How to Avoid TV Cancellation Fees

Cord-cutting or switching to a new cable or satellite provider is easier now than ever before.

The hardest part about breaking up with your cable company is the early termination fees (ETFs). You might be moving, switching cable providers, or switching to a streaming service—but the cable company has you tied down with a contract.

You might think there’s no way around TV cancellation fees, but we’re here to help you dodge them, with no repercussions.

Ask yourself: why am I canceling?

Think it through: did you have a bad experience? Does the service cost too much? Or maybe you want to go cold turkey and get rid of cable TV altogether?

If you’ve had a terrible TV experience or you’re mad at how much your bill costs, then jumping on the phone to renegotiate your package or monthly bill might be the answer.

How much are cancellation fees?

After you’ve pinned down why you want to cancel, check out the fees you’ll have to pay if you can’t renegotiate with an agent. It might be expensive, so you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it for you.

The worst part about signing up for a cable, satellite, or fiber TV service is the cancellation fees. But we’ll help you relieve some of that stress by quickly checking out what cancellation fee you may be facing.

Cable, satellite, and fiber TV early termination fees
CompanyFeeCancellation contact #
AT&T$325 minus $10 for each full month you've already paid1 (800) 288-2020
CenturyLink$200 (24-month term) or $300 (36-month term)1 (800) 244-1111
Charter Spectrum$0 or $75 if you have Price Guarantee package1 (877) 906-9121
Comcast Xfinity$10 per month remaining on contract1 (800) 934-6489
CoxUp to $1201 (866) 961-0027
DIRECTVA prorated early-termination fee of up to $20/mo. left on contract1 (800-531-5000
DISH$20 per month remaining on contract1 (888) 283-2309
Optimum$0 (no contract)1 (866) 200-7273
Verizon Fios$175–$350 depending on contract1 (844) 837-2262

Data effective as of 12/02/2019. Fees are subject to change.

Now that you’ve decided to cancel your TV service, here are a few steps to consider before you make the breakup call.

1. Read the fine print

Before you make that breakup call, it’s a good idea to read the fine print to know what you’re up against. This is where you’ll find out if you’re pretty much stuck paying the rest of your contract or if prorated fees apply.

It can seem easier to read minds than to read through your cable contract to make sense of what you’ve signed. But reading your contract could be the golden ticket you need to walk away from your TV provider without losing lots of money.

First, check to see if you got the service you were promised, and then check what type of fee the company charges (prorated, a set amount, etc.).

Did you get the service you were promised?

Here are a few things you could consider when looking through your contract:

  • Did your cable company fail to provide the services it promised?
  • Was your cable out for long periods of time?
  • Were channels blocked that you were paying for?
  • Were there unexpected fee increases?

You might be able to convince a customer service representative (or their supervisor) to allow you to back out of your plan without penalty if you let them know you didn’t get the service you signed up for.

At the very least, you may be able to minimize the size of your cancellation fee.

Check if cancellation fees are prorated

If the cancellation fees are prorated based on the duration of your contract, this means your fee could increase for each month left on your contract.

For example, DIRECTV has a prorated early termination fee of up to $20 per month.1 If you have three months left on your contract, it’ll charge you $20 the first month, $40 the second month, and $60 the third month for a grand total of $120.

2. Do the math

You don’t want to cancel your service if your cancellation fee is higher than what it would cost you to pay out the rest of your contract. So it’s important to do the math to figure out which is best for you.

Remember: your cable contract is legally binding. Sometimes you just can’t get out of paying those pesky cancellation fees.

And if this is the case, just hold on tight to it while you can. Make the last few months count.

Also, mark your calendar for the day your subscription ends so you can avoid automatic renewals. Because that . . . could be bad.

3. Make the phone call

Just like any relationship, having a conversation can turn out great for both parties. Talking to a live agent on the phone can do wonders, so try making a call to renegotiate your contract.

Many agents get a commission based on the number of accounts they keep active—and you could take advantage of this. Maybe you could talk them into decreasing your monthly bill until your contract runs out.

Try these out and see what happens:

  • “This service is too expensive. I could afford it if it were cheaper.”
  • “We didn’t mind the package price, but these new fees are too much.”
  • “We haven’t had TV service out here for three weeks, and this isn’t the first time.”
  • “We don’t get ESPN with our package anymore, so . . .”
  • “According to our contract, our service was supposed to be . . .”

Just make sure the agents don’t grant you “free” access to a package upgrade or premium channels and charge you fees in the future for these perks. They might even throw some credits or free streaming into the mix to keep your business.

Ask for what you want, and you might be surprised at what you end up with. You may stay together and live a happy life.

4. 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. You don’t want to hold onto those memories. Or get charged a fee, in this case.

A DVR could cost up to several hundred dollars, and a company won’t send out a technician to remove and collect it. They make you work for the breakup. Just in case you change your mind in the process and go running back to them.

Also, most satellite TV providers won’t remove the dish from your roof. It’s up to you to remove it yourself or let it be.

5. Find the right service for you

There are so many live TV streaming services and apps that can sub in for traditional cable—all with the latest and greatest entertainment. You won’t need to give up your sports channels or HBO.

And you can spend a week or even a month with them without needing to pay a cancellation fee.

You can also try out another cable company that has packages you’re looking for (and possibly a no-contract option).

