insurance, it’s a good idea to have some competing quotes in hand before you negotiate, so get some quotes from other insurers for the type of insurance you have before negotiating. If you can get a quote for a much better price from another insurer, either your current insurer will work to match or you can switch providers.
Negotiating for rent works best in an area where there are a lot of rental options or if you have a good relationship with your landlord. If you’re in a tight rental market where there aren’t many rooms available, then you don’t have as much room for negotiation. You’ll also have more success if you are a new renter with a good rental history or have been a good tenant.
In any case, this starts with a conversation with your landlord before signing any agreement or lease. Be clear that you’re willing to move in or continue to rent with a small reduction in the rent bill. Don’t request a 50% cut, or you’ll likely be told no without room for negotiation. Aim for a 10% to 15% reduction instead and assume that negotiation will occur.
Although medical bills may seem overwhelming, most hospitals are happy to work with you in terms of negotiating a lower total bill and working out a payment plan that won’t put you in a bad financial state. Many medical bills wind up in collections with the medical institution unable to collect much of the debt at all, so they’re usually happy to work with you.
The key here is to be up front with your financial situation right off the bat and make it clear that you’re going to have a difficult time paying off the debt. Simply ask for a reduction in the total bill if possible and, if not, seek out a more friendly payment solution. Many medical institutions are willing to work directly with the patient in these situations. In addition, there are numerous governmental programs you may be able to tap, including financial assistance offered by nonprofit hospitals.
Many bills and expenses can be negotiated, particularly ones in which there is competition for you as a customer or there is a high risk that you’ll be unable to repay. All you have to do is be willing to pick up the phone or stop by and actually talk about a lower bill.