How to Negotiate with a Cable or Internet Provider

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As introductory rates expire, it's not uncommon for the cost of cable and internet bills to jump suddenly and begin to climb higher the longer you have service. To some extent, these increases are normal and expected. However, if you find a recently increased cable or wireless bill suddenly straining your budget, you may consider shutting off the service or switching providers altogether.

The good news: Many service providers are willing to work with customers to find a payment option that suits both parties, meaning you may have options to lower costs to something that fits your budget.

First, assess your situation

Review your budget, including your cable and internet bills, to figure out what you can afford. On your cable bill, note your exact level of service, jotting down the number of channels you have and identifying those you can't live without.

For internet usage, evaluate the number of devices that depend on Wi-Fi and track your online activities. Look for a package with a download speed that fits those needs. Providers may advertise the highest speeds possible, but often you don't require that level of service for day-to-day activities.

Cellular service is another budget item worth evaluating. You can often save money by setting up automatic payments, as many mobile carriers offer discounts for doing so. You can also sometimes reduce data costs by switching to a prepaid carrier, with the tradeoff being that you are usually required to pay the full retail price up front for new phones, as opposed to an installment-based payment plan.

Do your research

Once you're familiar with the services you have, compare the prices of competing providers in your area. If you're familiar with the standard rates for each service, you may be able to negotiate with your provider if one of their competitors can offer you a lower rate.

Newer technology is another money-saving opportunity worth exploring that might also be a better fit for your lifestyle. For example, more companies now offer streaming entertainment services and other alternatives to traditional cable. In some cases, cable companies and other traditional service providers) are themselves offering new technology that might be more useful—and cheaper. Make sure to consider all your options.

Make the call

Call your provider's customer service line and ask for the retention department. The retention department may offer you deals on your current package. Go into the conversation with a price goal in mind. However, don't feel you need to accept the first discount, as it likely won't be the best one they can give you. Be clear about whatever problem is causing you to consider canceling your service, such as a strained budget or a money-conscious spouse and always be as polite to the representative as possible during your negotiation.

Seal the deal

When going through this process, have an end-goal price in mind as well as a number or numbers that you'll settle for if the company simply can't meet your request. You might not get your provider to hit that number, but if you have a clear idea of what you'll settle for, you'll be better equipped in negotiations.

It's possible the customer service representative helping you out may attempt to get you to sign a new contract to lower the cost of your plan. However, try to avoid the temptation and turn them down firmly but politely.

Finally, if your service provider genuinely can't offer you a lower rate and you can't afford to keep up with your current bill, be prepared to either switch companies or cut down on the services you pay for to obtain a package that fits your current financial reach.

In the short term, make sure your bill is lower when you receive it the following month and that you're getting the service you were offered for the price you agreed upon. Luckily, usually, all it takes to get mistakes corrected is a call to customer service.

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