Lower Your Cable Bill

The 5-Sentence Secret to Slashing Your Cable Bill
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Cutting your cable bill can be as easy as making a single phone call. Or you can have the conversation via online chat, which some experts say is even more effective, since you'll probably be talking to a customer service representative instead of to a salesperson. And the conversation can usually be over in five minutes.

But you have to know exactly what to say to get the best possible deal. Here are step-by-step instructions for preparing for the call -- and the five-sentence script to follow.

Before you call:

  • Watch your mailbox. Save up the special offers and discount coupons that come in the mail, and collect the ads and inserts that come in your newspaper. You can also find offers by checking others companies' websites online. Keep offers from your company and those from rival companies.

  • Do some research. Ask friends what service they use and how much they're paying. Call the rival company to ask what their best deal is right now if you switch. Because rates change all the time, people in the same neighborhood may be paying wildly different costs, says Schwark Satyavolu, CEO of Truaxis, formerly BillShrink. But don't just get ballpark numbers; find out what other companies charge for the same services you want so you're not comparing apples and oranges. The more ammunition you have, the better positioned you'll be to negotiate. Keep in mind that even if your area has only one cable provider, that's not the only kind of competition. DirectTV, Apple TV, Netflix, and satellite services are all competition for cable as well. "There are so many options available now, cable providers are under pressure, which may result in more flexibility," Satyavolu says.

  • Know the details of your bills. Be clear on the services you're paying for and whether they were added up individually or as a package. Read your bill carefully for hidden fees or for anything that looks different from what you remember signing up for. Some companies make "upgrades" or change the details of plans without notifying customers.

  • Know your payment history. How long have you been a customer? Many companies value longtime customers for their loyalty. Have you made all or almost all of your payments on time? Be prepared to play up your status as a valuable customer the company wants -- and needs -- to keep.

  • Know your account number. If you don't, be prepared with other identifying information, such as your phone number, address, and social security number.

  • Have a bill in front of you. It helps to be able to consult the details of what you're paying for.

  • Have a pen ready to take notes. Circle the parts of the bill you're questioning. You can take notes right on the bill or on a separate sheet of paper.

  • Psych yourself up. Most people don't call to request bill reductions for one of two reasons: Either they're too embarrassed, or they assume they won't be successful. Build yourself up for this conversation by combating both notions in your head. You're entitled to call to ask for lower costs -- that's every customer's right. And there's no reason they shouldn't say yes. You've been a loyal customer worth keeping.

  • Be prepared to be flexible. Sometimes you can get the best deal by combining Internet and cable TV, or by choosing a package deal rather than selecting a prorated menu of services. Be prepared to hear all the options the sales rep or customer service rep offers before you make your push for what you want. (You never know; there might be something you want thrown in for free.)

  • Be as nice as possible without being smarmy. Remember, the life of a phone customer service assistant isn't easy, and some have more flexibility to negotiate than others. Your goal is to be the person the he or she wants to help. If you're gruff or impatient, the rep will have less incentive to go out of his or her way for you.

5 sentences to slash your cable bill

The script, in five sentences:

1. State the issue firmly.

"I'm calling to make changes in my cable service because I can't afford my current payment."

2. Play the competition card.

"I'm considering switching services because I've received an offer from [name a rival company] for [name the specific services, such as cable and Internet] for [name the price]." Alternative: "My friend across town is only paying [name the price]."

At this point, expect the cable provider cable rep to name all the services you have and tell you what a good deal it is.

3. State your history as a loyal customer and repeat that cost is the issue.

If the representative touts other perks of your service, such as virus protection, say that you don't use those services. Politely repeat that you're thinking of switching or even canceling cable altogether to save money.

"I understand; I've been a loyal customer for [state the time period], and I always make my payments -- but rates have gone up, and I'm going to have to switch or cancel cable altogether because we just can't afford it."

At this point, wait a beat or two. Many times, the cable rep will step in to offer specials. If not, follow with, "Is there anything you can do to help me reduce costs?"

The spokesperson will likely name the deals or discounts available. If the rep says there are no offers or he or she isn't authorized to make bill reductions, ask in a friendly tone to speak to someone who can help you with this. In some cases this will mean being transferred from sales to customer service. Asking to speak with the "disconnection department" may get you the furthest with some companies.

4. Push for a better bottom line.

"Is that the best you can do?"

If the offer isn't enough, push harder: "So, right now, my monthly payment is [name the current cost], and with this deal it will be [name the rep's proposed cost]. I don't think that's going to make enough of a difference."

If the deal offered is an introductory offer that expires after six months, push for a longer term or ask what to do to keep your rate from jumping back up: "Is it possible to extend that rate for a year?"

The cable rep might decline an extension and instead say you can call back in six months and ask to have the introductory offer extended. If so, make note of the date when the rate hike goes into effect.

5. Obtain confirmation information and make sure there are no hidden fees.

"You've done a great job helping me, and I really appreciate it. Can we go over the details one more time -- and can I have your name so I know whom I was talking to?" (It's also a good idea to ask for e-mail confirmation.)

If the representative has been helpful and one of those automatic customer service surveys comes on afterward, be sure and give the representative a high rating. Who knows, he or she may be more likely to help the next rate-reduction caller too!

Melanie Haiken

Melanie Haiken discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions when she was health editor of Parenting magazine. See full bio

5 days, said...

