Your Guide to Avoiding TV Cancellation Fees

These days, countless people are abandoning traditional TV providers, such as cable or satellite companies. Streaming services and other digital options exist as attractive and affordable alternatives, making it that much easier for everyone to make the switch. That may even be the reason that you’re here now, reading this guide.

Maybe you’re simply unsatisfied with the service you’re getting. Perhaps you want more channels. Or maybe you’re satisfied with your package but not too happy about the price you’re paying each month. There are tons of reasons you might want to cancel your contract with your service provider.

You might be tempted to call them up and simply say, “I want out.” Unfortunately, backing out of your TV service can be a much more complicated, and even costly process.

Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to make it easier on yourself. At the end of the day, you may even decide not to cancel after all.

Cancellation Fees

TV companies do not want to see customers like you jump ship, especially since that ship needs your money to stay afloat! There are a number of things that companies will do to discourage their customers from backing out of their contracts prematurely. Their first line of defense comes in the form of cancellation fees.

In most cases, the fees are pretty straightforward — to end your contract early, you’ll either have to pay a flat fee or a fee based on the amount of time left in your contract. Of course, this depends on the service in question, so fees will vary from provider to provider. Most of them will charge you anywhere from $150 to $200 for canceling your contract ahead of its expiration date. Other services like DISH can charge much more — up for $480, depending on how many more months there are before your contract runs its course.

If you don’t have a contract with your provider, then you’re in luck. Services like Charter, Spectrum, and Optimum have no contracts, which also means they have no cancellation fees.

In many cases, it may make more sense for you to let your contract run its course. It could be cheaper simply to pay for your remaining months rather than to pay a steep cancellation fee. If you decide to take this route, make sure you don’t let your contract renew automatically.

Navigating Contracts

Unless you’re a lawyer, you probably won’t have an easy time trying to figure out the minutiae of your cable or satellite contract. These contracts are meant to confuse you. And more often than not, the language benefits your provider rather than you. Nevertheless, taking a look through your contract will probably give you some insight into the best way to leave your provider behind for good.

You’d be amazed by how often TV providers violate the terms of their own contracts. If that’s true, then how do they keep getting away with it? Well, it’s quite simple — most people don’t really read their contracts! So, armed with the proper knowledge, you may be able to force your provider’s hand and avoid paying any cancellation fees.

That being said, what should you look for in your contract?

There are a few common breaches of contract that TV providers tend to commit repeatedly. Long or regular periods of service outage could be one of them. Has your service been down at all while your contract has been active? Sometimes, providers, inadvertently or otherwise, block your access to channels that you’re paying for. And some customers are even charged extra or have their prices raised without being notified.

If any of these things happen to you, be sure to document them well. And if you can sufficiently demonstrate that your provider hasn’t been holding up their end of the deal, you won’t have to pay for the cancellation since they broke the contract first.

Calling Customer Service

Nowadays, it seems that customer service is becoming more and more automated. However, this is more beneficial for companies than for customers. Until all customer service agents are replaced by robots, though, you still have a chance to talk to a real live person. When negotiating your TV service bill, it pays to make human contact over the phone.

When talking to a customer service agent at a major TV provider, it’s likely that they’re a customer retention agent. That means that it’s their main job to ensure that you don’t leave. They will do everything in their power to keep you as a customer — they’re even paid extra for each customer they prevent from backing out.

This leads to an interesting conundrum — it’s possible that the agent in question will offer you a much better deal than the one you have now. In many cases, that deal could be enough to keep you on for a bit longer. Incentives that these agents may offer include free access to premium channels, upgraded packages, or reduced prices. However, while these things may sound good, you should be absolutely clear on how long these benefits will last. A short-term bonus now could end up costing you more later on.

Even if you’re dead-set on leaving, calling your provider may still be worth it. You never know — you could end up in a win-win situation for both you and the company.

Save Your Gadgets

You know that cable box gathering dust on the shelf below your TV? Of course you do, even if you’ve forgotten about it. Well, did you know that the box probably isn’t even yours? There’s a good chance that you didn’t.

If you’ve been looking forward to throwing your dish in the garbage or chucking your cable box out the window, you’ll want to hold off. In fact, most of the cable boxes, satellite dishes, and DVR units that TV providers give you are actually rented to you. This means that once your contract is up, your provider will want their stuff back. And if they don’t get it back, they’ll want you to pay for it!

Companies can charge hundreds of dollars for missing or unreturned peripherals. It’s an unpleasant surprise that all too many people have experienced after canceling their TV service. What’s more, these fees can be unavoidable — they’re part of your contract.

