Marcel | Edited by Steve N
Updated April 2016
The best prices are usually reserved for new customers, so existing customers lose out on cracking deals. If you're willing to take the haggle challenge, you could slash bills for mobile, TV, broadband, breakdown and more.
This step-by-step guide includes the top 10 service companies to haggle with, sector-by-sector tips and how to access companies' hidden deals departments. Our recent poll showed a huge 88% of those who tried to haggle with Sky and the AA were successful, as were 86% of those with RAC.
In this guide...
When it comes to haggling, don't think it needs to be in backstreet bazaars. Big savings are available in the UK on contracts for phones, mobiles, TV, broadband, car insurance and more.
More often than not, the best deals are reserved for new customers. Switching apathy and brand loyalty means customers often remain on contracts which are more expensive than those for newbies.
This is because most people already have contracts for mobile, digital TV, home phone and broadband services. So the firms providing these services need to tempt customers from other companies with new, cheaper deals, to expand their businesses.
Loyal customers are corporate manna from heaven. Companies love them, as they stay with them through thick 'n' thin, paying full price and never checking if their deal is competitive or can be beaten.
This lets them rake in regular, guaranteed easy profit. So ask yourself a question: do you want to be a customer whose business is fought for, or one who's taken for granted? If you don't want to be taken for granted, take the haggle challenge.
In a nutshell, call up and ask for a better deal. Say you're paying too much or rivals' deals are cheaper. If that doesn't work, tell them you're leaving. You'll usually get put through to companies' super-powerful hidden deals departments.
Who to haggle with
In our December 2015 poll just under 4,000 MoneySavers voted on which firms they've tried to haggle with in the last year and how they got on. Hagglers revealed over 80% success rates in big-name companies like the AA, Sky, Virgin and RAC.
|Provider||No success||Small success||Big success||Total success rate|
|1. AA (494 votes)||12%||27%||61%||88%|
|2. Sky (1,587 votes)||12%||29%||59%||88%|
|3. RAC (227 votes)||15%||28%||58%||86%|
|4. Virgin Media (594 votes)||16%||42%||41%||83%|
|5. Plusnet (165 votes)||19%||31%||50%||81%|
|6. Admiral (188 votes)||19%||36%||45%||81%|
|7. Hastings Direct (102 votes)||20%||39%||41%||80%|
|8. Direct Line (120 votes)||23%||43%||35%||78%|
|9. Vodafone (257 votes)||24%||37%||40%||77%|
|10. TalkTalk (257 votes)||23%||36%||40%||76%|
|Only companies with 100+ votes have been included. Poll carried out in December 2015; see full results.|
How big can the savings be?
All it takes is a quick phone call and you could be quids in. If you need some inspiration, here's a handful of the many successes you've told us about.
I should be Mrs Martin Lewis; I got my Sky reduced by 32%, Home Insurance reduced by 53% and just now my Npower reduced by 55%! - @linzi82scorpio
The price of my cover kept going through the roof until it hit £240+, so I phoned RAC and said it was way too expensive and might leave. After rejecting the revised offer the price was finally slashed to £100.00, and the package was upgraded too. - forumite Alan the Anonymous
Called Sky and said I was looking at leaving and taking my TV, broadband and phone to BT or Talk Talk. I was offered £23.55 saving per month for a year! A total saving of £282.60. Thanks MSE! - forumite Ma3140
I've just had success with O2. I probably spent three hours on the phone to them. I managed to get a free iPhone 5S and a cheaper monthly contract with a lot more data. I've saved myself £80 on the upfront cost and £5 per month. - forumite Kiely124
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Haggling for a discount on your monthly contracts can be daunting, even for hardened MoneySavers. But honestly, as long as you do it right, there's nothing to be scared of.
But, while the "haggling for a better deal" route works for some areas, simply ditching and switching is best for others. Here we run through the hottest areas to haggle on, with full sector-by-sector tips on accessing hidden deals:
Sector-by-sector tips – everything you need to know for seriously hot haggling
Digital TV – Seriously hot haggling
Magic can happen if you haggle with existing TV providers. Read more
We've seen reports of users making just one call and getting 50% knocked off their monthly contract, so it's definitely worth trying.