Great article Melanie! I called in to Spectrum in Columbia, SC after my bill went up about 50% after the promotional period ended. The first representative said she could do nothing, and that removing services would actually raise my bill higher. I got a robot call from spectrum shortly after and expressed my "extreme dissatisfaction" over my last interaction. I then called back and spoke to another customer care representative who was much more helpful and connected me with their dispute resolutions department. I was able to get my bill lower than it ever was by giving up some channels but was still able to keep my DVR, high speed internet and phone. If at first you don't succeed... (TRY AGAIN!) LOL!

over 1 year, said...

I purchased a Muvi box after I read this post, BEST thing ever!. Its so simple and my family loves watching all it has to offer. Thanks

almost 2 years, said...

Omg this was a great article. My neighbor recently purchased a Muvibox and it was a life saver. I wouldn't have bought it if he didn't get it first but to my amazement it worked amazing. I was able to get all my shows and movies all for free and legally.

about 2 years, said...

i try this every month and cox cable does not care. keep raising my monthly charges

about 2 years, said...

so with Verizon, make sure you always have the new customer package. Every two years switch between spouses for billing and cancel the service. Yes cancel. You get you get new set top boxes, new router, better tech plus usually a free install...

over 2 years, said...

The best way to save? Cut the cable and stream all your viewing commercial fee. If you live in an area with high speed internet, there's no reason, other than habit or lack of awareness, to pay for bloated TV bundles anymore. You're paying for the privilege of being advertised to. That makes as much sense as paying for junk mail.

over 2 years, said...

These are some great suggestions, but I think that folks need to really look at their viewing habits and make a change there. Case in point, streaming media. Places like netflix offer pretty much the same stuff that you see on cable but way cheaper and you can look at your favorite tv series anytime you want. you're not tied to your tv. I recently bought one of those streaming boxes from www.snipsnipnow.com and now I can just get basic cable for news etc.. but use the streaming box for movies and tv series. wake up people this is a new time.

over 2 years, said...

Thank you. I have done everything you just suggested and I know from personal experience that your suggestions actually work. It's important for people to remember you get more with honey than with vinegar.

over 2 years, said...

@Raver77 It costs me $57 for 26Mbps through our cable company. I'd say you have a good deal! Maybe you can drop down to a lower speed.

over 2 years, said...

We have Verizon, my husband has Alzheimer"s disease and has no idea what he is doing when he attempts to change the channel. He pushes all the buttons and unfortunately has purchased movies without knowing what he is doing. The bills are awful. We put on parental control but it must not work for everything. Help

almost 3 years, said...

I just got off the phone with Charter. I tried everything in this article and it failed. The customer service rep. would not budge AT ALL I am still paying $59.99 a month for 60 MBPS. The Rep. justified it by saying most companies charge over $1 per MB speed. Don't know what else to do.

almost 3 years, said...

I just reduced mine by more than50%!How? Since there is a monopoly where I !I've I could not shop around.My only option was to get rid of the TV.I pay for wireless and I read free books on my small tablet. The news is also free.Don't know how long this will last but for now I'm just loving my extra 50 bucks.

about 3 years, said...

I think the best way to is to disconnect from your cable provider... there are many good sites that offer great content to replace cable TV. I found this post which has some information about that: http://themoneysaverblog.com/2015/04/16/lower-your-cable-bill/

over 3 years, said...

"Another great way to save is by making sure you don't forget to renew your contract with the lowest deal (After your commitment expires) - As service providers just increase it over time. One of the tools I am using is Remindme2save , which reminds me to save on my ATT , Comcast and XM radio services (I still think they need to improve by adding more features but currently I am happy with this tool)"

over 4 years, said...

This article is almost perfect. I work Tech support for AT&T and we deal with this every day. There is but one detail that you have incorrect and that is asking the agent for their name. With any major company, the agents usually only give out a first name for security purposes. A first name is useless. I know 3 other agents who sit near me with the SAME NAME. What you need to ask for is an agent ID number. It is an exact and precise way to show who you spoke with.

about 5 years, said...

OK, so I do have pet peeves with TV nowadays - who doesn't? Here's mine - in the basic lineup of every provider (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, and probably HughesNet), the sports channels, shopping channels, kids channels, etc., are included in the basic package. I do not use any of those channels. Since everyone is required to have the basic channels before choosing any other channels, people that don't use those channels are having to pay for things they don't use. I would like to see them price by channel type, so if you want sports channels, you pay for them. If you have kids and want your kids watching TV 24/7, you pay for them. Same with religious channels or education (University channels like BYUTV). Pay for them separately. I don't mind use taxes, but I hate paying for things I don't use. Bridge tolls and toll roads are OK, for example, but paying for someone elses sports channel habit irks me. Why we have channels that are 24/7 commercials (i.e. QVC, HSN, etc ad nauseum), is a mystery to me - why should I pay for those channels (included in the base charge)?

about 5 years, said...

The very appropriate. Suggestions for preparing and delivering the conversation were helpful.

about 5 years, said...

Your article gave me the courage to ask for a reduction in charges. Thanks.

about 5 years, said...

The specific questions to ask were so very helpful! Last week, I just called to ask for an explanation of the charges, becuase I thought all the services were too high! I did cancel some of them. But now I know what I needed to say to push an accomodation from the company. I'll try again! THANK YOU!

about 5 years, said...

there's almost always a better deal....and casual conversation, like how long have you worked for xxxx? I sure like you help, you are a good rep....I really thank you for taking your time, I know you are busy, but we just have to cut down expenses, and you are helping a lot