How to Negotiate Your Utility Bill

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Don't ignore that disconnect notice, or wait until your bill is so high that there is no way you can negotiate payment.

Things You'll Need

  • Your account no. or social security account no.
  • Your bill if possible
  • Points to identify if calling on someone else's behalf
  • Paper and pen or pencil
  • Some money to put down
  • A calendar
  • A quiet place to pay attention

So now you have received your bill and or disconnect notice and you are wondering how you can pay this amount by the due date. Many offices have extended hours to offer a convenient time for you to call. If you call at the wrong time or the last moment you are doing yourself a disservice. Call when you have time to ask questions and can complete your call satisfactorily.

Don't think that you are solving the problem by simply asking what is the least amount I can pay to keep my service on? This may be how you got into the situation to begin with. It seems like everything is going up but our pay checks and things are tight all over, but if you pay $200 down, but offer $50. realize that the remaining $150.00 will be added into your payment agreement.

Understand that whatever was not paid in your down payment will now be part of the payment agreement and will increase the amount of those payments. Ask what your payment options are. Generally payments can be stretched out anywhere from a week or two to a period of months. Your utilities regulatory commission decides just how many months are available.

Listen carefully, follow on your calendar, and take notes. When is your next payment due? What are methods of payment for your state? Understand that mailing your payment in may take 5 business days, (that means Monday through Friday) to post to your account, so mail it accordingly. You will not be protected form a service interruption if your payment is not received and posted by the due date.

Is your account protected from termination by a medical letter, an elderly status, or an infant in your home? Do not assume that the service provider has the necessary paperwork on file to protect your account. Some documentation needs renewed periodically. Find out the status of your paperwork, and mark your calendar accordingly. If you have a doctor's letter on file and it needs renewed every 90 days, mark your calendar a month in advance to call your doctor and have him or her mail or fax in a new letter for your account. Make sure he or she includes your name and account number on the letter and the reason why it is a medical necessity that your service remain on.

When you call on your account ask about budget billing or a fixed amount. What this does is even out your monthly bill and help you budget your bill better. Say your summer or winter bills are extremely high, but fall and spring are low. It may help if you can pay a constant fixed amount rather than low and high bills. Also you should realize that timely payments are a must while on budget billing because your agreement may default or break if the payments do not post to your account on time. Some states do not allow you to enter into another budget billing agreement once you default on one.

If you are experiencing a financial hardship, call your utility company. Some offer programs that may lower your rates. If you wait until you have been served a disconnect notice before advising your service provider they cannot change the rate of the bills you have already incurred. Your customer service representative may also be aware of programs which are available to assist you with your bill. Some of these programs are available only during the winter months, but you will not know if you do not ask.

If you find that you cannot meet a payment, call your customer service representative. Ask what is available. They may be able to tell you of a payment option you had not thought of.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some payment is better than no payment. Demonstrating your willingness to make timely payments reflects on your payment history and gives the customer service rep more options to negotiate payments for you.
  • A customer service rep cannot access your account if you do not provide the needed information for your account. They can not discuss your account if you do not verify who you are.

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