How to get credit card and bank fees reversed

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How to Get Bank Fees Reversed

As you're examining the latest wave of transactions on your bank or credit card statement, you notice an unfamiliar fee. Should you just bite the bullet and pay it, or should you ask your financial institution to have it removed?

The latter sounds like a hassle but it's not at all hopeless. A survey conducted in 2013 by Credit.com found that 44 percent of respondents were successful in getting a bank or credit card fee reversed because they asked or complained. You too can be successful if you approach it right.

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A few important reminders

Before you reach out to your financial institution or credit card issuer, here are a few general tips to keep in mind:

Address the issue promptly. As soon as the fee posts to your account, that's your cue to pick up the phone. Getting results only gets more difficult over time.

Be prepared. Jot down the exact fee you wish to be reversed, along with the posting date and your reasoning. You'll also want to leave a place in your notes to document the representative's name, as well as the date and time of your call and details of the discussion in the event that they don't execute their promise.

The early bird gets the worm. You want to deal with someone who is pleasant and dedicated to providing an optimal level of customer service. However, call center customer service jobs can be draining, so make your call early in the day — not in the late afternoon when the representatives are exhausted and their patience is on the wane.

Attitude is everything. We all learned in grade school to treat others the way we want to be treated. And this rule definitely applies when requesting a fee reversal. When you call in, pleasantly state your case, explain what you'll do to prevent the issue from recurring, and request a pass because of your usual stellar history as a customer. Being polite will usually be more effective than being demanding.

Don't give up. If the first request doesn't work, you can always ask to speak to a supervisor, or hang up and try again.

Credit card fees

Here are some ways to avoid and dispute some of the most common credit card fees:

Over-limit fee: Says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

A card issuer cannot charge an over-limit fee unless you have opted in to permit the card issuer to allow charges that put you over your credit limit. Before you opt in, the issuer must give you certain disclosures, including the amount of the over-limit fee.

After you opt in, the issuer must send you a confirmation that you have agreed to allow over-limit charges. If you have agreed to permit over-limit charges, you generally can be charged a fee of up to $25 the first time you exceed your credit limit and a fee of up to $35 if you are over your limit a second time within six months. However, the fee cannot be larger than the amount by which you exceeded your credit limit.

It's best to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent of available credit because it accounts for 30 percent of your FICO credit score. But — assuming you opted in to over-limit fees — and your account ends up in the red, promptly make a payment to cover the overage, and contact the credit card issuer promptly to request that the fee be removed.

Late-payment fee: Missed the deadline on your credit card payment? Expect to see a late-payment penalty — no more than $25 for the first incident and no more than $35 for the second within six months — and no more than the minimum payment due on your card.

As soon as the late fee hits your account, reach out to the credit card issuer. You should describe your overall good standing and loyalty to their company when you ask them to waive the fee. If you rarely if ever make a late payment, your card company likely will be willing to agree.

To prevent future occurrences, make a point of paying the bill as soon as you receive it in the mail or get the email notice. You could also ask to change your payment date.

APR hikes: According to the CFPB:

A card issuer can increase the interest rate on existing balances only if you are at least 60 days late in paying your required minimum amount unless an exception applies (for example, the exception for variable rate accounts). If you pay your minimum amount on time for the first six consecutive months after the rate increase, the issuer generally must reinstate the prior rate.

If your request for the lower rate to be reinstated ahead of time is denied, pay on time without fail and make sure the issuer lowers your rate once the six months have passed.

Balance transfer fee: No interest charged for the first six months or year or even longer sounds good, right? However, balance transfer offers often include a balance transfer fee, usually anywhere from 2 percent to 4 percent of the amount transferred.

To avoid this fee, you may be able to find a good balance transfer offer that does not include it.

Foreign transaction fee: You traveled abroad or purchased an item or service from an overseas vendor. Now you see you've been charged a foreign transaction fee on the purchase amount. These fees are generally 1 percent to 3 percent of the value of the transaction — and it's a charge for, really, nothing.

The good news is, the number of cards that charge this fee appears to be declining.

