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How To Negotiate Lower Bills: Complete Guide

How To Negotiate Lower Bills: Complete Guide
Steve Gillman Dec 4, 2019
Want to Earn Some Extra Money?

Some bills can’t be easily avoided nor negotiated down. For example, you need running water, and you aren’t likely to negotiate a lower rate with your municipal water supplier (although I used to pay by credit card to get 2% cash back — hey, it’s something at least.).

On the other hand, you might be surprised by how many bills can be negotiated. Even phone bills and rent, for example, can sometimes be lowered if you ask politely (and/or hint that you might cancel or move).

What if you don’t want to negotiate these matters on your own? In that case you can hire one of the several online services which will do the work for you.

The following will give you a few ideas about which bills you’re most likely to get lowered, how to negotiate lower bills, and where to turn for help if you need it.

Negotiating Lower Bills: Your Best Targets

The bills that are most likely negotiable are those from your service providers. It makes sense. The marginal cost of providing a service is usually so low that even after cutting the price in half the provider can make a decent profit. Why lose a customer over price if you can still make money at a lower rate, right?

For example, according to data analyzed by Lend EDU, over 80% of people who attempt to get their SiriusXM bills lowered are successful, getting a reduction of about 40% on average. My father says he gets 50% off every year when he calls to “cancel” (actually he probably means it, which helps).

Here are some of the companies reported in the data, with the success rates for customers who called to ask for a discount, and the typical reduction they received:

  1. SiriusXM (80% or higher success rate for a typical discount of 40% or more)
  2. Suddenlink (80% or higher success rate for a typical discount of 10% to 14%)
  3. CenturyLink (80% or higher success rate for a typical discount of 25% to 29%)
  4. Dish Network (80% or higher success rate for a typical discount of 20% to 24%)
  5. Optimum Cablevision (70-79% success rate for a typical discount of 10% to 14%)
  6. Sprint Wireless (70-79% success rate for a typical discount of 10% to 14%)
  7. ADT Security (70-79% success rate for a typical discount of 25% to 29%)
  8. DIRECTV (70-79% success rate for a typical discount of 25% to 29%)
  9. AT&T (60-69% success rate for a typical discount of 10% to 14%)
  10. Cox Communications (60-69% success rate for a typical discount of 10% to 14%)
  11. Verizon Wireless (60-69% success rate for a typical discount of 10% to 14%)
  12. Frontier (50-59% success rate for a typical discount of 15% to 19%)
  13. Charter Spectrum (50-59% success rate for a typical discount of 15% to 19%)
  14. RCN(50-59% success rate for a typical discount of 10% to 14%)
  15. Comcast (Xfinity) (40-49% success rate for a typical discount of  5% to 19%)
  16. Verizon Residential / Fios (30-39% success rate for a typical discount of 10% to 14%)
  17. T-Mobile (10-19% success rate for a typical discount of 15% to 19%)

You may have noticed several cable/internet providers on the list. These are some of the easiest targets for negotiating a discount, even if it’s not a large one.

For example, I’ve called and threatened to cancel my cable and/or internet service almost every year for more than a decade, and the worst “retention offer” I’ve received is $10 off monthly for six months – $60 savings for a few minutes on the phone (and I’ve often done better than that).

Not surprisingly, threatening to cancel a service is one of the best ways to negotiate lower bills, but we’ll get back to that. Meanwhile let’s look at some less likely bills for which you still can negotiate a lower rate.

Housing and Other Bills You Can Lower

A friend here in Tucson, Arizona negotiated significantly lower lot rent for his mobile home by agreeing to pay for a year in advance. Other friends have negotiated lower rent in exchange for services, like painting or otherwise renovating an apartment.

In his tutorial on how to negotiate lower rent, Ramit Sethi suggests prepaying rent as one possible strategy. Here are some other things he says you might offer a potential landlord in exchange for lower rent:

  • A longer lease (the landlord can avoid money-losing vacant time)
  • A “no smoking” promise (saves money on cleaning when you leave)
  • Forfeit a parking space (the landlord can offer it to other tenants for higher rent)
  • A “no pets” promise (even if pets are normally allowed this saves the landlord money and trouble cleaning the unit when you leave)

Of course, how willing a landlord is to negotiate depends on how easy or difficult the rental process has been for him, so always start your search by looking for places that have been on the market for a while. The landlord may understand that he’ll lose a lot more with a unit that stays empty for another month or two than the cost reducing the rent.

