TV Cancellation Fees

Cable and satellite TV just don’t hold the same allure that they did even 10 years ago, and cutting the cord is increasingly popular. But whether you’re looking to cut the cord because prices are too steep for the channels you watch, or you’re losing channels you like, or you’re moving out of your current provider’s service area – the process can be tough. 

If you’re locked into a 1- or 2-year contract, then early termination fees (ETFs) are a reality you’ll have to face, unless the company has broken your contract themselves; then, you may be able to sneak out without having to pay. 

And while most of the time that won’t be the case, it’s still worth taking some steps to see – or simply to lessen the financial pain that may come. 

However, it'd be best if you have known about the most suitable TV provider for yourself in the first place. We have done the hard part of researching for you in our Best Satellite TV Providers and Best TV Providers articles. 

4 Ways to Avoid TV Cancellation ETFs

TV Providers Cancellation Fee
Comcast Xfinity Prorated ETF of $10/mo.; up to $220
Spectrum $0
AT&T U-Verse Up to $180*
DIRECTV Prorated ETF of up to $20/mo.
DISH Network $20 per month remaining; up to $480
Cox Contour TV $10 per month remaining; up to $240
Verizon Fios Up to $165; dependent on contract
CenturyLink Up to $200

With that said, before you dive straight into trying to wrangle a no-fee TV cancellation, take a second: are you switching to a streaming service? Have you tried it out yet?

If you’re jumping on the cord-cutting movement, it can be easy to get caught up – lower prices? Great! Just the channels I want? Awesome!

But you might find out that it’s not as great as you think – so sign up for one (most offer at least 7-day trials) and try-before-you-buy (and cut). You can check out an extensive list of our recommended live streaming services in our guide to the best TV providers in 2019.

Beyond trying out your alternative to pay-TV, there are several things you should do before you actually cancel. 

Looking at streaming services? Check out reviews on Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, fuboTV, and Hulu Live TV

Reading the fine print

To start with, locate your exact contract. We know – reading it is tough. I mean, attorneys carefully crafted these things together into legally-binding agreements. But it can be worth the effort sometimes; finding a term or condition that your TV provider has broken at some point can be grounds for no early termination fees

The main thing to read for are any clauses that specifically spell out reasons why the contract would become null and void and you, the customer, would not have to pay cancellation fees. 

For example, these often include things like:

  • Channels removed/blocked (and you were still charged for them)
  • Unexpected, unexplained fee hikes
  • Frequent outages
  • Any breach of contract

If you’re able to find any hard-evidence of any breaches – do so. For instance, if you’ve been having frequent outages, you probably got email messages saying things like “We’re working on it..” If you want to cite that as a reason to not have pay cancellation fees, gather all those emails together. 

Weigh the costs

Sometimes, you can’t avoid early termination fees when you cancel your service – your contract is legally-binding, after all. However, depending on the company, your exact package, and the length left in your contract, you may be better off simply letting your service expire. 

You certainly wouldn’t want to pay cancellation fees higher than what it would cost to just keep the service until the end, right? Just watch out for any automatic renewals if you decide to let things expire naturally. 

Likewise, if you’re currently bundling TV, internet, and phone (or just 2 of those services), cancelling just your TV and keeping the others may cost you more than you’re paying now – providers typically give some solid savings out for those kinds of things (Comcast Xfinity, for example, gives up to $60/month in savings for their Quad bundles!).

Call, don’t cancel online

Finally, if you’re decided on cancelling, call – don’t just cancel online. Talking to a live person allows you to negotiate – potentially avoiding those fees. It’s the job customer retention specialists to keep you paying for their service – it’s literally in their title. 

Add to this the fact that these agents typically get commission for every account they successfully keep, and you’re pretty much in the driver’s seat of the conversation. 

We’ll explain more about specific things to say shortly. 

How to cancel your Pay-TV service

TV Providers Customer service number Try It
Comcast Xfinity 1-800-934-6489 View plans
Spectrum 1-877-906-9121 View plans
AT&T U-Verse 1-800-288-2020 View plans
DIRECTV 1-800-531-5000 View plans
DISH Network 1-888-283-2309 View plans
Cox Contour TV 1-800-234-3993 View plans
Verizon Fios 1-844-837-2262 View plans
CenturyLink 1-800-244-1111 View plans

Step 1: Calling

Once you have your reasons in order, the first step is simply to call. We’ve listed customer service numbers in the table above. Once you’re connected provide your account info so that you get routed to a customer service rep. 

