Sep 11, 2009

PSA: Lower your interest rates!

If you have a loan (credit card, auto loan, mortgage) call them and see if it would be worth it to refinance or lower your interest rate. About once a year for credit cards, you can call and tell them that you have been an excellent customer, with a strong history of paying on time, and you may even want to mention you are looking for a lower rate even if it means taking your business elsewhere. Especially now, with so many companies hurting for money, lower interest rates, and wanting to keep the customers they have, you may find it much easier to lower those rates.

I just realized today the power of credit unions, vs. banks. I currently have my minivan financed at a credit union for 8.75% for a vehicle I purchased 18 months ago. I decided today that I do not like that rate, and so I looked at the lowest rates my bank of 10 years had to offer... 5.25%, not bad. I called my credit union that hold my loan to see if they would negotiate refinance and they said they could offer me 4.99%, fantastic! With the numbers crunched, if I went to a 60 month loan (I have 66 months in my current loan), I would still manage to lower my monthly payments by $150 a month and pay it off 6 months earlier than I would now. They took my application over the phone and I should have an answer in a few hours.

In the past, I would do this same thing about once a year with my credit cards, and usually while I was on the phone I would have my answer. I could usually lower my interest rates by between 1-5% with a 15 minute phone call.

Other things worth trying... I have successfully had my satellite bill lowered by a customer service rep, I have had my DSL provider give me a "new customers only" rate by calling and asking. I have had credits given to me by my cell phone company, and my residential phone company. Calling your insurance company is a great way to see if they can find ways to lower your automobile or your homeowners insurance. I have had my electric company give me ways to lower my energy consumption, or tell me of improvements I can make to earn an energy rebate (I got $250 for sending in the receipt to my dryer).

Haggling is hard, but especially in mom & pop businesses, it is easier to get a discount. Yesterday I bought a new (better) tank for my carpet cleaner to replace mine that was cracked. I was told the tank would be $50 and I said "wow, those are $35 on amazon.com!" And the sales person said "well, if you order it online you will pay shipping, but I can sell it to you for $35". You don't see that at big corporate chains. I also got a few dollars off my purchase of cloth diapers yesterday... not because I asked, but because I was dealing with the owner of a small business and she felt like giving me a discount. Sometimes it pays to avoid the national "rollback" business and support your neighbors.

Once, I went into a toy & hobby store with my brood, and just because I told my children not to touch the models that someone worked very hard on making, the sales person gave me a "15% good mother discount".

Deals are to be had in all economies, but right now is probably the very best time to find discounts and sales. Don't be afraid to ask, the worst they can say is no. And remember, they best way to get something for 100% off, is not to but something you don't need just because "it was on sale".

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