If you have cable, then you’re all too familiar with the annual rate hikes that come with your package. You love your shows, but you don’t love the bill that comes with them. If you want to keep expenses at a minimum, you’ll need to stay on top of your bills, and keep an eye out for rate increases as soon as they occur so you can maximize savings.
Consumer expert Andrea Woroch advises against taking on a “set it and forget it” attitude when it comes to containing expenses. “Customers need to be vigilant when it comes to monitoring and managing their cable bill. So many people automate payments on their cable or internet accounts and don’t review their bills, so many have no idea when or even why their rate increased. It’s important to monitor your bill every month to make sure charges are accurate and that there are no mistakes, then look out for rate hikes,” Woroch told The Cheat Sheet. Fortunately, there are ways you can trim down your bill and save some cash. The Cheat Sheet reached out to leading consumer experts to get their secrets for negotiating a lower cable bill.
You may not have to spend an eternity on the phone with customer service. First, take a hard look at your cable package. There’s a chance you’re not utilizing all of the features of the package you already have. DealNews consumer expert Benjamin Glaser advises checking to see if you have the package that is best for you. “Check the plan to see if you’re using everything you’re getting. Can you drop to a lower-level package without even changing your viewing habits much? And if your cable bundle includes internet, could you drop down to slower service? Could you save money by buying your own modem?” suggests Glaser. If the answer is ‘no’ you’ll need to have a talk with customer service.
Before you pick up the phone and demand a lower rate, do your research. You’ll want to have a good idea of what other cable providers are offering before you tell the customer service representative that you’ll go elsewhere if you don’t get a better deal. Woroch said knowing exactly what the competitor is offering can give you an edge. “Research prices among competitors for similar packages and leverage this in your negotiation,” said Woroch.
Also keep in mind that your rate may have risen if you took advantage of a limited-time offer. “When you do call, keep in mind that perhaps your cable bill suddenly jumped up because your introductory rate promotion may have come to an end. Be sure to ask about that first. If so, you may be able to negotiate the reinstatement of that promotion,” said Rob Caiello, vice president of marketing for Allconnect.
Call your cable provider
The next thing you’ll want to do is reach out to your cable provider’s “retention department.” The only way to get a great deal in this situation is to ask for it. David Bakke, personal finance correspondent for Money Crashers, said consumers should and pick up the phone and pull out their negotiating cap. “Call in and ask for a discount. Explain to them that you can’t afford to pay your cable bill at the higher rate and will be forced to consider a switch if a better monthly charge can’t be negotiated,” said Bakke.
Don’t make threats
The sight of a higher bill may get your blood boiling, but you should never threaten the customer service representative. Remain calm and politely request a lower rate. “Remember that the person you are speaking to is not the person that raised your rate, and the money that you are paying is not going into their pocket. They are simply the middle man. But, they do have the ability to give you the best deals possible and lower your bill as much as possible. Speak to them as you would want to be spoken to and most of the time you will be happy with the results,” said Matthew Coan, owner of personal finance site Casavvy.
Don’t take the bait
Rather than lower your rate, the customer service representative may try to sell you a premium package instead. Don’t fall for it. Your goal is to save money, not spend more. Stay focused on what you called to accomplish. “Do not accept an offer of a better channel package or an extra premium movie service if your goal is to reduce your bill. That’s usually the first thing you’ll be offered,” said Bakke.
Prepare for future hikes
It’s likely you’ll have to go through this process again next year. Woroch said you can prepare by making note of when rates are set to change. “To avoid unexpected rate hikes in the future when setting up a new plan or making updates that include special promos, make sure to ask when those expire and make note in a calendar ahead of time so that you know when to call back to negotiate before the price goes up,” said Woroch.
If you can’t get the representative to cooperate, one option is to call back and try again. “If the threat of switching doesn’t get them to budge then that is most likely the best deal that they have available and you can make the decision of what you want to do from there. You also have the option of calling back later and getting another representative. Sometimes it all depends on who you get and what kind of day they are having to get the best deal,” said Coan. Your last option is to cancel. Bakke said sometimes the threat of losing a customer may be enough to get you a good deal. “If you’re willing to go through what is sometimes a hassle to switch companies in order to get a lower bill, call back later and cancel. But also give the strategy of waiting a bit and calling back in and speaking with a different customer service rep before you go that route,” said Bakke.
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