woman credit card phoneLately every credit card company seems to have a trick up its sleeve. I don’t just mean the countless tempting offers that come in the mail. At least once a week I get a letter from companies I’m already using, letting me know they’ve changed the terms and conditions—again.

Companies have been reducing credit lines and raising interest rates. Basically, they’re trying to cut back on risk and stay competitive in this down economy. I understand that they’re in business to make money, but as a customer, it’s alarming to see the rules keep changing.

If you continue to let your credit card company walk all over you, you may end up with a card that offers no real benefits. Before that time comes, you need to call customer service and start negotiating better terms. It’ll take a significant time commitment, but you’ll come out ahead if you follow these five credit card negotiating tips.

1. Show Them a Competing Offer
Can you get a lower interest rate, bigger credit line, or better rewards from another credit card company? If so, use the competing offer as leverage when negotiating with your current provider. The day that you receive a better offer in the mail is the day you should call your company to explain your position. If you ask for a better rate and back it up with another offer, you start the conversation from a powerful position.

2. Make Some Concessions
It’s a negotiation, so you’ll need to be willing to give something up in return for a better deal from the company. You can control of the negotiation by reminding your credit card company that you can do something for them too. If you carry a balance, for example, offer to increase your regular payment.

Recently, after my credit card company increased my rate a couple of points, I gave them a call to discuss the matter. Rather than simply ask for a lower rate (I didn’t have the luxury of a competing offer) I decided to explain my position. I told the rep that restoring my original rate would give me an opportunity to make more than the minimum payment. This may have been a “little white lie” but it worked. Of course, I paid my balance in full the next month so both of us got what we wanted.

3. Accept Temporary Changes
I am not gullible enough to believe that after a successful negotiation, my credit card company is going to restore my rate indefinitely. At some point they’ll want to raise it again, so they’ll send another notice, and I’ll be back at square one. It’s a frustrating game, but you can take advantage of the situation. There’s nothing wrong negotiating a temporary change. Accept that nothing’s permanent, and you can get your provider to lock in a lower rate for a limited time, such as three or six months. Call again when the end of that term nears, and start up a new negotiating session.

4. Don’t Give Up
Resilience is a key factor in a successful credit negotiation. First, your initial call to the company probably won’t be enough. The first person to take your call may try to thwart your negotiation. If they do, hang up and call back. You may be surprised to find that the next person is friendlier and better able to help.

If you don’t get anywhere on the first day, you won’t necessarily be out of luck tomorrow or next month. Credit card companies are always changing their policies and programs. A “no” today could be a “yes” next week.

5. Speak with a Supervisor
When those initial discussions frustrate you and the reps sounds like they just can’t help all, it’s time to go up the ladder. But remember, raising your voice isn’t going to help anyone see your point of view. Establishing communication with an entry-level customer service staffer is tough enough, and language barriers can make them even more difficult. Be patient. Remain calm.

Your best bet is to explain that you want to speak with somebody else, preferably a supervisor. When you talk to somebody in charge, at least you know that they will hear you out. Sometimes the rep who answers the phone is more of a gatekeeper anyway, daring you to get up the guts to ask to speak with a supervisor. But once you do actually ask, often the supervisor is more than willing to accommodate your wishes to keep you a satisfied customer. If you’re not getting the help you need, you’re well within your rights to ask for someone else. Go for it.

Final Thoughts
Credit card companies change their policies all the time. You deserve answers when they want you to accept a new agreement. Negotiation isn’t easy, so you need to prepare for battle. Block off some time when you won’t be distracted, and summon the strength to hold your ground. If you can resist the urge to give in just because they’re a big corporate machine, you can experience the victory of getting the terms you want.

Have you had a successful negotiation with your credit card provider? How did you get ready for the call, and how long did the changes last?

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woman smartphoneFor a long time, I was firmly against purchasing a smart phone. I figured I was just fine with my old cell phone, saving money by avoiding expensive monthly data plan fees.

However, after talking it over with friends and family, I finally decided to purchase one. I paid nothing for the actual phone, and my plan includes unlimited talk and text, along with a moderate amount of data, for only $50 a month. Considering that I paid $30 for my old phone, the price increase was pretty easy to justify.

Now that I’ve owned my smart phone for a few months, I have found a variety of ways to save money that easily make up for the additional expense.

1. Daily Purchases
For things such as groceries and gas, there are plenty of apps available that can help you save money. With Cheap Gas!, you can find neighborhood gas stations with the best prices, and by using RedLaser, you can easily compare prices of two different sized food items to see which one offers the best price per unit. Grocery Gadget saves you money right at the register, as it displays bar codes for current coupons on your phone’s screen, which the cashier scans to give you an immediate discount. The days of clipping coupons are over.

2. Large Purchases
Whether I’m purchasing a laptop computer or a major home appliance, I always have a lingering feeling that I’m not getting the best price, despite my Internet research. This ended once I put my smart phone to work.

When I find what I think to be the best price for the item I wish to purchase, I scan the bar code using the Shop Savvy app to see if a better deal exists. If one is found, I show the price to the salesperson to see if they’ll match it. Often they do.

3. GPS
Many smart phones come with built-in GPS capability, meaning you will no longer need a separate GPS device. I have found that the map displays are more accurate when viewed through my smart phone.

If your phone does not come with GPS, try the AmAze GPS app. It’s free and offers turn-by-turn voice capability.

4. Time

I’ve found plenty of ways to use my smart phone to save time, which is often as good as saving money. I lead a pretty fast-paced life and am almost always on the go. Being able to read my emails and pay bills throughout the day frees up more time when I get home from work. And with my note-taking app Evernote, my life is now more organized than ever.

Final Thoughts

There are far too many money-saving apps on the market to list here. Simply put, with a smart phone, you have the world at your fingertips. You can organize your finances with Pageonce, save on restaurants with BiteHunter, and get cheap international calling with Skype. There are times when spending a little more money up front will help you save in the long run, and I consider a smart phone to be a good investment.

How do you save money with your smart phone?

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