One of the easiest ways to save money on your cable bill is to call up your provider and ask for a promotion. I would do this on a regular basis. Every few months I would call Comcast asking for a promotion. They would agree and I would be able to extend my current deal another six months. For me, that 5 minute call was well worth the money I was saving.
Fast forward and my latest promotion ended. The same routine began with me calling Comcast to continue my deal, only this time, I was not offered a deal. No problem as it’s just the person I am dealing with as I’ve encountered this before.
I decided to call back again in another day and have a different agent give me a deal. But after that call, I still had no promotion.
After many more calls, I got a representative that told me that Comcast introduced a new policy. They are no longer offering “rolling promotions” to existing customers. It makes no sense, but I’ll do my best to explain it.
No Promotions For Current Comcast Customers
A rolling promotion is when I would get a six month deal on my cable bill. When the six months ended, I called back and got the same promotion extended for another six months. After those six months, I get it extended again with another phone call. Rinse and repeat every six months. The deal was great as I was saving about $25 a month on my bill. That comes to $300 a year in savings. It was almost as easy as using Digit to save money.
According to the rep at Comcast, there are 2 reasons for no longer offering rolling promotions.
- Customers have been complaining about the variability of their monthly bill
- Comcast isn’t making enough money on the services it provides
Let me break this down for everyone. The average person who gets a six month promotion doesn’t mark down when this promotion will end. At month seven, they open up their bill to find their monthly charge skyrocketed to the normal price. They then call to complain.
Comcast doesn’t want this to happen so the logical solution is to end rolling promotions. Of course, this doesn’t take into account that Comcast raises its prices on a regular basis. Your bill usually varies anyway. And don’t get me started about the phantom modem rental fee that mysteriously shows up every few months!
The second reason is even better, that Comcast isn’t making enough money. And they wonder why everyone hates Comcast. For the year ended 2015, Comcast only increased revenues to $19 billion.
Comcast claims they are no longer offering these promotions for the benefit of the customer. I think that Comcast is going to change its mind and start offering the promotions again. The reason being is technology.
I read stories every day of people cutting their cable service and not regretting it one bit. With the internet and other content providers, you can get most of what you want without the need for cable.
When I look at my viewing habits, I rarely watch non-sports in real time. It’s usually at some other time via our DVR. So there is no need for me to watch the latest episode of Modern Family right when it airs. As time goes on, more technology will make this even easier to do.
The one thing that has kept many people on the cable company payroll is lack of options. Without cable, the options for watching your favorite shows have been close to impossible.
But thanks to technology, people have options. And every day it seems as though there is another new option for people to try.
If you are fed up with your cable bill increasing in price, you have options. I’ll get into these further below. But for now, let’s talk about how you still might be able to cut your costs and get a promotion with Comcast.
How To Actually Cut Your Cable Bill
Based on my experience and others, the odds of getting Comcast to lower your cable bill with a rolling promotion is impossible. Your only option is to go the contract route. Here is your plan when you call to score a deal on your cable bill.
Bypass the customer service rep: At the end of the day, the customer service rep can only do so much. Think about your job and the decisions you can make without needing approval. Same idea applies here. Giving discounts that aren’t on the monthly promotional sheet aren’t possible with this person. And most customer service reps only have a few promotions they can offer. Save the aggravation.
Talk to the retention department: When you are in the voice-prompt menu, listen for when it mentions upgrading or downgrading your service. These are the people you want to talk to. When you do start talking to them, have a plan and stick to it.
Plan of attack: The number one thing you need to do is to stay nice and calm. The minute you get mean, the less likely you will get help. Stay calm and explain that cable isn’t worth the price you are paying. You are thinking of canceling your service. Before you cancel, you just wanted to see if there is any promotion or discount that you can have.
Stick to the plan: The reps have gotten better at this and will come back with offers that you think are deals. They will try to get you into the Triple Play package. Or they will tell you that there is a discount on the “every channel we have plus more” package. Stand your ground.
While these sound good at first, here is what happens. When the promotion expires, you will be paying more, much more, than you are now. They suckered my Mom into this. She had every channel known to man. I was considering moving back home! After her promotion, her bill went from $133/month to $296/month. She almost had a heart attack.
