Negotiating bank fees? The odds aren't bad

Your odds of winning a prize in McDonald’s Monopoly sweepstakes are 1 in 4, and your best odds (1 in 9) are for winning a free order of medium fries worth $1.75, writes Walter Hickey of Business Insider.

But your odds of getting a late fee or penalty fee reversed if you ask are much better than that – and the payout is much higher. In a recent telephone survey for, consumers were asked:

“Have you ever had a bank fee reversed because you asked and/or complained? This includes fees associated with bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, home equity loans, etc.”

In the survey, conducted by GfK Custom Research, 44 percent of respondents said “Yes.” Those are pretty good odds.

Among the types of fees that respondents said they succeeded in getting reversed were overdraft fees (35 percent), late payment fees (24 percent), annual fees (10 percent), returned check fees (6 percent), low balance fees (6 percent) and over limit fees (5 percent). Thirteen percent responded "don't know."

Who Got Results

Some groups of survey respondents reported even better results. More than half – 54 percent – of those age 35-44 report success, compared to only 39 percent of those age 18-34 and 33 percent of those age 65 and older.

In addition, those who identified as white were more likely to respond “yes” (46 percent) than those who identified as black (40 percent) or Hispanic (38 percent).

Interestingly, those who report they have children in their home are more likely to say they have had a fee reversed (51 percent) than those who don’t (40 percent).

In addition, respondents with a college education were also more likely to report success (58 percent) than those with a high school education or less (32 percent). This could simply be due to the fact that they are more likely to protest when a fee is imposed.

What to Do If You're Charged a Fee

If you have been charged a fee for a financial product, there are several things you can do to improve the odds that your request will be honored:

  • Ask. Keep in mind the “no” results here include those who haven’t requested a fee reversal. If you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get it.
  • Be polite, but persistent. If the first person you ask won’t help, ask to speak to a supervisor.
  • Pick your battles. You’ll have much better luck getting a fee reversed the first time you are late. If you’re consistently late, however, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get multiple fees reversed unless you can show extenuating circumstances (you fell ill or were in an accident, or were a victim of a natural disaster, for example).

The next time you’re charged a fee by a financial institution, keep these findings in mind and take the time to request that the fee be reversed.

Most credit card companies charge a $25 late fee, for example. If you’re able to get that waived after a few minutes on the phone, you’ll have saved enough to buy more than a dozen orders of fries.

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