New customer offers abound on digital TV packages, but often people get complacent and want to stick with one provider, as it has what they want and what they're used to. Keen footie fans may want certain sports channels, for example.
Fortunately, it's one of the best areas for existing customers to haggle on – here's an example:
I called Sky and told them I was leaving. I was immediately put through to retentions. They tried to talk to me about a few things, but I just said I was still happy to leave. They kept me on the same package but reduced my costs to £30/month for 12 months. That's a saving of £180/a year. - Seekingabargain, Nov 2013
The best providers to haggle with are Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk. See the poll results for a full breakdown.
Say you'll move to Freeview. The cheapest digital TV option is Freeview. It's a one-off cost of around £20 for the box, and there's no monthly subscription. It's a great ditch and switch threat to the TV providers. So call and often they'll give you a few months at half-price, or lower your payments.
Do a channel audit. There's no point paying for access to channels you don't watch, so decide what you want and get the right package.
Scanning through channels (with the family) should let you know which are important. If the channel audit shows you're over-subscribing, tell your provider you want to reduce your package – can they offer special rates?
Broadband and home phone – Red hot haggling
Haggling a discount on your broadband and home phone services is one of the easiest ways to cut costs. Read more
Because there are so many cracking deals on the market, you'll have a lot of leverage when it comes to persuading your current provider to reduce your bills (and if they don't, simply switch away).
Speaking to your provider could also net you faster speeds, a bigger download limit, a new (better) router, and possibly some other freebies, as well as a better price.
Even if you're currently paying a pittance, you can STILL save. Here's a great success story from Blueben on the forum:
I was coming to the end of my TalkTalk contract. I was paying £3.75/month which was about to double to £7.50. I simply phoned TalkTalk and asked for my MAC code. They agreed not to increase the cost of my broadband, and cut it to £2.50/mth, saving me £60 annually. - Blueben, Mar 2014
The best providers to haggle with are Sky, Virgin Media and Plusnet. See the poll results for a full breakdown.
Monitor your broadband speed. Doing a couple of speed checks* at different times during the day will give you an idea of the actual speeds you're receiving. If those speeds are way off your package's advertised speed, you could try asking for a discount, as the service is slower than what you're paying for. See the Boost Your Broadband guide for more info about speeds.
Know your broadband usage. Providers usually set their charges based on the volume of data used. This is measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB – equivalent to 1,024MB).
If you're only a casual user, and know you're not gobbling up hundreds of GBs online, you won't need an unlimited package – going for a download allowance of 10GB should be more than enough.
It's worth keeping tabs on your usage before trying to haggle, using a free bandwidth monitor. ThinkBroadband's tbbMeter promises to track usage on multiple machines in the near future, while Rokario and NetMeter only work per PC, so if you've more than one computer connected to the net, you'll have to tot up the totals.
Once you've got your monthly figures, work out whether it's possible to negotiate a deal by downgrading your package to a lower usage limit, and thus cut your costs.
Check your calls package. If you're not on the right home phone deal, you could be overpaying. See if you can haggle a discount or ask to downgrade.
You shouldn't automatically pay for the most expensive "unlimited anytime calls" package if you're not going to use the calls.
As a rough rule of thumb, it's only worthwhile taking an anytime package if you make over an hour of peak-time calls each month.
Pay line rental upfront for a discounted rate. If your provider offers the option, choosing to pay upfront is usually the cheapest way to get line rental. You can try asking if it can switch you on to this to help you save.
A number of providers offer it including BT, TalkTalk, Plusnet, Virgin Media and Primus. However, beware paying upfront; there's a risk of losing your cash if the provider goes bust. This risk is bigger with smaller companies.
Mobile phones – Hot for haggling on contracts, cold for PAYG
Haggling on monthly mobile phone contracts can slash the price you pay. Read more
It doesn't work so well with pay-as-you-go mobiles, as there are so many hot offers available to all online, and, of course, there's no contract for you to haggle on.
