If you’re living not just a cash-strapped, but debt-strapped lifestyle–taking money from one bill to pay the other–it may be time to call up your credit card company and try to strike a deal. Here’s what you need to know to help you negotiate a lower credit card interest rate.

Call about the credit card that has the best payment history
A good payment history shows that you are a reliable customer, which gives you more leverage when it comes to bargaining. Remember that credit card companies give more positive feedback to customer’s who pay their money back.

Pull up your credit report.
One way of telling what kind of credit card interest rate someone like yourself deserves is to check your credit score. Remember you can check your credit report as many times as you’d like without hurting your credit score. Online, you can find lists of credit cards with lower interest rates which will give you a better idea of how someone with your score fares. Don’t expect a great deal if you have a low credit score and a terrible payment history.

Be firm, but polite, always.
You’re going to get a lot of “No’s” during the negotiation process and the conversation can get heated but avoid the temptation of telling the credit card rep where she can shove it because it will get you nowhere. And just imagine how many people are calling the reps with a bad attitude. A friendly conversation can work in your favor.

Have a worksheet of all your expenses ready.
Take some time to write down where all your money is going. Be honest and break down all your expenses to the credit card representative. We’re not talking weekly mani/pedi’s but do explain that your mortgage may be eating up most of your income, for example. This will show the rep that you’re being responsible with your money

Keep other credit card solicitations on hand.
Now it’s time to really flex some consumer muscle. Tell your credit card company that you’ve been getting other offers and ask whether they’re willing to offer anything better. Mention the APR’s on those other card offers. Most often your credit card company wants to keep your business and will do what they can to keep you.

Be persistent
Negotiating with credit card companies is never easy. Expect to spend a lot of time on the phone and if you get a sense that you’re not getting anywhere with the customer service rep, pull the old “Can I speak to the Manager?” technique. Still no results? Call back in a few weeks.

Act on your threats.
If you casually mentioned that you were considering transferring your balance to another card and still got nowhere with either the customer service rep or the supervisor, perhaps it’s time to really do it. But be careful, some credit card companies have a fee for transferring balances. Also be sure you are able to pay off your balance within the allocated introductory APR time. If not you may just be heading into the same problem on a different card. Many cards may go from 0% to 20% in six months, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.

What are some ways you’ve negotiated your way to a lower interest rate?

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