I lowered my cable & internet bill by 40%. I outline exactly how in 7 steps, and how a friend of mine followed suit for the exact same results. Hopefully you can too!
Today we’re going to talk about how I lowered my cable & internet bill by 40%. You might be landing on this episode because you’ve recently been subjected to an increase in your service bill despite not upgrading your services. It’s of course important to mention that your mileage may vary with the strategies I’ll outline, and as always I am no replacement for a professional certified financial planner or advisor, but what I can tell you for sure is that in about 30 minutes of effort I turned a $118 monthly bill into a $69 monthly bill and actually got a better package for the price with faster internet and free HBO. I also shared this methodology with a friend of mine a few days later and he also lowered a $117 bill to $81, a 31% decrease.
The specifics of this story will pertain to people with XFINITY/Comcast services but I think the principles will align for negotiating a lower cable bill across nearly any major long-standing cable and internet provider. I mention that this was XFINITY/Comcast because that’s where I did it, and I’m not sure every provider has an online chat which is what I used, but of course I think the same principles can be applied over the phone.
So let’s break this thing out into steps and get you locked and loaded to negotiate your bill like an expert.
Step 1: Understand Your Bill and Any Recent Changes
The first thing you need to be before you head into this negotiation is prepared. The worst thing you can do is try to engage a customer service rep in a strong-arming contest in a demanding and threatening manner. This benefits no one and will get you farther from your goal, which a customer service rep is likely to understand implicitly when you make your polite ask anyway. So take a good look at your bills over the past few months, especially if something has changed. In my case, I’d decided recently that I’d try reaching out for a lowered rate anyway, but my desire to do so was expedited by the fact that my bill went up $18 a month completely unexpectedly. I saw that my package had gone up $5, there were $5 in general increases, and $8 for an additional cable card, which I absolutely did not request. This is admittedly pretty infuriating and there’s no way this should be legal, but just know with confidence that you’re justified in the asks you’re about to make, and you will be vindicated. You should also have a sense here of how long you’ve had your current package or contract. More on that later.
Step 2: Prepare To Interact Calmly
Remember that quite frankly these customer service reps aren’t the ones who are trying to screw you over, they’re basically just there to clean up someone else’s mess and their job at the end of the day is generally to keep you a customer. In many cases they’re going to be incentivized to get you committed to an annualized contract and are allowed some freedom to keep you happy. If you come in guns-a-blazing with no support for why you’re reaching out, it’s harder for them to help you, and if you treat them like their job is to be a verbal punching bag, they’re less likely to be accommodating. The fact of the matter is, people in service jobs don’t always want to be there, that might not be their passion or their life’s calling, but that actually works out in your favor — you might be the only person today who was direct about what you wanted but incredibly polite and empathetic, and that person on the other end may go to an extra length to hook you up. Even if they don’t, this is always the better approach not just from a moral “being-an-adult” perspective, but from a “getting-the-results-you-want” perspective too. Once you’re in this mindset, prepare the requests you’ll make and the reasons for them.
Step 3: Understand Whether There is Competition
Competition is a beautiful thing. Of course, your cable and internet provider may not see it that way, but it’s somewhat obvious why this matters for protecting consumers. In my case, my apartment complex recently outfitted with AT&T fiber optic internet, and was offering aggressive rates for new members. This gave me some negotiating leverage which I planned to bring up in my conversation with customer service, but without making any direct threats to switch. In the case of my friends who employed these steps to lower his bill, he did not have any competition, so while it’s helpful to give you extra leverage especially if the going gets tough, it’s by no means required.
Step 4: Reach Out
It’s time to reach out! XFINITY/Comcast has an online live chat function that works pretty well, so for those who feel more comfortable with written communication or for those not interested in sitting on hold, this is a great option and works probably just as well as calling. Note that calling likely has a few added advantages: tone can be communicated, so if you’re a particularly friendly or sweet-sounding person, this might work in your favor. It’s also more likely that if the going got tough, you could request to be escalated to a manager or get forwarded to a retention desk. The plan with this strategy I’m outlining though is that you should not have to do either of these to get what you want.
