Proof That Loyalty Is For Suckers: Best Customers Get Penalized With Higher Bills

  • Share
  • Read Later

We appreciate your business. And as thanks for being a loyal customer all these years, we’re going to overcharge you.

Auto insurers and other service providers don’t say this explicitly, of course. But that’s the message sent via the rates they charge different customers.

The curious, but obviously profitable business model, in which new customers get wooed with discounts and special deals, while the oldest, most loyal, best customers are “thanked” with bills that escalate over time, is standard practice among pay TV and wireless providers. The companies play up the idea that their products and services come with special introductory rates for new customers, rather than noting that there are penalties for customers who stick with the business for the long haul and don’t complain. But no matter which way the rate changes are spun, the results are the same.

(MORE: Big Banks Are Finally Making It Easier to Compare Checking Account Fees)

Insurance companies are in the same boat, of course, especially in terms of auto and home insurance. Personal finance experts say that to get the best rates, it’s necessary to shop around at least once a year and call up your providers with specific demands — as well as the willingness to jump ship when a better offer presents itself. Fail to do so, and you’re all but guaranteed to pay more than is necessary.

Just how much extra will you be charged for being a loyal customer? A new report from the Texas Office of Public Insurance Counsel estimates that a driver who has been with the same auto insurer for eight years would save an average of 19% on premiums by switching providers.

The study notes that nearly 60% of drivers rarely or never shop around for auto insurance policies, and that, for a variety of reasons, less than 10% say they’re likely to switch insurers. The insurance companies understand these tendencies quite well—they’re in the business of estimating risk and likely behavior—and as a result, push premiums higher and higher on customers who they assume will stick with the business regardless of whether it has the absolute best deal on the market.

(MORE: 12 Things You Should Always Haggle Over)

A customer who does take the time to shop around and switch, however, can save a bundle: On average, customers who have been with their auto insurers for eight or nine years would trim their premiums by 19%, or $194 annually. Shopping around can take up as little as 15 or 20 minutes, but even if it eats up a few hours, the savings probably makes it worth the effort.

While the study only examines auto insurance, the authors state “there is no reason to believe the pattern wouldn’t apply to other lines as well, such as homeowners insurance.”

(MORE: Terrible Financial Advice: Top 10 Money Tips You Shouldn’t Follow)

For that matter, the same principles apply for customers seeking the best rates from wireless and pay TV providers and other subscription services. The longer you’ve been a customer, the more likely it is that you’re paying too much—and that it’s therefore more worthwhile to make those annoying phone calls, shop around, and find a better deal.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

106 comments
maileboxcn
maileboxcn

statefarm does so, statefarm's agent business model sucks

EnyaPark
EnyaPark

The thing with insurance is that it's an industry that doesn't reward customer loyalty.  Every six months (or whenever) a policy expires, you can expect a rate increase on your car insurance. The only way to stay competitive is to always change to a new policy.

I get new rates every six months (and usually switch providers).  I try to find rates around $30/month (I use Insurance Panda).  If my premiums go up much more than that, I always switch. 

Roger Johnson
Roger Johnson

The insurance companies are only taking advantage of our stupidity. I went online after reading this, went to one site, found a site with about 18% off my current rate (Progressive). Called my current provider (GEICO), asked them if they could match it. They not only matched it, they reduce my rate by 55%. All for 30 minutes of work.

It irritates me that they did not reduce my rates on their own,  but really why should they? It is not in their best interest. I am ok with this business model as long as they are ok with the fact that I will jump ship ASAP. And never trust them with other business like home insurance.

Ayke
Ayke

I now call Time Subscriber Service every year to make sure I pay close to 'introductory rate'.

J.Milliscone
J.Milliscone

I've found with my cable company I can call them up and demand lower prices from time to time. Using the term "customer retention" will motivate a smart employee and show you the stupid ones that you need to get of the phone with and find a better service person. 

doubtom
doubtom

with respect to loyalty, some stick with a company because of its size, reputation and elaborate advertising none of which are unique but do lessen the tendency to shop around.

I recently received a barrage of "offers" from a TV, phone,computer provider due to an impending move, whose representative could not understand, despite my numerous statements that I was moving out of the area; I was amazed at the lengths to which they will go to maintain a customer.  Finally had to shout to get her attention to simply cancel.  Competition must be stiff indeed for such frenzied behavior.  

pbug56
pbug56

Cablevision always gives much lower rates to new subscribers; FIOS is even worse. 

