Step-by-step Guide on How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Contract

Here in Canada we are ruled by only a few wireless service carriers.  Namely these fall into the “big three” otherwise known as:  Rogers (also bought out Fido Mobile), Bell (also in May 2009 bought out Virgin Mobile), and Telus (also carrier of Koodo Mobile)… UH… can you say MONOPOLY?? These guys have been fighting head to head with each other, to keep prices of contracts up.  I was paying $40-50 a month for my measly serviced cell phone bill back in 2004 (I was constantly over in talk time, thus getting dinged a 25 cents per minute) until I one day I called in to complain.  I think I fluked it by calling when my contract was up (unbeknowst to me at the time, it was when I was un-edumacated in personal finance  still).

I called back then and said I didn’t like how much I was paying.  The CSR (customer service rep) then told me that they can reduce my bill and increase what I was getting (e.g. minutes, texts, free long distance).  I was like “what??” why had I NOT done this earlier?? I could have saved so much cashola!  I had reduced my monthly bill (and was getting more bang for my buck) to $28 a month- never over.

Ever since then, I’ve been getting good deals on contracts for mr. youngandthrifty, my mom, my sisters, my friends…you could say that I’m addicted to the art of negotiation (on the phone– not so much in person cus I’m kinda shy).

First of all, you need to decide whether you want to be on a contract.  Currently WIND Mobile has come into play and they are straight up no contracts, so you’re not tied down.  They have very competitive rates (much to the Big Three’s dismay) without having to negotiate to get something you’re happy with.

If you’re down with signing up for a 1, 2, or 3 year contract then please continue reading.

Just recently I renegotiated with Rogers for my sisters.  Read this:  If they tell you it’s not possible.  It isn’t.  It can be done- somehow. They’re playing hard to get mind games with you.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Make sure you know where you are “in your contract”. If you have 6 months left in your contract or even better, if you are contract FREE or approaching your contract-free date (you can usually find this information online in your account details or you can call in and ask).  Also, if you have many years of loyalty with that provider, then they will be able to offer you more stuff
  2. Make sure you have a pen and paper handy
  3. Dial 611 on your cell phone and say you want to cancel to that automated lady who asked “what can I do for you?”
  4. If they give you to a regular useless Customer Service Rep, hint that you want to speak to the Retention Dept (they’re the ones who have pull to give you the goods) by saying that you’re dissatisfied with your plan and want to cancel
  5. Alternatively, you can dial the retention/ customer relations numbers directly
    • Telus (1-877-279-3100 open M-Sat I believe)
    • Bell (1-866-313-1086 M-F 8-7:30pm EST)
    • Fido (1-888-259-3436 open M-Sat)
    • Rogers (1-888-936-7283 8-9pm EST M-Sat)
  6. Be very polite/ friendly to the person you’re speaking with, and note their name down.
  7. Tell them that you’ve been a bit dissatisfied with the service and the price that you’re paying.  Say that you have been considering switching to another provider (e.g. if you’re with Rogers, mention Telus)
  8. Tell them that you really want _____ (fill in with want you want: text messages that you’re currently paying an arm and a leg for, more day time minutes, voice mail)
  9. They will likely say that if you add on $10 then you can get a “package” that includes something like that, or they may give you another promotion (e.g. $20 for 200 day time minutes, evening and weekends starting at 6pm) and hint that you should add on the other stuff by paying… don’t give in– say that you don’t want to be paying any extra than you are now.
  10. If it’s not what you want, then bring out the big guns, and mention the other company’s plan and what they are offering you or mention that your sister is with the other wireless provider and she is getting a better plan for only X amount of dollars (these have to be real plans- not made up, okay!?)
  11. Then the rep will offer you something better, if you like it but it’s still not the ideal plan you want, then ask them nicely to please note it down on your account, and that you will think about it.   Remember to ask them to repeat exactly what they are offering you, so you can write it down.
  12. Call back a few days to weeks later (but not incessantly or else they will flag your account)
  13. Repeat steps 1-11 until you find something you are happy with (note, you will have to commit for 2-3 years… it’s up to you whether you are a “contract person” or not).

