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Four phone calls that will save you big every month

There are a few essential calls you should be making in order to save big on regular expenses like your cell phone bill.

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    A man checks his cell phone in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. By calling your credit card company or mortgage lender, you may be able to get an even better rate.
    Andre Penner/AP/File
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If you want to save money, you should call your credit card company, mortgage lender, insurance agent, or cable provider. Ask for everything from a lower interest rate to a less costly cable subscription.

Unfortunately, too many consumers simply accept their current rates, fees, and plans when a simple phone call might save them hundreds of dollars a year, says Beverly Harzog, an Atlanta-based credit card expert and author.

"If you have a good credit history, if you've always paid your bills on time, you are considered a valuable customer," Harzog says. "If you call your credit card company and ask for a lower rate, you might get it. The card companies don't want to lose good customers."

Here are four service providers that you should call today.

1. Your Cable Company

Cable companies are under increasing pressure from competing services. A growing number of consumers are turning to streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu. But at the same time, monthly cable bills have been inching ever higher. The Leichtman Research Group reported last year that the average U.S. monthly cable bill has rose 39% since 2010 and now stands at $99.10.

You don't have to pay that much. Try calling your cable company today and asking for a lower monthly rate. Make sure that you come armed for success: It helps if you've been given a better offer from a competitor. You can then share that offer and hope that your current company either matches or betters it.

You also need to be serious about walking away from your cable provider. If you are considering making the move to 100% streaming, and are willing to cut the cord, your provider might make an offer tempting enough to retain you as a customer.

2. Your Mortgage Lender

Most financial experts expect mortgage interest rates to rise throughout 2016. But as of early December 2015, these rates were still at historic lows. According to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgagestood at 4.01% as of Dec. 31. The average interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate loan was 3.24%.

If you haven't refinanced, it might be time to do so. Call a mortgage lender today — it doesn't have to be the one that is currently servicing your loan — and ask whether you qualify for a refinance.

The savings could be big. If you are paying off a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage of $200,000 at an interest rate of 5%, you're paying about $1,073 a month in principal and interest, not including insurance and property taxes. Say you've paid off $20,000 on that loan. If you refinance the remaining $180,000 into a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with an interest rate of 3.95%, you'll pay about $854 a month — again, not including taxes and insurance.

That's a savings of about $219 a month, or $2,628 a year. Just remember that refinancing isn't free. You can pay thousands of dollars in closing costs, so make sure that your monthly savings allow you to repay those costs quickly.

3. Your Credit Card Company

Bankrate reported that the average interest rate on cash back credit cards was 15.30% in late December. If you owe too much, your credit card balance could grow significantly each month until you pay down that debt.

A lower interest rate could help. Fortunately, many credit card providers are willing to drop your rate. It helps if you've been a good customer. If you frequently pay your credit card bill late, the odds are high that your provider won't grant your request for a lower rate. But if you have a history of paying your bill on time and you've been a customer for more than a year, your credit card company might be willing to lower your interest rate to keep you.

As with your cable provider, you might have more success if you've received a better offer from another card. If you tell your provider that you're considering moving your balance to another card, it's more likely that you'll get an offer for a lower interest rate. (See also: Best 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards)

4. Your Insurance Companies

You probably pay a lot each month for homeowners, life, health, and auto insurance.

Insure.com reported that the average annual cost of a full-service auto policy in 2015 stood at $1,311. ValuePenguin says that the annual cost of a 20-year term life insurance policy worth $250,000 was about $300 for a 25-year-old who doesn't smoke, and about $1,175 for a 40-year-old who does smoke.

You can lower your insurance bills depending on changes in your life. Say you've lost 50 pounds or given up smoking. Your life insurance provider might be willing to lower your monthly bill. Maybe you haven't had a speeding ticket or a car accident in five years. Call your auto insurance provider, you might qualify for a good-driver discount. If you've installed a new home security system, call the company that provides your homeowners insurance. You might qualify for a monthly discount.

You'll never know if you don't call.

This article first appeared at Wise Bread.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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