As of 2018, the average U.S. monthly cost of internet was around $60, according to Leichtman Research Group. That’s a lot of money, especially when you need the internet for most entertainment and communication activities.
So how do you strategically shop for cheaper internet, fit your internet budget and still get a fast connection? (We know, we’re all wondering the same thing.) Here are some tips on how to get cheap internet and lower your monthly bill.
How to shop for internet providers
Before you can become a master negotiator, you need to know what your options are and which plans fit your household needs. Take our “What speed do I need?” quiz below and then run a speed test to see what you’re currently getting. This will help you determine if your current plan is meeting your needs.
Next, use Allconnect® to see which providers are available in your area. Once you know which providers to choose from, you can start making decisions on specific plans. Additionally, some providers offer low-income internet plans that may be an option if you qualify.
Here are some other things to consider when shopping for internet providers:
Buy your own modem or router
If you don’t intend to move anytime soon, buying your own modem, router or Gateway could help you save on monthly equipment rental costs.
For instance, instead of renting an Xfinity xFI Gateway for a year, you could buy the Xfinity compatible NETGEAR Nighthawk Gateway. It may be a pricey modem and router, but if you intend to keep Xfinity service, buying the Nighthawk and using it for two years costs $40 less than renting the xFI Gateway for two years!
Sign a contract or term agreement
Consider signing a service agreement to save money. For instance, Verizon Fios and Xfinity both currently offer monthly price deals for two-year agreements that give you a lower monthly cost than you get with a no-contract plan.
If you move or choose a new provider in the middle of your term, you could pay a pricey early termination fee, but if you intend to stay in your home for a while, locking in a monthly price for one or two years can guarantee a cheaper internet plan.
Downgrade your plan
You might be able to save money on your monthly internet costs by switching to a lower internet speed or paying for less data per month. The minimum speeds needed for most online activities are actually pretty low.
Whether downgrading is a good idea for your home will depend on:
- What your regular online activities are
- How many household users are online at the same time
- How many connected devices use up bandwidth in your home
- Whether or not you experience slow internet already
If you already notice slow speeds at peak traffic hours or regularly creep too close to your data limit, then downgrading might not be the right option for you.
However, if you’re a single person hanging loose in your apartment with 300 Mbps speeds, you might consider downgrading your speeds and saving on your internet bill each month.
Bundle your services
There are definitely pros and cons to bundling your services and it may not be right for everyone. However, if you’re already paying for internet, TV and/or home phone separately, you may be able to save some money by bundling these services together under one provider.
Providers are incentivized to offer bundle discounts because 1) they’ll get more services from you and 2) you often have to sign a contract to get the bundle rate, meaning they know you’ll be a customer for at least a year or two.
Some of the ways bundling may save:
- Discounted pricing on two or more services
- Free installation or waived setup fees
- Speed or channel upgrades
- Bonus features, such as premium channels, included
Keep an eye on hidden fees
If a plan price seems too good to be true, then there’s a very strong chance it is. Many providers advertise their plans as “starting at” a certain price and it’s not until after you’re well into the checkout process that you find out about all of the hidden fees.
Some common hidden internet fees include:
- Equipment rental costs
- Data overage fee
- Late payment fee
- Cancellation fee
- Setup and installation fees
Don’t be afraid to ask about fee costs and whether or not any of them can be waived. Often, providers will have incentives, like free installation, for new customers.
How to negotiate your internet bill
Now that you know what things to consider when shopping for internet providers — equipment, speeds, contracts, bundle discounts and more — it’s time to use all that information to your advantage. When negotiating your internet bill, knowledge is power.
The first plan you see online or talk to an internet provider about might not be the cheapest one available. It’s definitely worth the time to haggle on the phone and be adamant about a more affordable price if it’s available.
Often, getting a better price comes down to this: You’ve done your homework and found a better offer somewhere else, and you’re not afraid to leave and sign with another provider to get it.
Some bargaining tips:
- Check out competitor offers and bonuses
- Stay polite and controlled while being persistent
- Double-check everything the representative tells you
- Don’t let them sell you on the first offer
Bonus tip for how to get cheap internet: complain when you get lousy service
If you don’t get the internet experience or customer service you’re expecting, then say something to your provider.
For example, my installation technician never showed up for my Xfinity internet service, so I complained profusely in an online chat. I got free installation the next day, which saved me around $60 after all the hassle.
If your internet service is out for multiple days, ask about a credit statement toward that month, or if you don’t get the internet speeds you think you’re supposed to, say something to your provider. Remember to take screenshots or recordings of conversations with customer service team members in case any promises get debated later.
By using the tips above, now you know how to get cheap internet and find the most affordable plan in your area. Our internet experts can also help you easily compare internet deals, providers and plans near you.
Originally published 03/26/19. Last updated 08/01/19.