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Bargain for best price when bundling services

January 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
If the cost of your phone, TV and computer services are taking a bigger and bigger chunk from your paycheck, Consumer Reports says it's time to shop around. And now is a good time to bargain, because it's a buyer's market.Bundling has been the best way to save on your TV, cell phone and Internet service, but after the introductory offer is up it's time to push for even more savings.

"We're saving about $50 a month once I figured it out," said Brooks, who decided to bundle her internet, phone, and TV services with one company. "But that's only for the first year. Because then after the year is up, the rates go back up."

Consumer Reports just surveyed 69,000 readers about their telecom services. Of those who bundled, a whopping 85 percent said they would likely do it again.

"Triple-play bundles in particular can help you maximize savings, and get nice extras like free installation," said Rosalind Tordesillas, Consumer Reports.

Two fast-growing fiber optic services, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse, received top scores for their Internet and TV services. Both were among the better phone providers, too.

These days, companies from fiber to cable to satellite are aggressively wooing customers with everything from $100 Visa gift cards to free netbooks.

"You can save if you're prepared to switch carriers, or negotiate with your current provider once your promotional period is over," said Tordesillas.

That's what Brooks plans on doing. She explained, "we're going to call and say, 'What can you do to keep us as your customer?'"

"Go online to find the best deal in your area. When you call, see if your provider will match it," said Tordesillas.

Some additional money-saving tips:

  • Ask to speak to a manager if a representative isn't able to give a better deal
  • Don't pay more for a higher-speed broadband service unless you share a lot of videos or stream multiple videos at one time
  • Ask what the first month's total bill will be, including extra charges, as well as the amount of subsequent bills

Billing gripes, including higher-than-expected costs, were the number one complaint in the Consumer Reports' survey. Consumer Reports says you should check out the service you're buying carefully to be sure you're getting the services you want. For example, if you want to be able to watch all football games on TV, then your only choice is DIRECTV, as it has an exclusive NFL package.