How to Save Money on Your Internet
Internet ain’t cheap like it used to be. Monthly internet bills are routinely stuffed like a holiday turducken with installation fees, equipment rentals, and seasonal price hikes. Data overage charges, late fees, and early termination fees can also get tacked on if you’re not careful.
Thankfully, there are multiple ways to save money on home internet. You can save big by shopping around, reading your monthly bill closely, and haggling with your internet service provider (ISP). You can also cut down on costs by following other tricks and tips, and we’ve compiled them all into this handy guide. Read on to learn how to pay less for internet access—cha-ching!
Save money with the Emergency Broadband Benefit program
Before you start looking for other options, you may want to be aware of this new program from the Federal Communications Commission.
Millions of qualified households can save up to $50–$75 on their monthly internet bills through the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB). The program helps low-income American households and those who have lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To qualify, someone in your household must be enrolled in certain social programs (Lifeline, SNAP, National School Lunch Program, and others)—or you can qualify based on your income.
Applications for the EBB opened on May 12, 2021. The program will last six months after the pandemic is officially declared as over or when EBB funds are depleted.
The program includes $100 off the purchase of a computer or tablet in addition to the monthly internet discount. Major internet providers like AT&T, Xfinity, Verizon, and many others are participating, so you likely don’t have to change plans to get the discounts.
For more information on how to apply and to see a list of participating providers, check out our complete guide to the Emergency Broadband Benefit.
1. Look at your bill
Before you start looking for hot deals, make sure to read your monthly bill to see what you’re actually paying for. Make a note of anything you don’t recognize or are confused about so you can ask customer service about it later. Take a look at our internet cost guide to get an idea of how much your bill should be under normal circumstances.
2. Explore other options
Shop around to see what rival ISPs are offering. Many cities and towns have more than one internet company in the area, so if you don’t like your provider, then you can probably find something better. Or you can use the better deal you found to bargain for a lower price from your current provider.
Get a rundown of what’s available where you live by punching your zip code into our tool below:
3. Lower your internet speed
If you use Wi-Fi primarily for simple tasks—like browsing, checking email, or watching the occasional movie on Hulu—then there’s no point in paying for blazing fast Wi-Fi speeds. You can cut down your internet bill by switching to a plan with a lower speed.
Use our How Much Speed Do I Need? Tool to see if there’s room to give your bandwidth a haircut. You’ll probably be just fine with lower speeds if you live by yourself or in a small household. However, you may need higher speeds if you live with a big family or a lot of roommates or do speed-heavy tasks like online gaming.
4. Buy your own equipment
You can rent a modem and router from your ISP, but that’s kind of like paying rental fees for the bike you ride to work each and every day—why not just buy it instead? Investing in your own equipment costs more upfront, but it gives you more options and flexibility. And it saves you money in the long run, because eventually you’ll reach the point at which the rental costs will exceed the price of the modem and router you bought yourself.
There are modems and routers designed for practically every purpose these days. If you want gigabit speeds on a cable internet network, take a look at a gigabit DOCSIS 3.1 modem. If you live in a sprawling house with lots of rooms and multiple stories, then a long-range router or mesh network will do you just right. And if you depend on fast Wi-Fi for Netflix binge-watching marathons, then definitely read our guide to the best routers for streaming.
Before you shell out your hard-earned clams for a modem, make sure the one you’re buying works with your ISP. If it’s not cleared with the service provider, it won’t work on your network. Whoopsie-daisy.
5. Look into deals and promotions
ISPs frequently offer sign-up bonuses and other promotions to draw in customers. The contents of one of these goodie bags can include anything from a VISA gift card to a waiver on installation costs or a free subscription to Disney+ or HBO MaxTM.
Bonuses like these tend to be available only for new customers. But you could still find something nice if you’re already signed up for a plan. And you can (and should) ask customer service to hook you up. If you’ve been a customer for a while and pay your bills on time, a customer service rep will have more incentive to keep you happy.
To find the hottest bargains and promos, read our best internet deals guide. We update it every month and cover all the major ISPs.
6. Call customer service
Bargaining for a good price is an artform that goes back millennia—and these days it isn’t just the souk, mercado, or swap meet that has good deals. Your ISP’s customer service department may be able to offer a price-match with a competitor, or reduce your monthly fee to the original promo price that you had when you signed up. They also will have details on bundling options and recent promotions.
Before you call, make sure to have a list ready of plans and prices from other providers, along with a list of expenses on your most recent bill. You can use these details as leverage to cut down your price. Be polite, friendly, and up front about your budget and your needs. If you can’t get a deal on the first try, call back again. Your ISP may also have a live chat service that can be helpful.
7. See if you qualify for an income-based subsidy
Internet is as much a utility nowadays as electricity and running water—and everyone deserves to be connected at a reasonable price. Thankfully, subsidies on internet service are available to families with kids in school (K–12 or college) and folks that qualify for federal programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The most important one is the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which we discuss at the top of this page.
