How to Avoid TV Cancellation Fees

Chantel Buchi
Sr. Staff Writer, TV & Streaming
Read More
April 28, 2022
5 min read

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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

Company
Fee
Cancellation contact #
AT&T Internet

$325 minus $10 for each full month you've already paid

1 (800) 288-2020

CenturyLink Internet

$200 (24-month term) or $300 (36-month term)

1 (800) 244-1111

Spectrum Internet®

$0 or $75 if you have Price Guarantee package

1 (877) 906-9121

Xfinity Internet

$25 per month remaining on contract

1 (800) 934-6489

Cox Internet

Up to $120

1 (866) 961-0027

DIRECTV

A prorated early-termination fee of up to $20/mo. left on contract

1 (800-531-5000

DISH

$20 per month remaining on contract

1 (888) 283-2309

Optimum Internet

$0 (no contract)

1 (866) 200-7273

Verizon Fios Home Internet

$175–$350 depending on contract

1 (844) 837-2262

Data effective as of 4/28/2022. 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.

Ready to call customer service?

Dealing with fees is hard enough, let alone trying to deal with customer service too. Try out these tips for calling your internet service provider. They might give you more of an edge if you're wanting to negotiate.

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

Provider
Monthly price
Available channels
Learn more
YouTube TV$34.99$64.99*85
Hulu + Live TV$69.99$75.99*75
Sling$40$5547
Fubo$33$99.99*210
DIRECTV STREAM$64.99$139.99150
Data effective 11/11/21. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
Data as of 11/11/21. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Data as of 11/11/21. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
DIRECTV STREAM Device avail. for $5/mo. on 24-month installment agmt for well-qualified customers. Others pay $120 upfront for device. Taxes due at sale. See details. Price subject to change.
Find the best TV providers in your area.

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.

DIRECTV STREAM has a high channel count and includes three months of HBO Max for free, 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.

Hot tip
Heads Up

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 2022.

Cable TV services
Provider
Monthly price
Available channels
Learn more
XfinityXfinity TV$20$68.5185
Cox Authorized RetailerCox TV$53$138^250
SpectrumSpectrum TV$39.99/mo. for 12 mos.$59.99/mo. for 12 mos.^140
OptimumOptimum Cable TV$30$115420
Data effective 08/15/22. 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.

Need help canceling cable TV?

If you're looking for cable TV alternatives, we can help with the first (and most annoying) step.

Play Video

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)
  • Spectrum: $0 or $75 if you have Price Guarantee package
  • Comcast Xfinity: $25 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
Chantel Buchi
Written by
Chantel Buchi
Chantel is all about finding the best tv or streaming service to watch as many football games as possible to keep her Fantasy Football team in check. Prior to being a TV and Streaming Tech Reporter for Reviews.org, she worked for NFL Network and The Alliance of American Football. Before that, she received a B.A. of Communication at the University of Utah and an M.S. in Sports Journalism at USC. Go Utes and Fight On. Contact her at chantel@reviews.org

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