I think we can all agree that we hate giving away our precious funds and feeling like we're getting nothing in return. Like those rinky-dink fees that pop up in our bank and credit card statements.
For years, I've noticed fees ranging from an easy-to-ignore $5 to a whopping $75 hidden inside the statements of my credit cards and checking accounts. Maintenance fees, yearly “membership” costs, janitorial vacation budgets... (I’m kidding about that last one, but who knows?) All I know is the bank is getting money it doesn’t deserve—probably because they think I’m not paying attention—and I’m losing it.
I mean, seriously? A membership fee for the joy of holding their card in my wallet? Lucky me—they’re allowing me to pay them money to be a member of their exclusive club! Won’t all my classmates be jealous when I walk in wearing my [insert bank name here] bomber jacket?
Still, like most people, I used to pay these fees without thinking. I mean, who am I to stand up to Jos. A. Bank? (Or whoever.) And, yeah, in some cases, I may have implicitly agreed to pay such fees when I signed up for the account. But one day, I couldn't take it anymore. So I picked up the phone.
Here’s the transcript of that call.
Operator: “Hello, thank you for calling [large national credit card company]. How may I assist you today?”
Me: “Hi. I see that I was recently charged a $59 annual membership fee, and I would like to have that fee waived.”
Operator: “Alright, Mr. Coo-zonus (never pronounced correctly), let me look into that for you… Okay, I removed it, and you are all set. Thank you for your business.”
Yep. I asked, and they just…did it. No fight. No threats. No name-calling or “Do you know who my boss is?!” Just a straightforward request, and nearly $60 was coming back into my account—money I later used to buy whoopie-cushions and silly string, if you’re curious. C'mon, I earned it.
What I learned that day is that sometimes all you have to do is ask. After all, it’s in the bank’s best interest to kiss our butts. There’s a lot of competition out there, and they don’t want to lose business over some nominal fee.
So it’s in your best interest to point out that they need to keep you happy—because you’re a long-term customer in good standing or even a new one who’s willing to walk. If the first person you talk to says he can’t take care of it for you, first, he’s a liar. Second, ask to speak to a supervisor.
This method may sound annoying or time-consuming. But in the five years I’ve now been doing it, I’ve had a 100-percent success rate of getting at least some, if not all, of the fee waived—easily totalling up to $600. In fact, the only time a bank hasn’t removed a charge was when I asked them to read back my recent activity, and I remembered that, yes, I did in fact have lunch at Chick-Fil-A two weeks prior. That one was on me.
In short, don’t pay that fine without putting up a fight. Ever. The banks don’t need that small chunk of money, but you do. Fight every penalty, even if the idea of confrontation scares you. (Write out a script ahead of time and read it on the phone if you have to.) And that is a piece of advice that you can take to the bank!
… I hate myself for writing that last line.
This article has been updated.