Wouldn't it be great if you knew how to lower your cell phone bill?
We've all been there. You sign up for what seems like a great deal from your cell phone carrier. Then - boom! Your bill arrives and your jaw is left on the floor. You're thinking: maybe I should have read the fine print a little more closely!
In this modern world of shopping, streaming video, and taking high-quality photos, all via mobile phone, paying attention to your data usage and cell phone plan is essential in order to prevent the kind of nightmarish scenario that happens when your cell phone bill is not what you expected.
What's the solution? I'm going to help you out with that. Below you'll find ways to get the best plan for you, along with other useful tips to lower the cost of your mobile phone service. Don't worry: you won't have to give up your must-have features like unlimited long distance, your mobile high-speed internet connection, unlimited text messages, and the customer service you expect. Oh, and the best part? I've got solutions for those with a less than stellar credit score too. So let's get started.
In This Guide
Consider Your Data Usage
Unfortunately, most people suffer from high monthly bills for cellular service. In fact, ABC reported in 2015 that the average American spent $1,000 per year on their cell phone bill.
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To save some money on your monthly cell phone bill, you should first look at you and your family's data usage habits. The amount of data your cell phone plan provides each month is a major factor in how high your monthly bills will be.
Related: There are better options out there if you find yourself paying $80 or more for your cell phone bill.
If you find yourself using too much data or have more than enough to spare, then you should consider renegotiating your plan or switching to a new one entirely.
Select the Right Cell Phone
Your choice of phone is crucial when it comes to saving money on your cell phone bill. Even if we disregard things like usage and data, you wouldn't get the same monthly bill if you chose a smartphone versus a basic phone.
If you find that you aren't interested in extra perks like video streaming, taking photos, playing games, or browsing the internet with your phone, consider downgrading to one of these cheap cell phone plans with a flip-phone or other similar device which doesn't need a (pricey!) high-speed internet connection.
Talk to your cell phone carrier about the terms and conditions of the device you want to purchase. To choose the best cell phone plan for you, here a few things to consider:
- The iPhone: The newest iPhones usually come with a monthly service fee on top of your cell phone bill. If you swear by the iPhone, you can always refer to our review of the cheapest iPhone plans to save money.
- Can I Keep My Phone? You don't have to pick up the expensive new phone of the month in order to join a new cell phone plan. If you like your current cell phone, you can easily save money on your bill with a bring your own phone plan. You can typically keep your own phone number, too.
- How Do I Unlock a Phone? If you're switching to a new service provider, or want to activate a used cell phone, unlocking your phone - as we reveal in this guide - is quick and easy. Some providers even do it for free.
- International Calls: Have family or friends in a different country? Feel free to check out these affordable international cell phone plans that don't charge extra for out-of-country calls.
Flagship phones - like the Samsung Galaxy and newest iPhone - are phone bill destroyers. These high-profile models can add as much as $30 to your monthly wireless bill. There are other, slightly less fancy models, which operate on the same Android or iOS system yet can be financed for a fraction of the cost of the biggest, best brand new model.
Related: How to Find Your Lost Phone
Renegotiate Your Current Plan
Just like TV and the Internet, the monthly costs of a cell phone plan tend to increase the longer you stay with a provider. If you're not satisfied with your current cell phone bill, call your cell phone company and ask to revise the terms of your plan. I recommend this strategy if you find you don't need as much data as advertised, or aren't interested in the other features the plan offers.
If your current plan doesn't suit your needs, ask your provider about other plans or whether your existing plan can be tweaked to meet your situation. Believe it or not, cell phone providers typically have room for pricing flexibility, and they may just offer you a great deal if you call your carrier's toll-free number, politely explain your position to the customer service rep, and ask for a lower rate.
The representative you speak with over the phone is empowered to give you much better deals than those advertised online, simply because he or she wants to retain your business.
Sometimes, however, you can't negotiate a better price. In cases like these, resort to threatening to switch to a new cell phone provider to see if they stand their ground. If that still doesn't work, then it's time to switch. All the major carriers will cover your early termination fees if you switch to them, so you don't have to worry.