If you've a contract deal, and you're nearing the end of your fixed term, the network will be frantic to keep you, so it's the best time to haggle.
The best providers to haggle with are: Vodafone and Virgin Mobile. See the poll results for a full breakdown.
Match your tariff to your EXACT usage. The best way to save money on your mobile bill is to match your tariff to your exact usage.
Once you've done this, call up and haggle a better deal with your current provider using the info you've gathered.
Compare tariffs first. Comparison sites MoneySupermarket* and BroadbandChoices are perfect for quickly benchmarking prices. Simply put in your usage details and they'll speedily reveal the cheapest tariffs available.
Once you've got info on the best deal for you, you'll be fully armed to take on your current provider to see if it can match it.
Ask for a better handset/allowances. Unless you have a Sim-only tariff, monthly contracts usually come with a handset, which is subsidised in the monthly cost. There's plenty of room for negotiation here, and it's even possible to make a bit of spare cash in the process, as forumite sionharris says:
I've been with Orange for a good few years. My contract was up so I phoned them, asking what they could do for me. I rejected two offers and I knew that Three had a better deal.
My new contract was £16/month, for 1.5GB data, unlimited texts and 2,000 mins. A saving of £36/month – that's £432/year!- Elfy
Breakdown cover – Haggle your heart out or ditch and switch
Haggling for a reduction is one of the quickest and easiest ways to cut breakdown cover costs. Read more
In fact, in our poll, the AA was voted the top UK service company to haggle with, with a massive 88% success rate. See the poll results for a full breakdown.
Benchmark the top new deals, including cashback. Check out the best buys in our Cheap Breakdown guide, and see if they are better than your renewal price. A lot of users have found that using a cashback deal available to new users as a bargaining chip can help them haggle down the cost of their renewal.
And if you can't secure a better deal by haggling, then ditch and switch to a new deal. Be aware that cashback is never 100% guaranteed – read the Top Cashback Sites guide.
Car and home insurance – Haggle with care
Haggling on car and home insurance is far better than just auto-renewing – your insurer will often beat its own original renewal price. Read more
Yet this is one area where you should never just haggle with and nothing else. It's far better to use comparison sites to find the best price, check for hidden cashback and then use that final figure as the benchmark to haggle with your existing provider.
Never just accept your renewal price... Insurers know that many people just auto-renew with their current provider, as they've no time to compare deals. So they hoick prices willy-nilly – effectively a fine for loyalty. So you're right to haggle here, as discounts only come to those who ask.
... but always compare across the market. The easy way is to combine comparison sites, as each searches different companies. There are full lists of the top ones to try in the cheap car and home insurance guides. Ask your current provider to match the top result. If they can't better it, consider just leaving.
Try for cashback. Check if your cheapest insurer is listed on cashback websites. You can get up to £100 back on top for signing up this way – another useful bargaining chip when haggling. Be warned though, cashback isn't 100% guaranteed. Make sure you read the Top Cashback Sites guide before doing this.
Credit cards – Haggling works but new deals are usually far better
Credit card companies aren't quite as locked down on rates as you may think. Read more
Haggling can be a useful tool in the arsenal, but it should be seen a secondary weapon.
See Credit Card Shuffle for a full how-to, but here are some quick tips...
Haggle if it ups your rate. If a card firm increases your APR interest rate, call and ask it not to. If that doesn't work, remember you have a right to reject rate rises provided you meet certain conditions.
Call and ask it to reduce interest. This almost never works, but "almost never" isn't never. Having said that, the deals you'll be offered won't come close to what you'd get by doing a new customer balance transfer to another card – where two and a half years at 0% is often do-able.
Room on your credit limit – ask if it'll let you shift debt from elsewhere. This is the powerhouse credit card haggle. Rather than letting you cut the cost of debt already on the cards, many cards will let existing customers shift debts to them at a cheaper rate. This is often a negotiation but it can work well.
While the deals still won't be as cheap as new customer deals, doing it this way protects your credit score.
Gas and electricity – Haggle with extreme caution!
