How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Plan

Change your plan, switch carriers, cut down on usage, and more

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Cell phone bills can add up month after month, but you don't have to settle for it. There's always room for negotiation, whether you change your plan or switch carriers—or threaten to leave. Of course, you can also find a way to reduce your cellular and data usage if that's what's making your monthly costs creep up. Here are some steps you can take to save money on your monthly bill.

  1. Take a look at your bill. Look at the last several months to figure out your average data consumption as well as your phone calls and texts. Check if your activity actually matches your plan. For example, if you're paying for 8 GB of data monthly, and you only use 3 GB on average, then think about lowering your data limit.  
  1. Get in touch with your carrier via phone, web, or in person. Visit your carrier's website and log into your account. Navigate to the plans section and see if there are any new, lower-cost plans. To be sure that all fees are considered, choose a plan and navigate to the shopping cart or confirmation page. Here, you should see the actual price including taxes and fees and you can then determine whether or not you're saving any money. On the phone or in-store, you'll be assisted by salespeople who are trained to keep your business, and may be able to offer you a promotion that's not available online. Just be aware that they'll probably try to get you to upgrade your phone too. Stay strong! Unless, of course, you do need a new device, then negotiate away.
  2. Look into about employee or senior discounts. Ask your employer or carrier to find out if you're eligible for these or other discounts.
  3. Consider ditching your unlimited data plan. If you regularly use more than 100 GB per month, you're getting your money's worth, but if you use much less (think 5 GB to 10 GB or so), you can likely save a significant amount of money by switching to a metered plan. In addition, some carriers, such as Verizon, charge extra for mobile tethering if you have an unlimited plan, but bundle it for free in its metered data plans.
  1. Sign up for a family plan or a shared data plan. Most carriers let you share data, minutes, and text buckets with others using what's often called a family plan, though you don't necessarily have to be related. Look into joining your account with spouse, partner, parent, child, or a good friend. You may be surprised how much you can save. When choosing a new plan, look for one that offers rollover minutes and data, rather than the typical use-it-or-lose-it arrangement. Some carriers offer regular device upgrades with certain plans so you can get a new device every year or two. And be sure that your preferred device works with your chosen carrier.
  1. Switch to a different carrier. A great way to save money is by switching providers, or at least threatening to do so. Your old carrier might offer you a promotional deal in order to keep your business or you may find a different carrier has better options. Many carriers offer special deals just for new customers; be sure to make a note of how long a promotion lasts and what your monthly costs will be after it ends. Before you cancel a contract, check what the penalties are, if any, and if your new carrier will cover them for you. Also, make sure that your smartphone will work with the new carrier. 
  2. Consider a prepaid or alternative carrier. Generally, when you think of a cellphone carrier, you probably think of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. But there are a number of established prepaid carriers as well as a few new carriers that offer dirt cheap plans with no contractual requirement. Check coverage maps and ask around about reliability. Look at Cricket Wireless, Project Fi, Republic Wireless, and others. Also, see what your current carrier offers in terms of prepaid plans; you may be able to continue to use the same device if it's been paid in full.

Ways to Use Less Data

By lowering the amount of data you use, you could reduce your data plan and a big chunk of your bill (items 4 and 5 above).

  1. Track your data usage. In addition to looking at your monthly bill for overall usage, you can see how it breaks down using a third-party app, or, if you have an Android device, that functionality is built in. This way you can see which apps of yours are data hogs, and which are siphoning away data in the background. Keep in mind that ad-supported games and other apps will use a noticeable amount of data.
  2. Cut down on data usage by connecting to Wi-Fi. When you're at home, work, or anywhere with a trusted connection, use Wi-Fi. This should cut down on your data usage dramatically. It's also a good idea to install a mobile VPN to keep your connection private and safe. Data tracking apps can also send you alerts when you're nearing your limit so you don't get stuck with overage charges.
  1. Use Wi-Fi calling. If your device and carrier support it, you can make calls over Wi-Fi rather than digging into your minutes. Ditch the unlimited calling plan if you have one.
  2. Try out a mobile messaging app. WhatsApp and other messaging apps use data rather than SMS to send texts. This way you can remove the unlimited texting charge from your bill. Just be aware that this will increase your data usage unless you regularly connect to Wi-Fi.