However, if you are charged a foreign transaction fee that appears to be a mistake, such as a foreign airplane ticket purchased from a domestic vendor, ask the credit card issuer to credit the charge.

Better still, use a credit card that doesn't have a foreign transaction fee for costs associated with international travel. There are many good cards to choose from. One place to compare cards and find the card that meets your needs is our Solutions Center.

Annual fee: Do the benefits of the card outweigh the annual fee? If that's no longer the case, you may be tempted to close the account (after you pay the balance, of course). When you call, you may find that your card company is willing to waive the fee in order to keep your business. Besides, it doesn't hurt to ask.

Bank fees

It's certainly not impossible to get some bank fees reversed. If you accidentally let your account balance slip beneath the minimum balance you need to avoid a monthly maintenance fee, your bank may agree to refund the fee this time.

Likewise, if your bank surprises you with a foreign transaction fee for using your debit card at an overseas ATM, it might refund that fee as well. It's happened. (Next time you travel abroad, carry a debit card that doesn't have that fee and you'll save a lot of money.)

But overall, avoidance of these fees in the first place is the best course to take.

Overdraft fees: Did a $10 meal from Chili's end up costing you $45 because that $10 charge on your debit card overdrew your checking account? Fortunately, many financial institutions will grant you a courtesy fee reversal for the first occurrence, or may allow a certain number of overdrafts over a specified period without charging the fee.

But don't make this a habit. Instead, keep a solid cushion at all times. Don't opt in for so-called overdraft protection that gives your bank permission to let that overdraft go through in exchange for a large overdraft fee. Instead, sign up for real overdraft protection, which lets you tap a line of credit or your credit card to cover the overdraft. The cost in comparison with the typical overdraft fee is minimal.

Or take advantage of your bank's alerts, if available, that notify you once the balance falls below a certain amount. Also see "5 Sly Ways Banks Push Your Account Into the Red."

ATM fees: These are typically not negotiable. Limit yourself, if you can, to your bank's ATMs or visit a retailer that offers free cash back at the point of sale when you pay with your debit card.

Paper statement fee: When you initially opened your account, your financial institution may have presented the option to receive statements by mail or online. You didn't pick the online version, and now you're facing a paper statement fee.

My suggestion: Explain to the customer service representative that this was an oversight on your part and request that you be enrolled in electronic banking and that a portion, if not all of the fees, be reversed.

Monthly maintenance fee: Unfortunately, monthly maintenance fees often come with the territory for checking accounts, unless you meet specified criteria each month — such as having a certain amount of money on deposit and having money direct-deposited to your account each month.

You can avoid these fees by complying with the agreement or by picking a fee-free online-only bank.

Have you had successful outcomes with past credit card or bank fee disputes? What tricks did you use? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

RELATED: 9 spending habits that are making you broke

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9 spending habits that are making you broke

1. Stress

One of the biggest spending triggers is stress, said Cullen Hardy, a clinical psychologist and owner of business consulting firm The Hardy Group. “Human beings hate feeling stressed and love quick relief,” he said. “Spending can give that feeling of quick relief.”

Although stress can lead some to increase spending on necessities to gain a sense of control, it can lead others to increase spending on nonessential items rather than save money, according to a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research. Be careful if you’re spending to relieve stress. It could create lasting financial problems and make your stress even worse, Hardy said.

See: 10 Best and Worst Ways to Handle Financial Stress 

Photo credit: Getty

2. An Emotional Event

The end of a relationship or other emotional event can trigger people to spend money, said Bruce D. Sanders, a consumer psychologist and author of “Sell Well.” A little retail therapy isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it can make you feel better, he said.

But you need to be careful about how often you’re dealing with your emotions this way so it doesn’t result in overspending and racking up debt.

Photo credit: Getty

3. Social Pressure

You might think you left your days of succumbing to peer pressure behind in middle school. But the desire to keep up with others can spur spending in adulthood.

A recent study by Stanford professor Pedro Gardete published in the Journal of Marketing Research found that social influence can lead people to spend more. By studying purchases made during flights, he found that airline passengers were 30 percent more likely to buy something if the person sitting next to them did.

