How to Get Credit Card Late Fees and Finance Charges Removed

by Michael on Sep 27, 2013 · 2 comments

Image of Past Due Payment

This is just a quick note to share a money-saving, credit-related tip with you…

We’ve always (always!) paid our credit card bills in full. Thus we’ve never (ever!) paid interest charges on any of our accounts.

That being said, we have had the occasional hiccup where a bill gets paid late and the issuer tacks on an exorbitant late fee plus interest. In those cases, I always contact them and ask to have the late fees and finance charges removed.

The likelihood of this happening has fallen to near zero with online billpay and the ability to automate payments. But still, it sometimes happens. Take, for example, the Amex Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business card that I applied for this summer…

Triggering a ton of fees

I really only applied for this card for the signup bonus — 55k miles, 20k of which were MQMs (i.e., the kind that count toward status). Thus, I never bothered to set up autopay. I just needed to hit the spending threshold and then I’d be done.

All was well until this past month when I went on the road. I had a bill due and my internet access wound up being far more limited than I expected. Had I planned ahead, I would’ve paid it before I left. But I didn’t. And I missed the deadline.

Once that happened, I got smacked with a $35 late fee along with $123.95 in finance charges. Yikes. I had no intention of forking over almost $160 in fees so, as soon as I had the chance, I contacted Amex and asked for the fees removed.

I’m happy to report that I was successful, and that I’m still batting 1.000 when it comes to getting credit card issuers to agree to help me out.

Tips for getting fees removed

Of course, I suspect that my high success rate in this regard has more to do with our borrowing and repayment history than with my phone/chat skills. Regardless, I thought it would be worth sharing some tips.

  • Be sure to ask. And do so in a timely manner. You may or may not be successful, but you have a 0% chance of getting the fees removed if you don’t bother asking.
  • Explain the circumstances. Perhaps you were traveling. Perhaps it’s a new card and you haven’t yet set up auto-billpay. Both were true in our case. Whatever the explanation, it can’t hurt to share these details as you plead your case.
  • Explain your value/history. We’ve had an Amex card for 16 years and we process a lot of charges with it. In other words, we’re reasonably profitable customers. I thus made sure to (politely) let them know about our history, and to point out that late payments are an exceptionally rare thing for us.
  • Ask about both late fees and finance charges. Most issuers are pretty easy when it comes to late fees. But if you don’t make a point of asking for forgiveness of the finance charges, too, those may remain in place.
  • Above all, be polite. Credit card reps are people, too. While they might not have the power to refund fees for a repeat offender, they most definitely have the power to not help you if you’re rude or antagonistic.

That’s it. The entire process took maybe 5-10 minutes and I saved a bunch of cash.

Oh, and if you’re not comfortable doing this on the phone, keep in mind that many companies now offer customer service via online chat. And, in most cases, I’ve found chat to be both more efficient and more effective than picking up the phone.

1 Kurt @ Money Counselor September 28, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I’ve had success asking for the reversal of fees too. If you’ve got an established history of paying on time and not being a troublemaker, credit card issuers will often give you a break, once.

2 Michael September 30, 2013 at 9:51 am

Yeah, I suspect if you’re a repeat offender, they won’t be as forgiving. But still, it can’t hurt to ask. The worst they can do is say no.

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