You may have heard ads promising that professional bill negotiation services can help you save big money on your medical bills, credit card statements, cable bills, and more. While it’s a promising offer, the truth is negotiating bills on your own is simple, effective, and most importantly: free. You may be surprised at how willing many companies are to reduce your rates, especially for long-time loyal customers. With some preparation and persuasive negotiation tactics, you can trim hundreds of dollars from your annual expenses. Follow these simple steps to start saving—without paying any unnecessary fees.
How to lower your bills for free
Bill negotiation works because companies have incentives to keep customers happy and retain business. It costs more for them to acquire new customers than to keep existing ones. As long as you make reasonable requests and politely threaten to take your business elsewhere, many service providers will offer discounts or perks.
Contact service providers yourself
Don’t wait for a third party to step in—contact providers directly to dispute problematic charges or rates. Call their billing department about discrepancies or overcharges on your statements, armed with your notes from reviewing the itemized bill. Ask about applying for hardship assistance programs or discounts. Service representatives are often authorized to make adjustments to retain you as a customer.
Know your stuff
Request an itemized bill from any provider to scrutinize the charges in detail. Identify overcharges, duplicate charges, and services you did not receive. Federal law also allows you to request interest rate reductions on credit card bills.
Send formal dispute letters
If a phone call yields unsatisfactory results, follow up with a formal dispute letter stating which charges you disagree with and why. Provide evidence of errors or unfair rates by including notes from researching reasonable costs or comparing with past statements. Request that the disputed charges be removed and clearly communicate you expect a response by a specific date.
Use free templates and tools
Instead of paying steep sign-up and commission fees for bill negotiation services, use free scripts, online dispute letter templates, and cost-of-living calculators to bolster your case. Seek form letters specific to cable bills, hospital bills, credit card statements, phone bills, etc. to save time and effort.
How to tell if a bill negotiation service is worth it
Of course, negotiating your own bills is not nearly as effortless and appealing as downloading an app that does all the work for you. The thing is, bill negotiation services aren’t worth it if their fees exceed the savings you get from lowered billed. To evaluate if an app is going to be worth it for you, compare the fees with the potential benefits.
For most these apps, the fees will be any combination of the following:
Service fees (monthly, one-time, or annual)
Membership fees (usually annual or recurring/monthly)
Bill negotiation fee (percentage of your savings)
Let’s take a look at an example of how these services make money while cutting down your bill costs: BillShark is one that negotiates monthly bills and doesn’t charge customers upfront fees. Instead, it charges a one-time fee of 40% of the savings it creates. If you don’t have time to hop on the phone and negotiate your bills yourself, that 40% may be worth it. Otherwise, that’s a decent chunk of savings that could be all yours, if you use the tips above. The bottom line is before you pay for these services, remember that you have the power to effectively negotiate your own bills without an expensive middlemen.
Source: LifeHacker – Bill Negotiation Services Are a Waste of Money