Spending to keep up with others can be even more pronounced in elite social groups when people are buying expensive items, Sanders said. Problems arise when people spend more than they earn and go into debt to maintain a certain lifestyle. So before you make a purchase, ask yourself whether it’s something you actually want or something you want to impress others.

Find Out: 10 Ways the Wealthy De-Stress 

Photo credit: Getty

4. Credit Cards

Americans have $712 billion in credit card debt, according to the latest figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That figure makes it hard to argue that there isn’t a link between credit card use and overspending.

But can using a credit card trigger you to spend more than you otherwise would? A study by two MIT professors found that customers are willing to pay more for the same item when using credit rather than cash. The reason this likely happens is because they don’t feel the pain of parting with cash.

So before you pull out your card to pay, ask yourself whether you’d be willing to pay the same price with cash. And only charge what you can afford to pay off each month.

Photo credit: Getty

5. Social Media

Your social media use might not just be gobbling up your spare time or distracting you from work. It could be leading you to overspend.

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people tend to display less self-control after browsing a social network. And the more often people used Facebook, the greater their credit card debt was. Be aware of urges to spend after using social media and consider purchases carefully.

See: 5 Signs You Have a Spending Problem

Photo credit: Getty

6. A Need to Please

Many people try to buy love, said relationship expert April Masini. So when they see something for sale that will make a person they’re trying to win over happy, they buy.

“The purchase is not really about the item at hand,” she said. “It’s about pleasing someone else and getting a positive, loving reaction in return.”

When people buy to please others, they tend to overspend because they’re not thinking about their finances, Masini said. They’re buying to get a feeling, and their finances suffer as a result.

Their relationship could also suffer. A GOBankingRates’ survey found that overspending was the biggest financial deal breaker in a relationship.

Photo credit: Getty

7. Retailer Tactics

Retailers use a variety of tactics to get consumers to spend. Being aware of these tricks before you go shopping might help limit their effect and help you avoid buying things you weren’t planning on purchasing.

For example, bright colors and animation can get the attention of shoppers and trigger greater activity in areas of the brain associated with impulsive thinking, Sanders said. Fragrance in a store — such as cinnamon during the Christmas season — can stimulate purchasing. And if a sales person demonstrates how an item works, it can create a feeling of friendship and an obligation to make a purchase, he said.

To discretely increase the number of items in your online shopping cart, stores will offer incentives such as free shipping if your purchase total hits a certain price point, said Mike Catania, founder of coupon and promotional code site PromotionCode.org. As a result, consumers buy more to get the freebie.

Retailers also use words such as “expires soon” to create a fear of missing out on a deal and spur buying. It exploits the resource-hoarding part of the brain and prompts consumers to ask,”If I miss this opportunity, will it present itself again?” Catania said.

In addition to being aware of these tactics, Catania also recommended giving yourself some cooling off time before buying things. “If you still want them just as bad the next day, then buy them,” he said. “But odds are you won’t.”

Photo credit: Getty

8. Special Events and Holidays

It’s common for people to spend more than they expected to for special occasions and holidays. For example, a GOBankingRates’ survey of bridesmaids and groomsmen said their spending for wedding-related duties exceeded their expectations by 32 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

Overspending on one event likely won’t lead to financial ruin. But if you’re exceeding your budget regularly on occasions and holidays, you could find yourself racking up debt or sacrificing savings to cover costs. A survey by SunTrust Banks found that 46 percent of Americans felt pressure to spend more than they could afford during the holidays in 2015.

To avoid overspending on holidays and hurting your finances, set a budget for each special event and start setting aside money each month in savings so you’ll have cash to cover costs. Don’t spend any more than the cash you’ve saved.

Photo credit: Getty

9. Shopping Addiction

At the extreme end of emotional and psychological triggers that lead to overspending is compulsive buying disorder. A small percentage of the population can’t bring themselves to stop making needless purchases and end up in deep financial trouble as a result, Sanders said.

Compulsive buying can be so serious that people can’t feed their families because they’re so far in debt, he said. This sort of problem requires mental health help.

Photo credit: Getty

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