How to negotiate a lower cable bill without cutting the cord

By | March 13th, 2017

Comcast had a surprise for Peter Hoagland at the end of 2016 — and it wasn’t a good one.

The cable giant first raised his bill by 40 percent. He asked it to reconsider the raise, and it agreed to lower his bill to $103 a month.

“That amount represented about a 10 percent increase over what I had been paying,” says Hoagland, a consultant from Warrenton, Va. “A representative told me it would be good for a year.”

Problem solved? Not quite.

“In late January, I got another rate increase of about 20 percent,” he says. “This was only six weeks after the last one.”

Every day, thousands of consumers face the same problem when they look at their cable bills: The number is greater than they expected. Worse, calls made to the company to appeal any increases are met with scripted denials. You signed a contract — take it or leave it.

And leaving it isn’t always an option. The cable industry is one of America’s great oligopolies, controlled by a few large players. They openly dislike competition, even going so far as to suggest that it hurts consumers.

Hoagland could jump to a competitor, if he can find one. He could negotiate with Comcast. Or he could cut the cord entirely. All are valid options.

“There are definitely ways to reduce your cable bill,” says Nathan Miller, founder of Rentec Direct, a company that helps tenants pay their rent online. He’s seen his customers talk their way into lower rates, a tactic that works “about 20 percent” of the time.

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Call the company and ask.
You should call your cable provider to negotiate fees every 6 to 12 months anyway, says Andrea Woroch, a money-saving expert. “If you don’t stay on top of your provider to find out about new and upcoming promotions, your bill could double or triple in cost,” she says. The rate reduction sometimes all depends on the person who helps you, so if you get a “no” just call back and talk to someone else or escalate your request to a manager.


Use a third party to fix the problem.
A service like Shrinkabill.com or BillFixers.com can help. These services renegotiate your bills on your behalf and then split the savings with you. Rachel Cohen tried it with her Comcast bill recently, enlisting BillFixers.com to help her. “I was so sick of overpaying for it so I gave them my bill and told them to haggle it down. They did and were able to reduce it by $12 per month and they got me a one-time credit of $226,” she says. “I have no idea how they did that. ”

Cut the cord.
When Wheeler Winston Dixon’s cable bills rose to more than $100 a month, thanks to bundling, he looked around and found no other viable cable options. “There was no alternative, other than satellite, and all they offered was an introductory offer that would reset to roughly the same rate after a few months,” says Dixon, a college professor in Lincoln, Neb.

Finally, he decided to cut the cord. “We listen to more music, read more books, take more walks, and have a much happier life,” he says. When he wants to watch TV, he streams video from Amazon Prime, Vimeo, YouTube and other alternative sources. Problem solved!

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Cord-cutting seems to be the “in” thing, actually — given the Federal Communications Commission’s recent unwillingness to protect consumers through careful regulation of set-top boxes.

“It’s the future,” says Damon Gonzalez, a financial planner from Plano, Texas. “Five years from now virtually nobody will be renting an antiquated cable box for $10 per month per TV from a cable provider.”

He recently sent his own cable box to Frontier Communications and signed up for the new DirecTV Now internet cable service where he can watch more than 100 channels on television over his Wi-Fi. He saved so much money that he decided to splurge $5 per month to get HBO and the HBO GO App.

Disclosure: I’m with Gonzalez and the other cord-cutters. I canceled my cable TV service in 1993 and never looked back.

But quitting cable isn’t the only acceptable solution. Consider the outcome of Hoagland’s case. He sent Comcast’s executives an email, asking them to reconsider their second rate increase. “They have agreed to roll back the rate increase,” he said.

Ah, ask and you shall receive. If only every consumer problem had a happy ending like this.



  • sirwired

    Cut the cord years ago, (even before Netflix/Amazon Prime/etc. was a thing) because we discovered we could buy several movies a month outright (if you watch for sales, buying movies can be amazingly cheap) and still have money left over after cancelling cable. (And for TV shows, Netflixing last year’s episodes on DVD was good enough.)

    Now we subscribe to both Netflix and Amazon prime, and combined with our movie collection, we have more quality video available than we could ever possibly watch. Yeah, if we want to watch a PARTICULAR movie or show on a whim, very often we can’t, but as long as we aren’t that picky, there’s usually some content that is high-quality by just about any standard you care to name.

  • Meredith Putvin

    When we consider the prices… $75 per month for basic services and no premium channels with a metric ton of commercials… Or $10 per month for two device, binge watch the shows you want including the ones on network TV and no commercials? I took the $10 per month option…

  • Hanope

    My husband and I were talking about cutting our tv service last week. The rates being charged is just outrageous. they never tell you when the price of an extra service has dropped, you have to constantly be checking yourself, and the charges for a box for each tv, and dvrs, its simply incredible.

    Since we’re already paying for netflix and amazon prime, we looked into other tv options and are probably going to give Direct TV now a try, which we think will save us at least $100 a month, if not more. So as soon as we finish catching up on stuff in our DVR queue, and buy a new tv for the living room (basement and bedroom are already ‘smart’ and the living room tv is dying anyway), we’re making the switch. Probably by May.

