13 sneaky ways cable companies get you to spend more
According to a Pew survey, cable is the most common monthly expense in the US. A notable 78% of Americans pay for it each month.
The average cost for cable is about $66 per month — and that's just for the TV service alone, according to a 2014 survey from the Federal Communication Commission. If you want to add internet and a phone line, it will cost you another $20-$30 per month, and this is all before taxes and fees.
Even with the rise of anti-cable movement "cutting the cord" to rebel against high prices and limited offers, cable providers are still finding ways to pad the bill. Here are 13 sneaky ways cable providers convince you to pay more:
Convincing you to 'bundle' your services.
Many cable companies offer their internet, television, and telephone services in a "bundle" for a single price. They usually try to push these because they're the most profitable.
For instance, Verizon's FiOS Triple Play offers TV, phone, and internet for $89.99 a month for the first year when you sign a two-year agreement. (More on that two-year agreement later.)
If you were to pay for each of those services separately, it would cost you around $165: $64.99 for FiOS cable, $49.99 for digital voice, and $49.99 for FiOS internet.
If you use all the services, it might be a good deal, but if you don't, you might be better off buying each service separately, or bundling with just two services.
Sending someone to install your equipment — and charging you for it.
Cable companies commonly charge a one-time fee for having someone from their company install the required set-top box (and connect the modem, if you're opting into internet from your cable company) for you.
The fee is about $25-$50 and can be spread out across multiple bills, which inflates your monthly charges. You can waive this charge if you decide to install your equipment yourself, like one Comcast customer did, but double check with your provider to be sure it's an option.
Charging monthly rental fees for modems.
If you do decide to bundle your services and get internet from your cable provider, the company will provide a modem for you to rent for $5-$10 a month.
However, in most cases, you don't have to take them up on their offer. You can buy your own at a store like Best Buy for about $100. That sounds steep, but if you were to pay $10 a month to rent one from the cable company, it would cost $120 a year — and your own modem should last much more than a year.
Just speak to store associates to make sure the modem you choose is compatible with your cable service provider.
Charging you twice to start service: once to install your equipment, and once to activate it
Most people would probably assume that paying for installation includes activating the service, but that's not how it goes with cable companies.
According to Cut Cable Today, an activation fee is different and separate from an installation fee, and if your provider charges you for activation, it could cost you from $25 to $100.
Offering you the ability to record your favorite shows.
Yes, being able to use a digital video recorder (DVR) is a great way for you to make sure you never miss your favorite shows, but this service also comes with a fee.
To have cable, you'll have to rent a set-top box, which lets you view digital channels, provides channel listings, has program information, search tools, and more. You can add a DVR service to it, which will cost you an extra $13-$20 a month.
Charging you for channels you don't watch.
With cable packages, you get hundreds of channels, but it doesn't mean you watch all of them. In fact, the average American only watches 17 channels, according to Nielsen.
Most cable companies also offer you channels you do want packaged with ones you don't, so you have to pay more for the full package or for add-ons.
Having a lot of channels might seem like a good selling point, but most of the time you're getting more of the channels you don't watch than the ones you do ... and you're paying for it.
Charging you more for the channels you want to watch.
In addition to having additional channels you don't watch, you'll probably end up paying extra for the premium channels like HBO, ESPN, and the other channels you do want to watch. This can cost you an extra $10-$20 per month.
Instead, some cable companies like Optimum offer you a list of premium channels you can hand pick from, and add on to even the most basic packages. It can cost you less than $20 a month, total, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Charging you for service-call fees.
Calling the company to fix an issue, whether it's on your end or theirs, can cost you over $50.
Making you put down a 'partial month fee.'
Some cable companies, like Time Warner Cable, charge a partial month fee to make sure you pay for your services in advance. This is especially common if you are adjusting or adding services to your plan.
Charging fees to maintain their equipment and facilities.
Cable companies make you pay for things they need to maintain. It helps the cable company "recover costs for maintaining outside telephone wires, underground conduits, telephone poles, and other necessary facilities and equipment," as listed on Verizon's Explanation of Taxes, Fees, Surcharges and Other Charges on Your Bill.
Passing their fees on to you.
Cable companies can have you help pay their fee for broadcasting public, educational, and governmental channels (PEG channels) through their network. The PEG fee varies by location and goes towards the governmental and educational program providers.
A franchise fee is usually charged by the FCC to a private cable television company for using public property. The cable company usually passes this fee to you as well, adding on a few more dollars per month.
Not notifying you that your promotion has expired.
Many people sign up for cable services when the company offers a promotion, "but the offers always seem to expire every few months," writes Kristin Wong, a cable subscriber who called her provider to get details of every single item.
For instance, Verizon's FiOS Triple Play offers TV, phone, and internet for $89.99 a month with a two-year agreement, but the second year sees an increase of $20 per month.
Instead of informing you, your cable company may just charge you in hopes that you don't realize. If you don't keep tabs on the changes, you could end up paying an extra $10-$20 per month. And frankly, you might not have a choice: If you signed up for a two-year contract with a one-year promotional price, you may find your cable company is ...
Charging you for terminating their services early.
Yes, you could even get charged for trying to get out of your plan before your contract is up. Though not all cable providers do this, some charge over $300 in cancellation fees.
Every cable company sneaks different fees and taxes in your bill, using jargon and terms you might not understand. To make sure you're getting billed the correct amount — or just want to lower your bill — consider calling your provider to negotiate.
A few dollars here and there every month doesn't seem like much, but it can add up to hundreds of dollars every year.
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