5 Utility Bills I Got Lowered By Just Picking Up The Phone


A couple of years ago, one of my college professors said something that totally changed my financial IQ. According to him, everything is negotiable. Now I’m not sure I completely believe that logic, but it got me thinking, and I decided to see just what is and what isn’t truly negotiable. I channeled my inner Morgan Freeman — you know, the super persuasive man with a great voice — and went to work on the negotiations. What I found was surprising. With a little persistence and, of course, my new found charm, I managed to lower the following five expensive bills simply by asking:

1. Credit cards

I started with my credit card. I called the company and sweetly reminded them what a loyal customer I’ve been (I use my credit card a fair amount), and how I’ve always paid on time. Then I let them know that their competitor made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I told them how much I appreciated their past service and that I hated to change, but money is money, and I had to go with the best deal. To my surprise, they lowered my interest rate by about 4% and raised my line of credit. Calling to ask a favor works best if you really do make on-time payments and have had a history with the company for at least a few years. While I always pay my credit card bill in full every month, and even have a solid emergency fund saved up, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get the interest rate lowered as a precaution for the future.

2. Medical bills

Next, I tackled some old medical bills and an ambulance bill I’d been making monthly payments on. I pulled out my phone smile and told the lady how much I appreciated the way they had worked with me to help get my bill paid. I told her I was ready to pay it off, but was a bit short and wondered if they would accept a reduced payment if I paid it in full while I was on the phone. I had to pay the new amount immediately, but both the hospital and the ambulance agreed to reduce what I owed. In fact, the ambulance company reduced the amount by a whopping 50%, which made me really wish I had done this a bit earlier in the game.

3. Homeowner’s insurance

I’m not a home owner, but a few months ago, I noticed that my parents’ homeowner’s insurance rates had risen steeply over the last couple years, despite the fact that the value of our home had gone down. Armed with a cocky confidence in my newly-discovered negotiating skills, I called to find out why. I found out that the insurance company has a formula for home appreciation value that doesn’t always reflect reality. The agent looked over the policy and was able to reduce the monthly rate by a good chunk and advised me that I should do this periodically to make sure my policy was an accurate reflection of the actual value of my home. You do need to be aware, however, that if the value of your home has actually increased, this may not result in savings.

4. Car insurance

While the kind insurance lady had me on the phone, she also asked me about my car insurance. I told her what I was paying and she said that by combining my car and home policies, I could get a nice discount. Feeling a bit guilty about cheating on my current carrier, I called to see if they would match the other company’s discount. Despite my years of loyal patronage, they would not, so I combined my policies, and took advantage of the lower ratesI also discovered that by choosing a higher deductible and opting to have the payments automatically withdrawn from my account, I could save even more. Of course, taking a higher deductible may not be the right route for everyone, but it doesn’t hurt to discuss savings with your agent because you’d be surprised at the deals they will offer to ensure that you remain a loyal customer.

5. Cable and internet services

With services like Netflix gaining popularity, and the increased use of smart devices, cable and internet service has become a highly competitive business. Smart providers know that that it works to their advantage to keep loyal customers — especially ones who pay their bills in a timely manner. With just a bit of research, I found out that my provider was offering some pretty sweet deals to new customers. I also checked out the competitor’s pricing to be sure my requests were within a reasonable range. After making my pitch and subtly throwing in a few veiled threats to jump ship to their competitor, I was able to negotiate a year at the discounted rates given to new customers. It even included a couple of premium channels I didn’t have before.

There are a few important things to remember as you plan your strategy to lower your bills. If you threaten to take your business elsewhere, be sure you’re actually prepared to do so — and make sure any information you plan to use in your negotiation is accurate. Most of all, always treat the people you talk to with respect. Winning a negotiation is very empowering, and you have nothing to lose by asking your service providers for reduced rates. The worst they can do is say “no,” and if they do agree, it’s a big gain for you. When in doubt, it never hurts to ask.

Anum Yoon is the founder and editor of Current On Currency, a personal finance blog for 20-somethings who can’t adult well enough to be savvy with their money.

Image via Unsplash

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  • Mary Harman

    I learned this past year about The Power of the Phone Call. I was reading Ramit Sethi’s book ‘I Will Teach You To Be Rich’—a great book that gives the reader a lot of easy-to-understand info on some of the basics of the finance world that isn’t covered in most 101-level blog posts.

    I had learned that you can immediately increase your credit score by getting an increased line of credit since one factor in credit score is your debt:credit ratio. I called my credit card and explained that I wanted a higher limit for some purchases I knew I’d be making as I approached my wedding, and presto-change-o! they doubled my line of credit, and my credit score bumped up to the 700s. Increasing a credit limit isn’t right for everyone, as discussed on TFD before, but it was a fine choice for me, and it took only 3 minutes.

    I think as we progress further into a world that deals less with phone calls, we are forgetting the power of speaking to people rather than emailing. I’ve gotten several other bank fees waived just from calling and asking nicely.

  • Summer

    You can often do the same with your mobile phone, too. Before I moved to Germany, I’d been with AT&T for something like 12 years and I was rarely told no when I asked them for something. Periodically I would check and see if there was a better plan option or some sort of promotion I could take advantage of. They even credited me $20 towards $100 worth of valid roaming charges once, just because I simply asked if there was anything they could do in regards to backdating a different feature to help cover the charges. There wasn’t, but they gave me that $20 anyway. Brand loyalty does pay off over time.

  • I recently learned about the medical bill savings too! I called the billing department directly & asked if they had a “pay-in-full” discount and I saved 15% immediately. Like Anum, I did have to pay it right then & there on the phone (which was kind of awkward because I was walking home in the rain reading off my credit card numbers) but I was going to pay the bill in full anyway so why not save 15% in the process?

    Also, if you’re not prepared to pay the bill in full, most hospitals & doctor’s offices offer a payment plan to pay your bill in monthly installments for 0% interest. It’s another great option so that your medical bills don’t get sent to collections. Hospitals & such are very motivated to get their money back so they’re absolutely willing to work with you to get it paid in a way that’s comfortable for you!

  • Grace

    I can’t believe the bank was so willing to reduce the interest on your credit card! Definitely something you would never know without asking. I’ll pass this onto my parents, who have just been slammed with an outrageous bill.

    That Twenty Something