Money

This one simple trick could help you dodge a credit card late fee

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Of the many things that can ruin a good credit score, paying your credit card bill late is one of the more common. But if you do find yourself with a late fee, there's something simple you can do: Ask your card issuer to waive it.

That's according to financial website CompareCards.com, which conducted a survey of more than 1,000 Americans with at least one credit card about their interactions with card issuers. "As a customer, you have the ability to ask your card issuer to change the terms of your card pretty much anytime you want, " the site points out.

"Whether that's requesting a lower [annual percentage rate], a credit limit increase or to remove a late payment fee, it's possible your issuer will work with you to make you happy and secure your business."

However, not all respondents say they've taken advantage of that: Only 60 percent have ever called to have a late fee waived, just 40 percent have asked for a higher credit limit on an existing card and a mere 25 percent have asked for a lower APR on one of their cards.

The hesitation to reach out is "unfortunate," says CompareCards.com, "as most of those who did ask their credit card issuer for a break on fees or requested a higher limit were rewarded for it."

Nearly 90 percent of users got at least one late fee reversed upon asking, while 64 percent who asked for a higher credit limit received one and another 64 percent who asked for a lower interest rate got it.

"Not everyone in our survey may have needed a waived late payment or higher credit limit. But if they did, and didn't ask, they may be leaving behind money or additional credit that's only a phone call away. "

Of those who asked to have a late fee waived, the typical saving was almost $40. Those who asked for a higher credit limit were extended $2,059 in additional credit on average. And of those who asked for a lower interest rate, they reported an average reduction of 5.5 percent.

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Besides the savings, though, there are a number of other good reasons you shouldn't shy away from asking your card issuer for a break, according to CompareCards.com. For example, you might have earned it: "Your credit score may have improved from when you first received the card. You may have paid down a lot of debt or your credit score might have seen a boost because your credit history is simply longer than it was when you first applied for the card. "

Overall, the higher your credit score, the better financial deals you'll get, whether you're buying a home or a car, renting an apartment or embarking on another financial venture. Getting a late fee waived or a securing a lower interest rate can help you maintain your financial health.

That said, be sure to pay your bills in full and on time to the extent possible and keep an eye on your score by checking it regularly. Here are some more tips to establish or improve your credit.

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