When I reached out, I filled out the comment box saying something along the lines of, “Hi there, I’ve recently noticed that my bill has gone up $18 but I’m confused why. I have been with Comcast for many years and have had a good experience, would like that to continue.” This is clear, not accusatory, and puts a positive spin on a veiled threat — most people will pick up that my “desire for this long-running positive relationship to continue” means that I’m unhappy about this increase and would like to work together to come to a conclusion, or else. Usually customer service reps in these types of contexts have something of a script they are trained to follow, and this will play out pretty predictably whether you’re online or over the phone, with something along the lines of, “Hello, I understand you have concerns about your bill. I am very sorry for the inconvenience and am happy to help you with that today,” followed by some identity verification questions. Now we’re at the first turning point!
Step 5: Clarify Your Requests Clearly, Being Polite and Repetitive
Open up again with, “Yes, I had a few questions around my bill. I’m curious mostly about the fact that I have an $8 cable card under additional services, and that my internet and cable package went up by $5 for some reason. Can you clarify why that has happened?” In the case of the $8 cable card — which my friend also had show up on his bill despite not requesting one — the representative on the other end told me that, “It appears you added a new cable card on XYZ date.” My response to this was, “I never made a request for a new cable card on that day, in fact on this day I was traveling for work. There should be a record of that request if it was made – can you please share with me the transcript or details in which I made that request?” The rep’s very quick response was, “I have removed the cable card charge and credited the account.” This is a good start — indeed, it’s basically despicable that the charge existed in the first place given this rep clearly did not want to open that can of worms with me, so I let it go. The ethics of “big cable” business practices are a different story for a different day.
So of course, I said, “Thank you, I appreciate that. My next concern is around the increase to my cable and internet package. Can you help me understand why it increased when I’ve been paying the same monthly rate for about two or three years? One main reason I ask is that my apartment complex recently enables AT&T fiber internet at pretty aggressive rates.” If you have no competitor available, just skip that part, as the original ask should work just fine. Strategically, I chose to mention this a bit later than up front. I’ve already gotten the rep to satisfy one of my asks, and I’ve only been polite, so by mentioning the competitor available to me at a slightly later stage, I’m putting the customer service rep on notice that my intention is absolutely to work together to solve this issue and to continue my patronage with XFINITY/Comcast, but at the same time I am communicating that if I’m not happy with the solutions we come up with, I am a flight risk. Note that if you play this type of game, you actually have to be prepared to follow through, and that’s one more reason to be very polite, as the more unpleasant you are in this interaction, the more likely the customer service rep goes, “Fine, go be someone else’s pain in the neck, bye Felicia.”
Anyway, to my question on the $5 increase on the cable and internet package was addressed with, “It is because your package has expired. I can share with you some updated promotional packages.” Again, so much wrong with this, like why the heck would a package expire? Why would an expired package go up in price, is it somehow harder to maintain? Why would a package expire and it was never really made clear to me? Was I even notified, and if so, was it somewhere other than, like, small print on one paper bill from months ago? Again we can whine all we want about this, but whining to the customer service rep would be the wrong move, and I think this is a pivotal moment where most people trying to lower a cable bill will blow it. Imagine you work for a company that you know does some questionable things to its customers, and your job is to make a frankly pedestrian wage to clean up those messes when inevitably some customers come to you unhappy. This is that empathy we talked about before: understanding that this person you’re talking to right now isn’t the bad guy, and on the contrary your job in this process is to make them feel like they’re sitting on the same side of the table as you. It’s important to understand, though, that all of this is clearly part of the “big cable” business model: annual contracts that expire with new package rollouts and promotions annually. What this means is that you are actually expected to do this annually. Again, I have to repeat that because I had no idea: you probably need to go through this process once a year. It’s important to note at this point as well that if you’ve signed up for your service much more recently than one year ago, you may have a harder time negotiating a better deal, but I honestly think that if you roll one package into another package earlier than the year, that the customer service rep is completely able to accommodate that. This is, of course, all pretty bad business, but it’s the world we live in, so instead of pursuing it all, I responded to the customer service rep, “Yes, I’d like to see updated packages. However, we don’t watch much TV, and don’t need anything other than basic cable at the most. Can you please share the packages most comparable to our current service, which we are happy with?”
