During the past 5 years, average cable rates have increased at nearly 3x the rate of inflation! And when they have a legal monopoly, what are we to do about it? The alternative of going with satellite isn’t always possible (if you live in an apartment like me). DSL isn’t a good option either if your local providers require buying phone service to get it. And fiber optic a.ka. FiOS service? Good luck finding that if you live in the boondocks!
In short, our options are few and far between. But that doesn’t mean you have to let TV and internet providers rob you blind. Here are three ways to save money.
Trick #1: Regularly switching accountholders
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I could barely afford to feed myself, let alone pay for cable internet (which in this day and age, is a necessity for many jobs such as my own). So I found a little trick to reduce my monthly bill big time!
Time Warner would regularly offer new customers 6 and 12 month promotional rates. However if you cancel your service today, that doesn’t mean tomorrow you will qualify as a new customer – the requirement was not being a customer within the past 180 days. Yes, you can probably guess where I’m going with this…
Every 6 months (or however long the promo lasted) I would cancel service and then my amazing mom (who lives on the other side of the country) allowed me to open a new account under her name and Social Security number. So basically, every 6 months or so the service would go from being under my name to her name… meaning there was usuually a promotional rate in place!
As a caveat, I would like to warn you that there will be a hard or soft credit pull done each time you open an account. A soft pull won’t affect your credit score, but a hard pull will have a negative impact – it will stay on your credit report for 24 months and may affect your FICO score for up to 12 months.
Trick #2: Calling up and negotiating
Sometimes this works, other times it doesn’t. Either way, it’s worth a shot!
The cable provider in my area hasn’t offered any good new customer promotions lately, so I’ve been stuck paying the regular rates in 2011. Because I hardly watch TV and the idea of paying $101 per month for the barebones basic cable and internet seems unfathomable to me!
So I called up customer service and told them I wanted to axe the TV (and that wasn’t a bluff). They countered my request with an offer to knock a few bucks off per month AND give me a free premium channel for 3 months. Well the bribe worked and now my bill is at least a few bucks cheaper each month.
Over the years I’ve also negotiated to get free installation and other small perks. Negotiating doesn’t always work, but it can be a good way to save money on cable TV and internet.
Trick #3: Credit card rewards for cable and internet
First of all let me say that this strategy is definitely not for everyone. Even though my blog and forum is about credit cards, I actually think it’s best for people to not use them if it leads to increased spending or carrying a balance. I mean let’s be logical… is it worth earning 3% rewards and paying 13% interest?!
However if you are someone who uses credit cards with strict discipline, there are a few on the market that give higher rebates on some types of utilities. For example, I use the Chase Ink Cash and it gives me a 5% rebate on bundled cable services. It’s not much, but a $5 savings (from a $100 bill) x 12 months = $60 per year. The Hilton HHonors American Express gives 3 to 6 points per dollar on phone, internet, cable and satellite TV (3x points on the no fee version, 6x points on the $75 version).
Obviously though, the Chase Ink, Hilton HHonors, or some other credit card program isn’t going to save you a ton of money. So I would probably classify this as the least useful strategy and it should only be used in conjunction with the other methods to save you a few more percentage points.
The other drawback is that the good reward cards usually require stellar credit scores. If your credit could use some help, then check out these DIY strategies to boost your credit score.
This is a guest post by Mike, who owns and operates Credit Card Forum.