Phone your service provider. Be completely upfront about the fact that you are considering canceling your service. Ask the customer service representative to transfer you to customer retention or the cancellations department. These departments have the most leeway to cut a deal. You might open with the introduction:
“Hi, I’m thinking about canceling my service because I just can’t keep up with my monthly bill anymore. What can you do to help me out?”
This cues the representative to pitch a savings offer. They should offer a percentage off or a dollar amount off. They may offer up a reduced plan which is not your goal. If they do not offer something that works for you, offer up your customer history with the script:
“Well, I’ve been a customer for [X years] and I’ve never missed a payment. I really don’t want to cancel my service with you, but I’m going to have to unless I can get a better deal.”
They should make a secondary offer, but if they do not, offer up the competitor offers you researched or the introductory offer they are offering to new customers. Try saying the following for whichever option you choose.
“I’ve been looking at my other options and they are giving new customers [the deal you researched]. I also see that you are giving new customers [another deal you looked up]. What can you do for me that matches or beats that?”
The representative may offer you a deal on an ancillary service. A TV service might offer six months of free HBO or Showtime. Hopefully, they offer a lower cost service, too. Say yes if it works for you, otherwise, try the script:
“Thanks, but the problem isn’t that I don’t have HBO/Showtime. My problem is my monthly bill is too high. What can you do to lower my bill?”
They may offer you a combination offer that reduces your monthly cost and gets you the free ancillary service. Take it and pay less forever.
If they just do not offer something reasonable, request a one-time credit for your years as a loyal customer. You save money on that one month and you can leave for a new provider afterward.
Remember to follow through after the phone call.
Clarify the agreement terms. Make sure you do not lock yourself into a long-term contract. Review the changes proposed to each service and compare it to what you currently pay. You can avoid surprise charges and surcharges.
Once you sign of the dotted line, log into your account online and confirm the changes were made to your account. Refer to any offer or confirmation emails sent to you during or after the negotiation call. If they do not match, call back and speak to another service rep. You may have to repeat the negotiation process.
If there’s no deal.
It takes time to negotiate bills. If you do not succeed with the first customer service representative, call back on a different day to speak to someone else. Another alternative is to contact customer service via instant messaging or email.
If that fails, too, actually leave. You already did the competitor research, so choose one and start service with them.
Negotiating Credit Cards and Loans
You can save even more money by attacking your credit cards and loans in the same manner. You might not realize it, but you can negotiate a lower interest rate on your credit cards. You can also get your medical bills reduced. If you have fallen behind in payments to your credit cards or in repayment of a loan, you can negotiate a settlement price for the payoff.
Negotiating a Settlement or New Payment Terms
Sometimes you have to negotiate a reduced total bill or work out a payment plan to meet your needs. Be honest and forthright with the customer service representative. Tell the representative how much you can pay and how frequently you can pay it.
The representative will probably counter with a request for larger payments. Simply explain that you cannot afford more than what you are offering to pay. They will typically accept your reasonable offer. If they do not, counter with the fact that that really is all you can afford and if they won’t take the reduced payments, you have no alternative but to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Explain that you have more than one creditor and you really are trying to find a way to pay each of them.
You goal is to reduce the amount you owe each month and make progress on the total amount due and avoid it being sent to collections.
Avoid agreeing to anything that you cannot afford. If you get behind in your payments, you will destroy your credit.
When It Has Gone to Collections
When your accounts have been sent to collections, this can actually work in your favor. That is because since the account is in collections, the creditor really does not expect to get it paid off. That is the step they take before writing off the charge.
Call the collections agency. Explain your situation and let them know that you do want to pay your bill. Let them know that it is also important to you that you protect your credit score.
Ask them if you qualify for a settlement reduction. You could ask for a percentage of the total amount to be forgiven in exchange for a lump sum payment.
When you negotiate bills in this manner, the collection agency often will offer a reduction of 20 to 40 percent for a single payment that significantly reduces the debt. This settlement actually reduces the amount you owe to the creditor.
You may get a series of offers from the representative. Commonly, they may offer:
You can pay the full debt in 12 equal monthly payments.
You can pay 75 percent of the debt in six equal monthly payments.
You can pay one-half or one-third of the debt in one payment. The amount varies by company.
Sometimes, they will not offer to lower or reduce the debt. That is when you need to turn to a professional for help to negotiate bills. Many companies and non-profits offer debt settlement services.
Get Help From a Debt Settlement Service
Contact a debt settlement service to get help contacting creditor to negotiate bills. Organizations like Care One and SettleIt.com work on credit cards and loans. The Patient Advocate Foundation is a health care and medical billing advocate. Some of these services cost money.
Some work on a sliding-scale basis, while others charge a monthly fee at the end of the repayment term or assume a percentage of the monthly payment.