The key to getting other parties to pay for your fees is to remember that everything is negotiable – you just have to ask… then ask again… then ask in a different way. I have found that if you do this enough it will work a surprising percentage of the time. They may not waive the fee entirely, but pay some of it for you, or increase the quantity or quality of whatever you are buying instead to sweeten the pot. Regardless, these fees usually represent huge markups on products and/or services that are already sold, and are often just nice little additions to the bottom line. That means that they are ideal candidates to be negotiated on because they are not essential.
One great example of this is if you want to change discount brokerages. If you read the fine print of most brokerage deals, they will offer you nice little incentives to bring your business over to them. It’s like an investment right? If you begin to do your trading/investing through their services, they will make money off of you for a long time, so the initial cost of covering your fees from another institution will be worth it in the end. Questrade (our preferred brokerage) has a policy that states, “Move an account with a minimum of $25,000 from another Canadian brokerage and we’ll pay your transfer out fees up to $150.” Now obviously this is slanted to people who have some serious assets under control. That being said, I would be willing to bet that if you contacted Questrade management they would hook you up if you were slightly under that number. If you have substantially more than $25,000 in brokerage assets, or do an irregular amount of trading, I guarantee they would pay a lot more than $150 to bring you over.
The Customer Called – They Want Their Fees Back
Another place where fees really to start to suck the life out of you is phone plans. Being from Manitoba there are very few legitimate phone company options, so this limits your negotiating ability. However, I have heard of several cases where people go to one a competitor of the company they are with and say, “You know what, I really like this plan, and I like what you guys are doing, but I’m locked into this other plan and I’ve never switched phone companies before.” This seems to be code for, “I am a very loyal customer, who is probably a little bit lazy and will stay with you forever if you can find a way to woo me today.” What usually happens is that if you can get an estimate on what it would take to break your contract with one company, the new suitor will at least pay a large part of that bill. Naturally, you can also use this offer for leverage if all you ever wanted was a better deal from your original telecommunications company. I love the free market!
Let Someone Else Pay – Chivalry Is Dead Anyway
One final spot you see all kinds of extra fees tacked on is in the world of real estate. Mortgages, agents, and escrow etc. Get someone else to pay these for you. If you are breaking a mortgage with one lender, the one you are going to will often cover the 3 month interest penalty, you just have to demand it. If you are buying a house, let the sellers cover as much of the legal costs as possible (personally I don’t recommend ever using a real estate agent, and you wouldn’t either if you read Freakonomics), they will likely be anxious to close the deal and a few hundred bucks one way or another looks like comparatively small potatoes relative to a house sale. The thing is, it’s still a few hundred bucks! Think about how much work coupon-aholics have to go through to save that much.
There are numerous other examples of getting fees waived, or paid for by someone else including airlines, hotels, and car rentals. Do you have any personal examples of a time you were able to get a nice fee eliminated? Doesn’t it just make you feel better about your day?