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Frugal Corner: Negotiators have their day

Haggling – it’s the new black.

A recent Consumer Reports survey found that fully two-thirds of Americans have tried to negotiate a better deal on something in the past six months.

People are trying to get a deal on everything from cars, which are traditionally haggled over, to items such as clothing and housewares, which often are not.

According to the magazine’s survey, hagglers had the best luck with hotel rates (83 percent got better deals), cell phone bills (81 percent) and clothing (81 percent). But the poll also showed that people were able to negotiate discounts on electronics (71 percent), furniture (71 percent), credit-card fees (62 percent) and medical bills (58 percent).

Consumer Reports says the single most important weapon a negotiator has is the ability to walk away. So if you want to drive a hard bargain, be willing to leave the deal on the table. Here are some of the magazine’s other tips:

Be patient and nice. Demanding a better deal rarely works.

Timing is everything. Salespeople are trying to meet quotas later in the month, which can be a good time for making a deal.

Avoid an audience. Haggle out of the earshot of other customers. In chain stores, keep in mind that you’ll probably need to deal with a manager or supervisor to see any real change.

Know the market. Be familiar with the price of things, and what competitors charge.

Offer to pay cash. That way, merchants don’t have to pay transaction fees to the credit-card company.

Credit card scorecard

Legislation awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature will crack down on some credit-card practices, though not all of them.

Here’s a quick summary of what the bill does, according to USA Today.

•Restricts when issuers can raise rates on existing credit-card balances.

•Bans issuers from charging a fee when consumers go over their credit limit, unless consumers agree.

•Bans late fees if card issuers delayed crediting the payment.

•Requires issuers to consider a consumer’s ability to pay when issuing credit cards.

•Restricts issuers from extending credit to those younger than 21 without verification of ability to pay or parents’ permission.

Here’s what it won’t do:

•Cap interest rates on credit cards.

•Explicitly cap credit card fees.

•Take effect immediately.

•Limit interchange fees.

•Prevent issuers from finding new fees to boost revenue.

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