How to Negotiate Your Way to a Lower Cable Bill

by Emily Guy Birken · 17 comments

Family watching TV

Several months ago, my cable/internet bill went up suddenly. After over a year of paying about $120 per month for cable, internet, and our home phone, I discovered that our cable bill was suddenly $30 more expensive. It only took a little digging for me to realize that our introductory bundle price had expired.

Even though we should’ve expected the price hike, we still couldn’t afford it. I knew I would have to call our cable provider.

To be honest, I hate getting in touch with our cable company. While all the customer service representatives are friendly, I still find it nerve-wracking to deal with what seems to be a pretty slippery industry. Add to that the fact that our provider is the only game in town, and it often seems like a productive negotiation is out of my reach.

However, I discovered that it’s possible for just about anyone to negotiate a lower cable bill — even me. Here’s what you need to know to ensure that negotiating with your cable provider goes the way you want it to:

1. Keep your expectations reasonable

When asking for an improvement on your bill, you need to have an idea what a reasonable discount is. For instance, there was no way I could reduce my $150 bill to a $75 one, no matter how much I may have wanted it that way.

A good way to know what’s reasonable is to research the rates for competing companies, and to know the promo amounts they are running for new customers. Not only will you have an idea of what to pay for your services, but you’ll also have an excellent bargaining chip: “Company X only charges $99 per month for this bundle. I’d prefer to stay with you, but I really need my cable bill to fit within my budget. What can you do for me?” To get a handle on new customer promotions for companies such as Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse, try here and here.

2. Put down your dukes

A common mistake in negotiation is to start off too aggressively. Many newbie negotiators think that they need to be inflexible and insistent in order to get their way. In addition, it’s very easy to feel outraged about whatever it is you’re planning to negotiate. (I certainly had some choice words for our cable company when I saw the change in my bill.)

The problem with this is that the customer service representative on the other end is also a person — a person who will not react well to being barked at. A better strategy is to be friendly and calm and ask your service representative to help you in fixing your issue. They’re much more likely to go the extra mile for a nice, friendly customer than they are for a snarling, angry one.

3. Don’t take no for an answer

It’s likely that the person answering the phone won’t have the authority to make any big changes to your bill. Even if they assure you that there’s nothing anyone can do, ask to speak to their supervisor. The higher up the chain you go, the more authority you’ll find, which means that eventually you should reach someone who does have the power to negotiate.

4. Threaten to leave

Even if you live in an area where there’s only one available cable company, like I do, you can still use the leverage of leaving as a negotiation tactic. For instance, when I spoke with our company, I told them that I wanted to drop cable altogether. We only really need the internet and phone, so cable is just an extra expense.

Our provider instead agreed to reduce our rate by $20 (which is what we’d save by only dropping cable) but still let us keep all three services.

The Bottom Line

Remember, by making you happy with a price drop, your cable company is ensuring that you remain a loyal customer. So let them make you happier with your bill — it’s in their best interests.

Have you ever had to negotiate with your cable company?

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current AT&T DSL and U-VERSE promotion codes and promos and see if you can save more money every month from now on.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

LTC (RET) Tony February 1, 2013 at 11:09 am

This does work. I would like to know more about your bundle package. Does it also include a home phone? Do you just have basic cable without any additional movie channels? What State do you live in because $120.00 is a very competitive price? When I called my provider, which provides a 1 year lock in, they took $35.00 off the new bill . I also threatened to leave. This offset the rate hike. Mind you my call also involved a general receptionist and did not get elevated to a manager. I had reached the point in the call where I was about to hang up, the individual caved, an then agreed to lower the bill to its original price.

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Deacon @ Well Kept Wallet February 1, 2013 at 5:38 pm

It is so true, it does work. I called our satellite provider recently because our monthly bill just went up $10 because the promotional period ended. I asked them if they had any cheaper plans and when he said no. I asked him if there was anything else he could think of and paused. He said, well I can give you $3 off for the next 6 months. I told him that would be great since we only pay $38/month.

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Jon @ MoneySmartGuides February 1, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I used to do this all the time with Comcast by rolling over my promotional rate for another 6 months at a time. But now they claim that they aren’t doing this anymore. No matter when I call or who I talk to, I get nowhere – even when I finally pull the cancel my service card. It’s frustrating.

So, I just keep calling every month, asking for a discount or a new promotion. So far no dice.

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Pappion February 5, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Comcast is a no go and a stay away from company. IMO.
google Comcast unfair practices. Very bad and I wish they didn’t have the market share cornered,,only one wi-fi carrier available in my area-Comcast. Why? That in-itself is a flag. They continue with ludicrous charges after you sign and unfair practices. They will continue to do so as long as they remain unchecked. (I see they’ve already been investigated in lawsuit.)

