Negotiating a new mobile phone contract
So its time to look for a new mobile (cell) phone. Maybe its because your existing handset has bitten the dust, maybe you fancy the latest Smartphone or perhaps you are coming to the end of your existing contract. Well here I describe how to successfully negotiate the best deal for you; whether you just want a new handset or simply want to continue with the same phone.
1. When to start looking
Many people make the mistake of simply letting their contract lapse or going to a shop to seek out a new handset, totally oblivious to what deal would be best for them or what their existing operator could offer. The process of finding a new phone or contract should start at least one month before your existing contract ends or preferably two months.
2. What deal is best for me
Before you even start to look for a new deal, consider these three simple questions:
- How many minutes do I actually use per month?
- How want texts do I send per month?
- How much data do I use (for web browsing and e-mails)?
To find this out obtain the average usage from at least three of your bills or simply call your network operator who can tell you this information. Once you have this information ask yourself whether you want a new phone? Often the best deals are available if you don't buy a new handset, but don't be put off if the latest handset takes your fancy.
Once you have this information you are ready to begin.
3. Search out the best deal for you
To begin with don't turn to your network operator. Use the Internet to search out deals that would suit your needs. Try both the independent retailers as well as the websites of the network operators. In the UK the best deals are often from independent retailers because contracts are sold with large commissions and most independent retailers will pass part of this commission onto you. In addition, phones purchased from the network operators directly are often locked to a specific network. With the exception of i-phones independent retailers will usually sell phones unlocked so they can be used with any operator.
If you want a new handset with your contract, once you have picked a few that you like visit a local retailer and ask to see the handset in action. You can't put a price on actually touching and using the handset before you buy it.
Once you have picked the phone you want and have worked out the best deal available that meets your needs in stage 2 above you are ready to call your existing network operator.
4. Calling your existing operator
Armed ready with the information you have collected from stages two and three above call your existing network operator. Always call from your existing handset because that way the operator knows instantly that you are an existing customer.
Don't simply go through to customer services. Within the multitude of options on the helpline you will find the department for 'my contract is ending' or I'm thinking of leaving'. Press this option. This will take you to a team who can offer at least some deals.
When you get through to the sales representative explain that your contract is soon to end and tell them exactly what you want, whether it be a specific new handset or a Sim only contract (a contract where no new handset is provided). The sales representative will then offer you a deal that anybody could get either in-store or online. This deal will almost undoubtedly be poor value and not as good as another deal you have already found online. Explain the deal you have found online and tell them that unless they better this deal you would like to cancel your contract.
The sales representative will then probably put you on hold whilst they search for what discount they can apply to your account. They will probably return with a slightly better deal but not one that matches the best you have already found. Politely but firmly explain that you can get a better deal elsewhere and so would like to cancel your contract. At this point you may go through another cycle of offers but persist. If you don't get anywhere you will probably be passed to the 'retentions' team to cancel your contract.
The 'retentions' team will be able to offer a better deal than the normal sales team you speak to first. If they fail to offer a deal that at least matches what you have seen online, cancel your contract. Don't be swayed by offers of free insurance or a small amount of credit. Take control and explain what you want. If you are forced to cancel, don't worry, there is probably more negotiation to come.
5. Cancelling your contract
When you cancel your contract make sure you ask to be placed on a pay as you go contract at the end of your monthly contract. This way your number is not lost and you can take it to a new operator. Once you have done this you will probably receive a call within 48 hours from the 'customer liaison' team who will be able to offer you another deal. If this new deal is better than the 'retention' team offer then you may be in a good position but sometimes they can't. Again don't be swayed and tell the liaison team that you wish to cancel.
6. The new contract
If you get to the point where you have to purchase the deal you saw online before you started don't worry, not all is lost. Purchase the new contract and make sure you cancel any 'free' insurance or gadget helpline that comes with the handset. This is normally a waste of money and can usually be purchased cheaper elsewhere. Once you are all setup with the new contract you can call your new network operator and transfer your old number from the pay as you go sim card that your existing operator placed your old number on.
7. Other things to note
Some mobile phone contracts use cashback incentives to reduce the monthly cost. Only enter into these deals if you are an organised person. Personally I have had several of these contracts, two were entirely cost neutral (ie the cashback equalled the monthly cost) so they didn't actually cost me any money and I think they are great. If you decide to go for a cashback contract make a note of the dates that you must claim and where to send cashback claims.
The Internet is awash with cashback websites. These are great and can be used to get cashback for purchasing a new contract. Try to factor the 'with cashback' amount into your negotiation with your existing network operator.
Sell your old handset
If you are getting a new handset with your contract don't forget you can sell your old handset either through an auction website or through a mobile phone recycler. This provides valuable extra money and also stops old handsets cluttering up your home.
If you have followed the seven steps above you should now have a shiny new contract and/or phone.