Step 6: Prepare to Negotiate
This is another pivotal turning point where I think there are a number of ways to ruin everything. The important things to remember, in case you need them as your negotiating tools, are any points of leverage you have such as available competition or a long history of loyalty to the company, to remain confident and polite, and to be relentlessly persistent. Understand at this point in the game that you’re most of the way to your lowered cable bill. One mistake that’s easy to make is that some people will actually take the first offer given to them, which in this scenario is likely to return you to the price you’ve always paid. Folks, this is just good life advice, and much like negotiating a salary in the corporate world, the person on the other side is going to try their best to get you on board for the price that benefits them most. In the case of salary, they want you for the least money you’d do the job for, and in the case of a cable and internet bill, they want you to pay at least the same as you’ve always paid. This was the case for the first promotional package I was offered, as the rep on the other end totally disregarded my request for a comparable cable bill and offered a much sexier TV lineup and faster internet for the price I was paying before, on a one-year annual contract with a hundred-something dollar out clause for early termination. Now, if you really want to upgrade your services, and that’s more important to you than walking away with cost savings, you could accept this offer, but I think most people listening to this would be more interested in a linear or upgraded package at a lower cost than they’ve been paying all along. In the case of my friend, he paid $81 for a long time and it went up $20 a month for two months suddenly, and he got it lowered back to $81 with upgraded services compared to before. In my case, I went from $100 up to $118, and in part because I refuse to be taken advantage of, I decided I’d get an upgrade and I’d pay less than I have in years, and then I’d make a podcast episode and tell hundreds of people how to do this too.
So that’s where we’re at right now. I didn’t want the first package offered, but I get it, they have to start high. So I repeated my ask clearly and with persistence: “Thanks for sharing this package, however as I mentioned, my household consumes very little cable TV, so I have no need at all for an upgraded package. Can you please share one package down from the one you shared, whichever one has the same higher speed internet but with basic or limited basic cable?”
The customer service rep responded with a new package, now $20 down from the previous package and from the price I’d paid for years, this time offering the same annualized commitment and early termination clause but with still-better cable services, some streaming services for free, and the same upgraded internet speed from the last package. I knew, though, that I could ask at least once more with no consequence, so I repeated again, “Thank you, this looks much closer, let’s keep this package in mind. However this still seems like it represents an upgrade in our cable service. Can you confirm my current cable offering?” The rep confirmed that what I had was in fact a more basic cable offering, and keep in mind we hardly even use this much cable TV as is, so I figured they could go at least one notch lower. I asked again, “Appreciate that. Can you please share one more package down, representing similar internet services but a more limited cable offering?” And with that, they did — we lost a few channels, but we gained free HBO services, free Streampix services, and 250 mbps internet at a cost $49 less than my most recent bill and $31 less than the bill I’d paid for years. This package was actually a somewhat significant upgrade for our household, as we aren’t home often and over 98% of any TV we do watch is done so streamed over the internet. In fact, I could have potentially pushed one lower, as we’d under any circumstance prefer the HBO package to any form of cable, but I was happy with that offer. So keep in mind again that I had to ask three times for the exact same thing in order to get to the type of package I had in mind, at the “lower-than-I’ve-always-paid” rate I was looking for, half as a “that’ll teach you not to raise a bill on me on some trumped up charges!” form of revenge.
Step 7: Accept the Offer and Take a Ton of Screenshots or Print the Transcript
Here’s the main reason I like the idea of doing this online: the phones are likely recorded, but harder for you to prove in the event something goes wrong. However, anything said in writing on their own website would be difficult for them to fight, and the transcript likely saves as a text file within your account in their database, so if I ever got any pushback on what I was offered, the prorated new bill, the credited faulty charge on the previous bill, etc., it would be easy for me to produce the evidence that this conversation took place and that I am verifying the services I was promised. That all said, a call should suffice, so if you prefer the phone or if your service provider doesn’t have an online chat option, you should be safe there.
That’s it! I hope this is helpful for everyone as I really had no idea that this would be so easy to do, and it was something a friend of mine was able to replicate immediately so I know it wasn’t a fluke. Of course your mileage may vary as certain regions and certain providers may handle these situations differently, but I think most of the country has no choice but to deal with a major provider such as XFINITY/Comcast or AT&T, and I truly believe that for most people for most cases, this type of approach can get your bill lowered and every year you can consistently repeat the feat. Yes, it sucks totally that you even have to bother with this once a year, but it’s worth the trouble because it’s truly not very difficult to at least give it a shot even if for some reason it doesn’t work out in your favor, and in my case it represents a savings of $588 per year compared to if I had just let the increases take place and go unattended, and not only that but I walk away with free HBO on all of my devices and faster internet services on which to stream them. On their end, they have guaranteed money because I either pay out an annual contract, or I pay out an early termination fee, so again, it’s not my favorite business model but in a sense, it’s win-win.
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