How to get the best mobile savings in 2022: Does calling Retentions really work?

A few years ago, savvy life hack bloggers alerted us to a new way to save on your mobile bill: negotiating with the Retentions department. For a while, it felt like an exciting insider secret that unlocked carriers’ best pricing.

Recently, I put this concept to the test. I wanted a better deal, so I called my carrier to cancel. In the experience that followed, I discovered the truth about how to get the best savings from your carrier. (Hint: Just threatening to cancel doesn’t work anymore!)

In the end, I had two carriers sweet-talking me for my dollar — a far cry from the usual plan shopping experience.

What I did to get the best deal

I’ve been a long-time Bell customer, even though I’m no longer on contract. But last year, I saw that Fido was offering a great deal on data for BYOD plans: 10 GB for $55/month.

I called Bell and told them I was going to cancel my service unless they could offer me the same deal. They put me through to the much-discussed Retentions department, who said a supervisor would review my case and call me back.

When they returned my call, they were not delivering good news: they confirmed they couldn’t match Fido’s offer. Drat! It seemed the old Retentions playbook was no longer working — Bell was calling my bluff. Or so they thought.

Thankfully, owning my own iPhone XR empowered me to make good on my threat. So I went ahead and left Bell for Fido. It felt intimidating, but it was super straightforward. I kept my number and everything.

To my surprise, two days later, I received a call from an agent with another group at Bell: the Winback team. It quickly became clear that this team had the ability to make compelling offers that Retentions couldn’t. They offered to match my Fido plan. Having already switched to Fido, I didn’t feel the need to switch back.

But soon, I heard from Bell with an offer I could not refuse: 25 GB for only $45 per month, with no contract. (Have I mentioned that owning your phone is key?) More than twice as much data, for $10 less? Now we’re talking.

This rate made switching again worth my while. So, at the end of my first month with Fido, I went back to Bell. (I’m getting good at this!)

And what do you know? Days after the second switch, Fido’s Winback team called to offer me 30 GB for $45 per month. But coming from a measly 5 GB, even 25 GB is beyond what I’d ever use, so extra data didn’t motivate me.

I felt a bit sheepish about it, but ultimately turned down this offer. I justified it with the fact that I’ve been satisfied with Bell’s customer service, and have heard the budget brands can be a bit hit-or-miss on support.

Even then, Fido’s Winback team kept calling. They sweetened the deal with better rates on out-of-country calling, but I can use FaceTime or WhatsApp for that. So I stayed put and the Winback team eventually stopped following up.

Keep your eye out for a bargain

As my experience shows, switching between carriers and then negotiating with your old carrier’s Winback team is a surefire way to get the best deal. To take advantage, first you have to find an attractive plan to switch to.

Use or keep an eye on MobileSyrup and WhistleOut to find a better plan. (You’ll notice most of the best deals are reserved for new customers only.) Once you’ve found something you like, call your carrier to let them know you’re going to switch, and would like them to match.

Don’t accept any counter-offers less than what you want. Be ready to walk away and cancel immediately if your carrier is not cooperative.

If your carrier does match the offer, get it in writing. Chances are, though, your carrier won’t accept. That’s when you have to cut the cord, and take the better deal with the other carrier. You’ll soon get a phone call from the Winback team — the ones who can offer the best, most exclusive deals.

At this point, the world is your oyster. If your old carrier offers to match your current plan, turn them down until they offer something even better. Once you get a better offer, that’s when it’s time to return. And if you’re lucky, your temporary carrier’s Winback team will come calling too.

To get my best deal, I played one carrier against another. But there’s no reason you couldn’t switch between three or even more carriers to enjoy a true buyer’s market for phone plans. If you try this, let us know how it goes!

It’s easy to switch — and keep your number

It may seem like all this hopping between plans would be painful and time-consuming. But switching between carriers is easier than you might think… if you own your own phone.

You might be wondering: “Will I be able to keep my number?” The answer is YES!

The CRTC requires mobile providers to let you keep your number for free when you switch plans. No extra fees, no hassle or waiting.

As long as you’re not on a contract, all you have to do is get a SIM from your new provider and pop it into your phone. Then call your new carrier and let them know you’re ready to port your number.

Voila! After 15 minutes or so, you’re live on the new carrier, with your same old number.

The catch

Unfortunately, when it comes to the wireless carriers, there’s always a catch.

As it turns out, my new plan from Bell was technically 55% off a “reference rate plan,” which was $100 for 25 GB. I got my new rate a year ago, and today you can get 25 GB from Bell for $80. Yet the price of my “reference rate plan” has increased to $105.

That means my payment has actually gone up, while the broader market has gotten cheaper. Sneaky! I’ll keep you updated when I get around to calling Bell again.

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