DEAR MARY: In a recent column, a reader wrote saying it didn’t work to call her credit card company to ask them to lower her credit card’s interest rate. Your response reminded me that I had a 14.99 percent interest rate on a Visa card with a credit union to which I have belonged for 32 years.
I made the call and simply asked for a review of my account. I went on to explain that I wanted to pay off my card without intervention of a third party, but with my high interest rate, I wasn’t making much of a dent in a very high balance.
I got an immediate response by email with an offer of 10.99 percent. I accepted and asked if I changed the rewards card to a regular card, could it decrease the percent (I had heard in the past it could reduce the interest rate by a percent). To my surprise, they said if I went to a premium Visa or MasterCard, that it would decrease to 8.99 percent. Needless to say, I am ecstatic and so thankful for your reminder to keep trying.
Thank you for all you do to help us work through the stresses of financial bondage. — Sandy O., email
DEAR SANDY: Good job. I applaud your courage to ask your credit card issuer for a lower rate. The difference between 14.99 and 8.99 percent is huge. Expect your monthly minimum payment to go down considerably to reflect the lower rate of interest. I suggest that you ignore the lower payments; instead, make the largest payments possible. That’s the way to take advantage of a lower rate, as more of the amount you send each month will go to reduce the balance owing. You’ll knock down that debt to $0 in no time and save as much as a $1,000 in interest.
DEAR MARY: Recently a friend was over and I was opening my mail. She happened to see one of my credit card statements. She screamed, “OH MY GOSH!! YOU HAVE A $8,000 CREDIT CARD BILL?!” I said, “Oh, yeah, it adds up over time. But that is just a statement, I make payments.”
She then replied, “Honey, I love you, but if you think that bill is just a statement, you are dumber than you look right now. That is a BIG FAT BILL any way you want to look at it!”
I was so embarrassed. She grabbed my purse, found the card and cut it up. I know it will take a while to pay my debts, but I have made a decent start. And I have good reinforcements to help.
I just wish I would have taken your advice more seriously years ago when I first found you. — Kimberly C., Texas
DEAR KIMBERLY: I only wish I could have been a fly on the wall to witness that dialogue. I would have been cheering. You are fortunate to have a friend who cares enough to exercise that kind of tough love. I have no doubt that you are going to make it. I know of at least two people who will accept nothing less from you.
Mary invites questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website.
and the author of “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement,” released in 2013. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.