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How to negotiate lower monthly bills
Reduce your monthly expenses in five steps
If you’re willing to spend some time calling or chatting with your cable provider or phone company, chances are good that you can leverage your loyalty as a customer to negotiate a lower monthly price. Some bills are a good fit for negotiation. Others aren’t. It can also take you a couple of hours with each service provider to reach an agreement but the upside is pretty darn good. Like saving-hundreds-of-dollars-a-year good. Here’s how to do bill negotiation right.
What types of bills can be negotiated?
Not every bill you pay is necessarily a good fit for bill negotiation. Mortgage and auto loans, for example, have to be formally refinanced, which involves a new application, lots of paperwork, and credit checks. The same goes for student loans (we recommend checking out a company like SoFi or Earnest for help with these). The types of bills that are a good fit are the ones that frequently run promotions and try to get you to switch providers. These usually include:
- Cable or satellite dish
- Internet service
- Cell phones
- Satellite radio
- Streaming services
- Home security protection
- Identity or credit monitoring
5 steps to negotiating lower bills
1. Research prices, promotions and the company’s competitors in your area
Dig around to find the lowest prices your current provider offers to new customers and what kinds of deals competitors are offering, too. If your current company can offer a lower price to someone else, it’ll be easier to argue that you should get that same rate. If a competitor has better pricing than your current provider, take a screenshot and use it as part of your bill negotiation. (Make sure you’ve read the fine print so you’re comparing the same level of service).
One really important detail that you should keep in mind as you start your research: whether or not you’re currently locked into a contract. If you are, it may be hard to convince a service provider to negotiate with you when it’s clear you’re already committed. Also, if you decide you want to leave before your contract expires, you may still have to pay an early termination fee.
Cable/satellite TV providers
Before you call, take a good look at your current bill to see if there are any extra services (think movie channels like HBO and Starz that are often add-ons with a separate charge) that you don’t need anymore. If you don’t actually use them that much, this could be an easy way to save right off the bat. (Oddly enough, one pretty common outcome of negotiating can actually be the opposite — they try to offer you more stuff for free to prevent you from reducing how much you pay each month.)
Review what kind of service you have and decide before you call if you really need the same level of service, or if you could downgrade to something lower. If you tell the provider you want to downgrade (or even close your account) because the cost is too high, some providers may offer you the same rate as the lower service as a limited time promotion to keep you as a customer.
Cell phone providers
Same story as your TV and internet providers: Review your cell phone bill before you call to make sure you aren’t paying for things you no longer want or need. Then familiarize yourself with what other cell phone companies are offering for your same phone and plan. Your goal is to know what the competition is offering and to head off any chance for them to claim their plan is significantly different than the one from another carrier. you are referring to from the other carrier.
2. Get clear about what you’re willing to accept
Before you contact the service provider to negotiate, determine your three “W’s” known as your Wish, Want, and Walk.
|A discount that exceeds your expectations and makes you a happy customer forever!||A discount you feel is fair and worthwhile.||Lack of a discount or change that would cause you to switch to a new provider.|
Consider if you’d be willing to enter into a longer contract to pay less every month. Also think through some questions you can ask to help push them to provide you with some better options. Try open ended questions like:
“What can you do to decrease my monthly bill?”
“What can you do to get me a cheaper plan?”
“What promotions or offers do you have that I am eligible for?”
“What kind of customer loyalty/retention discounts are available?”
3. Make the call or start your chat
Be friendly and firm at the same time
You don’t want to start out a negotiation by being angry or hostile. Customer service representatives are usually willing to work harder for people that are rational and respectful. Try to make the company feel like it’s worthwhile to reward and retain you as a loyal customer. Ask the representative to share promotions, loyalty discounts and any other creative ideas they have to reduce your bill.
Ask to speak to a supervisor if needed
If the first person you speak with says no, respectfully ask to speak with a supervisor. Different employees likely have different levels of authority so there’s a good chance that the next person you speak to might be able to approve something that the first person you spoke with could not. Persistence is often the name of the game.
Try again later
Sometimes all it takes is talking to a different — or the right — person. Don’t be shy about calling again if you don’t get what you’re looking for the first time around.
Be willing to walk or cancel your account.
If nothing else works, tell the representative that you’ll likely be closing your account and switching to another provider. Most companies empower their front line customer representatives to at least offer some level of discount to keep you if you’re serious about walking. Or, they may transfer you to another department where people are trained to find ways to keep you as a customer.
4. Write everything down
When you talk to a customer service representative, take notes. Write down the date, who you spoke with and what they said. You may have to call more than once, so you’ll want to have your prior conversation history handy. If your persistence results in a better deal, great work! Clarify the terms of the discount and ask the representative to send you an email confirmation. Make sure you say and/or spell your email address clearly, too!
5. Check your account for the change
Make sure to check your next bill to ensure the discount has been applied. Sometimes the changes slip through the cracks (which is why having that email confirmation is so important!). If two months pass and you still don’t see a change, contact them again. And have your notes and other documentation ready.
Contacting your current service providers to negotiate a lower price takes time but it’s also a great way to help reduce monthly expenses. Most companies will try to keep you as a customer because it costs them more to get a brand new one. If you don’t have much success, then the competitor research you did ahead of time could come in handy as you shop for a new provider. Another option is to get someone who does this full time to negotiate on your behalf — a bill negotiation service.
Bill negotiation could be right for you
It can’t hurt to check to see whether or not you can lower your bills. Follow the steps above and see if you can catch a break!
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