Sometimes you can negotiate lower rent for your current residence. Assuming you’ve been a great tenant, and the rate you’re paying is higher than normal (check out and print out current rental listings to verify this for yourself and the landlord), why not ask for an adjustment when your lease is up? Drop a hint that you may otherwise move.

Of course, when buying a house we all try to negotiate a lower price. But you can also negotiate a lower interest rate, and cheaper homeowner’s insurance. I even negotiated lower property taxes on one property I bought (it was a rental unit and was assessed at a higher value than what I paid, so the assessor lowered the assessment value).

What other bills can you get lowered?

Medical Bills – Prior to obtaining health insurance two years ago, I negotiated discounts of 30% or more on almost every medical bill I received. It helps to hint at potential financial problems and to promise immediate payment of the reduced amount.

Auto Insurance – While agents may not offer lower rates on a given product, if pushed they can find cheaper options, like reduced liability coverage (at a lower rate) if you have no assets to protect. I’ve regularly negotiated lower auto insurance rates.

Homeowners Insurance – Again, this is about pushing the agent to reveal what your options are. For example, when they try to include $40,000 in “contents coverage” I protest (we have cheap furniture and few possessions of value), and I usually get a reduction in the rate for the lowered coverage.

Credit Card Interest Rates – If you ask, credit card companies will sometimes drop the interest rate on your credit card debts. To help you out, Credit Karma has a nice tutorial on negotiating lower interest rates.

Much More – Many other bills can be lowered with some careful negotiations. For example, I once negotiated a lower carpet cleaning bill by promising the cleaners they would not have to move any furniture. You just have to make it appear to be in the best interest of the provider to lower your bill, which brings us to…

Basic Guidelines If You Want To Negotiate Lower Bills

Negotiating is a science and an art, and it can take years to learn to do it well.

On the other hand, with most service providers all you do is threaten to cancel your service. Just be sure to know your options, because if you really can’t follow through on a threat it may not be too effective.

Here are some other approaches to try:

  • Ask if there are cheaper plans or other options.
  • Find cheaper services and ask for a “price match.”
  • Have a “Plan B” in case you really have to cancel a service.
  • Cancel a service and start it again to get a “new customer promotional rate.”
  • Cancel a service and start it again in your spouse’s name to get a better rate.
  • Find something you can offer a provider in exchange for a better rate.
  • Make it clear that you’ll make a decision right now if the price is right.
  • Find another customer getting a lower rate and ask the company to match that.
  • Design a “win-win” proposal (for example: limited service for a reduced price).

Get creative and ask a lot of questions. I once negotiated a lower rate for the installation of a power pole next to my home. I talked to the owner of the company long enough to learn that he hated digging holes, so I got the specifications and hand-dug it myself for a $100 discount.

Get Help Negotiating Lower Bills

Not sure you want to do the negotiating yourself? There are services that can help you get lower bills in exchange for a cut of the savings. Here are two examples:

Trim – Trim says their users saved over $1 million in the last month. Their app analyzes your expenditures, finds cheaper options and negotiates lower rates for various services. When they negotiate lower bills they charge 33% of the annual savings.

BillCutterz – You send your bills to BillCutterz and they call providers to negotiate better rates. There is no charge unless you get lower bills, in which case they charge 50% of your first-year savings.

BillFixers – Again, there is no charge unless BillFixers saves you money. If they do, they take 50% of your first-year savings.

BillSlasher – This company claims an 80% success rate, charges 40% of your first-year savings, and allows you to pay them in three monthly installments.

These bill-negotiating services generally offer a free account (avoid any that charge upfront), charging you only if and when they arrange for lower bills. Of course, if you want to be truly frugal you should probably try negotiating lower bills on your own first, and then let the experts and their software do their work on the accounts where you failed.

If you have your own tricks for negotiating lower bills, please share them with us … and keep on frugaling!

Steve Gillman

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