There are a number of reasons you should beware of haggling with gas and electricity firms. Read more
While it may reduce your price slightly, there are a number of problems doing it and it's nowhere near as good as doing a full market comparison (which is likely to be quicker too).
You need to go cross-market. When it comes to energy prices, switch and you get the same gas, the same electricity, the same safety – only customer service and rates change. Therefore, take advantage of the whole market to get the best deal. Don't just stick with your provider.
To find the best deal, the free MSE Cheap Energy Club checks you're on the market's cheapest tariff, then tells you when you need to switch again (as prices change regularly).
Prices are complex. In other areas, when you haggle, it's easy to understand – for example, "we'll cut your bill from £50 to £30". Yet with energy bills, prices are a mixture of standing charges and unit charges.
So it's difficult to see how good any deal actually is.
Energy firms can't be trusted. Quite simply, even the info the call centre gives you can be wrong, partly due to confusion.
If you're coming to the end of your contract, or are out of it, then you're wielding a powerhouse weapon: customer loyalty. Companies desperately want to keep you, so if they believe they will lose you, you can often get much better deals.
The most important thing to understand is:
The 'disconnections department' is usually internally called 'customer retentions'. It's their job not to let you leave – so they have huge deal-making power to keep you.
So whether you're dealing with broadband, mobile phone, TV, breakdown or any other service company, it usually has this secret super-powerful department. And the holy grail of haggling is to deal with customer retentions rather than normal customer services.
Tell them you're going to leave
If you don't get the deal you want with customer service, the key to getting to customer retentions is telling them you are considering leaving. Of course, we don't want you to lie. But if you don't get a good enough deal, you should genuinely consider ditching.
Once connected, repeat your request. The more genuine you are about disconnecting, the more you should get a better offer, matching the market's best tariffs.
What if they just say "OK, we'll disconnect you"?
If the deal isn't good enough, then consider it. Yet don't be forced into a corner. An easy 'get out of jail free' card is to say: "I want to but I need to check with my husband/wife/dog/etc first – I'll call you back."
If I don't get a good deal, can I try again?
Yes. Often the customer retentions operators have quotas on how many deals they can give out in a day – so you may have been unlucky. Either that or you got someone in a bad mood, or maybe you didn't use your haggle charm enough.
Read Martin's haggling story below. While it's about mobiles, it sums up the technique that works in most areas...
Martin's haggling success story
I'm an Orange contract customer, and want to stay one, as the connection at home and work is good, and the month-long switching hassle's worth avoiding. But Orange's packages aren't the market's cheapest.
Read more on how Martin haggled a better deal
Below is an edited version of my call to Orange when I tried to negotiate a better deal, showing how I put our haggling tips into practice:
Martin: "Hi, you have a price match promise. The mobile network Three offers 500 inclusive cross-network minutes, (ie, calling any mobile network), for £30/month, yet I'm paying that for just 200 minutes with you."
Orange: (as expected) "Sorry Mr Lewis, our price promise doesn't cover Three, so we can't offer you that tariff."
Martin: "That's simply not good enough. While I want to stick with you, unless you can offer me something better, I'm going to have to leave."
Orange: "Let me put you through to our specialist disconnections department and see if we can find any way to improve it."
Then I repeated my request to disconnections:
Orange 'disconnections': "I think we can help, we can match that Three tariff for the same price."
Martin: "That's not part of your normal price match plan?"
Orange 'disconnections': "Nope, it's a special offer for valued customers" (Subtext: we'll pull out all the stops if we're going to lose you).
After that I asked for more text messages and got a bundle on top, then a new phone and was told "what do you want, pick any?" So I opted for a snazzy, tiny cameraphone, with radio and 3G – all of course at no extra charge.
While my story is about Orange, it works on other networks, and with other services, too. There are no hard and fast negotiating rules, but a bit of chutzpah and a smile (try it, it's noticeable in your voice, even on the phone) works wonders.
It's a game, with huge gains on the upside and no loss on the downside.
Now, watch how he showed Mrs MSE how to do it...
Video hosted by YouTube. Jan 2009 (please rate it)
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Read these handy haggling tips for a few extra pointers:
Use charm, chutzpah, cheek and a smile
Aggression or anger will just put their back up. You're asking for a discount, and they're just as within their rights not to give it, as you are to leave.