Verizon Wireless though makes it clear how much contempt it has; the longer they have you the more contempt!  They pride themselves on overlapping, confusing offers.  But nothing to date beats their new shared data plan, which is designed to give you far less data at a much higher price then ever before.  It ought to be called the shared ripoff plan.  Of course, I love what I heard the other day in a Verizon store; oh, you came in for your free upgrade phone?  We don't have any free upgrades in the store, only online. 

When my wife and I went for upgrades a few months ago, we were not even told our totals before being asked to sign on the little box.  Afterward I realized we'd been overcharged.  I called the store and the clown on the line told us that we had to calculate down from the MSRP for the phone, that actually we really hadn't paid quite enough.  We then called customer service; the rep cracked up laughing when we told her what happened.  Yes, we got the missing money back, and then more after we realized that the store didn't give us the bigger of 2 concurrent promotions in effect and overcharged us just for that an extra $50.

I could go on, but there are lots more bad service stories out there! 

Curtis Lloyd
Curtis Lloyd

I've been with Sprint for 12 years.  Every time I do a price comparison, they still win, and I have five lines.  Not every company plays that game

Fred2202350
Fred2202350

I've called around from time to time, and found that no one could even come close to the rates State Farm charges me for our 5 cars, after having one car insured with them since I was a student in 1970.  A lot depends on knowing your agent and making sure he's intent on keeping your business above all else.

CorpGov.net
CorpGov.net

Thank you so much for this post. Maybe it will help stop this game. I've certainly had lots of experience with it on home and auto insurance, as well as cable provider. 

1hopelessoptimist1
1hopelessoptimist1

When it comes to insurance, the premium should not be the only factor. More important is how you get reimbursed or  treated when you have a substantial claim. My experience is that one of the biggest member associations which one would expect to treat its members correctly was the worst insurance company both I and a neighbor ever had to deal with. The premium was low, the payout lower and the hassle required a lawyer's intervention. For several decades I've been with Cincinnati  Insurance. Their claims department is tops, prompt service and prompt full payment, exactly what you paid for and expect in return. I can highly recommend them even though I get no premium reduction and own no stock in it.

Guest
Guest

people need to think about why their car costs more to insure every year even though the car is getting older and less valuable

not only will switching reset your "customer loyalty fee" but you will get the current market value of your vehicle rather than the one you signed up for years ago

fashion shoes
fashion shoes

Adidas

adiZero Crazy Light Red Shoes For Men

Adidas

adiZero Crazy Light Purple Shoes For Men

Adidas

adiZero Crazy Light Blue Yellow Shoes For Men

Adidas

adiZero Crazy Light Blue White Shoes For Men

Adidas

adiZero Crazy Light Blue Shoes For Men

Adidas

adiZero Feather Running Orange Black Men's Shoes

Adidas

adiZero Feather Running OrangeRed Men's Shoes

 

Bijdehans
Bijdehans

This is not typical for the United States. Overhere in the Netherlands we've grown accustomed to changing health insurance, mobile phone providers and energy companies each and every year to get the worst of two worlds: one you have no idea anymore which company is doing what for you and two usually you end up paying more than before...

HawaiiGal
HawaiiGal

We do check our insurance rates every few years. And we avoid monthly phone bills completely. We have only spent $285 total  on our phone bills over the past 21 months. We use free Google Voice (you have a one-time purchase of a box that costs about $50); we use GV for all our  from domestic calling (free in  state and  all U.S. calling) we use pre-paid cell phones from Platinum Tel (I love mine - refurbed Samsung phone); hubby uses TracFone as he could not get the phone he wanted from PT; we use Greefax.com for faxing. There is some "price to pay" as the quality of GV is not always consistent but we put  up with that. GV is great- if  someone can't get through because you are on the line,  it does a text   text message along with recording their message. Some of the transcriptions are hilarious but because you can also play the voice message you can understand it. And living in Hawaii, they can't give us a Hawaii area code so our friends think we moved to SFO.  But I will take those minor glitches in stride since really, we have paid less in 21 months for our phone bills than a friend of mine who pays  for a single month at ATamp;T.

HawaiiGal
HawaiiGal

We avoid monthly phone contracts entirely. We use Google Voice for our main phone.  Currently free domestic long-distance. And we have pre-paid cell phones through Platinum Tel (mine) and TracFone (my husband).  Our total phone bill, including the hardware has cost us $153 since January 2011.  My friends sometimes pay up to  $300 per month. 

