You often hear the advice that if you receive a fee on your credit card account then you should call and ask to have it removed. I agree. But that leads to the question “What should I say?” Well, I’m here to tell you. I worked in credit card customer service for about two years. When you called the number on the back of the card, you got me. I learned a lot about credit cards, including what to say and what not to say. This goes mainly for late fees. Overlimit fees and finance charges are a harder sell.

Let me start out by explaining how the customer service representative decides whether to remove a fee or not. The bank will issue fee waivers to your account. If you have one (or two, or three) then you can have any fee waived just by asking. There is a calculation done to determine how many fees can be waived. Things like how much money the bank has made from you, how long you have had the account, how many other accounts you have with the bank are all considered in the equation. It makes the customer service person’s job pretty black and white, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any wiggle room. They do have some, and if you say the right things you can get them to wiggle your way.

What to say:

1. “Can I have that fee credited back?”

I know this seems obvious but some banks won’t give you a credit unless you ask. So many times I would talk to a customer forever about a fee and never once did the customer ask me to issue a credit. Clearly that is why they were calling in the first place. If you have a fee waiver on your account then a simple request is all that is needed, no explanation necessary.

2. “I didn’t get my statement.”

It’s a classic and a pretty sure fire way to get the fee removed. But don’t abuse it. Use it less than once a year. Your account will be noted that you didn’t get your statement. If the customer service person sees that you have used this excuse recently they will be more reluctant to waive the fee again. If you really didn’t get your statement find out if it was returned to the bank. If it was then ask to have the mark against your credit removed as well.

3. “I’ve had this account for X amount of years and have never paid late.”

Only use this one if it’s true. I promise, if you say this, the first thing the person on the other end of the line will do is check your payment history. So don’t lie.

4. “I have other accounts with your bank.”

Bring this up if it’s true, especially if you have lots of money with the bank. If you know the bank is making a fortune off of you and they won’t take the fee off then speak to a supervisor. This is true for any fee, not just a late fee.

5. “I’m sorry.”

Be remorseful. It would irritate me when someone would call and demand that I remove the fee. Remember, they are doing you a favor.

6. “I like you.”

Flattery will get you everywhere. Keep in mind that it is a real life person you are talking to, not a robot.

7. “Let me tell you what happened.”

If you have a great story about why you were late then go ahead and tell it. Were you in the hospital, or maybe jail? Anything that will earn you some sympathy is great.
8. “I want to close my account.”

If all else fails, then threaten to close. If you are then transferred to another department then you’re golden. The account closure department will be happy to waive the fee if it keeps you from closing the account. If you’re not transferred and you don’t really want to close, then say. “You know, I’m just mad right now. Let me talk to my husband/ wife and I’ll call back.”

What not to say:

  1. “I was on vacation.”

That isn’t an excuse. Basically, you are telling the customer service person that this bill wasn’t important enough for you to plan ahead.

  1. “They always take the fee off for me.”

This is just telling customer service that you do this all the time. It’s the opposite of #5 above

  1. “Why did I get this fee?”

If you really don’t know then go ahead and ask. But usually, when someone asks this question what they really mean is “Will you take it off.”

  1. “I never pay fees.”

Don’t tell customer service that they don’t make money off you. That isn’t going to help your case at all.

  1. Anything that isn’t true.

If they catch you lie then you’re sunk. You are looking for sympathy and no one has sympathy for a liar.

There are some customers who just aren’t going to get the fee removed no matter what. If the bank hasn’t made any money from you then they aren’t going to pass up their chance to make a few bucks. But if you are really determined you can always call back and try again. If you “rep shop” long enough someone will eventually take it off.