You never know what a simple call or a strut into a cell phone provider's store would do for you.
For me, I hardly ever have the energy and patience to tolerate the lengthy queue times and the cringy "on hold" music.
I promised myself time and time again - in the midst of dinner or watching Netflix - that I would make that phone call to my cell phone provider to negotiate a better cell phone bill.
A monthly $85.87 bill consistently felt like a deep, painful stab to my bank account's heart.
For one person. For 1GB of high-speed data. With a 15 percent school discount in effect.
Okay, maybe it's because I was leasing the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 for awhile. But I was hoping for a better deal, especially since I had a conversation with my best friend the night before, who explained that she was paying roughly the same amount for 2GB of data.
It Was Time to Switch
Finally, I decided to suck it up, temporarily get over my phone anxiety, and make the call to Verizon. Initially, I drummed my fingers on the desk while half-listening to the "on hold" elevator music.
"Hi, my name is Michelle and I'm calling to see about lowering my cell phone bill," I muttered to myself. It wasn't the best opener, but it was good enough.
Within five minutes, the cell phone service representative connected with me and asked, "How may I help you?"
I then explained to the cell phone carrier associate my situation. The associate simply replied, "Well, you've been overpaying on your cell phone bill. Would you like to know how you can save?"
"Y-yeah, of course!" At that point, I couldn't contain my excitement.
After the phone call, I was signed up for a newer plan that featured 2GB of data, complete with no overage charges and data rollover. Additionally, I was able to trade in my phone and save more. How?
Because I qualified for a promotion that allowed you to trade in your phone for a new phone, while only paying $10 per month for said new phone (previously, I was paying a whopping $30). In other words, I was saving $20 per month in total, despite having a shiny phone and a plan with more data and better features.
Are You Paying Too Much for Your Cell Phone Plan?
All I had to do was talk to the wireless service rep.
But it made me realize something: I was overpaying on my cell phone bill for months. I could have left Verizon in retaliation and went to an MVNO like Virgin Mobile or Republic Wireless if I really wanted to save on my cell phone bill.
I could have also purchased a second-hand phone and taken advantage of Verizon's bring your own phone program. But I didn't. I wanted a better plan - the phone upgrade was just a consolation prize. Overall, I wanted to stick with Verizon.
I realized that if you want to know why are spending so much money on your cell phone bill, or if you want to renegotiate your plan, you simply need to ask yourself: "Am I paying too much for my cell phone plan?"
All it takes is a few minutes. After all, you could very well be paying too much on your cell phone bill and not even realize it.
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Finding Out How Much You're Really Paying
More than likely, you're probably paying too much on your cell phone bill. In fact, as many as 50 to 70 percent of Americans overpay for their cell phone plans, according to Consumer Reports. As of 2016, consumers should be paying no more than $50 per phone line instead of about $100.
There are a few reasons as to why consumers are overpaying. For one, many cell phone owners believe that plans are confusing due to the constant changes revolving around them. In turn, they'll simply purchase whatever plan that they can afford and appears to be easiest.
Additionally, there has been a constant price war between all four providers. This causes changes to occur rapidly. Because of this, it's up to the consumer to keep on top of these changes.
So how can you check to see if you're overpaying on your mobile phone bill? You can first examine the bill itself. What is listed on the bill? What plan are you paying for? How many gigabytes of data do you have? Are there charges that shouldn't be there, like general billing errors?
For instance, Verizon Wireless and Sprint were forced to pay $158 million for "cramming" charges onto customer bills. These charges were often services that consumers didn't sign up for.
Depending on the carrier, you will probably end up paying higher than average. According to the Ars Technica in 2014, the cell phone company Verizon Wireless featured the largest bill sizes among the four major cell phone services. As the article reports:
"The survey of 1,876 US-based mobile customers in Q4 2013 pegged the average monthly Verizon bill at $148, higher than Sprint ($144), AT&T ($141), and T-Mobile ($120)."
