There are certain times when people are expected to negotiate. After receiving a job offer. When buying a car. While shopping at a street market.
But there are also plenty of situations where consumers may not realize that they can push for a lower price or a more generous offer. Colleges, credit card companies, doctors and even the IRS may be willing to negotiate with people who can’t afford to pay what they owe, or who make a compelling argument for a better deal.
The first step is to ask. Here are a few situations where it might pay to push back:
If you don’t have the money to pay taxes. Most people get tax refunds when they file their returns, but occasionally, tax time comes with a surprise bill. Taxpayers who worry they can’t pay those tax bills on time may be able to work out a deal with the Internal Revenue Service. People who feel like they will never be able to pay what they owe may be able to negotiate what’s known as an offer in compromise, which would reduce the taxes owed. Taxpayers need to show they are experiencing a financial hardship or that they don’t have the assets or income to pay the total amount due. Consumers can then agree to a payment plan for paying that amount.
When comparing financial aid packages. When financial aid offers start going out in the spring, many parents and high school seniors will find that the packages aren’t large enough to cover all of their tuition costs. But many of them may be able to negotiate for more generous offers, as The Post’s Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reported. The forms families fill out when applying for aid don’t accurately capture all of the challenges they may be face. Being honest with schools about those other costs — such as caring for an elderly parent or a special needs child — may encourage schools to offer more aid, she wrote. Some colleges may be willing to match a better offer made by a similar school. And families should prepare to have the discussion each year, especially if their finances change.
When facing credit card fees. Most people may not realize that credit card companies may be willing to waive late payment fees, increase credit limits or lower interest rates. Usually, all cardholders need to do is pick up the phone. Yet people rarely take advantage of the opportunity. Only 28 percent of cardholders have asked to have a late payment fee waived, according to a survey by CreditCards.com. Some 23 percent of people polled have asked for a lower interest rate. People with higher incomes or longer credit histories may have a better chance at success with these requests. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask. (Just don’t abuse the option. Card issuers may be less willing to help after if they see a pattern of late payments.)
If you can’t afford your medical bill. Medical care is one of those scenarios where you often don’t find out how much you owe until long after the treatment was received. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to do something about it. Consumers can challenge medical bills and negotiate with hospitals, doctors and other providers. People should start by requesting itemized bills, which should show exactly what they are being charged for. Consumers should scan the bills for mistakes. Then they should call the medical provider to see if they can bring down the amount owed, medical advocates say. Some providers will be willing to accept a reduced payment from consumers who can pay cash or in one lump sum. Other consumers may be able to work out a monthly payment plan.
When your cable bill goes up. Cable and internet providers, like lots of businesses, often save their best rates for new customers. That means that a year or so after being with a company, it’s not unusual to see rate increases and other new fees. But consumers who call their providers may be able to work out a better deal. Sometimes companies will throw in services, such as a faster Internet speeds or premium channels, that the customer didn’t have before. Consumers can cite packages offered by competitors and ask the company to match it. They can also request to have certain fees waived temporarily, such as the monthly cost of renting a cable box. Many cable providers will offer some sort of break, especially to long-term customers with a history of paying on time. But if their lowest offer still isn’t low enough for you, it may be time to consider taking the better rate from the competing company. Just watch out for cancellation fees, installation charges and the cost of any other equipment you may need to buy or rent.