Tips for negotiating fee waivers when your bank’s not offering them
If you find yourself with a bank that’s not openly waiving overdraft fees or ditching early CD withdrawal penalties, you might have to speak up in order to have some charges dropped.
Negotiation is an art. And it should be approached in a certain way if you want the outcome to work in your favor.
Here’s what to keep in mind if you’re hoping to talk your way out of paying bank fees and options if you want someone else to do the dirty work for you.
Getting your bank to waive fees
When negotiating a fee waiver, it’s important to be specific and straightforward. Call the bank, mention the fee you incurred and say you would like to have it waived by the bank.
If the bank isn’t immediately open to helping you, try to show you’re a valuable customer. If you’re a long-standing account holder whose had a relationship with the bank for years, that’s something worth highlighting.
“Finding a customer that’s been with you for 20 years, you know they don’t grow on trees,” says Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org, an internet consumer resource guide.
If it’s the case, it also doesn’t hurt to remind the bank that you’re a lucrative customer or that you have many accounts with the bank, like a CD, savings account or loan in addition to a checking account — anything to appeal to the bank’s better instincts, Dworsky says.
Starting the conversation with a sob story isn’t necessary, but as the discussion continues, it could be helpful to give the bank a bit of insight into any financial struggles you might be facing. Bringing up better policies offered by the competition could also help, but avoid threatening to leave if you’re not going to follow through.
Your likelihood of success also depends on the type of fee you want waived. While there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to bypass an overdraft or late fee, your chance of dodging something like an annual safety deposit box fee is small, says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate chief financial analyst.
Negotiating when your account standing is subpar
Getting the bank to waive your fee could be harder when you don’t have a great track record with the bank. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying to negotiate.
“I wouldn’t let that deter you from pursuing it,” McBride says. “And that goes for whether we’re talking about getting a fee waived or pursuing something bigger like forbearance. We’re in unprecedented times, but there’s also unprecedented latitude for financial institutions to work with their customers in a way we haven’t seen before.”
Find out what the bank can do for you and remember to always remain calm and courteous, but firm. Don’t speak as if you’re demanding something from the bank. If needed, request to speak with a manager.
Ultimately, you’re not guaranteed to get the bank to waive your fees. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. And every little bit helps if you’re feeling burdened by the financial consequences of COVID-19.
“In many respects, you’re really at the mercy of the banks since there’s no requirement that they ease up, but you may be able to convince them,” Dworsky says.
Consider negotiating online
There’s nothing worse than going through the trouble of asking your bank to waive an overdraft or ATM fee only to have the bank representative neglect to process your request.
If your bank signs off on waiving your fees, make sure to ask them to send you an email confirming that you won’t be responsible for the charge you called about. That’s also why you should consider contacting your bank and negotiating through a digital channel, like an online chat, social media or the bank’s secure message center.
Besides the extra-long wait times many customers are experiencing due to the coronavirus, negotiating through the internet leaves a paper trail — proof that the conversation you had with the bank took place.
“The beauty of using the secure message center or reaching out via social media is that you do have it in writing,” McBride says. “And even on online chat, you could take a screenshot for example, so it’s not just a verbal promise made over the phone.”
Waiving fees through apps and online platforms
Another way to bypass the large call volumes many banks are experiencing due to COVID-19 is to use an app or online resource that can negotiate fees on your behalf. Bank customers these days have many apps to choose from, including Truebill, Cushion and Recoup.
Namrata Baral is the founder and CEO of Harvest Platform, which helps customers negotiate bank and credit card fees and find unclaimed funds held by state and local governments. Ultimately, the startup’s mission is to help Americans reduce debt and Baral says she’s seen a boost in traffic to the site since the pandemic began.
Before turning to an app or another negotiation website, just note that there may be limitations, depending on where you bank. Harvest Platform is expanding its reach but because it builds custom technology for the banks it supports, it currently only negotiates fees for some of the country’s top 10 banks, Baral says. Customers of other institutions, however, have resources available to help them navigate the negotiation process on their own.
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