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How To Negotiate Your Bills & Debts

Learn how to ask for discounts and modifications in order to better afford your monthly payments.

Man sits at desk with bills and statements in front of him.

From utility bills and medical expenses to your favorite streaming service subscriptions, life can get expensive. Knowing how to negotiate these bills can save you a significant amount of money or help you afford your payments should a financial crisis arise.

Bills You Can Negotiate

Most recurring bills can be negotiated with the service provider. You can even try to negotiate your credit card interest rate. Common recurring bills are: rent or mortgage, auto loans, utilities, phone and internet, medical debt, credit card debt, and personal loans.

It’s a good idea to review your last few bank and credit card statements and determine how many recurring bills you have. Write down a list of the bills that you plan to negotiate and include your monthly payment amounts. If you know how long you’ve been a customer, write that down as well.

Your negotiations will require some time, so you may not want to attempt all of your bills at once. Check if any of your service providers have a monopoly over your area; those bills can be hard to negotiate because that company knows you have nowhere else to go and no leverage to get a better deal. This may be the case for your utilities or internet.

How To Negotiate Your Bills

Once you know what bills you want to negotiate, it’s time to start your research. Figure out if there are competitors offering a better deal or if your current provider is offering a sign-up incentive.

Call your provider. Plan to spend about an hour on the phone; you may have to wait on hold for a while, or you may have to speak to a few different representatives. Be clear about your intentions and let them know that you’re unhappy with your current payments and would like a new deal. Ask if the company is offering any deals you may be eligible for. If they can’t help you, ask to be transferred to someone in a higher position or to the cancellations department.

Stand up for yourself, but remember to be kind. Point out what the competitors are offering and remind them of how long you’ve been a customer in good standing. Even if you’re not getting the answer you want to hear, keep the conversation respectful. Customer service representatives won’t help you out if you can’t show them some decency.

If you can’t work out a deal with the company, consider switching. If you do successfully negotiate a better bill, be sure to get all of the terms of the change in writing. Ask your representative to email you the agreement, and keep an eye on next month’s bill to ensure all of the changes take place.

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How To Negotiate Unaffordable Debt

Losing your job, accruing unexpected medical bills, or budgeting for the rising cost of living could affect your ability to pay back debt. As soon as you realize that you won’t be able to keep up with your payments, let your creditor know. It’s easier to work out a deal while you’re still in good standing than it is to ask for help after falling behind on payments. By establishing early and consistent communication, you can build trust with your creditors or debt collectors.

Before you ask your creditor for assistance, evaluate your situation. How long do you expect this hardship to last? How do you plan to get back on track? Be prepared to be open about your financial situation, and communicate truthfully and clearly about your budget.

If you’re dealing with a smaller hardship, something that you can recover from financially in a month or two, you may want to ask for a payment extension that can push your next payment due date out a month. However, if you’re dealing with a more severe or long-term hardship, like being unemployed for several months or taking on a large medical bill, you may need to refinance or restructure your debt.

If your account is still in good standing, refinancing might be your best option. You may be eligible to extend your payment term or lower your interest rate. If you’re unable to refinance for a better deal, you might have to request a restructuring. In this case, your creditor could extend your loan payment term or reduce your interest rate.

No matter what kind of negotiation you work out, be sure to understand how it will affect your credit. Remember to ask for the terms of your negotiation in writing, and read through it to ensure you understand everything.

Summary

It isn’t easy to negotiate your way to cheaper bills or to handle a financial hardship head-on. To set yourself up for success, remember to be kind, stand up for yourself, ask what the company can offer you, and communicate clearly.

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