Saving money by picking up the phone

As I was perusing my Mint account the other day, I noticed that for the first time ever I had incurred a fee from my amazing bank, Charles Schwab. What? Didn’t they read my post about how much I adore their fee-free services?

It turns out that I had deposited a check that bounced. Now, this is the first time this has happened to me and it seems like a pretty unfair situation…I had no idea how much money the check writer had in her account, so how was I supposed to know the check was no good? And then I was charged a fee? I picked up the phone, called my favorite bank (24-7 customer service that employs Americans to work their call centers) and had the fee waived within three minutes. I didn’t even have to ask, they just fixed it for me! Charles Schwab maintains its gold-medal banking status! Hooray!

The lesson for you all is that when companies charge you fees- maybe you accidentally missed a payment, or there is a minimum balance that you didn’t meet- don’t just blindly pay the fees. Pick up the phone and ask that the fees be waived! This is more likely to be successful if you don’t make a habit of whatever it is you were charged for. I have had high success with the phone call technique.

The reason why this works is because banks/credit cards spend an awful lot of money on advertising and recruiting new customers…a few hundred for every new customer. It is in their best interest to keep you happy.

Picking up the phone to call can also help you if you are having trouble making your payments. Calling your credit card company or your student loan manager and explaining that you can’t make the payment and you would like to see if they can help you out for a month or two is significantly better than not making your payments and having it impact your credit. Actually every time I call my student loan manager they ask right off if I can afford my payment and tell me that they can put my payments on hold for a few months if I need them to- I think it is part of the call center script!

Life happens and sometimes that means you incur a fee, but any bank interested in keeping you as their customer should be able to accommodate the occasional hiccup from an otherwise excellent customer. Don’t be shy, don’t be embarrassed- just pick up the phone and ask!



Shopping Around

I don’t know about you, but dealing with everything to do with healthcare freaks me out. I don’t like making appointments, I don’t like talking with doctors, I don’t like feeling sick, I don’t like going in when I am feeling healthy because the only news you will get is that you are not healthy after all. I really don’t like (and don’t understand) health insurance.

I get especially freaked out about doctors and money because sometimes doctors don’t tell you the test they are doing (or sometimes they do, but they don’t mention to you that it costs more than the GDP of some small countries) and then 6 months later you get an outrageous bill. I already feel nervous and intimidated (and often I feel like I am being rushed along) when I am in the office and I never remember/feel awkward asking about the costs of the procedures. I really don’t understand how healthcare costs work and I generally feel like I am getting scammed by the exact people with whom I am trusting my health and well being.

Needless to say, I am not ready to write a post about making good financial healthcare choices because it is an area of adulthood that I definitely don’t excel at.

It is something that I need to work on. But this week I took a baby step towards getting over that by starting with a doctor and a procedure that I am very comfortable with- a cleaning at the dentist.

Here is what I did:

I am overdue for a cleaning, but I don’t have a dentist in the area. I looked on Yelp to find a highly rated dentist in my area. When I called to make an appointment, I asked (big step for me!) how much a standard new patient cleaning costs. $250! Holy cow! I said thank you and hung up without making an appointment. Not too hard or too embarrassing.
I kept calling around and was quoted prices from $190 to $340 (how is this last dentist even sleeping at night?)
Finally I found a dentist who has 5 stars on yelp who charges $150 for a new patient cleaning. Perfect. I have an appointment next week.

Baby steps. Instead of showing up, having my teeth cleaned and then being shocked at the bill, I did a little research and saved myself a bit of anxiety. I also saved myself (up to) $190.

I think I’ll try this again in the future.

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