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Which Companies Are Most Willing to Negotiate Monthly Bills?

By Daniel B. Kline – Updated May 10, 2019 at 1:08PM

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To keep you from jumping ship, many service providers will offer to cut you a better deal.

Sometimes, after you drop a service or subscription, the company that was selling it to you will come back with a better deal to entice you to return to the fold. It's a common tactic for gyms, and cable providers, mobile phone carriers, and internet service providers (ISPs) frequently do it too.

It's possible, however, for customers to get those offers without actually leaving. Just let a company know you're ready to, then ask for a better deal, and you may get one.

A person holds a smartphone.

Smartphone providers can sometimes be played against one another. Image source: Getty Images.

Which companies will deal?

Quite a few companies in these spaces have "retention" departments whose specific purpose is to keep you on their customer rolls. But the willingness of service providers to negotiate on price varies. To figure out which companies are the most flexible, LendEdu's Mike Brown used data provided by Truebill -- a business that offers (among other things) to negotiate those lower bills on your behalf.

Now, a business's willingness to "negotiate" and its willingness to actually keep giving you the same services at a lower price are very different things. Still, these companies have all shown at least some recognition that they may have to make deals to hold onto customers. And the figures below should be viewed with at least mild skepticism -- some "successes" might involve very small price decreases. But it's clear consumers do have more leverage than they used to.

Cable companies once had stronger monopolies, as did ISPs. Today, of course, pay-television subscribers can (and do) cut the cord, and pick instead from a robust array of streaming services. With ISPs, your degree of leverage depends upon whether you live in a market where there are multiple providers. And most U.S. consumers live in areas covered by all of the big four wireless carriers.

A chart shows which companies are more willing to negotiate.

Image source: LendEdu.

There's a sort of logic to why the companies at the top of the list are more willing to bargain. SiriusXM faces increasing competition from free music streaming and podcast services, which have become easier for consumers to access in their cars now that many wireless plans include unlimited data. All cable companies are struggling with the cord-cutting trend, and the various wireless providers are locked in a permanent battle to poach each other's customers.

Conversely, it makes sense that T-Mobile negotiates the least often, for a couple of reasons. First, its pricing is transparent -- the advertised prices for its smartphone plans include the taxes and fees, so its customers don't find themselves surprised by what their bills look like. Second, T-Mobile has added more than 1 million customers in each of the past 24 quarters -- frankly, it doesn't need to do as much extra bargaining.

You can do this

While companies like Truebill will happily take the work of negotiating your bills downward off your hands -- in return for a cut of the savings they garner for you -- this task isn't one you really need to farm out. Anyone willing to spend a little time and effort can do it themselves.

It's important to go into these negotiations knowing your options. If there are two or more cable or internet providers in your market, for example, find out what deals are being offered by your current provider's rivals. 

When you call the company, make it clear that you do intend to switch, and lay out what you would save by jumping. If that doesn't get you a better offer, then be willing to leave.

When it comes to wireless carriers, check out the various deals being offered, but also make sure that the cheaper choices have good service in your area. Sprint generally offers the lowest prices, but it also tends to have the worst network (although as the company points out in its ads, the differences among carriers these days are marginal, and in most places, Sprint's service is good enough).

The hardest service to bargain with may be your ISP, if you live in a market with a single internet provider. In that case, you'll only have negotiating leverage if you're willing to adapt to connecting to the net solely with your smartphone -- which most people probably aren't.

Finally, it's important to remember that "success" when you negotiate a bill won't always mean paying less money.

A cable company, for example, might offer three free months of a premium service like HBO to you if you stick around. A wireless carrier might offer an extra line, or to add some features to your plan. The question of whether or not what they're offering has real value to you is one only you can answer.

But in the end, it can't hurt to ask, and your odds of success will increase if you know what your options are going in. So do your homework, and then get to work on trimming your monthly expenses by snagging some better deals.

Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Sirius XM Radio. The Motley Fool recommends T-Mobile US and Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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