How to Negotiate for a Better Cell Phone Bill

How to Negotiate for a Better Cell Phone Bill

From rent to electricity to the cost of transportation, your life sometimes feels like one big bill. The last thing you need is an out-of-control cell phone bill. Why pay more than you need to? According to Billshrink, switching cell phone plans could save us nearly $1,000 over two years, including the switching fees.

We can all save more money on our cell phone bills—here’s exactly how:

The Problem: We often hear about great offers from other cell phone companies, but switching carriers is a big pain. Anyway, we’d like to avoid early termination fees. We’d rather just lower the cost of our current cell phone plan.

The Solution: Try a little negotiation. Believe it or not, your phone carrier is probably willing to lower your fees. All you have to do is ask!

The Action: Here are 9 steps to negotiating your bill down to the floor:

1. Catch More Flies With Honey

Don’t get emotional—because doing so probably won’t do anything except add negative notes to your account. Remain brief when explaining why you want a discount.

2. Steer Clear of Yes/No Questions

Asking what the company can do for you puts the ball in its court.

3. Do Your Research

Look at recent bills to see how much of your plan you’re really using, says Beth Kobliner, author of Get a Financial Life. For example, you might not need unlimited text messages, but you’ll want to be sure of that before canceling the service so that you’re not hit with exorbitant overage fees.

4. Analyze the Competition

“Know what the competition is offering and what your current company is offering new users,” Kobliner says. We like sites like Billshrink, LowerMyBills, and Validas to help compare alternative prices from competing companies.

5. Remember That Timing Is Important

“You have the best chance of negotiating with your current carrier near the end of your contract when they’re most desperate to keep you,” Kobliner told us.

6. Tout Your Allegiance

It costs a company way more to acquire new customers than to hang on to the ones it already has. Use that to your advantage. If you’re a long-time customer, remind the rep of that on the phone and explain that you would rather not switch companies—as long as your current one can move things around in your favor.

7. Pull Rank

If the first representative you speak with says there is nothing he or she can do, ask to speak to a manager or someone in the customer cancellation department. “‘Customer cancellation’ is a euphemism for the ‘see what we can do to keep you’-department,” says personal finance expert Manisha Thakor. The reps in this department have the real power to offer you some really good deals.

8. Be Ready to Actually Cancel

But remember that you have to give your cell phone company the permission to cancel your account – so you still technically have the upper hand in negotiations, Thakor adds.

9. Take Notes During Your Conversations

Personal finance blogger Ramit Sethi, who runs IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com, has a helpful spreadsheet to help you keep track of important details while talking to customer service reps. Being able to accurately recall the name of the representatives you have spoken to in the past—as well as the details of those conversations—will make your argument stronger.

A Sample Script.

Customer Service Rep: “Hi, this is Shirley Jones. How can I help you?”

You: “Hi. I’ve been a loyal Verizon customer for five years, but my bill is getting expensive and I was wondering what can you do to help me lower it.”

Customer Service Rep: “Well, I see here that you’re locked in to a two-year contract and still have 13 months to go. There’s nothing we can do until then.”

You: “Well, I was just looking at AT&T...and see I can get a plan with unlimited talk and texts for $70 a month.”

Customer Service Rep: “Can you hold for a moment while I talk to my supervisor?”

You: “Sure.”

Three minutes later…

Customer Service Rep: “Thanks for holding. I’m afraid my supervisor said there’s nothing we can do until the end of your contract.”

You: “Well, I hate to do this, but I think I’ll save more in the long run with AT&T. Can you transfer me to your cancellation department?”

Customer Service Rep: “Of course. Hold on for just one moment.”

Customer Retention Department: “How can I help you?”

You: “Hi. I was just talking to Shirley Jones about lowering my bill and I’d like to cancel my contract…unless there’s anything else you can do for me.”

Customer Retention Department: “Well…I see you’ve been with us for five years. We’d hate to lose you! Let me see what I can do…”

Now, we get good reception on that message.

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