Tag Archives: credit cards

It never hurts to ask

I love asking for things because it never hurts to ask. As long as you’re polite, reasonable, and ethical, there’s no reason not to ask for what you want.

Lowering prices: I recently called my auto insurance company (Pemco) and asked them to lower my premium. They said no but it didn’t hurt. On the other hand, I asked my credit card company to remove my yearly fee and they said yes. The 5 minute call saved me $70.

Improving your credit score: Since having higher credit limits helps your credit score, it never hurts to call your credit card companies every year and ask them to raise your credit limits.¹ Say “I’ve been a loyal customer for X years and always paid off my balance in full. I’m planning on making some purchases in the near future. Can I have my credit limit raised to…?” Also ask if they’ll bypass the credit check, since that temporarily hurts your score.

Other requests: I emailed my Congressman to see if he’d fly a flag over the Capitol in honor of my Grandpa (a World War II veteran) and Venessa’s Grandma. It took a while to get a reply, but his staffer obliged and also offered to send me the flag for a reasonable price. Whenever I buy something on craigslist I ask if the seller is willing to deliver it to me, or at least meet me somewhere convenient. Failing that, I ask for a small reduction on the price.

On being asked: When it comes to the kids, I try to start answers with “No” as infrequently as possible. But when they make an especially outrageous demand, I’ll say, “No, but it didn’t hurt to ask.” I wonder if my folks said the same thing to me?²

I have a feeling that most children are reprimanded when they ask unreasonable questions, so by the time they’re adults they’re literally afraid to ask. It’s a shame, because that same part of the brain is also what drives curiosity. We should praise our children for asking all sorts of questions, everything from “Why is this the way it is?” to “Can I have …?”  It’s the latter type of question, when combined with a good work ethic, that leads to new inventions and discoveries:

Q: Can I have an iPod?

A: Yes. How do you plan to save up for it?

or

Q: Can I have an iPod that also plays 3D movies?

A: Yes but you’ll have to invent it first!

¹ Do not do this if you abuse credit cards. This is for people who pay in full each month and generally have their financial house in order.
² I definitely remember my parents doing this: if they bought something at the store and then saw it went on sale soon after, they’d bring the item back, along with their receipt and ask for the difference in cash. It must have worked or they wouldn’t have done it all the time.

Bank Transfer Day: politics aside, it just makes sense

November 5th is Bank Transfer Day, when everyone who keeps their money in big, for-profit banks is supposed to close their accounts and move them to a not-for-profit credit union (CU). This is different than the run on banks that preceded the Great Depression, since nobody is recommending you put your cash under a mattress. Instead, you’re moving it from one type financial institution to another.

I’m not a huge fan of the Guy Fawkes stuff (the guy was sort of a terrorist), but this event simply makes financial sense, politics aside. Since executives at Credit Unions aren’t making big bucks like their colleagues in the for-profit banks, they’re able to offer lower rates on loans, higher rates on savings accounts, and other perks, such as reimbursing you for other banks’ ATM fees. In short, their business model isn’t built around squeezing every last penny out of you, because credit unions don’t answer to Wall Street.

My biggest gripe with CU’s used to be lack of ATMs, but if you bank with a CU that belongs to the co-op network, you have almost 30,000 ATMs to choose from.

I recommend a slow approach to changing banks. It takes a month, but if you forget about any auto-pay stuff being deducted from your old account, it won’t bounce.

Here’s how to make the switch:

  1. Find a credit union near you and open an account there. Deposit a good part of your money at the CU, but not all. The amounts are up to you.
  2. Cancel all automatic withdrawals & deposits from your old bank and move them to the new bank. (This is the most time-consuming step)
  3. Wait a month, and check your old bank account to see if any auto-pay deductions occurred.
  4. Transfer the rest of your money out of your old account and close it.
Anyone planning to (or recently did) a bank transfer? I was lucky enough to start out at a credit union, though I did have the experience of switching from one credit union to another (FirstTech to BECU). It was mostly painless.