Hope that helps, folks.  My next post will be an example of how I negotiated a better cell phone contract for my sister with Rogers Wireless.

Have you tried calling to negotiate in the past too? Do you find yourself drawn to contracts or do you prefer to be a “free agent” like how Wind Mobile allows you to be?


Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

25 Responses to Step-by-step Guide on How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Contract

  1. This is a great resource you have.I can’t wait until you have your example with Rogers. I have to negotiate for my wife and mother-in-law.

    A huge point to mention is to record whom you spoke to. These companies can always deny this unless you keep a record. I use a Google Spreadsheet to record this.

    • @Steve Zussino: Yes, you’re right! I meant to put that in- it is indeed very important. I’d be interested to know how your negotiating goes =)! Good luck and you’ll get addicted to it, I’m sure.

      @Investing Newbie: Yes, I’m sure they’ll be applicable to American cell phone companies too! I wasn’t 100% familiar with your carriers and wasn’t sure if there were other options out there (e.g. non-contract phone companies). If you feel like you have better negotiating skills than your ‘rents, you can have them sit beside you while they give consent for you to speak to them. Good luck!

  2. Nice tips. I just finished up working with my employer this past January and was fortunate to be able to keep the iPhone.

    Because the phone plan was just so ridiculously priced, coupled with the fact that I don’t necessary ‘need’ to be connected with a cell phone for the time being, I’m using my iPhone as a ‘souped up’ iPod Touch. Basically, I connect and communicate with others when I’m out of town in wi-fi spots and use programs like Ping!

    You can basically eliminate a lot of the monthly bill this way. My brother in law has an iPhone and his wife has an iPod touch and we had no trouble communicating without the actual phone plan.

    Nice thread!!
    .-= The Rat´s last blog ..alexaVerifyID =-.

    • @The Rat Yeah, data can really add up!! Did you hear about the guy from Calgary about a year ago who tethered his phone to his laptop? He didn’t know it would cost an arm and a leg until the bill came from Bell, totally $11,500 or something ridiculous like that. I think Bell gave pity on him and reduced his bill to half, but he still had to pay it. I don’t have an iPhone (yet) but plan to get one… AM planning on paying a little extra for data. I have an iTouch right now and would love for internet to work everywhere I go (yes, you could say one of those “hyperconnected” types!).

  3. I hear you. When I was out of town, the hotel I stayed at had free wireless, and so does a host of restaurants and coffee shops. For example, Second Cup offers free wireless for customers, so I went there often.

    Believe it or not, even when my iPhone was fully connected with the phone system, the phone didn’t always work for browser purposes; don’t get me wrong, it was good for most of the time but it wasn’t flawless.

    What did you mean by ‘teethered’? From what I can gather I can still use my iPhone the way I do as long as I can get access to a free wi-fi connection. I wouldn’t think that would be an issue..would it?
    .-= The Rat´s last blog ..alexaVerifyID =-.

    • @The Rat Yeah, I find that on my boyfriend’s iPhone (he’s with Fido) the browsing is a bit slow for my liking- but I believe the 3GS will be mucho faster. “Tethering” is when you share your internet connection with lets say, your laptop. So instead of having a router or any internet connection, you can connect your phone to your laptop and surf the web with the internet connection you have on your phone. Crazy huh!?

    • @Paul thanks giving me the correct term! It was on the tip of my tongue but I couldn’t place it… I knew monopoly wasn’t the right word. =P

      Discount brokerage? You mean like Questrade or iTrade? I didn’t know that! So what perks did you end up negotiating?

  4. Oh man I HATED the prices of mobile phones when i lived in canada…. In the end I gave mine up and went without for 2 years.

    Great tutorial here :)

    • @Forest- Hey cool- didn’t know you lived up here! Where? I know, mobile phone contracts are super overpriced here- unless you have loyalty and can negotiate your way down. Did you at least do the “pay as you go”? (even then it’s not worth it because the minutes expire after each month I think!)

  5. I was living in Montreal, I love that city!!!

    I had a pay as you go for a short while but it was like owning a portable slot machine…. it just ate my money.

    I was usually online for the majority of the day so just told people to email me if they needed me in the end.

