Once a year, Chantay Bridges cuts her bills saves on credit card and bank fees just by calling the companies.
"I reminded them of our credit scores. I reminded them of our loyalty," Bridges said.
Experts say Bridges' calling strategies are on the money, and you can actually try dialing for more savings even more often. Finance guru Mitchell Weiss says it certainly can't hurt to "check in" every quarter to every six months with businesses who bill you.
And if you see a company advertise a special deal, take that as an opportunity to call and say you're interested. Weiss explains that businesses want customers to stick around because it costs more to lose a customer than to offer them some new ways to save.
"It costs money to get them. It costs money to keep them. Why would you want to turn that over to a competitor?" Weiss said.
People pay personal finance administrator Roblee Hoffman to lower their bills, and he can usually save people between $200 and $1,200 a year. Some of his secrets include:
- Review all your monthly bills and try calling each company. The phone is the most effective way to negotiate.
- Have two to three months worth of past bills when you call so you can be precise on what you're paying.
- Remind companies who you are.
"Be a great customer. A great customer is one who has been with a company for a fair number of years and pays their bill on or before the due date and pays the full balance," Hoffman said.
Then once you've established your history with the company, ask for lower rates, a cheaper plan and monthly fees to be removed. If you can't negotiate with a customer service rep, ask for the customer retention department or the president's office because they may offer more incentives.
Always be professional and polite, and research what the business' competition is offering customers.
"The only time you want to be confrontational or say to a company that you're going to go to another service is when you've prepared it ahead of time and done your research to know there's other services available at a greater cost savings," Hoffman said.
Bridges says knowing what a company's competition is offering is key to negotiating. And if you've never called a business for a better rate, start dialing - it could save you a lot of dough.
"It's worth the time, and it's worth your money," she said.
Many credit card companies and banks say they welcome you to check in with them for better deals frequently. And at least one cell phone company said it would gladly review your bill to see if you're paying too much for minutes and data you don't use which could result in a cheaper monthly bill.