Live TV streaming services comparison
ProviderMonthly priceAvailable channelsLearn more
YouTube TV$49.99*70View Plan
Hulu + Live TV$54.99*65View Plans
Sling$30$4550View Plans
AT&T TV NOW$65$135*125View Plans
Fubo$54.99$79.99*175View Plans
Data as of 07/29/19. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Data as of 07/29/19. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

YouTube TV has a great variety of channels and an unlimited DVR storage space.

Hulu + Live TV gives you the best bang for your buck with a low price and good channel lineup.

Sling TV is the most affordable option, but you’ll have to pay an additional $5 per month cloud DVR fee.

AT&T TV NOW has a high channel count and includes HBO, but it’s the priciest option.

fuboTV caters to the sports fanatics and offers a decent number of channels.

Then you’ll have to choose your device. There are lots of cool streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, and Apple TV that you can choose from.

Heads Up icon
Hot tip
Don’t forget to get a good internet provider. Lucky for you, we’ve made a list of the best providers for streaming.

If you still want a traditional cable experience and aren’t ready to cut the cord, check out another cable TV service. These cable TV providers are part of our top four for 2020.

Cable TV services
ProviderMonthly priceAvailable channelsLearn more
Xfinity TV$49.99$104.99260View Plans
Cox TV$25$69.99140View Plans
Spectrum TV$44.99$89.99200View Plans
Optimum Cable TV$64.95$104.95420View Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1-year contract.
For the first 12 months.

So take our advice

Also, if you’re expecting a cancellation fee and it never arrives, contact your cable provider. An unpaid bill could result in penalty fees or a ding on your credit score. Ouch.

So take our advice for a clean break and move on to a service that fits you better. If you never want to deal with early termination fees again—or their in-laws—we recommend taking a look at the attractive and charming YouTube TV, Sling TV, or Hulu + Live TV.

Take your pick. You’re free now.

TV provider cancellation fees

  • AT&T: $325 minus $10 for each full month
  • CenturyLink: $200 (24-month term) or $300 (36-month term)
  • Charter Spectrum: $0 or $75 if you have Price Guarantee package
  • Comcast Xfinity: $10 per month remaining on contract
  • Cox: Up to $120
  • DIRECTV: A prorated ETF of up to $20 per month. left on contract
  • DISH: $20 per month remaining on contract
  • Optimum: $0 (no contract)
  • Verizon Fios: $175–$350 depending on contract

What do you think?

Did we miss something? How did you avoid TV cancellation fees? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Sources

  • Yovana Perez

    I’ve had direct tv service in the past , where everything was fine and service was good. I moved address and called direct tv to inform them of the move , well I came to find out that the better option was to cancel that service and open a new service with the bundle of internet and land line. Everything was done through direct tv , it would work out according to the representative because I would be sharing the services with my son in law in the second floor. Well after they signed me up for the whole package I then called att to change over my land line phone number to the new address . To my surprise I was then told that land lines did not exist any longer in my area . I then got upset because I was already in the package with direct tv where they failed to inform me of that they just signed me up with no problem. I then spent over two hours on the phone with att trying to disconnect the landline that I was issued by direct tv and I kept getting the run around. After that incident I then got my services with cable and internet disconnected I was promised a 50 speed that was the max for my area and that’s what my tech told me he did.not only that but he had to go on a hunt around my neighborhood to locate my package for installation. He found it at another address , they sent my stuff to the wrong address.. It had not even been half a month into the agreement or sign up with direct tv. I got disconnected due to non payment which is weird considering that I’ve had the service less than a month. I called direct tv where they said I had a credit in my bill and that they didn’t understand why my services got disconnected. They turned my cable back on , but then the internet I had to call att because direct tv told me that they had nothing to do with their part of the deals. I spent another hour and a half trying to resolve the internet part. They said it was a mistake and that they would turn my services back on . I left to work and the next day I come to find out that I had no internet service again. They never turned my service on . After that is when all the calling and being back and forth with direct tv started . I spoke to a supervisor who assured me that I was not getting the speed I was suppose to and that it would be an additional monthly charge to get it . I have spoken to many representatives and many supervisors and the customer service has been horrible. I have spent many hours of my life trying to resolve issues , being transferred back and forth being hung up on , not getting calls back , getting transferred to a company that had nothing to do with direct tv encountered service reps that made me feel that I was crazy , and I just now got off the phone with a billing manager by the name of Jessica that at the end of my rant I guess in trying to get my services disconnected gave me the silent treatment and I had to say hello about 5 times from time to time to get her attention only to be told that she was not going to repeat herself very rudely and said there was nothing she could do. I have. It been using the direct tv services for a couple of months now and I don’t believe it’s fair for me to pay the cancellation fee and the months of the service. It being used. And I believe that anyone in my situation would agree with me on that part. It is unfortunate that it came to the point of me not even recommending nor ever getting direct tv again in my life because I have been lied to , hung up on, made feel crazy , transferred back and forth and ignored so many times when I’ve had direct tv in the past.

  • lolita02

    Xfinity is getting rid of Starz and that was the reason I entered into a contract with them they said I can’t get out of the contract because they are replacing it with Epix but that’s not the contract I entered into. How can I get out of this contract I feel they breached their end.

  • Glauce Lanna

    When I signed up for cable I was told I was signing up with sprint however all my bills are from direct tv. Went at least 2weeks without channel 9. Now they want $220.00 in early cancellation fees for one year remaining on the contract that was supposed to be with sprint. What can I do? Is that even legal?