Take your time: After they offer the first set of “deals”, pause for a minute as if you are thinking it over. Then politely decline. Ask if they have anything else. Repeat this a few more times. In the past, I’ve gotten a good deal after the third time I asked if there was anything else.
Cancel if needed: If they can’t offer you a deal, then say you would like to cancel. This is your last resort. They want to see if you are serious or not. Tell them that you don’t want to cancel, but the price is just too much. Many times they will make a last-ditch effort. In some cases they won’t. I’ve canceled my cable, effective the end of the billing cycle. Then the next day I call back and tell them to ignore the cancellation. I will take one of the deals I mentioned, assuming it is a good deal.
Go to Twitter: If all else fails, go to Twitter and tweet about how you can’t afford your bill and ask for help. Be sure to include there Twitter handle (@comcastcares) in the tweet. You’ll most likely get a direct message from a Comcast rep to help you out. This sounds crazy, but it works. I’ve done this with other companies and 99% of the time it worked. When I couldn’t get what I wanted with a phone call, I got what I wanted through a tweet.
Alternate plan of attack: An alternate plan of attack is to grab a flyer from a competitor in your area. Tell the cable rep you want to cancel service and go with their competitor with the lower price. Be sure to name the competitor.
I’ve found that most times, Comcast will match the pricing you quote. Of course, you need to actually have a quote from a competitor. You can’t just make it up. If you claim you are getting every channel for $9.95, Comcast knows you are lying.
The only catch to this plan is that you will most likely have to sign up for a contract with Comcast to lock in the price.
Note About Contracts
You can get a decent deal with Comcast when you sign up for a contract. This will lock in your price for one or two years, depending on the length you choose. The catch is if you end the contract early, you have to pay crazy cancellation fees.
If you do sign up for a contract, ask what is and is not included in the price. This includes cable boxes and HD fees. For example, I have a friend that signed up for a two year agreement. The understanding was that the total price (cable, internet, HBO and 2 DVR boxes) was $118 per month for two years.
Well, at the start of year two, the bill was $130. What changed? Apparently there was a special one year price on the boxes. Now in year two, they are back to normal price and thus, an increased bill.
My friend looked through his contract wanting to cancel because Comcast broke the contract. They increased the price of the boxes. But the contract states that box rental fees are not a valid reason for breaking a contract early without charge.
After many heated conversations with Comcast, my friend gave up. It wasn’t worth his time as every time he called, the new rep stated something different. He even had a rep re-read their notes about this incident so he was certain they had it recorded. But the next call he made, the notes were mysteriously gone.
When you go the contract route, make certain you know what the monthly price is during year one and what it is during year two. Also make sure you ask for other promotions too. Don’t just jump on the first contract they offer you.
When I did this recently, I got their best offer after listening to 3 other offers. Just make sure you have a pen and paper and write down notes for each deal so you can compare and pick the best one.
Also, try to call in on another day and time to see if you get a different agent. I’ve found one agent only offered me one contract and when I called back a few days later, I learned about 2 other packages.
At the end of the day, Comcast will find a way to screw up your bill somehow. Even when on a contract, my monthly bill sometimes varies. The only way to avoid the headaches is to avoid Comcast completely. Luckily, thanks to technology we have options. Here is the current list of alternative options.
Other Options Besides Comcast
Here are various ways that you can watch television and movie programming. Some are for free and others paid services through the Internet, so you can cut the coax for good.
First, let’s go over how you can find programming for free. Granted, you won’t be able to watch much live television as it happens this way. But if watching it live isn’t a priority in your life because you have other things going on, here are some suggestions.
YouTube/Vimeo: Not only can you find funny cat videos here, but you can also look up some documentary programming. Also many networks have their own channels on either of these services. They will show entire episodes or clips of their various programs. Sometimes within an hour or two of them airing live.
Both of these have apps that you can put on your mobile device and you can search any number of themes, topics or networks. The supply of programming can be quite limited, however.
Network/Program websites: Many top serial programs (Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Daily Show, or network nightly news) have their own websites. You can often go there just after a new program airs and catch it on the website for a couple of days. Then you can search the site for past episodes and get caught up.
