While much has changed since this website went online in 2004, much has remained the same. Cable and telecom companies are still using the same incentives and marketing in much the same way as they have for decades. In this article we share some of our observations and offer a few tips that will hopefully help you find the best deal on the high speed service or bundle that suits your needs.
Gift Cards, Reward Cards and Bonus Offers
From what we've seen, internet providers rarely change their monthly prices, but instead offer deals in the form of incentives. Gift cards or "Reward" cards are the most common. These are typically sent to the subscribers after they've installed and started paying for their service. Generally speaking the best you'll find is a $250 offer.
Other incentives may include free equipment, free installation and free services such as additional channels (when high speed internet is bundled with TV service) or premium services. Some providers may even offer contract buyouts in order to earn your business.
Timing is Everything
While some providers will change their internet and bundle offers quite randomly, we have noticed a pattern as to when the best deals seem to come out. Here are a few of our observations:
- You'll find better deals in winter than in spring and in early fall versus late fall.
- Late August and September "Back to School" deals are generally very good.
- Some of the best deals come out the week after Thanksgiving and may (or may not) extend to Christmas. Christmas deals (or similar offers) may hang around for a few months.
Notwithstanding the above, any deal offering a gift card or reward card of $150+ is pretty good. $200+ is great!
While we're on the subject of timing, larger shifts in the business structures of the internet providers and their parent companies can often work to your advantage. At any given time there is usually a merger or acquisition going on with the big telecom and cable companies. When this happens there will usually be "good will" deals offered by the new company in the market looking to improve their public image. At the same time, competitors may also offer long term service deals in order to lock-in customers and keep them away from the new player or prop up customer numbers. Since mergers and business sales can be years in the making, these sorts of competitive honeymoon's can last a while.
Promotional Pricing versus Long Term Pricing
Speaking of long term, it's important not to get caught-up in the trap of introductory pricing. Many providers will advertise significantly reduced pricing which lasts from 6-12 months followed by regular prices for the duration of the contract. When considering your service options, calculate your average monthly cost over the term of the contract and use that as your monthly cost benchmark. Some companies are offering 1-2 year price guarantees instead of upfront discounts and you may find that these offers, while initially more expensive, are a better deal in the end.
Deals for Potential Cord Cutters
With the rise of streaming video services and reliable wireless service many households are reconsidering the monthly cost of cable TV, home phone service and high speed internet. Service providers have realized that they are in danger of losing business to "cord-cutters" and are offering better incentives for customers to add or keep home phone service and cable TV. Some even offer bundled discounts to cellular customers on partner networks. This is a double edged sword since some of those same companies are increasing prices on standalone high speed internet service. In the end you'll need to decide what works for you. For a few extras dollars you may want to keep your phone or cable. Or maybe not.
Regardless of other services, you'll need high speed internet. Most providers will offer a low-cost "lite" or "starter" high speed internet plan for $20-30 per month. As tempting as this sounds, you'll likely find the experience of using this service frustrating. The speeds they offer (usually 5mbps) are simply not suited for modern internet use. If you plan to watch videos or run services like Netflix you'll find that your connection just doesn't cut it. Worse, you may be subject to data caps and overage charges at lower service levels. If you can afford it, take advantage of upgrade deals that give you increased internet speeds. Consider 20 Mbps as a minimum for the modern household.