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Pay Down Your Debt Challenge

4 Little-Known Secrets About Credit Card Companies

You have more leeway with creditors than you think

These days, "neither the CARD Act nor the credit crunch have killed the industry," says Arnold. "On the contrary, it seems that at least a few of the juicy card offers that consumers with good credit enjoyed a few years ago are back with a vengeance."

The abundance of tempting credit card offers available means you can pick and choose among the best deals being offered. It will also give you room to negotiate with credit card companies like never before.

They'll Forgive You at Least Once

Speaking of negotiating, have you ever been burned by one of those vexing $35 late fees when your payment failed to reach a credit card company on time? What most consumers don't know is that you can easily have this fee waived simply by calling your credit card company and asking for the charge to be removed from your monthly statement.

The key to a successful request is that you have to have a pretty good track record of paying your bills on time. If you missed four payments out of the past dozen that were due, you're not likely to find a sympathetic ear on the other end of the phone if you call your credit card company.

By contrast, if you have an excellent payment history, the vast majority of banks empower their customer service representatives to waive a late fee, usually once a year.

Let's say you were traveling and neglected to mail your payment before you left, or maybe you were simply busy with work, or thought your spouse had sent in your credit card bill. Whatever the case, if your failure to pay was a one-time mistake, your credit card company will likely overlook this transgression. But only if you ask.

To get the late fee removed, simply call your creditor, briefly explain yourself and ask: "Can you please remove the late fee from my statement?" Most representatives will reply by saying something like: "Yes, as a courtesy, we can do that for you this one time."

Next: Put your negotiating skills to work. >>

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