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How to handle negotiating bills when reductions or deferment are needed

Businessman hand holding bills of US dollar in fist
Posted at 11:37 AM, May 12, 2020

Unemployment claims have skyrocketed, with many jobs lost, on hold or maybe just uncertain. For those trying to reduce expenses right now Carl Carlson, CEO of Carlson Financial, said the first step is preparing for your call to lenders.

He said to review your overall financial situation, your account terms and maybe even investigate what competitors are offering. Many creditors are expecting your call and already have relief programs in place.

When calling, Carlson said it’s important to make sure to keep it professional. Customer service representatives and call centers are dealing with very high call volume right now, with potentially panicked customers. Write down a few bullet points about your situation and let them know you would like to work something out so they can get some of their money. Then ask them what they can offer.

If you have your own ideas of terms to see just ask what the company can offer you and wait for their answer, it might be better than what you were thinking, Carlson said. If they do respond with something that doesn’t quite achieve the desired result, politely ask about other options they have so you could potentially get a more favorable deal.

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Carlson said if that does not work, you can always try calling back a different day and talking with a different representative, sometimes that’s all you need. Depending on what the service is, you might also be able to shop around. After all, most of us have more time on our hands right now and it’s something we should do from time to time anyway, to make sure we’re still getting a good deal relative to what’s available now. Cell phone plans, cable, auto insurance, even meal delivery services.

You can also look into help with loans or other payment obligations like car loans, mortgage companies (or landlord), credit cards, medical bills. It will especially help your case if you have been a long-time customer and your account is in good standing, which you can point out. Companies don’t want to deal with the hassle of collections and don’t want to lose business, Carlson said.

There may be some risks though to this approach. Common consequences may be a negative mark on your credit report or taking more time and/or interest to pay something off. Carlson said Most lender-approved changes will not hurt you, but make sure you get everything in writing and hang onto it, so that if you ever need to dispute something you have it documented.

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