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Benjamin James February 10, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Jon, they pretty much have the market now outside of Satellite, so I expect expect that negotiating with them will become more and more difficult.

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Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle February 2, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Negotiating does work and I do it regularily.

The individual sales reps have a lot of bargaining room and sometimes it is best to tell the person you are speaking to that you need to think about it and call back the next day and speak to another. I spoke to a bored young man before Christmas and he was not happy about being stuck at work on a Friday night when all his buddies were probably out at a bar meeting young ladies (he had an annoying, nasaly voice so he probably would of struck out at the bar) so I told him I needed to think about it.

Several days later I encountered a sales rep who was so happy that I was not angry about the wait time and she told me that I was the first customer of the day who hadn’t snapped at her. Polite and friendly but firm in my resolve to bargain got me a deep discount and my bill is less than the goal I had set for myself.

My monthly communications now costs me 7 hours of work each month.

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Tushar @ Everything Finance February 3, 2013 at 10:52 am

I completely agree with the first point. People are much more likely to want to negotiate with you if you are being pleasant. Why would anybody want to bend over backward for somebody who is being rude?

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Emily February 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I have done this, it does work!

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Diane February 4, 2013 at 2:17 am

These tactics are exactly what is needed for it to work like a dream! I love the tip about being realistic about the discount. We typically keep the mailers we receive from the competitors (dish, etc…) so we have it right in front of us when we call. They also know we are being honest.

The only downfall is that typically they will also throw in the movie channels for FREE in hopes that we will add it. This then means that nothing gets done around the house since we are spending hours eating popcorn and watching free movies!

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Dr. Renee February 4, 2013 at 6:02 am

I used to call every time my promotion ended and threaten to leave. I recently got a new company. But with the old company I think I might have paid for my DVR for maybe a few months. I always received a promotion that saved me anywhere between 30-50% a month.

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Lee February 5, 2013 at 5:03 am

Used to call, get nowhere until I answered survey and was called back by the rep with an offer. The process is considerably shorter now that Comcast has twitter customer service. Last week, I requested extension of my promo rate by tweeting @comcastcares and within a few hours, corporate emailed me the details of my extension.

(I’ve heard another tip is to downgrade Internet speed, try it a day or so, then call back for a better rate or new promo for upgraded speed.)

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Canadian Budget Binder February 7, 2013 at 8:56 am

I call our company every year, in fact they tell me to call a month or so before my contract for the year is up to re-negotiate. I’ve been with the same company since I moved into our home and each year they give me a stellar deal. I get everything for $147.00 a month right now home phone, wife’s cell, VIP cable, Free PVR, Internet… that’s they cheapest in 4 years. It’s worth it to negotiate but don’t jump down their throats, be reasonable, and they may just work with you to retain you as a customer.

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Amazonite February 9, 2013 at 7:13 am

Chuckled when I read this article… I do this every.single.year. It’s like a game… every year I call up and tell the rep I’ve decided to go with Verizon FIOS and they do some sort of jiggering around with the bill and lop off about $40.

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Benjamin James February 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm

One other option is to, cut the cable all together. I know that seems drastic to many people (and it did to me at one time as well.) But I’ve been without cable/satellite for almost six years now, which is surprising given that I grew up always having cable. The benefit isn’t just monetary (although that was my initial purpose.) After six years I am so used to not having cable, that it doesn’t phase me and I don’t miss it. Sure, friends and family think it is a little strange of us, but I’ve actually learned to enjoy not spending hours watching television. I tend to do more reading or we play more games now, which are things that I always enjoyed and intended on doing more of, but watching t.v. seemed to get in the way.

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Sam March 1, 2013 at 9:15 am

I have been getting large increases every year, over 10%, from time warner cable. However I have found if I ask to speak to a retention specialist I usual dont have to pay more, or just a buck or to increas. This year I got a new permotional deal for 12 mounths if I added The Movie Channel it would save me $15 on my bill, plus if I upgraded equipment to whole house dvr from indivial dvr boxes I saved $21. I lost the ablity to re cord as many shows at on time from 8 (2/box) to 4 ( 2/ whole house dvr boxes) but to save $240 a year seemed well worth it.

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Leah April 10, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Wow! It worked! I called AT&T U-Verse today and they lowered my bill to an introductory rate. The first person I talked to didn’t have the authority to lower my bill by much, so I asked to speak with a supervisor and was sent to the “escalation department.” That person was very helpful and found me a great deal. It was awesome customer service! I am very impressed, and grateful for the more reasonable bill.

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Karen Montgomery October 25, 2014 at 10:04 am

I have never tried that before, maybe I will try.

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