RickRussellTX
RickRussellTX

I was frankly floored when MetroPCS offered their new promotional unlimited data pricing to existing customers. They didn't even require me to buy a new phone! I just called them and switched, no hassle, now I pay $15 less per month no questions asked.

They are clearly not learning the lessons of ATamp;T: give existing customers less and charge them the same amount for it. Unlimited data? Now it's 5GB. Oops, now it's 2GB. Shut up and pay $35 and be glad we give you any data at all!

Juno Accardo
Juno Accardo

I know this is anecdotal, but this has been happening to me ever since I've been with Liberty Mutual for the past 4 years.  Just this past year, they wanted to jack my premiums from $700 a year for two cars to $840.  I've never been in an accident or had any traffic violations.  I was like, WTF???  I was pretty fed up, so I went back to my old ways of switching auto insurers every other year or so.  I called AAA and their insurance policy, apples to apples, was $400 a year for both of my cars.  I had to pay an extra $80 for the annual membership, but no skin off my teeth.  I could use it for all of its fringe benefits.  The insurance agent also told me, as I've also learned online, that insurance premiums should go DOWN over the years without any accidents or speeding tickets.  

Remember folks, companies have no loyalty to you as a consumer or employee and you should NOT be loyal to them either.  Look out for numero uno: yourself.  If you see better oppty's or prices, grab them. 

Fernando Labrada
Fernando Labrada

The airline industry has been putting it to their best customers for years. The tourists that fly once a year get the best prices. The road warriors that fly every week get taken to the cleaners.

shannondoodle
shannondoodle

Anyone who is loyal, be it retail or business to business pays more....period! People are constantly muti-tasking and love to get projects completed. Whether you are deciding on a new insurance policy, or a new raw material supplier. Once a decision has been made, we scratch this project off our list and move on to other projects. So call it loyalty or call it laziness, but it's ultimately up to the buyer to make sure they are still getting the best deal possible.

Sellers are counting on you being loyal or lazy. It's up to the buyer to prove them wrong.

Guest
Guest

Anyone who is loyal, be it retail or business to business pays more....period! People are constantly muti-tasking and love to get projects completed. Whether you are deciding on a new insurance policy, or a new raw material supplier. Once a decision has been made, we scratch this project off our list and move on to other projects. So call it loyalty or call it laziness, but it's ultimately up to the buyer to make sure they are still getting the best deal possible.

Sellers are counting on you being loyal or lazy. It's up to the buyer to prove them wrong.

Guest
Guest

Anyone who is loyal, be it retail or business to business pays more....period!  People are constantly muti-tasking and love to get projects completed.  Whether you are deciding on a new insurance policy, or a new raw material supplier.  Once a decision has been made, we scratch this project off our list and move on to other projects.  So call it loyalty or call it laziness, but it's ultimately up to the buyer to make sure they are still getting the best deal possible. 

Sellers are counting on you being loyal or lazy.  It's up to the buyer to prove them wrong.

killerasteroid
killerasteroid

This typifies American businesses! They are so shortsighted that they are always after the new business and will do anything to get it, even lowering rates for new customers while screwing old customers. If they were smart, they woould lower rates for everyone to the same low rate, thus guaranteeing customer bases will not "walk away" when they realize they have been getting f%^ked all those years.....

This happened to me with Time Warner and when I told them I was leaving after 7 years because new customers were getting lower rates, they said they could do nothing for me....so....I asked them if they minded losing a revenue stream from me to the tune of about $1700/yr and I guess they didn't want/need it because I left......

Thomas Henley
Thomas Henley

I was a ten year log Sprint Premier Customer with 5 devices on my account and spent on average 8,000.00 a year in service charges, fees and new equipment.

That's until they no longer wanted to honor the contract for unlimited Data on my wireless broadband card. Four months into the most recent contract on the device they made it clear that they'd rather be sued and lose my business than honor their own contract, while at the same time advertising unlimited data plans on every other device but the one they then wanted to charge me 559.00 a month for instead of 59.00 a month for.

Their wet dream was that I'd pay a lot more or just cancel that one line and keep the other 4. I of course cancelled all five lines.

They're position so what, sue us, it will take you years to collect, and we'll just pass the cost on to the consumers.

