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How to fight a price hike when your limited-time cable offer is ending

Many of us have been there: You sign up for a great deal with a cable or satellite provider, only to face a price hike at the end of six or 12 months.

The good news is that you don’t have to put up with price hikes. With so much competition in the telecom industry, and with cable and satellite providers threatened by newer, cheaper entertainment options [3], there’s a good chance you can keep your cable bill low.

Jonathan Duong, CFA, and president of Wealth Engineers, LLC, offers his four-step method for maintaining a lower entertainment bill:

1. Look for another cable offer before your low rate runs out

“Starting about a month before your low rate is scheduled to end, be on the lookout for promotional offers from competing service providers, as well as your current service provider,” says Duong.

He says you can look for fliers, listen for radio ads, and check the newspaper. “I also recommend checking deal sites such as SlickDeals and FatWallet,” Duong says.

2. Have a plan

Before calling your service provider [4], make sure you have a plan of attack. “You need to ask yourself a couple of questions,” Duong says.

You need to know whether or not you are willing to cancel if you don’t get the deal you want. You also need to figure out what an acceptable compromise, such as a smaller discount, might be.

Don’t call without knowing what you want, and what you are willing to accept. Also, consider the fact that you might have a termination fee (if you are still on a contract). Figure out whether or not you are willing to pay that fee in order to switch to a lower rate. Work out the savings and break-even points ahead of time.

3. Make the call

Once you have a plan in place, call your service provider’s customer service department and politely let them know your bill is about to increase. Duong suggests that you let the representative know that you are considering canceling your cable bill.

“Give them the primary reason,” Duong says.

In many cases, this is your cost increase, but it might also be that you don’t use the service very much. It also doesn’t hurt if you can say that you are thinking of switching providers, since a competitor offers a lower cost.

At this point, you can tell them about a recent offer you saw. It can even be a new customer offer from the current provider. Give your current provider the chance to keep your business. “Your best bet might be to ask to be transferred to the cancellation department,” says Duong. “The cancellation department is usually granted authority to offer the best customer retention deals.”

4. Record the outcome

If you end up with a better deal, make sure you record the outcome.

“Write down the details, who you spoke with, and make a note of when the new deal ends,” Duong says. If there are questions about your bill later, you need to have a record of what happened.

Sometimes, you have to cancel and move on [5]. This happened to my husband and me once. The service provider refused to budge and meet the promotion offered by a competitor. The rep threatened us with a cancellation charge. We had already done the math, and figured that we’d break even with the competitor’s offer in six months, and still have six months of a better rate with the new company left over. Knowing we’d still come out ahead, we went ahead and canceled, and got our better rate.

What do you do when your cable or satellite deal is about to expire?

(Photo: Flickr user Tricia)