Save and Invest

5 things you didn't realize you could ask for that can save you lots of money

A woman smiles at a job interview.

Sometimes, a simple question can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Whether it's earning more money at work, getting a pesky bank fee waived or lowering your bills, often the only thing standing between you and saving money is asking for what you want.

Here are five things you might not even be aware you can ask for.

1. Ask for a raise

Just 37% of workers have asked for a raise, according to a 2018 survey of over 160,000 people by career site PayScale. But 70% of those who did ask for more money got it, while just one in three people reported receiving a raise without asking for one. That means that most people could be leaving money on the table.

Those who have worked at a company for at least five years are most likely to receive a raise, Payscale found, though that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for one otherwise. Just be sure to come prepared to demonstrate the value you add to the business.

"They need you to show what impact your work has had on the business," Lydia Frank, vice president of PayScale, told CNBC Make It.

Your preparation should also include knowing comparable salary ranges in your company and the broader field, bestselling author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch told CNBC Make It. And if you need a raise because of external pressures — say, to save for your kid's school — leave that out of the conversation.

"People often bring up their mortgage, their new car payment," she says. "Focus on why you deserve a raise — not why you need it."

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2. Ask for banking fees to be waived

If you're hit with a late fee on a credit card payment or an overdraft fee on your checking account, ask for it to be waived. Chances are, your bank or card issuer will let you off the hook.

Nearly 90% of people who asked for a late fee to be waived were successful, according to a report from CompareCards, a credit comparison site. But the same survey found that only 48% of people who have been hit with a late fee have asked for leniency.

This year, credit card companies can charge you up to $27 for your first late fee, and up to $38 for additional late payments within a six month period, according to the guidelines set by the 2009 Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act.

"You have far more power with your credit card company than you realize," writes Matt Schulz, CompareCards' chief industry analyst. "You just have to be willing to wield it, and far too few people do."

This works best if you've been a longtime customer or if it's a first-time occurrence.

3. Ask the seller to pay the closing costs on a home

Buying a new home? One tactic that might save you money is asking the seller to cover some of the expenses for you.

"What buyers don't realize is that there are a lot of things you can put in your offer letter that are non-standard," Skylar Olsen, director of economic research at Zillow, tells CNBC Make It. "Everything is on the table."

That includes closing costs, which total around $3,700 on average, Zillow reports. You can also ask for more unexpected things like furniture or appliances, Olsen says. She uses bar stools as an example: If you see that they go perfectly with the kitchen, your offer to buy can be contingent on keeping them.

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To do that, you'd include the stools in your offer letter, and the seller will either agree or send a counter-offer. While the exact savings will depend on where you're buying, the type of house, the deal you strike and a host of other factors, there's no harm in asking as long as you're flexible, she says.

And definitely ask the seller to cover any obvious repairs that need to be done to make the house more livable. The only thing stopping you is "whether or not you feel bold and ask for what you want," Olsen says.

4. Ask for a lower credit card APR

More than eight in 10 people who called their issuer and asked for a lower interest rate on their credit card were approved, a CompareCards survey revealed. But just over 20% of people said they've asked.

If you carry credit card debt, that lower APR can save you big. Here's an example from CompareCards:

If you have a balance of $5,000 on a card with a 24% APR and pay $250 per month, it'll take 26 months to pay it off and you'll pay about $1,450 in interest. Lower that APR to 18% — a 6-point reduction, equal to the average drop shown in our survey — and you'll save more than $450 in interest and two months in payoff time.

The key to attaining a lower rate, Schulz says, is the same as the key to getting a raise: You need to come prepared. Mention other credit card offers you've been pre-approved for that advertise a lesser rate.

"Come to the call with ammunition," he says.

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5. Ask if you really have to pay that medical bill

With medical costs continuing to rise for most Americans, it's more important than ever to double- and triple-check every bill you receive. It's fairly common to receive a medical bill in error, according to DirectPath, which helps employees manage their benefits. At least half of the medical claims it reviewed for clients contained an error, the company recently reported.

"Mistakes are rampant," Bridget Lipezker, senior vice president of advocacy and transparency at DirectPath, told CNBC. "In the complicated world of health-care billing, don't make the assumption that a medical bill is right."

Some common errors include incorrect medical bill coding, or charging a patient for a name-brand prescription instead of the generic they received.

If you think you've been billed incorrectly, first check with your company to see if it offers an advocacy service like DirectPath. From there, you should call your insurance company and ask them to review your bill.

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