verizon wireless
If you want to stay with a mobile network, it should be on your terms. Reuters

Most people know they can negotiate with their cable company to get a better rate. But smartphone owners may not realize they can also negotiate with their wireless provider for lower prices, better service plans, or both.

That's exactly what Dhanha Bien-Aime, a public relations rep for, found out when she called Verizon. A subscriber since 2010, Bien-Aime, 28, was close to canceling her 2GB data plan as she exceeded it almost every month and got slapped with stiff overage fees. However, a call to Verizon sorted out the cause of Bien-Aime's extra charges and allowed her to keep her data plan. “Customer service told me my plan is outdated and mentioned a new offer with additional 10GB of data instead of the 2GB data I had. I was relieved,” Bien-Aime said. She now pays about $93 a month for her service plan, way down from the almost $200 she had been paying.

Bien-Aime's is a success story, but not everyone might have such a smooth experience. Many factors affect how and if carriers are willing to negotiate a new service with their customers, such as how long a subscriber has been with the carrier and how far they are into their contract. The following guide offers various ways to haggle down the price of your wireless service plan.

Do your research

If you want to orchestrate a successful negotiation, be fully aware of your price issue and how you’d like it resolved. Take a look at your carrier’s plans online and compare them to your plan. Many carriers have updated and added plan options to their services in the last year or two. If you’re not subscribed to a newer plan, you might not be getting the best benefits and discounts.

Second, you should be well versed in the plans and prices of other carriers. Keep this in your back pocket; you don’t want to lead with threatening to cancel your service. But this information can be a crucial bargaining chip at some point in the discussion.

Be straightforward, but be polite

You’re already frustrated at paying too much for your mobile service, but this is not the time to completely vent at a customer service representative. Consider it a business deal; you should be professional and courteous, but also firm and persistent. Having done your research, you should be confident expressing that you’re serious about negotiating cheaper rates.

Make sure you’re talking to the right department

A surefire way to let your carrier know you mean business is to bypass the customer service representatives altogether. Standard customer service representatives, generally unfamiliar with the tricks and tweaks carriers can make to service plans, are likely to tell you there's nothing that can be done to improve your service plan, especially if it’s your first call. When you contact your carrier, ask to speak with a “customer retention” representative or a “customer cancellation” representative; this is a person whose job it is to negotiate your contract. When speaking to such a representative, you can get right to the haggling.

Have proof of your exorbitant billing

Collect at least six months of your billing statements for your own reference, especially if you plan to negotiate at the store. But having this information handy is also beneficial if you’re talking to your carrier over the phone. If you find any extraneous charges, intentional or unintentional, you can try to get these charges canceled from your plan. Maybe you have an insurance plan on your phone that has become a little too costly; such plans can save between $5 and $10 on a wireless bill. You can also have your carrier explain any charges you're not clear on. If they're for services you weren't aware of, then you can decide whether you want to keep them.

Negotiate when your contract is almost up

Your best bet for getting your carrier to negotiate is timing it right -- when your contract is almost up. At this time, your network knows you can walk away with no penalties. It's when they are most anxious to keep you, so you should have the upper hand in negotiations.

If you’re in the middle of your contract and you’re trying to negotiate better rates, you need to make sure you’re fully aware of the stipulations of the negotiation. By agreeing to new service terms, you may be agreeing to a whole new contact that might have early termination fees or new-subscriber charges. When negotiating mid-contract, make sure you get to keep your contract with the changes you want (unless you’re OK with a new contract). Otherwise, take a pass on any offers your carrier suggests.

If you’re a long-term subscriber, let your carrier know

If you’ve subscribed to a carrier for three or more years, mention it. You’re the kind of customer they don’t want to lose. Let’s say you’ve had one full contract with your carrier and you renewed; now you’re in the middle of your contact and your carrier has new deals that were not previously available. You may be able to leverage your loyalty to the carrier into an updated contract.

Consider prepaid or noncontract options

A good way to save money on your month-to-month mobile bill is opting for a prepaid or noncontract plan. Ask about these options in your negotiations. Usually, choosing such an option means you have to pay full price for a device. If you’re truly interested in saving money, you may want to opt for an inexpensive device, one that's a few generations old, or bring your old device onto a prepaid or noncontract plan.

Find out what discounts your carrier offers

Are you a veteran? Does your company offer some kind of employee benefit for mobile networks? You should inquire about these options and how you can incorporate them onto your plan. You can look up information about such discounts during your research, or ask your carrier about these or any special discounts that may apply to you.

Be prepared to try several times

Negotiations are rarely easy. Even if you do everything right, your carrier is under no obligation to meet your request. If they say no the first time, call again. A different representative may be better equipped or just more inclined to help you. Plus carriers are aware that a consistently dissatisfied customer is that much closer to cancelling his service. When making follow-up calls, be sure to mention that you’ve called before with no success.

Take notes during your conversations

Carriers often record conversations with subscribers for quality assurance. You should also have some sort of record of your conversation(s) with your carrier. Be sure to note of the name of the representative and make a record of your case number if there is one. Mention these during any future calls with the carrier. Being fully accountable and prepared shows your persistence and will more likely to lead to a cheaper phone bill.

Switching carriers is your last resort

It’s easier than ever to switch to a new carrier, with many networks offering to pay early termination fees for new subscribers switching from other networks. Having done your research, you have an idea which carrier you'd switch to. This is the time to state your intentions. Let your carrier know you have a new network in mind, and to which of their plans you may subscribe.

If you’ve tried the best tactics but haven’t reached an agreement with your current carrier, you have to be prepared to move on to a new carrier. Contact your new carrier before cancelling your old service to confirm their early termination fee policy. Usually, carriers require new subscribers to sign a contract before they agree to pay early termination fees, but once that’s done, it will be your last interaction with your former carrier.