Skeptics surprised after negotiating lower credit card rate

An experiment in consumer assertiveness suggests that credit card companies are willing to negotiate lower rates in order to keep their customers.

The experiment was hardly scientific, but the outcome should give hope to people struggling to pay off their credit card balance every month.

Ten shoppers were approached by the CBC at random at a Winnipeg mall and given a script to read to their credit card company, asking for a lower interest rate.

Six were promised a lower rate by identifying themselves and simply following the script: "I think I've been a good customer. I'd like to stay with you, but I really want you to lower the rate on my card. Can you help me?"

If the initial response was no, they asked to speak to a supervisor and make the same case again.

Shopper Leanne Goose seemed skeptical at first that haggling would work, but now says she's "very pleased" that her rate has gone from 18.9 per cent to 10.9 per cent.

"It hadn't even occurred to me to ask," she said. "When they sent the card and told me what my rate was, you just kind of accept it and get on with your day."

Another participant, Rickey Peterson, said he almost never carries debt on his card. Still, he said he found it "pretty surprising" that his credit card company was willing to lower its rate to 11.5 per cent from 19.5 per cent.

It took Brad Blakley five minutes to lower his rate by nine per cent, shaving it by half from 18 per cent.

"I'm shocked. Thirty years of paying 18 per cent when I could have been getting nine per cent," he said.

David Stangeland, head of strategic financial management at the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba, says the reality is, if you pay your bills, and have a reasonable credit rating, credit companies want to hold on to your business.

"You can deal. It's like buying anything else," he says. "You go to buy a car, you deal. When you need money, the cost of money is interest, so you can deal on the interest rate, too."