TV Antenna: This is not your mother’s or grandmother’s “rabbit ears,” though it works in a similar way. You could spend $50-75 on an HD digital antenna that hooks to the back of your TV set. This will allow you to get local network television programming available in your area. If you are in an urban area, a basic antenna for $40 or so will work. If you are in the suburbs or in rural areas, you might need an upgraded antenna. These have a longer ranger (up to 50-75 miles) to catch the signals from the nearest TV tower.
Visit Antennaweb.org to see what channels are available in your area and what type of antenna you need.
Paid Streaming Services
Here are services that you can use on your TV or a mobile device without any extra equipment. So no need for set top boxes and the like.
Netflix: One of the pioneers of streaming video. For $10 a month you get access to thousands of movies and TV programs. You even get some compelling original content like “House of Cards,” “Longmire” and “Orange is the New Black.” You can upload the app to your mobile devices and you can run the service on up to five devices at once.
If you have more, you will have to upgrade your service to a $12-$13 a month subscription. Most smart TVs have a dedicated Netflix button on the remote. Others have the Netflix app already native in the operating system, which is nice.
The downside is that Netflix purges its library every month. You won’t get messages telling you what is leaving and what is coming. You have to look that up yourself and be aware if one of your favorite shows is scheduled to be on the chopping block.
Amazon Prime: This is where Netflix’s main competition lies. If a show was on Netflix, it may well end up here, and vice versa. Amazon Prime is $99 a year and gives you access to more than just streaming TV shows and movies. You can also stream music, borrow e-books and get free two-day shipping on most any order through Amazon. You can try Prime out for $3 for 30 days here.
Unlike Netflix, you can download episodes or movies to watch later offline. And of course it’s Amazon, so you could buy entire series or movie collections that you enjoy.
But like Netflix, if you do not have Wi-Fi access on your mobile device(s), these will suck up your data plan in no time. And because of licensing agreements, you won’t find the same shows on both Netflix and Amazon. One will be on one service and not on the other.
So if you have many shows you like to binge-watch, you may have to get both services. Still, though, that only sets you back about $200 a year combined. Amazon also has original programming like “Man in the High Castle,” “Transparent” and “Catastrophe.”
Hulu: Hulu has come on as the latest competition. Like Amazon and Netflix, Hulu offers recent seasons of popular shows. The focus is on the recent episodes. Hulu can put up episodes within a couple days after airing. The other two main services upload a full season when the newest seasons starts, meaning a delay.
For about the same price as the other two, you get current shows as well as network programming. Some of the leaders including Disney which may include some ESPN programming at times. The selection is more current and not quite as extensive as the other two, but it is desirable if you are someone who wants to keep up with the latest from your favorite shows.
Plex: This is an interesting service that actually does allow you to upload programming from your TV antenna and save it in the cloud for later. It also provides access to other programming that you can upload to a media library on your computer. This allows you to then stream to TV or other device offline from anywhere.
An annual subscription is $40 and a lifetime subscription is just $150. This allows you to upload all you want in movies and programs to watch wherever you want. But if you just want to upload your DVD collection and watch it from your tablet, you can do so for free. You can even watch your movies away from home for free as well, as long as you have an internet connection.
The downside of this is that the programs will fill up your hard drive so you may have to delete shows to free up space. Another option is to put them on some other storage device so you don’t lose them.
This can be handy with your home DVD collection or your DVR system that you have hooked up so you can save the shows you already know you like.
Crackle: This is a free video app that Sony owns, so it’s going to have bad shows on it. You can check out some of the old programming from years ago as well as some current shows such as “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” starring Jerry Seinfeld. And yes, you can find all those long-lost Seinfeld episodes here, too.
Would you like to have cable without the cable? A new thing called a “cable replacement service” is starting to show up. What makes a CRS different from a streaming service is that these provide live programming over the Internet from many of your favorite cable networks. It is much like cable in your home without the coaxial tether. This means you can watch it on a mobile device, TV or desktop/laptop anywhere in your home.