  6. Funny thing happened to me a week ago. I called FIDO with the intention of renegotiating, but started with the “I want to quit fido” ruse. Well, they didn’t seem to mind, and offered me nothing…. needless to say, I cancelled the service. While it was nice to be able to cancel so easily, it was strange that they didn’t fight to keep me at all.

    In any case, I’m now switching to WInd or Mobilicity, haven’t decided which. Anyone else have this experience lately?


    • @Jp-how many months remaining did you have on your contract? I have helped some friends negotiate and found that the customer service reps a hit and miss. You often need to call back until you speak to someone willing to help you. I know a lot of people are jumping ship from the big three and going for the new guys in town :)

  7. thanks this was useful

    some comments:
    telus doesnt care if you’ve been with them for a long time. they will offer a few bucks more rate then competetors and leave you choosing to leave straight out.

    try and seekout corporate plans or search for taking over someone elses hot contract. once it expires you can typically stay with it month to month till you wish to renew.

  8. I am so glad that I found this page. I recently paid $187 for a one month cell phone contract and I am currently trying to lower my bill. I will use all your tips that you gave.


  9. I so need your help I am so awful at negotiating and a pushover they c me coming a mile away I got my kids and I 4 I phones on a 3 year plan and had the data taken off right away so I wasn’t getting any outrageous bills well that didn’t work all of our bills haven’t been over 800 dollars and two of the phones don’t work and there is still 2 years left on my plan I want out so bad I am going broke paying bell I heard that they passed a law saying they couldn’t charge these outrageous prices so I was hoping for your advise they told me it would be 600 a phone to get out of the contract and in don’t want my credit bad over this please call me or email me I need help desperately Amanda I live in shannonville Ontario in Canada and I deal with Bell Canada

    • Hey Amanda, that’s a rough deal you have yourself in there. I’m interested in how you managed to rack up the much fees without any data? The harsh truth is that you probably should give up the iPhones for a little while and just focus on something that allows basic text and calling (re: cheaper!). There were some new laws passed, but I’m fairly certain they won’t affect what happened to you Amanda. What I might do is talk to Telus and/or Rogers and see what they could do for you in terms of transferring you over. That would give you some negotiating leverage. You also have to identify a better plan for yourself, you have pretty good leverage with that many phones to negotiate with.

      Finally, the simplest answer might be to make your children responsible for paying their own phone bill Amanda. Sometimes hard lessons can be good teachers?

      If nothing else work out a payment plan with Bell so that your credit rating won’t get hurt – then at least you should be fine on that front.

  10. These are all very valid suggestions. They can and probably will help you but remember to play nice. CSRs (whether in their respective companies “Retention” department or otherwise) are NOT useless and aren’t simply there to absorb your initial beating before they get you to someone “who can really help”.

    In today’s day and age, especially in organizations where you can “lease” your device (Bell/AT&T) where you pay a certain amount for your device on a month to month basis rather than commit yourself to a well-intentioned but altogether meaningless other than in-name-only “contract” you are often not committed to anything other than “keeping service” and the level doesn’t matter.

    SOMETIMES–and I can’t stress that enough–sometimes someone will either see something others didn’t or understand a way that you can in fact save money or get more value for your dollar. You ABSOLUTELY WILL need to be willing to accept that there is no “need” to give you what you want or lack of “customer service” if you don’t get it. You have options for service, you chose what appealed to you at the time, and in effect you’ve made your bed and must therefore “lie in it”. Just because you want to pay less doesn’t mean you should and doesn’t mean that your provider is obligated to. Most providers have concessions for individuals who become chronic callers complaining that their services are too expensive and demand adjustment for this or that based on what their brothers-cousins-nephews-uncles former room-mate gets with Provider X. That’s great for them and just possibly too bad for you. And as they saying goes the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” and sometimes that grease is that your provider will simply deign that it’s not worth their time to deal with you any longer and they will shunt your calls to a queue designed specifically to tell you “can’t have it” and disconnect your call.

