Are you hoping to save money on your Internet, cable, and home phone?
Bundling these services all into one bill, with one company, could be the answer, says Jeff Blyskal, an investigative consumer and senior editor for Consumer Reports Magazine, which recently released findings from a telecom survey in their May 2013 issue.
"If you do cable, Internet, and [home] phone from one company it's all coming in on one wire so it's cheaper for the company. They're willing to give you a discount for that," says Blyskal.
However, he's quick to add that bundling is not for everyone. There are a few cons that you should think about before signing on the digital dotted line. So read on for some pros and cons of bundling to help you make your decision.
The Benefits of Bundling
Save Between 40 to 60 Percent on Your Bill
Yes, bundling your digital services can save you some cash, says Blyskal.
"Some of these [bundling packages] are significantly less than the price an existing customer is paying for the same services. They give you a huge discount because they want to get your business," he says.
How huge? Try 40 to 60 percent, according to Blyskal. He says the biggest savings usually come when you sign up for what is known as the "triple play" package, which includes cable TV, Internet service, and digital home phone service.
Of course, those savings could depend on a number of factors other than the services, like the area of the country in which you live, and the amount of competing companies in your area.
Also, you can bundle just two services, usually cable TV and Internet. But Blyskal says if you don't include the third - the triple play - the savings are much lower.
Here's a quick look at a couple "triple play" bundling packages offered from various companies*:
- Comcast Xfinity Triple Play: $99/month for 80+ channels, 25 Mbps Internet, and unlimited nationwide talk and text (for the first 12 months with a 2-year agreement).
- Verizon FiOs Triple Play: $89.99/month for 210+ channels, 50/25 Mbps Internet, unlimited local, regional toll, and long distance calling in the U.S. and Canada and Puerto Rico (with a two-year agreement).
As you can see, offerings vary from company to company, so make sure you shop around to find the best bundling offer for you.
Dealing with One Bill and a Single Customer Service Team
Have you ever had a MacGyver-channeling handyman you could call in any situation - from a burst water pipe to a broken window? Well, bundling your digital services can have a similar result.
With one phone call, you could fix all of your digital issues (should they arise).
"If it's a good company with good customer service… it could be convenient," says Blyskal. They'll usually send one team out and have all your services up and buzzing simultaneously, he says.
Of course, the flipside is also true: "Some companies have dreadful customer service," Blyskal's found. "So one service team could be convenient if they're a good company, and it could be a nightmare if they're not."
So before bundling, make sure you feel comfortable that the cable company responds to your requests in a timely, respectful fashion.
Convenience in Billing
Similarly, since you'll only be dealing with one company for two or more of your digital services, you'll also only have to worry about one bill and one due date.
It's a big benefit of bundling your digital services: You write one check, or more likely track one auto-deduction in your bank account each month for cable TV, Internet, and home phone service.
What's more, if you have any issues or there is a mistake on your bill, there is only one number to call for billing questions. That might result in less hold time, says Blyskal. And who couldn't do with a little less elevator music?
The Cons of Bundling
Bundling Discounts Are Usually Temporary
All parties come to an end eventually. And your triple play bundling bash is likely to also. Why? Because normally these packages are promotional deals designed to attract new customers. Blyskal says they could last for anywhere from six months to two years.
"The problem is when the price goes up, it shoots up," he says. And since most people are too busy to keep track of the exact month this will happen, that could place immediate - and usually unexpected - pressure on your finances.
Paying for Unneeded Features
Before you sign on to a bundled package, make sure you need all the services that make the bundled savings possible.
"The big thing you'd be paying for that you likely don't need is the home telephone service, the third piece of the triple play," says Blyskal. Why? Because most people today have perfectly good cell phones.
In fact, 83 percent of American adults own a cell phone, according to a poll conducted during April-May 2011 by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization providing information on current trends.
So, if you don't think you'll make much use of a landline, consider bundling just your cable and Internet.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to bundling digital services, one size does not fit all. The choice can include a number of factors, from the quality of the cable company and amount of competition in your area, to your financial security.
* Prices offered on company's website as of April 4, 2013.