Be shrewd or get screwed: How to haggle your way to a lower cable or Internet bill

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Do you have a big monthly bill for broadband? Is your cable or satellite TV costing you a fortune? Everyone would like to pay less right? What if I told you that there’s a relatively easy way to get upgraded service, or discounts, or both?

Ask friends, family, and neighbors what kind of deals they are getting.

The best public deals on broadband and TV packages are typically offered to entice new customers. If you are a loyal customer and you pay your bill without complaint month after month, year after year, then there’s a high chance you’re paying more than everyone else. These service providers do not reward loyalty unless you take action. There’s a whole range of secret deals that they can offer you behind the scenes, but you’ll need to work for them.

If you’re prepared to call your provider and haggle, then you have a decent chance of getting a better deal. You may have to threaten to leave and it won’t work 100 percent of the time, but retention departments are there to keep your business, and they’ll often conjure up enticements if they think you might seriously switch provider away from them.

You can significantly boost your chances of success with a little groundwork.

Step 1 – Assess your situation

First of all, you should make sure that you understand exactly what you are paying each month and what you get in return. Check if you signed up to a minimum-term contract that will include penalties if you try to leave. You are in a much stronger bargaining position at the end of a contract.

Are you currently paying full price? Bear in mind that if you want to cancel your service after a promotion period end, do it early. You may get stuck with a one month bill at full price if you wait until the end of the contract to cancel because there’s often a notice period. Make sure that you review your account information, billing information, and your contract.

Step 2 – Research what’s out there

You need some leverage. There are two ways to get it.

  1. You take a look at what your provider is offering new customers.
  2. You take a look at what competing service providers are offering.

Don’t just look at one service, try to research as many as possible and write down the prices for the packages or deals you like the look of. Ask friends, family, and neighbors what kind of deals they are getting. If you’re in the UK you can cut down the research time by using a price comparison service like uSwitch. U.S. folks aren’t so lucky. You need to write down the full details of any deals you can find that offer what you want for less than you’re currently paying.

Related: How to save money on your electric bill

You should also phone up if you have any unreasonable or strange charges, like overage charges on your bill, and if your service isn’t consistently up to scratch, for example you’re not getting the broadband speeds stated in your contract.

Step 3 – Have the information handy

This is going to go better if you know exactly what you want to say and you have it written down in front of you. The customer service person you talk to is going to ask why you want to leave. There are various different ways to go.

  • You might say the service is too expensive and you don’t feel you’re getting the best deal.
  • You might tell them that you’ve been offered a better deal by another provider.
  • You might tell them that you’re unhappy with the standard of service.

Whatever the case, you need to have all the information that you researched about your account and alternative deals laid out in front of you so you can quote it. Make sure you have a maximum budget in mind and what you expect to get for it.

Step 4 – Make the call

There’s no way to make this work by email or letter, you have to call. The end of the month is the best time to call because they’ll be under pressure to hit targets. Make sure that you have plenty of time, these calls can take a while to negotiate, and aren’t fun.

There’s a whole range of secret deals that they can offer you behind the scenes, but you’ll need to work for them.

You have to find a number for retentions, or choose the option to cancel your service when you call up. Do not call the sales department. Worst case scenario you’ll have to talk to a customer service rep and tell them you want to cancel to get transferred through to the retentions department. Only the retentions department has the power to offer these deals.

You might need to be firm, but stay calm and polite. It makes a lot more sense for the provider to reduce your bill or improve your service than it does to let you leave. They might offer money-off for a period of time, an upgrade to higher speed or extra channels, or some combination. Try to get them to make offers rather than stating what you want, that way you can find out what’s possible.

It’s important that the retentions person really believes you are prepared to leave. If they don’t then you might not get offered anything. You also need the information about their competitors, but bear in mind they can check this and probably will during the call. If you’re in a situation where they’re the only provider in town it’s still worth trying quoting competitor’s prices, worst case scenario you play dumb when they point out that the service isn’t available to you. Here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Never accept the first offer because it won’t be the best one.
  • If they say they’re not authorized to give you a discount then ask to speak to a supervisor.
  • It’s possible they won’t offer you anything. Don’t panic. There is a discretionary element to this and it can be worth giving up with the person you’re talking to and trying again with a different person a few days later.
  • If they’re prepared to let you go and they won’t at least match a competitor’s offer then you probably should switch anyway.
  • Write down everything they offer and don’t feel pressured to accept on the spot, you can always say you have to discuss it with your significant other.

Remember that any new deal is highly likely to come with some sort of minimum contract length. Make sure you understand how long you’re tied in for and how long any discounts or bonus services are going to last.

Related: How to fix your phone on a budget

It sucks that you have to do this to get the best deal, but it’s well worth making a phone call every six months or so if you can save yourself a significant sum of money, and you often can. You’ve really got nothing to lose by trying. Good luck!

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