You can hear if someone's smiling, even on the phone. Haggling's all about charm and chutzpah. You're dealing with a human being, with discretion, so utilise that to win them to your side. As forumite anitalg (who works in an independent mobile phone shop) says:
Best advice I can give is be really, really friendly and nice, and a little bit cheeky – I always give a better deal to people I get on with and have a chat with. - Anitalg, Nov 2013
Problems mean discounts
If you've had issues with the company (slow broadband speed, poor mobile network coverage, wrong payments taken), mention this politely.
They should want to try and make it up to you. Then again, are you sure you want to stay? This makes the salesperson believe you're genuine about threatening to leave, and they may offer a deal to compensate for the past issues.
Time it right
Call centres are more amenable to haggling at slower times of the year, when fewer customers are after their wares.
The end of the month or end of a financial quarter is always a good time to haggle too. If a salesperson hasn't met their target sales volumes, they may do anything to get those extra sign-ups (including knocking a few quid off here and there).
See the Great 'Best Time To Haggle' Hunt for more suggestions of when to try haggling.
It's all about getting to the retentions department
Most front-line call centre staff are there to process standard administration requests, not to negotiate. So ask them for the deal you want, but if they can't deliver don't think the story's over.
The real powerhouse technique is to get put through to ''disconnections", a department which is usually internally called ''customer retentions", as it's their job to keep hold of you. This team generally has much stronger deal-making ability than customer service.
Therefore a simple "Sorry, but in that case I think I may need to leave," can pay dividends. We're not suggesting you lie; but if your deal isn't good enough, do genuinely consider going elsewhere. Once at disconnections, repeat your request and the haggling can start for real.
Use the phrases that pay
If you're nervous, remember all you're doing is asking for a better price because you think it's too expensive. Some standard phrases may help...
I've worked out my monthly budget, and my absolute max is £[insert price here]/month
Virgin Media / TalkTalk / the RAC / [insert name of rival company here] can do it for less...
I need to think about it...
I think my husband / wife will go bonkers if I pay that...
It's still a lot of money...
What's the very best you can do?
These will give you a bit of time to consider their offer. But remember – don't say yes to the first offer they give you, unless it's what you wanted.
Ask to speak to a supervisor
Sometimes customer service assistants say they're not allowed to give discounts. If this is the case, ask whether you can have a chat with their supervisor. A supervisor should have more authority, and will be used to haggling with customers.
Don't say "yes" to the first offer they give
You should never say "yes" to the first offer they give, because the chances are, it's not the best offer the provider can do.
Get deal prices when offers have finished
If there was a promo on, but it's ended, you know they're willing to accept that price. For example, if a TV company was offering customers 50% off last week, chances are that price could be available after the offer too. It never hurts to ask.
Don't fill in the silence
They may say it's a "24-hour deal", or a "limited-time offer". Don't listen to this if you think your provider can do better.
If they want your business (which they will do), they'll call you back in a few days asking if you want to take up the offer. At this point, say no, it's still too expensive. They should then cut it further, hopefully much nearer to your target price.
As negotiations come to a close, a classic salesman technique is staying silent. They want you to accept the price just to fill the awkward silence. Make them fill it with a cheaper offer.
If it doesn't work once, you can try again
We've been informed by former call-centre operatives that they had daily discount quotas in customer retentions. This is only anecdotal, so we can't guarantee it's true, but it does mean you may find a rejection one day turns into an acceptance the next.
Added extras are equivalent to a discount
If they can't drop the price, see if they can throw in any extras (free calls, free router, extra six months warranty). Take this breakdown cover success story:
Just called AA to cancel my renewal as last year's £30 membership came through at £43 to renew. When, after the spiel, I said I still wanted to leave, he offered me roadside assistance for a year with one call out, for £15, which I happily accepted. - forumite Madjen18
Ask for the sun and you may get the moon
Remember, do it with humour, do it with style and there's no price or suggestion too outrageous. You can haggle virtually anywhere for anything.
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