How to Avoid TV Cancellation Fees

Is it time to break up with your cable company? Cancelling your TV service may seem unfathomable, but with so many new options when it comes to how you get your entertainment, the cable package that provided you with the reality shows, news channels, and movies you loved so much yesterday might feel outdated and bulky today. Plus, there are always variables like moving and downsizing, so canceling is an eventual inevitability. The tricky part is that canceling can often cost more than the television service itself.

A breakdown of fees and contact information per provider is at the bottom of this article, but if you’re looking for tips on how to ease the pain of an early termination fee, here’s help:

Make a phone call

It’s amazing what a conversation with a live agent can do. There’s actually a small trick that may help you get what you want without losing money. Many cable companies employ customer retention specialists whose job is to prevent as many customers as possible from making the switch. In fact, many of these agents receive commissions based on how many accounts they keep active. What does this mean for you? You may be able to get what you’re looking for without pulling the plug and shelling out a cancellation fee.

Bear in mind, calling is often necessary as most companies will only let you cancel over the phone. While it’s a pain, the phone call is your chance to getting your cancellation fee reduced if you’re still in a contract or even eliminated altogether.

Making a phone call is especially important if your reason for canceling is that you aren’t getting access to all the special channels or movie options you want. For instance, a customer retention agent may offer you a package upgrade or premium channels for no extra charge. He or she might even throw some credits or free streaming into the mix. It might be just the incentive you need to keep your current cable provider. The bottom line is that you don’t know what you can get unless you ask for it.

Read the fine print

It can seem like reading The Odyssey in Greek would be easier than combing through your cable contract to make sense of what you’ve signed. These contracts are crafted by teams of lawyers who are being paid top dollar by huge multimedia companies. However, taking a glance at the exact wording in your contract is worth the effort; it could provide you with the golden ticket you need to walk away without losing a lot of money.

Check to see if your cable company is in breach of contract for failing to provide services they’ve promised. Was your cable out for long periods of time? Were channels that you were paying for blocked? You might be able to convince a customer service representative to allow you to back out of your plan without penalty if you express displeasure with the service you received. At the very least, you may be able to minimize the size of your cancellation fee. Read up on the details of your contract to see if cancellation fees are prorated based on the duration of your contract.

Cut the cord before you cut the cord

Living a cable-free lifestyle sounds easy. There are so many streaming services and apps that offer access to the latest and greatest entertainment. However, you may not realize the downside to streaming until the cable box goes dark. You might find that you actually miss around-the-clock cable news stations or those addictive real estate shows. Be smart by putting yourself on a voluntary cable fast for a week before you take the plunge and cut the cord. You could discover that canceling your cable subscription isn’t a good idea at the end of that week. This step could save you the time, hassle, and cost of getting connected from scratch again.

Do the math

Remember that your cable contract is a legally binding contract. Sometimes there’s just no way around paying cancellation fees when you break that contract. It is also important, however, to do the math regarding canceling your subscription versus letting it expire. You don’t want to end your service if your cancellation fee is higher than what it would cost you to pay out the duration of your subscription. Sometimes, the best strategy is just be to wait until your contract expires. Of course, you need to be vigilant about remembering that date to avoid automatic renewals.

Return your accessories

Just like at the end of a romantic relationship, giving back belongings is crucial when you end things with your cable provider. Many people don’t realize that they actually need to return the rented cable equipment that was provided during installation. Something like a rented DVR or satellite dish could cost up to several hundred dollars, and a company won’t necessarily send out a technician to remove and collect items. The last thing you want to experience after breaking up with a cable company is an invoice for an item that was never returned. If you are expecting a cancellation fee, contact your cable provider if it never arrives. An unpaid bill could result in penalty fees or a ding on your credit record.

Once you’ve made the decision to walk away from your cable company, you want to make the transition as painless as possible. With these recommendations, you can make a clean break and move on to a service that fits you better.

Fee breakdown

Here’s our handy cancellation guide per provider. You’ll find phone number, cancellation tips, and early termination fees. Bear in mind that termination fees often depend on your specific package, so you’ll find out the fee when you call or email your provider.

CompanyFeeHow to Cancel
AT&T U-verse$180 (Can be less or more, depending on your individual plan. To view your specific ETF, go here.1-800-288-2020
Charter Spectrum$0 (No Contract)1-877-906-9121
Comcast XFINITY$220 (Comcast is purposefully vague in its subscriber agreement, but says it will refund any portion of a month you have paid for but not used.)1-800-934-6489
CoxPLG with monthly discount- $240 and $10/month ETF reduction
PLG only – $96 with $4/month ETF reduction
DIRECTV$15 plus a prorated ETF of up to $20/month1-800-531-5000
Optimum$0 (no contract)1-866-200-7273
SuddenlinkUp to $200 (see service agreement)1-877-794-2724
Time Warner CableUp to $175 with $7.50/month ETF discount1-800-892-4357
Fios by Verizon$165 (see service agreement)1-844-837-2262
Dish$20 for each month remaining in contract, up to $4801-888-283-2309

Check out our TV Service Buyers Guide for a complete comparison of the most popular TV providers in the country. Read individual brand reviews, see customer and expert ratings, and see package recommendations based on viewer types.

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