While most carriers do offer up to $650 to cover your existing cell phone contract, they don't just pay your old cell phone company directly. You'll typically be responsible for paying off the early termination fee, and then you'll be reimbursed in the form of a prepaid debit card. Carriers, like Verizon Wireless, also require you to trade in your old smartphone, the value of which will be deducted from the buyout amount.
Pro Tip: Remember: if you do decide to switch carriers and you want to keep your own phone number, you'll need to keep your former service active until your new phone is turned on.
Consider Plans from the Smaller Cell Phone Companies
MVNOs have become increasingly popular lately, and now the major cell phone providers offer a no-contract plan in some form for you to take advantage of. The greatest benefit is the immediate freedom you gain. No contract means you have the ability to switch services and change carriers when you want.
A no-contract service agreement is different from a prepaid contract, though. With a no-contract plan, your service provider continues to bill you each month and you enjoy the same benefits as a contract customer, but you retain the flexibility of leaving at any time with no penalty.
The only downside, however, is that you will have to pay a larger upfront cost for the cell phone in exchange for a lower monthly bill. It's a hefty investment for sure, but it pays off in the long run.
Consider a Prepaid Plan
A prepaid cell phone plan, like any of these we have highlighted, gives you the freedom of paying for only the amount of talk time, text messages, or data you use within a given time period. This might be the best solution for you if you have difficulty keeping a lid on your cell phone bill. The best part: there are solid plans for those who need an unlimited talk for calls to long distance friends and family.
With a pay-as-you-go phone, you don't sign a cell phone contract. If you fail to pay the bill on time, your service is disconnected. You purchase a prepay phone with the provider and pay a specific amount (for example, Republic Wireless plans start at $15/month) to cover your communication expense for the following month. That's right: you'll avoid ridiculous overage charges. Pay-as-you-go phone plans are the same thing as prepay plans.
The icing on the cake: you don't need a great credit score if you go with a prepaid option like Virgin Mobile or Straight Talk.
Pro Tip: If you don't find a carrier you like the top prepay plans in our review - such as Republic Wireless or Virgin Mobile - there are other options. Straight Talk is available through Walmart and is reasonably priced, even for their unlimited plan. Verizon Wireless - while pricey - gives you the reliability of a major carrier while allowing you to prepay phone service.
Compare and Search for a Better Deal
You should get a new, better deal if you think that your current plan does not mesh with your spending limits or is not in sync with your lifestyle and communication patterns.
For example, if your plan grants you unlimited talk on weeknights and all day on weekends, and you typically do all your talking during the day, the plan obviously does not fit in your lifestyle and working patterns.
So, you should try to switch to a plan that is more advantageous and convenient, typically with another provider.
The best cell phone plan providers are currently AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, but a mishmash of smaller, more nimble players is entering the market. So talk to your provider to see what options are available, and make a decision based on your needs and the provider's products and services.
Take Advantage of Employee and School Discounts
Your children's academic performance can also help you save a few dollars on your monthly cell phone bill. Some providers grant discounts and rebates on phones and plans that minors subscribe to.
The same is true for employee discounts, so contact your company to learn more about telecommunication services in general, and employee discounts for cell phone services in particular.
If you can get both types of reductions – employee and school – you would be on your way to cell phone paradise because you basically would have a reasonably low rate when compared with the general public.
Use Family Plans
Family cell phone plans - like these here - are also a great way to save cash on your cell phone bill. The major cell phone providers offer additional lines for a fair price and typically bundle higher data caps and neat bonuses with your family plan. The best part: family unlimited plans are a great way to save money with data-hungry children.
Reviewing your cell phone bill regularly gives you a unique opportunity to create and develop a plan that helps you save money down the road and preserves your lifestyle while delivering the highest quality of communication to you and your correspondents.
If you're in the market for a new cell phone, you can score some extra cash by selling your cell phone using these markets. On the other hand, you may be interested in purchasing an older model cell phone if you're not interested in the popular varieties sold in stores. If so, check out our guide on the best place to buy used cell phones.
Need a new cell phone plan? Use our cell phone plan comparison tool to find the best deal for you!