NEW YORK (sbup) — It looks like consumers could use some help paying their credit card bills on time — and getting onerous late fees waived when they fail.
According to CreditCards.com, the average credit card debt per adult is $4,878. For cardholders with a balance due on their credit cards, the figure rises to $8,220.
Americans don't like to discuss all that credit card debt; 85% of survey respondents to a recent poll said they were either "unlikely or somewhat unlikely to talk with a stranger about credit card debt - a subject more taboo than religion, politics, salary and love life details," according to CreditCards.com.
With all that debt, and that reluctance to seek help, advice or guidance on credit card use, it's no wonder so many of us have trouble paying our card bills on time each month.
But it's highly likely you can get a late fee waived - you just have to ask. Almost nine out of 10 cardholders who asked that a late fee be waived were accommodated, data from CreditCards.com shows.
"We were surprised with the success rate," says Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst. "It's probably the best time in years to ask credit card issuers for a break. I don't think cardholders realize how good of a chance they have at being successful. It's as simple as that."
"What it tells you is that when in doubt, give your credit card issuer a call. You've got a good chance of working it out," he says.
If you do pay your card late, make sure to pay the bill off only a day or two right after the due date. That will buy you some time, and some bargaining power when you call. The later you pay, the weaker your bargaining power.
If your request is rejected on your first try with a customer service representative, keep pushing. Ask for a supervisor. In many cases, it takes that extra effort to get the fee waived — credit card companies really want to make you earn a fee waiver, as it's cash coming out of their pocket.
It's an even better idea to avoid paying late in the first place.
The consumer website Creditnet.com advises setting up automatic payments from your card company, a tool that insures you're making a payment every month and shows your card company you're serious about being a good consumer, which works in your favor if you can't make a payment or two on time down the road.
"By setting up automatic bill pay, it shows the credit card company that you won't be making the same mistake in the future and that you are taking diligent action in trying to make up for your mistakes," the firm says "Setting up the automatic bill pay is a sign of good faith, and it should be well reciprocated by the representative of the lending company."
—For more ways to save, spend, invest and borrow, visit MainStreet.com.