How to make more money per hour than Michael Jordan

Ramit Sethi

The reason I chose Michael Jordan is that he is the only famous athlete that comes to mind. Sadly, the second person I thought of was Bo Jackson. Man, how sad is that shit. Anyway, here are some emails I’ve gotten in the last few weeks about calling up companies and asking for better rates.

Thanks for the great blog. It just saved me 20 bucks in about 5 minutes. I just recently moved, and in all the mess, the payments for my 2 credit card bills arrived exactly 1 day late, as I found out by the finance charges on my next bill. I knew why I got the extra charges, and I also knew it was my fault, but because of your blog, I called the companies, something I never would have done before. I played dumb and simply asked why I had this new charge on my bill, and both companies took care of it immeadiately, without me even asking! “Oh, it appears your payment arrived one day late last month; that is why you have the finance charges. I’ll give you a credit for that right away.”

Thanks for giving me the mindset that I am a customer who deserves to be treated well.



* * *
A few months ago, when setting up my new number over the phone I requested a business savings plan for calling internationally. My new bill came this week, with $250 in international calls, some at over $10 a minute. I realized the international calling plan was never added to my bill – I just hadn’t noticed because there were no international calls on the previous bill.

My hopes weren’t high, because there was no proof I’d requested the plan, just my word. However, I called customer service, explained the situation as nicely as possible, and within a few minutes, my international phone bill was adjusted at the savings rate, saving me $232. It never hurts to ask, folks.


* * *
I actually called up Schwab, and told them about Ing and Emigrant. They immediately offered to put my cash in a Money Market with 5% interest, just to keep me with them. I decided to do that, until I figure out the next steps.

Thanks again!


My goal with these kinds of posts is to get us all to take more initiative about the companies we do business with. I remember when I was a kid, I used to get so embarrassed when my parents would complain about the service or try to get lower fees. It took me a long time to realize that these companies work for me.

I’m willing to bet that if you called up the top 5 companies you pay money to today, you could get reduced fees on at least one thing. Better yet, if you save $30/month, you’re actually saving $360/year. Two or three of those deals start to add up.

These emails made me think of something. There are so many little things in our lives that we can call and negotiate to save $10, $50, $100, or more per month. I’m going to start posting one thing to do each week, every Monday.

PS–Yeah, I saw that the first email was actually his fault, slight as it was. If you’re trying to get fees waived for your own mistakes, that only goes so far. I once had a girl tell me about how she was negotiating her EIGHTEENTH OVERDRAFT THAT YEAR. I just stared at her, blinking.

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  1. Miguel

    Hmm…Gabe’s name just reminded me of your other website. When are you going to update the I kinda miss your rants.

  2. Matt

    Just goes to show what you can achieve if you try. By simply asking I was able to reduce my interest rate from 18.5% on my credit card to 11.5%. They made me change from a points card to a non points card but the 7% savings is worth a whole lot more to me.

  3. John

    Some of these approaches are useful, and I’ve used many of them. But in recent years my view has shifted: I have established very conservative financial rules (including detailed incident tracking), and developed multiple financial relationships. Now I don’t have to call people very often, and when I do, I tend to know every detail. Usually they just cave in to whatever I want, because I know it’s reasonable and I know the facts. If one finance provider goes crazy, I have others. Usually now if I call it’s to end the relationship, though if they fix the error I might reconsider. Point is: I’m never bluffing. I’ve worked it out internally in my own spreadsheet, and I know exactly what’s going to happen. I also tend to be much more conservative about starting new relationships, too. I focus on every detail and try to avoid getting rushed or trapped. If something doesn’t sound right, I walk away. I’m on the phone much less now, and almost all of my cash flow is automated so doing nothing usually accomplishes the right objectives. All this simple control is worth a lot to me.

  4. Colin

    Now if only I could phone my local gas statation and get a reduced rate at the pumps…

  5. Aaron

    Hey Ramit,
    Last month I noticed that my cell phone bill had a $1.47 “verizon surcharge and fees” I think it is completely ridiculous that verizon charges this over and above their advertised monthly charge. Based on your advise in some previous entries, I called them up to see if they would wave it, but they wouldn’t budge.

    I’d really love it if you could post more tips you have for dealing with these people on the phone, such as specific things you have said that helped convince them to work with you.

  6. Andrew Flusche

    One thing we have started doing is calling our ISP whenever we have an outage. Actually, we use Vonage, so we call after the outage is resolved, or I go up to the local ISP office myself (Adelphia cable modem). Anyway, the point is that we have gotten credits on our account for major outages (a day or more). We ended up with a $10 credit last month AND this month. It’s not fun having no internet or phone, but it’s better when you get a discount.

  7. Rodger

    Here are a couple of other famous athletes that came to mind…

    Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Shaq…

    Any others?

  8. Kimber

    I’m loyal but not foolish.
    If I see a lower rate somewhere else, I will ask my own provider to match or better my rate. Haven’t ever received a negative response. But I do give my own provider an opp first (much less work than actually switching).
    Oh, and about documentation. The number one interaction to document is with the government. Darn tax people!

  9. Matt

    D’oh, I know I’m gonna regret asking this….. but what has the title of the post got to do with the content? :S

  10. Jonathan

    Yeah, it is good to ask for a better deal. But some people take it way too far. Yes, the company is there to serve you, but if you become unreasonable they may just drop your ass.

    My friend recently got over 20% off his monthly cell phone bill, just by asking for it.

  11. Transcendental Success

    I have had little success dealing with large companies. I find, at least in Canada, that the front line call centre people are empowered to do nothing. They try to get you off the phone as quickly as possible and to do so they often lie to you — promising to “take care” of the problems without doing it upon checking.

    I never carry a credit card balance so I’ve never had to negotiate those, but other items I tried were 1/4 point interest increase, incorrectly calculated interest, late payments applied to mortgage (company’s fault).

    Anyway, I am much more quick to leave a company now. If they purposely screw me over once then I don’t want to deal with them any more. If they make too many errors then I have to cut ’em lose too.

    I only wish there was a good way to stick it back to them.

  12. Solimar Silva

    I wish it were the same in Brasil, especially with Telemar Company – because even when you are right they refuse to admit their mistakes, so you give them money without even knowing where to go to complain and how you can take it back.

  13. Elena

    I agree 100% with this tactic and have been successful in receiving better service…until I came across certain service-based companies. I specifically had issues with Sirius Radio and Adelphia Cable. When I exhausted my options with customer service, I made the proverbial “threat” that I would just switch to a competitor and to my shock they literally told me to go right ahead. This lack of regard for me as a “valued customer” was appalling. Ramit: any suggestions for how to rebound/get results from a service rep with this attitude?

  14. noen

    what does the title have to do with the comment? This title leads one to believe that there is some secret way to make millions or at least a comparatively hourly rate as compared to Jordan’s.

    This is a bait and switch article with the title having nothing to do with the content and find it unethical.

  15. Ramit Sethi

    I didn’t want to make it yet another boring personal-finance post titled something like, “Negotiation is important.”

    The point is that you can make $20, or sometimes hundreds of dollars in a few minutes if you negotiate right.

  16. Jake

    …Michael Jordan doesn’t get paid by the hour… He signs contracts and gets paid when the requirements are fulfilled, until then it’s credit and savings… Models on the other hand can make a few hundred an hour when doing shoots.

  17. Andre

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