PhotoThe business environment today is hyper competitive. There are lots of businesses selling things and only so many consumers buying them.

The fact that those consumers haven't gotten raises in quite a while means the competition to reach them is even greater.

This is all very good for consumers, who have more leverage in transactions than they might think.

When recently surveyed consumers, it found that 89% of them who asked their credit card company to waive a late fee had their request granted. Even more amazing, 78% said they were granted a lower interest rate simply because they asked for one.

Only 20% of us ask

You would think with that kind of success, every consumer would be asking for discounts and price breaks, but says that doesn't appear to be the case. It estimates only about 20% of consumers have ever asked for a break.

“Consumers just don’t realize how much card companies want to keep them,” Bill McCracken, president of Synergistics Research Corp., said in a statement. “Issuers know’s a lot more expensive to acquire a customer these days than it is to retain one, so they do what they can to keep you.”

Senior discounts

Credit cards aren't the only category where you can ask for and get savings; senior citizens can get all sorts of discounts if they ask. Some don't ask because they aren't aware of them. Some don't ask because they don't think of themselves as a senior.

Writing for AARP's blog last year, journalist Julianne Malveaux admitted to being somewhat reluctant to ask for a senior discount, even when she would be able to save about $5 on her purchase. But she quickly got over it.

“We can ask retail establishments if they offer a senior discount, and use our AARP membership card to get discounts when we can,” she wrote. “Ten percent here, 15% there add up. Sometimes we have to ask and resist the vanity that tells us that we don’t look 60, and don’t want to act that way either.”

Auto insurance

As we reported a couple of years ago, you can often get a much lower rate from your auto insurance company if you ask. Research has shown rates can creep up, even for good drivers, the longer you remain with one company.

And as McCracken pointed out, companies know it is cheaper to keep a customer than obtain a new one.

When asking for anything, your chances of success are going to be better if you ask nicely. But if you are pleasant and armed with the facts, you just might get fees dropped, rates lowered, and a discount on the price.

But first, you have to ask.

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