    That’s not bad customer service because part of getting good customer service is being a good customer. If you’ve had 10 years of loyalty but are constantly late, then you don’t deserve special treatment. If you’ve just signed a new contract or commitment and then notice the grass is greener on the other side… well maybe it’s simply time you go over and mow that lawn for a while. Your providers job #1 is to make profit and from time to time they will make little concessions to satisfy an otherwise quiet riot and often they will bend over to right a wrong. The key thing in ANY market place to remember is regardless of who or what you’re dealing with Caveat Emptor; this is the rule and not simply a guideline.

    Remember, every carrier has a service agreement of some kind. Most often simple usage of the service constitutes legally binding acceptance of its terms and conditions. When you have millions of customers and constantly changing options in a constantly evolving marketplace it’s impossible and unrealistic to assume that you’re going to have to sign on the dotted line for every little thing that ever happens. Your contract terms often boil down to; “You bought it and it’s your problem now! You use the service and you’re accepting that Provider X can pretty much do what they want when they want. If you’re not observant nor persistent or just not-dumb-lucky enough to see a mistake or better deal then you’re often going to accept the fact that after a set period of time it simply becomes a you problem and not a provider problem.” And yes, I’m 100% certain that on a whole EVERY provider recognizes that they are going to lose customers because of it.

    Consider the following. If a customer does their homework, reads their agreement, makes sure they understand all of the policies and their responsibilities, they generally don’t ever have any problems. When they do discover and issue 75-90% of the time it’s an error and it will be fixed. Quickly and almost surreptitiously.

    As for the other 10% of the time. Well that’s probably misinformation. When it’s misinformation you are doubly screwed. As the consumer you did what you were supposed to and even wrote down the name of every person you talked to and a complete transcript of every conversation and it STILL WON’T MATTER because EVERY provider has built into their terms of service (and this I PROMISE YOU) that when you’re misinformed by little Johnny Minimumwage they will gladly correct the misinformation and offer you the choice of options A, B, or C of which I can guarantee you the original promise made by Johnny will not be a part of. And even that I can understand because these are National, albeit uber-wealthy, corporations with 1000s of employees. The entire company will NOT be held responsible for what some eager beaver front-line worker had the misfortune to screw up yesterday. That’s just not realistic. If that were the case then we’d ALL be getting service for free on the regular with no charges and a free iPhone every year with a thank you card and a plate of granny’s fresh baked cookies.

    Lets just wise up as a group. As an entire consumer body we need to recognize what we’re dealing with. It is, no matter where you go in North America that I’m aware of, a sea of us knuckle-dragging Neanderthals by comparison to the relative ivory-tower eliteness of the oligarchy that are our cellular providers. And we all run up in arms to them whenever they place the slightest kink in our expectations of service. It’s a cellphone and not a pace-maker. We need to take a step back and relax about it. Accept the fact that to stay as intimately in touch with our friends/family/enemies/twitter/facebook/tinder what-have-you we have to pay through the nose for it. It is a LUXURY and we’ve all forgotten that… “My life is on that phone… I can’t live without it… I can’t afford this”… One of these things is not like the other… One of these things just doesn’t belong.

    If you have a problem paying for what you WANT.. and lets be ABSOLUTELY clear here.. it is a WANT and IN NO POSSIBLE WAY IN THE UNIVERSE OF POSSIBILITY AT ALL IN ANY WAY AND I CAN’T EVEN BEGIN TO EXPLAIN HOW HARD I’M STRESSING THIS RIGHT NOW a NEED. You DO NOT NEED it you WANT it and you don’t want to pay for it.

    You want something to REALLY complain about.. In Ontario AT LEAST please lets all go to our respective hydro-electric companies and ask for a layman’s explanation than is justifiable in earnest and backed up by truth why we’re still paying a debt retirement fee for our services since the dissolution of Ontario Hydro lo those many years ago… Or why it costs less to own and more to rent… Or why there are so many people out there incensed by the cost of cellular service when there are actual real problems in the world that we apparently don’t or simply aren’t willing to give the same level of crap about. You’re sick of waiting 45 minutes on hold to reduce your bill… Go volunteer for 45 minutes at a soup kitchen every time you’re mad about you’re phone bill and tell me who has the real problem.

    I’m just saying.

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