That's quite a bit. Back then, the bills probably contained overage charges, possible early termination fees, and more. Nowadays, all four major carriers feature no overage charges, unlimited talk and text messages, and more.
So if your bill is around $50 per phone line (which probably doesn't include the leasing of a phone), then you're probably doing quite well.
How Can I Stop Overpaying on My Phone Bill?
While every cell phone company will be happy to turn a blind eye to your cell phone bill, they will also help you if you approach them, whether via phone or in-store. But there are other ways to save. Here are just some of the ways to get you started on saving money.
Adopt a Prepaid Service
You can certainly adopt a prepaid no-contract plan. You can typically bring your own phone (and, depending on the service, receive a free SIM card) to the major carrier's prepaid no-contract plan and not face any activation fees or credit checks. So no commitment whatsoever. Furthermore, you can always purchase an inexpensive prepay phone if you don't have your own phone.
TPO Mobile People's Plan (1 Line)
Prepay phones don't require a credit check whatsoever, but the selection isn't as grandiose compared to what you would find with postpaid plans. However, if you find that you're still paying too much, you can instead move onto a prepaid MVNO like Virgin Mobile or Republic Wireless.
Talk to Your Cell Phone Carrier
As I've mentioned in the introduction of this article, sometimes it's best to simply talk to the carrier to find out how to save money on your mobile phone bill. You may be placed on a new cell phone plan with more high-speed data or - if lucky - shifted from a contract to no-contract plan without facing any early termination fees. You may be able to lower your bill by combining high-speed internet service with your cell phone bill.
You may be able to switch to a prepaid service, complete with unlimited talk and text messages, for a cheaper price. If you don't use data, minutes, or texts, you may be directed to a pay-as-you-go phone plan. However, with pay-as-you-go phone plans, it may be more expensive, so you should determine your usage.
Speaking of determining your usage...
Understand Your Data Usage
This is one of the easiest ways to save money. How much data do you actually use? You can check your phone or your cell phone carrier's app to find out how much data you use.
You should refer to the guide of "How to Check Your Data Usage" if you want to learn more. There, you'll find all you need to know. Once you determine how much data you use, you can then (possibly) downgrade to a smaller high-speed internet/data package.
Don't Bother with a New Phone
If you're currently happy with your phone and want to save on your phone bill, you should continue to keep your current phone rather than trade it in for a new offer.
However, sometimes you may be eligible for a nice, free phone (like a Samsung Galaxy S8 during the holiday season) if you do trade your phone in so keep an eye out for those deals. Nevertheless, if you don't purchase a new phone, you'll be shaving off between $15 and $30 on your phone bill.
You can also opt for purchasing a used phone; fortunately, there are plenty of valid retailers to purchase a used phone from. If you find used phones to be a bit pricey for you immediately, you can always consider placing the phone price onto your credit card.
Reconsider Cell Phone Insurance
Sometimes it's a fantastic idea to have cell phone insurance, but if you're not accident-prone and you want to save on your bill, then perhaps you should skimp out on cell phone insurance.
Depending on the accident, it can be more costly to replace the phone rather than repair it - for example, someone cracks the back of her phone, but it costs $150 to replace the back with phone insurance.
However, for $50 at a repair kiosk, you can have the back fixed - good as new! Sometimes, cell phone insurance just isn't worth it. If anything, have your old phone on hand in case something does happen to your current phone.
If You're Paying Too Much, Switch
You could very well find yourself overpaying on your cell phone bill, even after making the necessary changes. Unfortunately, it can happen. That is when you decide whether or not you should switch providers. Sometimes, switching providers is the best way to go, and possibly the biggest change you can commit to.
You can learn more about how much you can save by referring to our cell phone savings calculator. With the cell phone savings calculator, you'll find out which carrier swill provide you with the best possible savings.
Additionally, you can also refer to our cell phone comparison tool. There, you'll see exactly how much you'll be paying for any given cell phone plan.
Sometimes, you may have to make the switch, but it will be better for you and your wallet in the long run.