One way of saving money on everything from TV to home security is with contracts, longer term agreements that come with lower pricing and potentially a penalty if you cancel. We generally recommend these for anybody who is planning to stick with their provider for the term of the contract, so you need to know if that makes sense for you.
What are contracts?
When you’re not in a contract, you have a month-to-month relationship with your provider. So, you can cancel anytime and there’s no downside. A contract locks you in to a provider for a certain period of time. For residential bills, the most common contract terms are 12 or 24 months, although there can be longer terms, especially for business bills. Generally speaking, your provider will be willing to offer lower pricing during a contract than they will month-to-month. The other advantage is that most contracts come with some level of price-lock, meaning you won’t have to worry about price increases during the contract.1 The downside is that there is normally an early termination fee if you cancel during the contract term.
What happens if you cancel early?
Most providers will charge an Early Termination Fee if you decide to cancel partway through a contract. How much you need to worry about this varies by provider. As a general rule, Early Termination Fees (ETFs) aren’t a big deal on residential internet or TV service. For example, Comcast’s residential Early Termination Fee is $10/mo for each month of service left on the contract. So, if you need to get out 6 months early, you’d have to pay them $60, but on a 24 month contract, you’d have already saved $180, so you still come out ahead. If you needed to get out 2 months after signing, then you’d potentially lose money.
However they can be pricier on less common services like a home security service or a pest control service. If you’re nervous about it, you’re always welcome to research or ask us more details before agreeing to a new contract. If the contract is for service for your business, ETFs can be pricier, so you’ll need to be more sure you’re not going to cancel early.
Providers will frequently waive ETFs if you have a good reason, like a death or natural disaster. And if you change your mind within 30 days of starting the new contract, normally they will let you out of the contract with no penalty. However, if you cancelled for a reason they don’t excuse, BillFixers can negotiate ETFs. We’re often able to help if you get stuck with one, but it’s not a sure thing.
When should I say yes to a contract?
For services at your home, if you’re confident that you’re not planning on moving during the term of the contract, it’s almost always the right call to agree to the contract. Even if you’d be planning to move near the end of the contract, it can still be worthwhile. Or, if you are moving to somewhere with the same provider available, you can transfer your service with no penalty.
If you like your provider or there are few other providers in the area, a contract with your current provider makes sense.
If you’re worried about price increases or just don’t want to worry about watching your bill every month, a contract might be helpful for you.
When should I say no to a contract?
If you’re planning on moving within the next few months, a contract isn’t the right call for you. If you’re planning to move in a year or so, you’ll have to do the math to figure out if it makes sense, which we can help with if you’d like.
If you generally hop around providers every year to get the lowest rate, a contract might not make sense for you.
If you’re thinking about substantially changing your service with your current provider (for example, you currently have a TV + Internet + Home Phone bundle, and you’re thinking about going to Internet only) you’ll need to know if your provider charges fees for partial cancellation of service.
How do I accept or decline a contract?
You can accept or decline an offer multiple ways, but most commonly in reply to an automatic email or on your dashboard. On your dashboard, whenever there is an open contract offer, there will be buttons that say “Yes Please” or “No Thanks.” If you wish to agree to the deal, click Yes. Otherwise, click no. Once you click one, your bill will be sent back to the negotiator. If you accept, they will work to get that contract put in place. If you turn it down, they will go back to the provider for other options.
If there are multiple offers on your account, please reply to all of them. If you have any questions, just let us know. But otherwise we don’t know which things you want us to do.
How can I agree to future contracts?
If the contracts toggle on your bill’s card is GREEN, we will automatically accept future contracts. If the toggle is grey, we’ll ask you manually. So, if you would like us to agree to any (reasonable) contract in future without you having to review it personally, just click or tap on that slider to toggle that to green. We will still avoid super-long or no-savings contracts, but agree to anything that we think is a good deal.
1. Price-locks vary by providers, but are a feature of most contracts. They generally will cover the cost of the services themselves, so during the term of the contract, you’ll be exempt from the random price increases your neighbors might get. However, one thing to be wary of is “Taxes & Fees” which generally aren’t covered by price-locks. Of course, your provider can’t help it if the state increases the sales tax rate, but sometimes providers will increase various other fees. The only other potential price increase you might have to worry about is that some contracts offer stepped pricing, meaning for example that there might be a $20/mo discount in year 1 and only a $10/mo discount in year 2. However, we’ll generally let you know ahead of time if the contract is structured like that so you don’t have to worry.