Cell phones are a necessity today. But you could be paying too much for your service—or not getting enough value out of it. Here are 7 tips for cutting your cell phone bill.
Before taking any action, review your most recent cell phone bills. Ideally, look at the past three months’ worth (or more). If you have a smartphone, get a sense of how much data you use on average each month. All cell phone users should review how many text messages you send and voice minutes you use per month. Knowing your patterns will help you be a more informed comparison shopper. Plus, you may spot ways to cut your bill.
2. Do Your Research
Cell phone contracts are slowing fading away, which means you’re free (or soon will be) to shop around. Even if you’re happy with your current carrier, get a sense of the best cell phone plans and how they match your needs.
* Money magazine recently evaluated 100 plans from 15 companies and concluded that Republic Wireless 30 is the best basic plan; AT&T’s GoPhone 6GB is the best everyday plan; and Cricket Wireless Smart is the best choice for couples, among other findings.
* In a late 2016 survey, Consumer Reports subscribers said smaller providers such as Consumer Cellular, Ting Wireless, and Google’s Project Fi offered the most satisfactory plans vs. the bigger, better-known providers such as AT&T.
* The Wirecutter recently named Verizon Wireless its pick for “the best coverage at a good price.”
* Clark Howard’s blog picks the best unlimited mobile plans and low-cost carriers, with tips on the best deals from each of the U.S.’s top four carriers.
* Online tools from NerdWallet, Money magazine, PCMag, Wirefly, and MyRatePlan make it easy to compare cell phone plans. With most tools, you can enter the amount of data and number of lines you need, and you’ll see which plans might best serve your specific needs.
3. Compare network performance
RootMetrics’ map of mobile performance can help you identify which carriers have the best call performance, fastest speed, and best technology (such as 3G and LTE) in your city or town.
4. Call your provider
Once you’ve got the big picture, call your current cell phone service provider’s support line. Tell the representative you need to reduce your monthly bill. Do you qualify for any specials or promotions? Does the provider offer AAA or AARP member discounts? Can you get a discount through your employer? (Depending upon where you work, you may qualify for a corporate discount.)
Also, review the details of your current plan with your provider’s phone rep. If you’ve been in the same plan a while, there might be a newer, less expensive plan available. Or, you might find another plan that costs the same but gives you more. For example, a 6GB data plan with no overage costs may have replaced the 5GB data plan (with overage costs) you’ve had for a while.
(A Business Insider reporter recently explained how talking to Verizon cut her bill and got her a new iPhone in the process.)
5. Tell your provider you’ll cancel
If calling your provider doesn’t help lower your bill, mention any attractive plans you’ve found from competitors. Still not getting anywhere? Tell the rep you have no choice but to cancel. More than likely, you’ll be transferred to the customer retention department, where agents have the freedom to offer incentives. You don’t have to actually cancel your service, of course. But at least you’ll know what your provider is willing to offer to keep your business.
6. Consider a prepaid plan
Some cell phone service providers offer inexpensive prepaid plans, which are ideal for those who don’t want to be under contract and aren’t heavy cell phone users. See “How Prepaid Cell Phones Work” for a closer look at the pros and cons.
7. Time your departure
Decided to switch providers? Don’t cancel your current service plan until four days before your current billing cycle ends, advises the Clark Howard blog. Most carriers won’t prorate your final bill and give you a refund for days unused. Meanwhile, your new carrier will hit you with prorated charges for your new service. The net effect: You’ll pay for two cell phone plans in one month. Waiting four days before your current cycle ends will still give your carrier time to port your phone number to your new carrier. And it will significantly minimize the amount of money you could waste.