If you think you’re getting a raw deal from your cable provider, you might be right. Profit margins for cable companies are so high that they have a lot of room to negotiate. In fact, a recent survey by Consumer Reports shows that 92% of customers who tried to negotiate with their cable company got some kind of deal, ranging from a lower rate, to extra channels, or discounted equipment.
1. Find out if you’re paying too much
Check out websites such as comcastbills.com that let cable customers post their bills for others to see. By comparing your bill with that of other customers, you just might find out that other people are paying lower prices for the same exact service!
2. Stop renting their equipment
Instead of paying a monthly fee to rent a modem or cable box, you can buy your own. Take note of the model number of your modem or cable box and look for it on eBay or another retailer. Alternatively, you can Google “[Cable company] compatible modem.”
After buying a modem or cable box that’s compatible with your provider, call the cable company to activate it. If you’re using your own cable box, you may still need to rent a “cable card” from your provider—a credit card-sized device that lets your cable box decrypt your cable company’s channels. Renting a cable card for your own equipment still costs less than renting a cable box. The average cable customer spends $89 a year renting a single cable box. At that rate, you can recover the cost of buying your own cable box in less than 2 years.
If you want the ability to record shows, you don’t need to rent a DVR. There are many internet guides that can show you how to build your own DVR for less than $100—which you can easily recoup from the rental fees you’re not paying.
3. Ask for a better deal:
Call up your cable company and simply ask for a lower price. They will often give you a new promotional price that expires in 3 to 6 months. Set a reminder on your calendar to re-negotiate before your promotional price expires.
If you don’t watch all the channels you’re getting, ask if they have other packages with fewer channels at a lower price. Many providers have less expensive options that they don’t advertise, including a bare-bones package of local broadcast stations commonly known as “basic cable.”
Go a la carte
If you want HBO, Showtime, or another premium channel that’s marketed on a “per-channel” basis, you can add it to any cable package (even basic cable) without buying a hundred other channels you don’t want. The 1992 Cable Act prohibits cable companies from requiring you to add other channels (other than basic cable) in order to get stand-alone channels like HBO and Showtime. You can also subscribe to these channels directly over the internet, without having cable or satellite TV.
4. Threaten to cancel:
Cable companies have a retention department whose job is to keep you from leaving. Retention agents have access to special deals that other agents don’t have, and are paid a commission to stop you from cancelling.
If haggling hasn’t worked so far, just threaten to cancel!
5. Be a new customer:
Cable companies reserve the best deals for brand new customers, so it could pay to switch to a new provider. But if you’re like most people and live in a market where your cable company is the only game in town, there are other ways to get new customer incentives.
For instance, if you cancel your service, your cable company may consider another member of your household to be a new customer if they sign up.
6. Complain to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):
The average cable bill in the U.S. is about $99 a month, and seems to get higher every year. Some customers who have had enough of these high bills have reported success complaining to the FCC about their cable company’s “monopolistic pricing.” Those customers reported being offered a lower rate by their cable company after complaining to the FCC.
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