Cutting the cord on cable is a terrific way to save money. Telecommunication companies know this and love to try to use early termination fees to convince you to stay under contract.
Thankfully, there are ways to avoid TV cancellation fees.
If you want to cancel your TV service but are afraid it will be too costly, our guide shares ways to avoid paying a fee.
Table of Contents
Read Your Contract
Before you call to cancel your service, it’s essential to read your cable contract. Cable and satellite TV providers purposely love to bury fees within the fine print.
However, reading through the contract will give you an idea of what cancellation fees they might charge.
For example, we found a $15 deactivation fee buried in our contract when we decided to cancel DIRECTV. There was nothing about the cancellation fee they charge.
The contract should also explain what reasons might allow you to avoid fees. You want that information for when you will make the call.
How Much are Early Termination Fees?
Here is a list of potential fees you might incur when you cancel cable TV and contact numbers of popular providers.
|Number to Contact
|$200 (24-mo. plan) or $300 (36-mo. plan)
|$10 per remaining month
|Up to $120
|$20 per remaining month
|$20 per remaining month
|$0 or $75 if you have Price Guarantee
|$175 - $350
Can I Refuse to Pay a Cancellation Fee?
It is possible to refuse to pay a fee to get rid of cable TV. Keep in mind that your success with this depends on the provider and your reason for cancelling.
This is why you want to know your contract well before making the call. Simply not being happy with how much you’re paying each month isn’t a sufficient reason to avoid cancellation fees.
You need to have a valid reason to sidestep fees. Here are a few common reasons you can cancel cable without paying a fee.
Did You Experience Outages?
Telecommunications companies love to tout their uptime. This is the amount of time they provide reliable service without any interruptions.
No service is perfect, and you will likely experience some downtime. That nonperformance, if persistent enough, can be a good way to avoid TV cancellation fees.
You will want to quantify the amount of nonperformance you experience. It’s important to know what it costs you and how regularly it occurs.
Documenting this is key before making the call. You can use this information to make your case.
Were There Undue Rate Increases?
Cable and satellite companies love to increase rates. Rate hikes typically occur annually.
You may have signed up for a teaser rate only to have your prices go up multiple times during your contract period.
If these increases are undue, you may have a case to avoid paying an early termination fee. This is more of a gray area, but it is a valid argument when speaking with a retention representative.
Did the Cable Company Not Provide Promised Services?
Did you sign up for service with the promise the cable or satellite provider would provide a particular service?
This ranges from DVR capacity, to simultaneous screens to a particular channel lineup and more. Not fulfilling a promise is a legitimate reason to ask for cancellation fees to be waived.
Like the rate increases, have proper documentation to provide to the representative. This will help strengthen your argument.
Can You Buyout the Contract?
A final way to avoid early termination fees is to find someone to buy out your contract. Some providers, such as Charter Spectrum, offer a buyout program if you switch to their company.
Ask the new service if this is something they offer. If not, is there someone you know who might want to take over your service?
If there is, it’s possible to avoid fees.
Making the Call
Now that you’ve decided you want to cancel your satellite contract, it’s time to place the call to end service. Make sure to have all of your information on hand to support your argument.
Be courteous when making the call. The representative is only doing their job, and you’re more likely to get what you want if you’re pleasant.
The first representative you speak with may not have the authority to help in the way you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for a manager as they will have more power to negotiate with you.
State your case and explain that you want to cancel your contract without paying a fee. Be prepared for them to give you reasons not to terminate your contract.
Some common objections include:
- It’s not possible to get Wi-Fi without cable
- Cord-cutting is difficult to do
- You will lose your favorite channels when you live stream TV
- Streaming apps don’t provide an adequate DVR capacity
- You can’t watch live sports when you cut the cord
All of these objections are false. If you’ve done your research, you can refute all of them.
*Related: Are you cutting the cord and not sure which streaming service is best for you? Take our free quiz to receive a personalized recommendation for the best service for your needs.
Don’t Forget to Negotiate
After the representative hears your case and you counter their arguments, now is the time to try to cancel service without incurring a fee.
Don’t expect them to just simply give you what you want. They may try and lure you to stay with a “special” deal or offer.
It’s important not to accept this offer for two reasons, including:
- You’re still under contract
- It may reset and lengthen your contract in some circumstances
However, it may be possible to reduce or waive your fees completely with a little negotiating. Stand your ground kindly insist that you have grounds for canceling without having to pay a fee.
Again, don’t forget to ask for a manager to see what they can do for you to waive or reduce fees.
Return Your Equipment
You are nearly free. But, before you can switch to a live TV streaming service, you will need to return any equipment you’re using from the cable company.
Common examples include:
- Set-top boxes
- Satellite dish
Ask the representative to clearly explain what needs to be returned and how long you have to return it.
In many cases, they will provide a self-addressed box to mail the equipment. Make sure to send it in within the given timeframe.
Keep in mind that they will charge you for the equipment if it is not received in the given time. This can cost several hundred dollars.
The company may also ask you to return the equipment to their local office.
One word of caution, most companies do not want dishes back and often won’t send a tech out to help with removal.
After you mail in the equipment, call the company to verify they’ve received it.
Find a Replacement
Congrats! You’re now free of your contract. Next, you need to choose one of the available cable TV alternatives to replace your content needs.
There are numerous services to try, and most of them offer a free trial.
As you try the services, you’ll quickly notice that you don’t have to sacrifice live sports, local channels, or a DVR.
Conversely, if you don’t need sports, there are services that offer sports-free packages. These help you avoid paying for what you don’t watch.
Better yet, all alternatives to cable let you cancel or pause service at any time with no fee.
Here’s a list of the top services to replace cable.
Use the free trials to find a service that works for you and pocket the savings.
TV cancellation fees are abundant within the world of cable. With a little work, you can potentially avoid them and move to a no-contract service.
If the telecommunication company does charge you fees, pay them so they won’t impact your credit. Once paid, you can enjoy your favorite shows without a contract or unnecessary fees.
What’s one thing keeping you with cable TV?
I’m John Schmoll, a former stockbroker, MBA-grad, published finance writer, and founder of Frugal Rules.
As a veteran of the financial services industry, I’ve worked as a mutual fund administrator, banker, and stockbroker and was Series 7 and 63-licensed, but I left all that behind in 2012 to help people learn how to manage their money.
My goal is to help you gain the knowledge you need to become financially independent with personally-tested financial tools and money-saving solutions.