Fees and Bills You Might Be Able to Negotiate
Most Americans don’t assume they can negotiate the prices of goods and services. It’s one of our cultural norms—you don’t expect to be able to walk into a grocery store and haggle with the cashier about the price of a gallon of milk. So, it might surprise you to discover there are bills you can negotiate, if you know how.
Over a dozen bills that could be up for negotiation are listed below, but before you read on, you should know the negotiating strategy that applies to them all:
- Shop around for other offers from competitors and be able to quote a better deal from them. You’ll have better luck negotiating a lower price in a competitive market where companies are eager to keep customers. Also be willing to leave your current service provider if they won’t lower your bill.
- Be in a stronger bargaining position by being a good customer and paying all of your bills on time. A strong payment history will go a long way in your favor when you suggest a lower rate on services.
- If applicable, be able to offer cash up front. Many companies would rather have a lump sum of cash now than have to pay a credit card or other billing service a fee to charge you multiple payments.
- Don’t accept the first “no” you hear from the first customer service rep. Tell them if they can’t do any better than their current price, you need to speak to someone about cancelling your service. You’ll either get a price break right then or be passed up the chain to someone who can give you the discount you want.
With those steps in mind, here are bills you can try to negotiate.
Medical bills can easily wipe out your emergency savings or force you to put some of the expense on credit cards. But before you do that, you have three options for lowering the bill.
First, you can offer cash up front. Hospitals are often cash strapped, so a lump sum of money up front is appealing. Offer to pay your bill in cash but at a discount. People have had success with this strategy, lowering their bills by 10 to 40 percent!
Second, you can hire a medical billing advocate to negotiate for you. This will cost a fee, but it could still be less than paying the entire owed amount to the hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office. Ask for a free consultation from the expert first to see if it’s worth your while.
Third, you can—and always should—conduct an audit of your itemized bill. It’s possible there are errors. An analysis by personal finance company NerdWallet found almost 50 percent of Medicare medical claims contained billing errors, resulting in more than 25 percent overpayment by patients! Look for duplicate charges, charges for services that weren’t rendered, and incorrect quantities of medicines.
Bonus tip: Ask for an interest-free payment plan. Tell the billing representative what amount you can pay each month and they may be able to meet that request. And that’s much better than paying the high interest rate of carrying the balance on a credit card!
Credit card interest rates and fees
Speaking of credit cards, did you know you might be able to negotiate a lower annual percentage rate (APR) on your credit card? While it’s ideal to pay off your full balance each month and avoid paying interest at all, by lowering the APR, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars a year if you do carry a balance from month to month.
Call the customer service number on the back of the card and ask a representative to lower your APR. The longer your history of responsible credit use and on-time payments, the better your chances of getting what you ask for. And don’t be afraid to use it as proof you deserve better terms on your card!
If they won’t budge on the APR, consider leaving that credit card company and consolidating to a new credit card with a 0 percent introductory rate period to save on interest costs. But watch out for balance transfer fees. Although this, too, might be negotiable with the new card.
Other credit card fees you can negotiate are the annual membership fee and late fee. Again, if you have good payment history, tell them you feel they can do better for such a good customer.
Cable and internet service
This may be the easiest service to negotiate because there is so much competition between cable, internet, and satellite television providers (unless you live in a remote area, in which case, sorry, you’re probably stuck).
For best results, call and try negotiating near the end of your service contract, since the company would rather keep you than see your money go elsewhere. Ask about any current promotions you qualify for. Have a competitor’s offer ready and ask if they can match it. If you’ve noticed a decline in service, mention it and ask about a bill credit for the time the cable or internet wasn’t working.
Alternatively, you could eliminate channels or lower your internet speed to save money. Or switch entirely to streaming services like Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix. Although this will mean you’ll want a higher tier of internet service.
Like cable TV service negotiations, rent negotiations are best started at the end of your current lease before a new lease is signed. If you’ve found similar accommodations in the area for less, use that when negotiating with your landlord. Consider signing a longer lease for a discount.
The rise of more and more discount carriers using the same networks as the larger carriers means those big players are more willing to offer or match competitive pricing. Discount carriers are also often contract-less, giving you more flexibility of when to end or change your service.
Another option is to review your plan and see if you’re using all of the talk, text, and data you’re paying for—or if you could cut back for a cheaper plan.
Try your negotiating skills on these bills, too:
- Landline phone (if you even have one!)
- Car insurance
- Alarm/Security system
- Storage unit
- Satellite radio
- Bottled water delivery
- Gym memberships
- Identity theft services
- Gas, electric, propane gas