Save big on bills by calling companies, asking for deals

Customers can save up to $1,200 a year

Meijer, a retailer headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is generally credited with opening the first one-stop shopping supercenter in 1962. (Penny Mathews/SXC)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Whether it's a cell phone bill or cable plan chances are there's a better deal available than what you have now.

But those companies aren't going to call to tell you how to save. Customers have to dial up those savings themselves.

Once a year, Chantay Bridges dials her way to saving big bucks.

"We've saved tons and tons," said an excited Bridges as she explains how she's helped her family cut back on what she pays for her phone, cable, utility and insurance bills.

She's even saved on credit card, bank fees, and interest just by calling the companies.

"I reminded them of our credit scores. I reminded them of our loyalty," said Bridges.

Experts say Bridge's strategy is on the money, but customers can actually ask for deals more often. In fact, they say it can't hurt to check in every three to six months.

After all, it costs a company more to lose a customer than to offer them some new ways to stick around and save.

Here are a few tips to be sure you'll get the best deal:

"Be a great customer. A great customer is one who has been with a company for a fair number of years and pays their bill on or before the due date and pays the full balance," said Roblee Hoffman, a personal finance administrator.

Once you've established your history with the company ask for lower rates, a cheaper plan or monthly fees to be removed.

If you have to negotiate be professional and prepared. Know what the competition is offering customers.

"The only time you want to be confrontational or say to a company that you're going to go to another service is when you've prepared it ahead of time and done your research to know there's other services available at a greater cost savings," said Hoffman.

If the customer service rep says they can't negotiate then ask for the customer retention department or the president's office.

Finally, sometimes the best time to ask for a deal is when a company you already do business with is advertising a great deal. Even if that deal is only being offered to new customers, you might be able to negotiate your way to bigger savings.

Financial experts say following these simple tips can save you between $200 and $1,200 a year.