Sling TV: For about $20 a month for the basic package and up to $40 a month for all the channels offered, Sling TV gives you live programming on some of the more popular cable networks. This includes ESPN, TBS, Cartoon Network, Bravo, A&E, Fox Sports, CNN and History Channel, among others. There is no contract or commitment here. You can go month to month if you are more of a seasonal watcher of shows or sports.
PlayStation Vue: We’ll get into streaming devices in a minute, but PlayStation Vue is a service you can use without needing the gaming console. For about $40 a month, you get some of the same live programming as with Sling. There are some different options too like Fox News, Spike, Nickelodeon, Syfy and USA, among others. You can also stream this on any device or your TV and you can commit month to month as you wish.
Keep an eye out for your cable provider. Comcast and Cox have similar streaming services to re-capture old cable customers by providing them their same cable packages through an online stream, and it’s possible that other cable providers may look to do the same thing.
Individual Channel Apps
Should you be loyal to only a couple of individual channels, you can find those separate from any streaming service that groups channels together. If you just have to watch HBO or catch wall-to-wall basketball, there are some options for you if you are a specialized watcher.
HBO Go: You can download this app and for a premium subscription price you can see all the live and archived episodes of shows and movies that are or have been available on the premium cable network.
CBS All Access: This is the CBS Network, which means you can watch CBS shows, including Evening News, NFL games live, as well as other programming either live or on-demand from your TV or mobile device. The app is free, but accessing the streaming is a subscription basis. This works with CBS network programming and not necessarily other networks owned and overseen by CBS. You could check if other networks have similar apps for their exclusive programming.
MLBTV/NFL RedZone/NBA League Pass: These are specialized apps for the different sports seasons. These are paid on a subscription basis for a season, getting you access to a lot of out-of-market games if your favorite team is not in your backyard. You pay separately for each sport, which can be quite expensive if you are a fan of all the major pro team sports. But you can also get some all-access video and programming that you would not get in other places, which can be a nice benefit as well. These are perfect for you fantasy league junkies out there!
Kodi: Kodi is the closest thing you can find to replacing cable 100%. It is software that allows you to turn any phone, tablet or computer into a set-top box or streaming device.
When it comes to what you can watch, your options are unlimited. There are hundreds (probably thousands of apps) that allow you to access all sorts of content. You can even find apps that have movies that are still in theaters and live sports too. I can’t say for sure some of these streams are legal, but they are available through Kodi.
If you find a service you like, great. If you don’t, no worries. You can still dump cable by paying one-time to one of several video streaming devices that have either their own channels to access. Or in the case of Google, a small device that allows for video to be streamed from a TV to a mobile device.
Google Chromecast: This is a small device for about $35 that plugs into the back of your TV. It allows video streams from the TV on to mobile devices that are hooked up to a Wi-Fi home network.
Apple TV/Roku: These are both set-top boxes that give you access to various channels and libraries of TV shows and movies. Usually you pay for the box, hook it up to your set, and then you can pay a subscription to get access to much more streaming content that just about any other serviced out there. And yes, live programming is available as well.
These boxes can be quite expensive, as can the subscription, so you do have to weigh that with how much TV you actually watch. Only watching a few hours a month might not be worth it, but if you enjoy shows that are spread around on many different channels that regular streaming services don’t cover, then that convenience might be worthwhile.
Amazon Fire: Much like Apple TV, there is Fire TV from Amazon. It is a set-top box that allows you access to many apps to watch television and movies. It even gives you access to all of the television and movies that Amazon offers. A nice benefit to Fire TV is the amount of free shows you can watch through various apps.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it at least gives you some ideas of ways to get the programming you want and love from cable without having to pay the huge cable bill. These options are also nice so that you aren’t stuck with only the televisions to watch your favorite shows. Especially if your taste in shows is a little different than everyone else in the house.
At the end of the day, you have options when it comes to your cable subscription. You can negotiate and stay with your cable provider or you can do some research and see if any of the alternatives listed make sense for you.
For us, we renewed a two year agreement with Comcast. We wanted to lock in our price for a period of time and the deal was good. Our thinking is that in two years, technology will have come even further in terms of television watching and at that time, we can assess our options and make a change if needed.