How to negotiate and lower your cable, internet and phone bills
Paying bills may be one of life’s most mundane and least fulfilling chores, but we can think of one thing that makes it even worse: overpaying for the actual services you get billed for. While you may be thinking, ‘I definitely scored the lowest-priced cell phone plan” or “I got an incredible package deal on my cable,” we’re here to tell you that you’re probably still overpaying.
Why? Because cell phone, cable and internet bills all can and should be negotiated down even further. Just like buying a used car or a computer monitor from an online marketplace, if you’re not haggling, you’re not getting the lowest price possible for the services you use every day. It’s possible to save hundreds of dollars a month on cable, internet and cell phone bills by sharpening your negotiation skills.
“In any negotiation, knowledge is power. So, before you contact your service provider, research the competition,” says Barry Gross, founder and president of bill negotiation service BillCutterz.com, to Yahoo Life.
Maybe another internet provider is offering a lower monthly rate, a better package, a unique perk or an irresistible limited-time deal. All of those things can be used as leverage with your current provider. “Go through your bill before the call and see if there are any services that you're paying for but not using any more,” adds Thomas Smyth, senior managing director of financial wellness, OneMain Financial, in a chat with Yahoo Life. “It helps to find out what other households in your area are paying.” Polling your neighbors is one productive way of keeping up with the Joneses!
Thinking of launching an email plea to lower your cell phone, internet or cable bill? Think again. “Even in today's digital world, it's usually more effective to speak with a real person if you're negotiating your bill,” says Smyth.
Gross agrees, and adds that speaking with the correct department is key, so forgo customer service and request to be transferred to the customer loyalty or retention department instead. “This is not just the regular customer service department. The people in retention or loyalty departments have the freedom to give you sizable discounts on your monthly bills,” he says.
Tone and delivery count, too. A bad attitude will get you nowhere. Smyth says “you'll have the most success if you're kind, patient, and impervious to obstacles,“ while Gross encourages you to consider going the extra mile to ingratiate yourself. “Most of these reps are speaking to people all day who are not happy with their monthly bills and a lot of people call with a bad attitude or are unfriendly,” he says. “Be polite and build rapport with the rep by using his or her name.”
Now that you’re prepared and polite, and you’re speaking with an actual person, it’s time to work your magic. Here are a few strategies to consider if you're looking to save money on your utility bills:
Play providers against each other for leverage. “You can reference a competitor’s name or rates during your call to get a better rate. Just the mention of a competitor’s name will perk up the ears of whomever you’re speaking with,” says Gross. “I think that saying, ‘I’m trying another provider now’ is the charm,” says consumer Patrycja K. of New Jersey.
Ask about current promotions. Gross says that BillCutterz negotiation experts are on the line with cable, internet and cell phone service providers every day asking about current promotions, which can range from monthly discounts to free equipment. Most promotions are for a limited time, so it pays to check in frequently. “When the cable company raises my bill suddenly every year and tells me my promotions are up, I tell them to put me through to the retention department or I’m taking my business elsewhere,” says Madeline Sorrentino of New Jersey, who goes on to negotiate until she can get her bill back down to its promotion price.
Request free equipment. Sometimes negotiating lower payments means scoring free equipment, especially from cable and internet providers. You might be able to score free installation, too, so consider this when counting your savings. “I was able to get a new box for the internet and extender for free. I was also able to get a higher speed for the internet service all at the same price as I was paying before,” says Melisa Maniaci of New Jersey, who waits until the day before her service is set to renew for the year to do a last-minute negotiation.
Don’t accept the first offer…or the second. Haggling is a long game, and both experts and consumers recommend holding out until you get the best deal. That involves saying no a lot. Patrycja K. of New Jersey used this strategy to get her cable provider to come down in price, mentioning that she’d just started a trial period with another provider. “They immediately offered me one month free. I said no. They offered me two months free. I said no again,” she told Yahoo Life. Their final offer? Three months free and $10 discount a year.
Say less. Gross recommends asking directly for what you want, and using silence to your advantage. “Silence is money,” he tells Yahoo Life. If you’re not willing to downgrade your service, stick to the line “I’m very satisfied with my service and don’t want to change anything…I just need a lower price.” When the rep offers you a new price, ask, “What else can you do to lower my bill?” Gross emphasizes that remaining silent as you wait for your answer is key.Want to negotiate for lower bills? Do your homework first.The best way to negotiation is to speak with a live representative, experts sayBrass tacks tips and tricks for negotiating your bills downPlay providers against each other for leverage. Ask about current promotions. Request free equipment. Don’t accept the first offer…or the second. Say less.