4 Times It Pays to Negotiate

Four Times When It Pays to Negotiate Bills

Most Americans aren’t taught how to negotiate, but even if you’re not “good” at haggling you can save thousands of dollars. Sometimes a quick phone call and politely asking is all it takes. Other times you can get the upper hand by doing some research or being prepared to switch service providers.

 

Credit Card Fees.

There are two credit card fees that you may be able to avoid with a quick phone call: the annual fee and the late-payment fee. In either case, it helps if you’re a good customer. That means you pay your bill on time every month, pay the full balance, and use your card regularly.

With late payment fees (generally $25-$35), there are a few steps you can take that might get the fee refunded.

  1. Pay at least the minimum amount needed to settle the account – pay the full balance if you can.
  2. Set up automatic payments from your bank to the credit card.
  3. Call the issuer and explain that the late payment was a mistake, you’ve made a payment, and it won’t happen again since you set up automatic payments. If the representative doesn’t refund the fee, hang up and call back. You’ll likely speak to a different representative that might be more forgiving.

Not all cards have an annual fee, but those that do charge around $50-$100 a year (some charge as much as $450 a year). Many of these cards waive the fee for the first year, but you can put a reminder on your calendar for 11 months from when you activate the card, so you know it’s coming. Call the issuer right before or within a month, of the fee being charged. Ask if there’s any way that the fee can be waived or reimbursed.

On some cards, the fee is almost never waived, but you may be able to downgrade to a no-fee version of the card (that generally has fewer benefits) to avoid paying it. On the other card, I’ve never paid the $95 fee on my Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, and I’ve had the card for over four years. After asking if there’s any way to avoid the fee it’s been waived outright, refunded after I make a single purchase, and refunded as long as I made $95 in purchases during the month.

 

Cable and Internet Service.

Because many people only have access to cable and internet service from a couple of providers, it can be difficult to negotiate this monthly bill. However, most service providers will give you some savings if you try.

Call the provider, be courteous rather than demanding, and ask if there’s any way to get a discount on your service. Sometimes you may need to ask to speak with the retention department or say you’re considering switching to a different provider before the best deals are offered. Ask a few times over if there’s anything better they could offer. Also, be flexible, maybe the bill only drops by a few dollars but HBO is thrown in for free.

Most service is offered with a low promotional rate that’s good for the first year. A good time to call is right before or after that ends. But, if you’ve been a customer for many years you should still try – after all shouldn’t a long-time loyal customer get a better rate than a new customer?

 

Medical Bills.

If you’re not dealing with an emergency situation, research can pay off handsomely. Compare the cost of common procedures at New Choice Health or Healthcare BlueBook. The sites share what they believe is a fair price for procedures in your area, tell you how to get discounts, and show you a comparison of the cost at different medical centers.

Negotiate before going in for a procedure. Speak with the medical billing department and make sure they know it’s personal – your insurance won’t be covering the costs. If you can afford to pay the entire amount up front, you might be able to get a discount. Let them know you’ll be paying by cash or check, if you pay by credit card, they’ll likely have to cover the processing fees. Also, ask if you can pay the same rate that insurance companies pay, which can amount to substantial savings.

During an emergency there’s no time to compare costs or negotiate ahead of time, but offering to pay in full by cash or check can still work after the fact. Many hospitals have financial assistance programs as well, and you may qualify even if you’re a high-income earner. If that’s not an option, you may be able to get on an interest-free payment plan.

If you have insurance, check that you weren’t billed for anything that the insurer is supposed to cover. You may also be able to negotiate your out-of-pocket expenses directly with the hospital or doctor after the insurer has paid its portion.

A final option is to hire someone to negotiate for you. Many medical bill negotiation services charge a percentage of the amount they saved you. Some, like CoPatient, offer free reviews of your medical bills and an estimate of your savings if you use their negotiation services.

 

Mattresses.

Mattress hunting can be a terrible experience. You toss and turn on mattresses in showrooms trying to see which one might be a good fit. A new mattress can cost thousands and because you’ll (hopefully) spend eight hours a day using it you want to make a good purchase.

Former mattress salesperson and owner of MattressNerd.com has a few tips on his website about how to negotiate when buying a mattress. He’s also answered community questions on Reddit. After negotiating and comparing prices, he says you may be able to get up to 40 percent off the list price.

Another option is to buy a foam mattress from one of the online boutique stores like Casper or Tuft & Needle. These sellers offer free shipping, and you can test out the mattress for over three months. If you don’t like it, returns are free as well. Amazon also sells a Signature Sleep memory foam mattress that has thousands of near-perfect reviews and cost $200-$300 for a full or queen.