Welcome to corporate America where a contract no longer means anything to anyone.

orion12345
orion12345

AMICA slapped me with a 35% this year, no accidents, tickets or unpaid bills, This

why I'm thinking that the insurance companies must have control of Congress.

 Think of the Affordable Health Care Act and how the bill was written by the insurance industry. No-one can fight these giants, they have the deck stacked and the dice loaded.

Kananiu
Kananiu

I had State Farm for 19 years with no tickets or accidents on my record.  After bumping a car at a toll booth that caused a $900 scratch, my rate went from $1.100 to $2,400 per year.  When I got the bill, I called and asked why it went up so much since I was a loyal customer who paid my payment on time and had no bad record and the answer I got was  they couldn't treat me different than any one else.  I cancelled and they didn't even care that I was a loyal customer for 19 years.  I went with Ameriprise for $1,100 a month.  State Farm commercials are a joke and a lie.

orion12345
orion12345

AMICA  just billed me this year with a 35% increase, No accidents, no tickets and no explanation, except that when the agent found out how mad I was they saw fit to drop the premium 25%.

NaveedXVO
NaveedXVO

Just switch auto insurers every year and any time you need to change your policy because otherwise you will get stiffed.

Neil Fuentes
Neil Fuentes

I have been saying this for the longest time! I eliminated cable a long time ago! They are one of the biggest thieves! I'm still not happy i have to give them money for internet! Still looking for a better option!

MargaretEDavis
MargaretEDavis

Our cable company raised our fees every year. But if you are a new customer you can sign up for two years and get a bill that is over 1/2 the price. So what I have said to my son is, in the long run we the customers who have been with them ten years get to pay higher prices to support the low rates the new customers pay. And which companies in this country have lowered their rates. I think they government let them raise the rates so they could give you broadband. And most places in the mid west are not even close. 

larkwoodgirl
larkwoodgirl

I called Comcast to lower my bill.  I told them that I wanted to get rid of HBO and Showtime because I could not afford them any more.  When I originally took HBO,  the cost was about 40.00 a month.  When I called to discontinue HBO and Showtime, I was told that if I got rid of them, my bill would remain the same.  However, if I kept them they would reduce my premium for three months, but that continue the reduced premium I would have to call them back every three months and renew the discount.  I have been a Comcast customer for a very long time.   This is just ridiculous.

Lisa Doreen Pearl
Lisa Doreen Pearl

Consumer be smart. For 18 yrs we have a standing household ritual of calling all of our service providers every 6 months and renegotiating a better deal. Usually you can get whatever they are offering new customers at the time. Each year you can always get at least 3 free months out of your cable bill, 2-4 months of free home and cell phone. Call your insurance company and tell them you want to keep the same services but you need your bill to be 35 dollars less or you are hitting the road. They will likely do it. All of us consumers should be more proactive in managing the accounts we create. Every time you get an advertisement from a competitor that is cheaper call your provider and ask for the same deal. If they don't give, go with the new guy. When the introductory period is over call your old provider back. Trust me they will give you the deal of your life. Also, I have never had to stay home during the week to change services. They all work Saturdays. Be proactive, learn the rules, read the fine print, ask for what you want, act like a boss.

MarylandUSA
MarylandUSA

Two reasons I stick with GEICO for my family's car insurance: 

1. Bundling--it gets us a 3 percent discount on our GEICO homeowner's insurance.

2. Amnesty--GEICO has told us that, in reward for our loyalty, we'll get a free pass if one of us gets into a major accident that's our fault.

Bill Shut
Bill Shut

However, make certain, especially with auto insurers, that the lower rate isn't just a temporary one, because of a special discount they may be offering for the first 6 months ONLY......otherwise, you'll be right back in the same boat with the new company!

If you're lucky enough to live in an area that offers you choices for electricity or natural gas providers, definitely shop around! I switched, last year, once I realized I could drop my rate, per kilowatt-hour, from 13 to 9 cents!  Strangely enough, though they never offered to do so while I was a customer, my old electric company was more than willing to match the rate, once I was gone!

Hope Edwards Hogan
Hope Edwards Hogan

Been there, done that with Geico. After we switched (had been with them 10 years), they have beat down our mailbox and email with better offers. Sorry, where was this when I WAS your customer and how is it that AFTER I left, you found these awesome premiums I was entitled to? 

