How these squeaky wheels got what they wanted from their credit card issuers

No matter what your card’s terms and conditions say, no matter what the customer service rep told you, many card benefits and provisions are up for negotiation.

Catherine MacBride/Moment/Getty Images

Catherine MacBride/Moment/Getty Images

We asked five card experts to tell us how they’ve embraced being the proverbial squeaky wheel – and they responded with stories about turning denials into approvals, making late fees disappear and getting a bank to offer better terms.

Third time’s a charm: Caleb, Miles to the Max

You may already know that you can call a card issuer’s reconsideration line if your application is denied. But if the answer is still “no,” would you call back again … and again?

Caleb was denied for the Chase Ink card and was told “no” twice when he called the reconsideration line. The third call, however, yielded a “yes.”

“There is no guarantee that the reconsideration department will overturn their verdict, but it is always worth a call, or three,” he says.

Even after getting approved, Caleb wasn’t done. He noticed that Chase had increased the sign-up bonus from 60,000 points to 70,000 for those who applied at their local branch.

“I sent an email to Chase asking if they would match me to the additional 10,000 points and I received a ‘yes’ just a few hours later,” he says.

Advice from the squeaky wheel: Caleb recommends calling the reconsideration line as soon as you’re denied.

“Sometimes a good sob-story can go a long way,” he says. “In my case it was 70,000 points long.”

As for requesting a better bonus, make your request via secure message or chat so that you leave a paper trail, Caleb says.

I paid late, please forgive me: Sudipto Basu, One Cent at a Time

While on vacation with friends, Basu missed a payment on his Chase Freedom card. His week-late payment cost him a $25 late fee and $14 in interest, just as his cardholder agreement said it would.

Basu called Chase customer service to ask for leniency.

“I did admit it was my fault,” he says. “I requested a waiver based on my clean payment history.”

The rep, noticing said clean payment history and the fact that Basu had paid in full (albeit late), waived the late fee and reimbursed the interest charges. So, for several minutes of effort, Basu saved about $40.

Advice from the squeaky wheel: Even if a late-payment fee is completely your fault, banks want to make their otherwise good customers happy. So call and ask for mercy.

“I’d say the bank gets enough money for your business,” Basu says. “Occasionally, you deserve to be rewarded a waiver.”

Great credit gives you leverage: John Schmoll, Frugal Rules

You can still get rejected for a card, even if your credit is excellent. But those with excellent credit may have bargaining power.

Schmoll has applied for many cards over the years, and sometimes he gets turned down. Yet his 800+ credit score, stellar payment history and good relationships with various banks empowers him to be the squeaky wheel when that happens.

“Knowing that I have good standing, I’ll call in to the reconsideration line to see how they might be able to help,” he says.

When he calls in, Schmoll says the rep will usually ask some questions about his and his wife’s income. In most cases, his answers suffice, and he’s approved.

“In some cases, they’ve even offered to expedite sending out the card so I can start using it quicker,” Schmoll says.

Advice from the squeaky wheel: If you are the ideal customer (great credit, unblemished payment history), plead your case.

“There’s no guarantee that every instance will turn into your application being reconsidered, but it never hurts to ask politely,” Schmoll says.

Give me a reason to stay: Gilbert Ott, God Save the Points

If a card isn’t doing enough to justify wallet space, calling to cancel it might inspire your issuer to work harder to keep you.

“I’ve considered cancelling many cards from time to time and if you seem like you mean business, going all the way to the cancellation department, they’ll often have something to offer,” Ott says.

Ott, for example, has been offered bonus points, a better APR and even more bonus-category points, “taking me from, let’s say, 2X points on travel to 5X points on travel if I stay,” he says.

Advice from the squeaky wheel: How much power you have may depend on the card you’re carrying and how often you use it.

“The more premium the card you’re carrying, the more a bank is willing to do to keep you,” Ott says.

For example, a bank would probably fight to keep someone with a $450 travel card who uses it constantly, but let a low spender with a no-annual-fee card go.

“With that said, it never hurts to ask,” Ott says.

Use your relationship as collateral – Faith Case, Miles Momma

Rewards-card issuers are on to rewards chasers and therefore may deny applications from those who have opened too many cards. So, says Case, if you are a rewards maximizer you’ll need some clout in addition to playing the squeaky wheel.

That’s why Case makes a point to keep open a no-annual-fee card with a high credit limit from as many major lending institutions as possible.

“Then, when applying for a new card, you have this credit line to use as collateral if you are denied any new application,” Case says.

If your application gets turned down, you can call the reconsideration line and ask if they’ll move some of the credit line from the already-open card to the card you want.

“Many lenders like this because they are not extending more new credit to you but only just a different card type for earning,” Case says.

Advice from the squeaky wheel: There’s no guarantee this strategy will work. Case says she’s used it many times but hasn’t always been successful.

“It’s simply a valuable tool in your tool kit for earning endless rewards over the years,” Case says. “Lenders like loyalty and the longer you are doing business with them, the happier they are to extend new credit cards to you.”

If the strategy fails, there’s another advantage to keeping large open lines of credit, Case notes – it keeps makes it easier to keep your credit utilization low, which is good for your credit score.

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