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For people who always pay bills on time and don’t carry a balance, it’s probably not worth negotiating a lower interest rate since you won't be charged interest. But if you’re carrying a balance month to month, then you’ll want your credit card interest rate to be as low as possible.
Your best option might be to open a new credit card or take out a loan that has a lower interest rate than you currently have. (More on that later.) But if you really want to lower the interest rate on your current credit card, here’s what to do:
Check your credit reports
Since lending money can be a risky business, the best interest rates are typically reserved for those with the best credit. So before you contact your card issuer, you’ll want to know where you stand.
You can check your credit at AnnualCreditReport.com. You’re entitled to a free report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion).
If your credit is just OK, it can't hurt to take some quick steps to improve your credit before you ask for a lower APR. But if you have major dings like bankruptcy, multiple missed payments or charge-offs, an issuer might be wary of offering you a lower APR.
If you see any errors on any of your credit reports, dispute them with the appropriate credit bureau as soon as possible. The process varies by issuer, but you can usually do this online, through the mail or by phone.
Contact your credit card company
Once you’ve checked your credit reports and you’re ready to negotiate, reach out to the company that issues your credit card. You can do this by phone, email or the issuer’s online chat.
There’s nothing wrong with being honest and telling the issuer if you’re struggling. You can explain that you want to make your payments, but that if your interest rate isn’t lowered, you might be in danger of defaulting.
If you have a long relationship and good track record with the bank, it will be more likely to grant your request. It’s costly for the bank, too, if you default, so the customer service rep may be willing to work with you.
» MORE: How to pay off debt
Negotiate a lower credit card APR
Successfully securing a lower interest rate may take more than one phone call. If you don’t get a good response on your first try, it doesn’t hurt to contact the issuer again. You might try a different communication method or ask to speak with a supervisor. A supervisor will generally be in a better position to grant your request, anyway.
If you do succeed in getting a lower interest rate, ask your issuer to send you a written confirmation of the changes.
Consider all your options first
Even if you successfully lower your interest rate, it might not be the quickest way to get out of debt. So before you go through the trouble, consider these options first:
Cards with an introductory offer
Many credit cards offer introductory 0% APRs for anywhere from 12 to 21 months. You can find introductory offers on new purchases or balance transfers (or sometimes both). Most of these cards require good credit, but as long as you qualify, you could avoid interest for a while. The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card, for example, offers the following: 0% intro APR for 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 18.24%, 24.74%, or 29.99% Variable APR.
If you decide to transfer a balance to a card with a 0% introductory offer, you’ll typically need to pay a small fee: usually from 3% to 5% of the overall balance. That fee might be inconvenient, but it’s significantly lower than the APR on most credit cards.
Low-interest credit cards
If you need to carry a balance for longer than the term you'd get on an introductory 0% APR offer, you can apply for a low-interest credit card. As of February 2022, the average credit card has a 14.56% APR, according to data from the Federal Reserve. The APR on low-interest credit cards can be much lower than that, sometimes in the single digits. These cards won’t typically come with rewards or other perks, but they can save you a significant amount on interest.
If you would prefer not to take out yet another credit card, consider getting a debt consolidation loan with a fixed rate. According to the Federal Reserve, a personal loan with a 24-month payment period has an average APR of 9.41% as of February 2022. That's significantly lower than the average credit card interest rate, though not everyone will qualify for a rate that low. As long as your credit qualifies you for a lower interest rate than your credit card currently has, a debt consolidation loan can help you save money on interest and get you out of debt faster.
Whether you decide to ask for a lower interest rate or you go with a different option, make a plan to pay off your debt. Credit cards can provide quick access to needed funds, but you won't want to keep a balance permanently if you can help it.