En español | I hate spending more than I have to. That's why asking the question "Is there anything else you could do to lower my bill?" has become a habit for me. But not everyone is comfortable playing the role of negotiator, and that has led to the creation of services that will do it for you. Consider these.
For Monthly Bills
If you feel you're paying too much for cable, wireless, internet, home security, gym membership or satellite radio, third-party companies such as BillFixers, BillCutterz, Billshark and Shrinkabill will negotiate on your behalf. The companies claim they save their customers an average of 25 to 35 percent and charge a range of one-third to half of the first year or two's savings as a fee. You'll have to send them or upload a copy of a recent bill to get started, and they may ask for personal details—such as the last four digits of your Social Security number or your mother's maiden name—to identify themselves to your billers. If you're not comfortable with that, you can opt to be on the phone when your third-party company makes the call, or to have your biller call you to verify that it's OK for that third party to negotiate on your behalf.
For Medical Bills
CoPatient, a service that focuses on medical bills, needs a copy of the bill in question—via mail, fax or upload. Next, the company analyzes it and sends you a report detailing how much it believes you should have been charged and the reasons for the overage, says Copatient CEO Tom Torre. At that point, you can negotiate for yourself or hire Copatient to do it for you, for 35 percent of whatever it saves you. On average, customers shave about 40 percent off their bills, for a savings of $3,000, the company says.
See also: Making the leap to Medicare
For Auto-Pay Subscriptions
Many of us have continued to auto pay for a service we've stopped using or forgotten we had. Trim (online at asktrim.com) and Truebill, both free services, scour your credit and debit card statements for recurring charges and ask you which of them you want to cancel. Those most canceled, according to Truebill CEO Yahya Mokhtarzada, include a number of credit-monitoring services, Stamps.com, Kindle Unlimited and Care.com.
Jean Chatzky is an AARP Financial Ambassador who writes for AARP the Magazine. Additional reporting by Hayden Fiel.