StayinAlive987
StayinAlive987

I got a debit card from my bank because there was no yearly charge for it. They only charged per transaction. I had them for 2 years. Then recently they said that they were going to charge us $50 a year to use the card. I dropped them right away and got a Mastercard from another bank for free without any yearly charges. Drop them like dead flies when they're out to rip you off.

Angela J.
Angela J.

This is DEFINITELY true and I have never understood it.  I understand giving an intro rate to entice new customers, but to screw over your loyal ones is stupid.  If I signed up right now with the same provider I get TV from, I would pay half as much and get free stuff I'm paying for now.  The only thing that stops me from canceling and going with someone else that has those deals and then going back to my old one and getting a good deal again is the hassle of it all.  I bought a new car this spring...we decided to shop around for insurance prices.  We found that we would get a better deal paying LESS than what we were paying for my old car and my husband's truck (both 2003's) to insure my husband's truck and my BRAND NEW car!  How does that make any sense??  

David Yard
David Yard

I have never kept the same auto insurance company for more then 6 months. I buy a 6 month policy, then when it is about to expire I shop around. Same with my cable provider. I bounce between 2-3 companies. I sign up with XYZ for their intro rates. when they expire, I cancel and go to 123 company, then same thing, then on to EFG, then after enough time has passed, it's back to XYZ.  They are all basically the same in products, and by changing once a year, I keep low rates.  My cell phone is prepaid so I don't have to deal with that aspect. $40/month unlimited EVERYTHING.

BoundGodsFan
BoundGodsFan

I'm skeptical of that Progressive plug-in that can tell the company that you're a good driver and keeps your rates low. To me, it feels like they are looking for any little thing to ding you and now they've talked people into telling on themselves with this plug-in.

MeredithKendall
MeredithKendall

Two car policy with State Farm for six years with no accidents or tickets was one thousand dollars per year more than Liberty Mutual.

I have also noticed my Internet bill creeping up. Unfortunately, Charter offers the highest speed in the area. DSL is a total ripoff here.

Leslie65
Leslie65

This is perfectly true, but not nearly so easy to deal with as implied.  Maybe it is for insurance; I haven't tried that.  But as one who has spent half of the summer going back and forth between Comcast and Aamp;T (first for a better price, then just to get something that works decently), it was a royal pain in the arse.  And that was just TV service!  One cannot possibly reasonably expect to change internet providers every six months.  Yes, I have gmail accounts, but I don't use them for everything and don't want to.  

My complete story is too long to tell here, but suffice it to say that it involved switching to Comcast, hating Comcast (which also seemed to function poorly); switching back to ATamp;T U-Verse TV, then having that go black on me and being told they knew what it took to fix it but wouldn't.  After two weeks without TV, I unwillingly went back to Comcast - who, even though I still had their equipment, quoted an installation fee and charged me more than twice that. The day after Comcast was reinstalled, I was told ATamp;T would do what it would take to get my TV service back.  DO NOT BE FOOLED BY THE IDEA THAT CHANGING BACK AND FORTH TO GET A BETTER RATE IS A SIMPLE THING.

I spent an hour on the phone this past week with U-Verse just trying to register my account online (which included being instructed to make up an e-mail address that doesn't exist), then an hour and 26 minute phone call with Comcast to find out why my internet disappeared when I canceled my TV service.  That was out two days before they could fix it.  It doesn't matter who you deal with:  they are all run by incompetent idiots.

Charades
Charades

This was the case with DirecTV as well, being a customer for over a decade and I didn't feel like I was treated at all like a loyal customer, while new customers were being enticed all the time to sign up with DirecTV. I ended the service and switched to Brighthouse Digital after they handed out Sunday Ticket to new customers for free, but I had to pay full price.

Not a problem, Brighthouse is better hands down and I won't ever go back to DirecTV, not even with Sunday Ticket being free. I'll take Brighthouse's On Demand over the NFL Sunday Ticket any day of the week. Not to mention the huge price reduction....

curiousx2
curiousx2

This is capitalism at its best.

SheilaKA
SheilaKA

You get quotes and take them back to your current insurer.  If they want to keep you, they will "recalculate" your rates.  Make sure the contracts/policies are comparable though...that means reading the fine print.

curiousx2
curiousx2

welcome to capitalism at its best!

SheilaKA
SheilaKA

You shop...then take the quote back to your insurance company.  If they want to keep you, they'll "recalculate" your rates.

porichkid
porichkid

yes those bloodsuckers.charge loyalty customers more.fn creeps