Along the way, you’ll probably get some prompts – this varies by provider, but is pretty standard. Select the appropriate prompt to indicate that you want to cancel your account. Once you get a live agent on the line, they’ll probably be a regular customer service rep – no problem. 

Tell them that you want to cancel your contract and ask to speak to someone in their customer retention department – this is the kind of person you need to talk to; a regular rep has no power to negotiate with you. 

Step 2: Speaking with retention

You’ll likely wind up on hold for a bit now – the length of time will vary. Once a customer retention specialist comes on the line, explain that you want to cancel your contract and end service with the provider. 

You can start with something like, “It’s too expensive, but I could keep it if it were cheaper.”

You can – and should – expect considerable resistance from the specialist. It’s pretty likely that they’ll offer an unadvertised package option to try and get you stay – but keep in mind, prices will jump again after the promo period is over. So, if you accept one of these deals – like a package upgrade, premium channels for no charge, etc – make sure you know how long the deal will last. 

The main thing to keep in mind is to ask straight-up for what you want. Again, it’s the customer retention rep’s job to keep you – so you may be surprised with what they give you – deals, or credit, or free streaming. 

And when you’re dead-set on cancellation and trying to skip out on the fees, there’s not much different to add. Your reason will depend on you, of course, but a few things you can try to leverage include those we listed earlier: 


  • Channels removed/blocked (and you were still charged for them)
    Example: “We’re paying for HBO, but aren’t getting it…”
  • Unexpected, unexplained fee hikes
    “The starting price was fine, but these new extras fees are more than we can pay…”
  • Frequent outages
    “There have been 4 times in the last 5 months where we haven’t had service for a week or more at a time. We don’t even have service right now, going on 2 weeks…”
  • Any breach of contract
    “According to our contract, XYZ is what we’re supposed to get - we aren’t.”


Even if the specialist won’t budge on waiving your early termination fees entirely, you may be able to get them to lower it. But sometimes, you just can’t avoid them – and simply not paying will damage your credit score, or may result in legal action against you. 

Step 3: Returning your equipment

Once you’ve conquered the phone call (or slunk away, cancelled but having to pay), you have to send back your equipment, unless you purchased it outright. Anything rented must be sent back by mail – if not, you could face an invoice for up to several hundred dollars for that rented satellite dish or DVR box. 

There’s usually a time frame to do this in – DIRECTV gives you 21 days, for example. If they don’t receive their equipment from you during that time, you’ll get charged. Many will send you a box to send your equipment back in. 

Once you receive the box, pack up everything and send it back. You should get a tracking number so you can verify that it’s received by the provider. Once you see that it has been received, give them a call to triple-check that you’re in the clear and nothing else is needed of you. 

Step 4: Pay your last bill

There’s one last housecleaning item to take care of: paying your final bill. When you receive it, make sure everything – particularly your cancellation date – is correct before paying. 

And as a last note – whenever you call back (like to confirm they received your equipment), the rep will try to get you to come back. Stand firm! You cancelled for a reason. 

If you’re waiting on a cancellation bill, but it never arrives or seems to be taking its time – call. If it’s floating around in limbo somewhere, it can be harming your credit score and/or incurring extra fees.

Wrapping up

We hope that your TV provider did something wrong to breach you contract or otherwise fail to provide adequate service in a big enough way that you can avoid TV cancellation fees. But sometimes, there’s just nothing that can be done for it. Just do the math ahead of time, because you might be better off just sticking with the provider – or you may not. 

But, if you’ve decided to leave, make the transition as smooth as you can. Follow our suggestions and steps and you should be able to make a clean separation of it. 

Written by: Luke Pensworth

Luke is the managing editor and site manager of Dailywireless. As a wireless enthusiast/consumer, he reviews a lot of services based on his own experience. Disgruntled as he may be, he tries to keep his articles as honest as possible.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.