So what can you do to ensure that you don’t pay anything for missing parts? For starters, make sure all of your devices are clean and in proper working order. If you have a satellite dish, you’ll probably have to remove it yourself — the company isn’t likely to send anyone out to help you.

At the end of the day, it’ll be your responsibility to return everything. As unpleasant as it may be, being diligent about it will save you from even more unpleasantness later on.

Preparing to “Cut the Cord”

So you’ve decided to either pay the fee or let your contract run out. Congratulations — you’ve taken your first step towards cutting the cord. But are you sure you’re ready to leave your cable or satellite service behind for good?

It’s no secret that dealing with cable and satellite providers can be a hassle. From subpar customer service to high prices, there are dozens of reasons you might be frustrated with your current provider. But why do so many people (including you) still use these services?

The simple answer is that these providers do just that — they provide a massive variety of entertainment options for your viewing pleasure. Leaving behind your hundreds of channels may not be as easy as it sounds. If you’ve grown accustomed to a sizeable number of high-quality channels, digital alternatives may look like a serious downgrade.

Thankfully, you do have a variety of options aside from other cable and satellite providers. These days, there are a lot of different streaming services and digital TV providers that offer impressive variety at even more impressive prices. While they may not offer as many channels, they still deliver a lot for less money each month. And let’s be honest — do you really need hundreds of different channels to keep you entertained?

Live TV Streaming

Cable and satellite have some solid competition in all-digital services. With little more than a fast and reliable Internet connection, you can have access to most, if not all of your favorite channels. Even better, you can still enjoy a genuine live TV experience similar to cable or satellite.

If you’re looking for an all-around service that can give you access to your favorite channels, Sling TV is a great choice. As the first major live TV streaming service on the market, they’ve had a lot of time to get things right. The price is quite reasonable — for 20-45+ channels, you’ll pay between $20 and $40 per month. Keep in mind, though, that DVR costs an extra $5 per month.

DIRECTV NOW, the satellite provider’s foray into the digital TV game, boasts a much higher number of channels. At 60-120+ channels, refugees from traditional services, like satellite and cable, should be satisfied with the variety. Unsurprisingly, you’ll have to pay more. DIRECTV NOW starts at $35 per month and goes as high as $88 per month. That’s almost as much as some traditional packages. What’s more, DIRECTV NOW doesn’t offer DVR.

Maybe you’re most afraid of losing your favorite sports channels. If so, fuboTV is the right choice for you. While fuboTV’s emphasis is on soccer, it gives customers the option of adding other sports channels, as well as a comprehensive selection of popular entertainment channels. Package prices vary greatly, from $15 to $90 per month. DRV is free of charge.

On-Demand Streaming

If you’re really looking to scale back on your TV viewing and don’t really need live broadcasts, you might want to opt for on-demand streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

While these services don’t necessarily give you the same variety you might have with a live streaming service or a satellite or cable package, what they do give you is the convenience of watching what you want, when you want it. For more casual viewers or those who lack some free time to watch TV, on-demand streaming lets you customize your viewing experience in a way that won’t break the bank.

The main disadvantage of on-demand services is that not all of the shows you want will necessarily be available. If you enjoy watching shows from several different networks, paying for multiple subscriptions could end up costing about the same as a live TV service. It’s important to consider what you can and can’t live without when choosing one or more on-demand platforms since you’ll definitely end up missing out on some programming.

Streaming Devices

Digital streaming services, whether live or on-demand, can be easily used with all sorts of devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and smart TVs. But did you know that dedicated streaming devices also exist?

If you’re thinking of switching to a digital service but don’t want to bother with connecting your device to your TV, then look no further than Amazon Fire, Roku, and Apple TV. These handy devices hook up directly to your TV and have an easy-to-use interface that will let you watch your favorite shows without much hassle.

Bottom Line

As a customer, backing out of your TV service contract can be an uphill battle. Between the high cancellation fees, hidden charges, and maze-like contracts, it might seem like TV providers hold all the cards.

Fortunately, you have options. If you catch your provider in a breach of contract, don’t be afraid to bring it up! You’ll probably avoid having to pay for anything. Alternatively, you may end up getting a sweetened deal that could convince you not to leave.

And if in the end you do decide to leave, there are plenty of alternatives to keep you entertained. Unlike in earlier days of TV and satellite, today’s market provides the consumer with a plethora of choices. Hopefully, that idea alone gives you the confidence you need to make a change and leave your old provider behind for good.

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