  • David___1

    If you are calling to renegotiate, especially towards the end of a contract, ask to speak to a “retention specialist”. I learned the term here on elliott.org. They are usually there to harass customers trying to leave, but can be used proactively. They had a package available that the regular services reps don’t offer. I ended up with a new two year contract, a slightly lower rate, and more services.

  • gpx21dlr

    I “cut the cord” with Comcast in 2012. I use a RCA antenna to receive ALL my local channels and some others. I watch very little TV and am content with n/f films at $10/month.

  • PsyGuy

    I get the whole cord cutting, and while I did it (live in Japan) it isn’t the great savings most people think it is given your service options. First, you have to have internet access (well i do) and on a straight just internet package if you can’t get Google Fiber and you need to by it from the cable company that typically costs about $59 to get a decent tier of speed, which is fine for 1-2 people, but with a family you’re looking at $79. Now how do you get your content. You are going to pay about $10 for Netflix, another $10 for Hulu, and then possibly Amazon Prime. Add onto that HBO GO and byt the time you’ve added a couple of content services you’re paying as much if not more than a package deal with a cable provider.

  • PsyGuy

    That’s how it has to work to get savings.

  • dmzg

    THANK YOU! I was wondering where all these cord-cutting people were getting their internet service! We have comcast for internet; basic TV which is all we need is very little more.

  • dmzg

    and how do you get internet?

  • PsyGuy

    A lot of these cord cutters aren’t really cutting all the cords, they are cutting one cord. Even if they get their internet from a third party provider, if they aren’t using Google Fiber or FIOS they are still buying their internet access from the cable company or from a third party that leases the cable companies infrastructure. My experience is that you can get a bundle of internet and programing for about the same price as internet alone and NetFlix.

  • RightNow9435

    Contract?? What is that?? I have had Time Warner and Spectrum cable, and never dealt with a contract.

  • cscasi

    And what reductions in your bill did you achieve as you went along?

  • sirwired

    We buy Time Warner Cable through Earthlink. (TWC infrastructure, TWC modem, TWC bill, but the internet line-item says “Earthlink” and is $15/mo cheaper.)

  • wilcoxon

    We’ve looked at cutting the cord. The big problem is internet service. Our Comcast bill is $160/month for internet, cable, and phone. We could drop the phone (which is nominally $20 or $30 per month) but because of the bundling, it would save us almost nothing. If we drop down to just internet, we would still pay about $100/month and would have to add other services (Hulu and something else to make up lost channels that we watch, possibly higher-speed internet to accommodate the much higher streaming, possibly data overages since we’d be using more data per month). There are no other viable internet services (CenturyLink DSL is worse and no fiber options here).

  • You’ll have the same issues with DirecTV because cable AND satellite providers employ the same business model. That, and never ending commercials.

    Prime and Netflix with zero commercials, and any old TV antenna for over the air [OTA] programs in HD are all that’s needed.

  • Cable AND satellite
    providers employ the same business model, i.e. never ending
    commercials, mystery billing charges, and ever-increasing cost.

    Prime and Netflix with zero commercials, and any old TV antenna for over the air [OTA] programs in HD are all that’s needed.

  • sirwired

    My view is that I’m going to have internet anyway, so the fact that I can pile media streaming on top of that is just gravy.

    Certainly media service subscriptions are cheaper than layering on TV from the cable company, even when they bundle the TV and internet together.

  • PsyGuy

    I don’t think so. I can get an introductory bundle that includes Internet and cable for about $80, or I can get internet without any type of discount alone for about $60. Add NetFlix and Hulu at about $10 each and it’s $80. That’s my experience at least.

  • Fishplate

    I dropped the cable and phone, and the bill went from $153 to $40. It’s since crept up a bit (most recently to $60), but at less than $10 each for Amazon Prime and Netflix, I’m still paying about half of what I was, I get more interesting content than I could possibly watch, and I haven’t seen a commercial in ~years~…

  • Fishplate

    That $80 might last a year, if you’re lucky. Then what? Switch again?

  • PsyGuy

    Sure why not, it’s the same cable and a different box and remote. Then switch back.

  • PsyGuy

    You’re paying way too much. You can get a comcast bundle of all three for about $109 on an introductory offer. Cut the phone and it’s about $70-$80 for internet and cable. With your internet at $60 byt the time you add Net Flix and Hulu you are at the same price range s the package.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Dude. Read between the lines because I’m at where you are. Find someone (wink wink) who can provide you with high speed internet. Go on your wifi and look at the network list. Go to one of the people who have those and offer them $40 or so to let you use it.

    In the old days, if you wanted to use someone else’s internet, you’d have to drop a cable over to your place (which is a huge obvious red flag) but now? Nobody need know…

  • PolishKnightUSA

    One thing I discovered about cutting the cord is that there is now a massive “sports/region” tax for rebroadcasting channels I can get via antenna aerial. So that’s another reason to cut the cable: $13 per month JUST for channels you could get for free via digital.

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