How to Negotiate Your Bills

iStock_000001159065XSmallFor years, I had a phone bill that cost me almost $100/month, without any extras or add-ons. It was incredibly expensive for the privilege of being able to talk on the phone, but I accepted it because I thought that everybody had a high phone bill. I live in Canada, after all, and we are known for our insane cell phone rates.

However, one evening I went out with some friends and we began to discuss our cell phones over dinner. One of my friends was paying about half of what I was paying, for the same service (with the same company). I asked many questions to try to get to the bottom of why I was spending so much when others were, and it turned out that my friend wasn’t on a special plan or receiving any special discounts; she was just serious about negotiating her bills.

I decided that I didn’t want to throw away $50 per month just because I failed to negotiate my cell phone bill, so I got to work and phoned my provider. It turned out to be a very successful venture, and I decided to do the same for all of my bills. Here is what I learned in negotiating my bills.

Be Polite

Nobody wants to do favors or bend over backward for people who are rude to them. It’s very important to be polite when calling to negotiate a bill.

I worked in retail for a few years in high school and in the first couple of years of college, and I learned very quickly that honey catches more flies than vinegar.

If you are polite, the customer service representative on the other line will be much more willing to help you. If you can’t lower your bill by being polite, then you won’t be able to do it by being demanding and rude, either, so hang up and try again in a day when you know you’ll get another customer service representative.

Try to Negotiate Via Email

There was a study that came out that reported that written negotiations are usually more successful for the person wanting a better price than verbal negotiations.

If possible, negotiate your bill over email.

This may be possible only for smaller companies, such as your gym, but it’s worth a try.

Don’t Try Too Often

The general rule of thumb is that you should try to reduce your bill only once per year. Most companies have databases that show the history of your account, and phoning the customer retention line every month will not serve you well.

If you try once per year, you can usually be quite successful.

Do Your Research

If you want to lower your bill by 50%, and there are no other providers that offer savings of 50% of your current bill, it’s not going to happen.

Be realistic and do your research. What are the company’s competitors offering? You can even use introductory rates for the purpose of your negotiation. Ensure that what you are asking is comparable to the offer of another company. Bring that to the table when trying to negotiate your bill. If it’s within 20% of what you are paying, most companies would rather retain you as a customer and lose 20% than give you up to another company.

Make sure than when you phone your provider, you come prepared with some comparisons.

If You Don’t Get it the First Time, Hang Up and Try Again

I phoned my gym one time to negotiate my monthly rate and the person I was initially connected with wasn’t budging on the amount of my bill.

I politely thanked him and hung up, and called again the next day at a different time of day to ensure that I didn’t get the same person. The person who I was talking to the next day helped me cut the cost of my monthly gym membership by 10%.

Sometimes, the representative on the other line isn’t willing to negotiate, so try again later.

Be Open Minded

You probably won’t get the exact results that you wanted, but be open minded to compromises. One time, I contacted my internet provider to negotiate my bill but I was already at the lowest rung (which I knew, because that’s what I’d negotiated last time).

They couldn’t offer me a lower price, but they increased my speed and took me off wired internet for no extra monthly charge.

If the company is willing to give you a better service but can’t offer you a discount, that’s better than nothing, especially if you can’t get the service for much cheaper with another company.

Have you ever negotiated a bill? If so, were you successful?


Comments

How to Negotiate Your Bills — 35 Comments

  1. I usually try to negotiate my bills once a year whenever the contract usually comes up. They almost always say yes. Even if it’s just a small discount, it’s better than nothing!

  2. We’ve done many of these things to get our bills lower. We’ll usually do it once or twice a year and usually get good results. Great point on being nice, that’ll get you much farther than being a fool to the customer service person.

  3. I’ve tried to negotiate my bills a number of times and only been successful once with the internet company. I guess I’ll just have to keep trying.

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I will have to give it a try. What’s the strategy when you call? Do you just say you want a lower bill? Do you tell them you can’t afford their service? Or do you politely threaten to leave the company?

    • All of the above, depending on the situation. I sometimes just say “I noticed that XYZ competitor has ABC deal on. I have been a customer of yours for X years, and was hoping we could lower my bill, as I really enjoy the service you provide and would rather not make the transfer” More often than not they’ll end up giving you at least a little bit off.

  5. I think being polite is probably the best weapon a consumer has. It will help with your pitch and in getting information. It’s easy to get frustrated and defensive when you are dealing with a tough debt/creditor – but they are just people. The neat thing is that being polite works in lots of other places too. So armed with some financial savvy and a smile there’s never telling what you can gain access too haha!

  6. One of the things I have learned in life is that you often get what you want if you do your best to remain calm and civil towards the person you are talking to instead of getting mad because you feel that they are not able to deliver what you want. Respect begets respect and it might also get you what you want.

  7. Good stuff. I think you’re right–negotiation can work and save money. I know a couple people who seem to have the motto ‘only suckers pay retail.’ If you get good at it, negotiating can save a lot of money without too large an investment of time and energy.

  8. great tips Daisy. I call my internet provider once a year and always ask for the new customer discount. I wouldn’t cut my service, change the name and reapply as a new customer, which is too much hassle but they wouldn’t have me do it either since it would cost them a new modem and a lot of paperwork.

  9. My fiance is in charge of negotiating our bills. He’s a master. We still have a landline phone that we barely ever use that was costing us $14/month through the same company who supplies our internet. When the most recent bill came, they had upped the price to $21/month. He gave them a call, and about 20 minutes later, we had free phone service for a year, so now we’re just paying the internet portion of the bill!

  10. I recently had a similar negotiating experience with my ISP. After they made a mistake I called to correct it, which they did, but then when I asked about what can be done for the hassle they ended up bumping me up to a better promo and lowering my bill compared to what I was paying just the day before.

  11. Not getting angry and the poor customer services representative will do you lots of favours. Remember it’s not likely to be their fault and if you are civil I find most of the time they go out of their way to help you out!

  12. I never tried to negotiate my bills but after reading this I will certainly give it a try. I think I will start with my gym membership and ask for a reduction. Thanks for the post

  13. For me, being polite and realistic in the nature of terms negotiated are most essential. There may be difference in the mode or limits of negotiation prioritized by a company in every case.

  14. I think it’s a great idea to contact your cell phone provider and ask for a better deal. The worst they can say is no, but you won’t benefit if you don’t ask. The worst is if you live in rural Canada where there is only one or if you’re lucky there is two cell service providers. The lack of competition means very low service with very high prices.

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