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.
|Company||Fee||Cancellation contact #|
|AT&T||$325 minus $10 for each full month you've already paid||1 (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 package||1 (877) 906-9121|
|Comcast Xfinity||$10 per month remaining on contract||1 (800) 934-6489|
|Cox||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||$0 (no contract)||1 (866) 200-7273|
|Verizon Fios||$175–$350 depending on contract||1 (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).
|Provider||Monthly price||Available channels||Learn more|
|YouTube TV||$49.99*||70||View Plan|
|Hulu + Live TV||$54.99*||60||View Plans|
|AT&T TV NOW||$65–$135*||125||View Plans|
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.
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.
|Provider||Monthly price||Available channels||Learn more|
|Xfinity TV||$49.99–$104.99†||260||View Plans|
|Cox TV||$25–$69.99‡||140||View Plans|
|Spectrum TV||$44.99–$89.99‡||200||View Plans|
|Optimum Cable TV||$64.95–$104.95||420||View Plans|
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.
1. Frugal Rules, “How to Cancel DIRECTV and Save Big Money”