Several major ISPs provide internet for as little as $10 per month to qualifying customers. The coronavirus pandemic has also prompted some internet providers to offer a month or more of free internet as part of the programs (but you’ll need to double-check because some offers have expired in recent weeks).
The quickest way to find subsidies and low-cost internet programs is by using the “offer locator” tool from EveryoneOn, a national nonprofit organization that partners with major ISPs like Cox and Mediacom.
Put your address into EveryoneOn’s handy tool, and it will give you a list of low-cost internet programs available in your area based on your needs. It also shows you options for finding devices like laptops and desktop computers at an affordable price.
8. Bundle your internet service
Many internet providers don’t just provide Wi-Fi—they also do cable TV or phone service (or both). And most of the time, they’ll offer a discount or two if you decide to consolidate your services into one bundle bonanza.
If you’re already signed up for cable TV, if you’re in the market for a new phone plan, or if for some reason you still use a landline phone, ask your internet provider to shave some bucks off your bill for a Double or Triple Play package. Cable companies especially seem to have an endless assortment of bonus offers up their sleeves, letting you save money on cable and Wi-Fi.
You can also save by cutting out services you don’t need—including cable or satellite TV if you’re a cord-cutter who’d rather watch streaming services. If you’re not using it, don’t pay for it.
9. Use a mobile hotspot
Mobile hotspots are like canned Starbucks drinks or portable phone chargers—quick, easy, and relatively cost-effective in getting you a bit of Wi-Fi when you need it.
They’re not the most affordable way to get internet; you’ll get faster speeds and more data per dollar by signing up for a traditional home internet plan. But it’s perfect if you’re on the road all the time, live in a rural area that has extremely limited internet service, or barely use the internet to begin with.
Instead of signing up for a plan with a costly satellite provider, for example, you can simply whip out your phone and switch on the hotspot function. Or you can spend a little more money on a dedicated mobile hotspot device, which comes in a range of styles and gives you mobile data through a monthly cellular plan. If you’re checking your email only once a week, there’s no point in signing up for a whole other plan.
10. Split your internet bill
This is basically the internet equivalent of ordering a single drink at McDonald’s to share the free refills with half a dozen of your friends. Internet providers often give you a 12-month promotional price to encourage you to sign up. As the deadline approaches for the real price to kick in, cancel your account and have your roommate or a family member you’re living with start up a new account at the same address. Then you get another year of promo pricing.
This is especially easy to pull off if you’re on a monthly, no-contract plan, which lets you cancel anytime without having to fork over big bucks for early termination fees (ETFs). But of course, unless you have an endless assortment of roommates, this little trick will last you only so long. It may be easier just to call up customer service and ask them to waive the price hike. If you’re planning to cancel anyway, the mere thought of a customer jumping ship may incentivize the customer service rep to extend your promotional period.
Another way to save on internet service is by splitting the bill with a neighbor. One of you signs up, the other pays their fair share, and then you both have internet. Hooray!
Be careful, however, because some ISPs don’t allow this and will consider it a violation of their terms of service if the ISP finds out. Also, this works best with a neighbor you can trust—you don’t want to get dinged because they’re torrenting movies or downloading malware on your network.
11. Hire a pro to negotiate on your behalf
Nations have diplomats, divorce courts have lawyers—and the internet has bill negotiators.
It sounds odd, but yes, you can hire your own dealmaker from a company like BillFixers or Trim to get on the phone with your ISP and talk down your bill on your behalf. In exchange, you split the total savings for an agreed period of time with the agency you’ve hired. (So if they reduce your bill by $100, then they take a portion of that and you save the rest.)
We’re not sure how well this works or how much you’ll actually save by going this route. To be honest, it seems more practical to do the research and talk to customer service yourself. It’s just internet, after all—not a house or a million-dollar book deal, where having your own agent is standard. If you hate haggling, though, then this may be the option for you.
FAQ about saving money on home internet
How can you save money on your internet bill?
You can save money on your internet bill by shaving off excess costs—for example, lower your internet speed and buy a modem and router instead of renting it from your internet provider.
You can also negotiate with customer service to waive price hikes, match prices from a rival internet provider, or give you a deal on a bundle package. And there are more imaginative ways to save as well, like splitting your bill with a neighbor or hiring a professional negotiator (seriously!) to bargain for a better deal on your behalf.
Why did my Wi-Fi bill go up?
There are several reasons to explain why your Wi-Fi bill went up. The promotional price for your internet package could have expired. Your internet provider may be imposing an annual price hike on your plan. Or you may have exceeded your data cap for the month, leading to overage charges.
Author - Peter Holslin
Peter Holslin has more than a decade of experience working as a writer and freelance journalist. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008 and went on to contribute to publications like Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on covering 5G, nerding out about frequency bands and virtual RAN, and producing reviews on emerging services like 5G home internet. He also writes about internet providers and packages, hotspots, VPNs, and Wi-Fi troubleshooting.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.