Tips for making your monthly cell phone bill more manageable
It would be hard to exist in today’s world without a cell phone, so it’s a cost that many of us swallow like a bitter pill. The pill needn’t be the size of a horse tranquilizer, though, because if you’re just a little canny you can cut a lot out of your monthly cell phone bill without losing the services that you need.
Set up Autopay
All the major carriers offer a monthly discount if you choose to pay your bills by autopay. The average savings is $5-10 per month, which adds up. Some carriers (such as T-Mobile) offer this discount per line, so if you have a family of four on your plan (more on this in a bit) you could save up to $20 per month. The one catch is that some companies require the automatic payments to come directly from a debit or checking account rather than a credit card.
Think twice about insurance
When you sign up for a wireless contract and/or get a new phone, you are often offered different insurance plans as part of the service. If your device is brand-new and you’re a bit accident prone, it may be worth signing up but if you do, opt for the cheapest insurance plan possible or ideally none at all. Many premium plans go overboard in terms of coverage, and the odds of you needing such extensive coverage are slim. Also, many plans have deductibles that range from $100-$300, and trying to use the insurance can be complicated and quite a headache to navigate. Most phones are easy enough to protect with a quality case and screen protector, which cost far less.
You don’t need to upgrade
While it may be tempting to get the latest-and-greatest model everytime you are eligible for an upgrade, that option often adds quite a bit to your monthly bill. Getting the upgrade every two years can add $20-$40 per month in order to pay off your new gadget, when you had a perfectly serviceable phone to begin with. As long as you make sure to stay current with data updates (set that to automatic and you’ll never notice a thing), your phone should be able to last you much longer than you think. Then, when you do need to upgrade, ask for a used phone to save even more.
Add lines or use a family plan
This may seem counterintuitive, but if you add lines to a plan and split the cost with someone else you can save a bundle. Most major carriers are very—very—flexible with their definition of “family,” so it’s a good idea to find someone you trust and get a family plan together. For example, One line on Verizon’s 8GB plan is $90/month, but if you have four lines sharing this plan the cost goes down to $37.50 each (not including taxes and other fees, but you get the gist.) So it makes a lot of sense to go in on a deal with sons, daughters, grandchildren, even neighbors or best friends.
Do some data analysis
As much as we hate to say it—because we know it’s no fun—it really helps to sit down and go over your plan as it exists to look for things that you might not need. If your bill doesn’t summarize your minutes or data usage automatically, you can usually request this information. There are also free apps that you can install to track these things. Once you have the numbers, see if you can reduce your data plan (which tends to be the bulk of what we pay for, these days.) Could you do without the unlimited talk option? And another thing to check is whether your plan includes taxes and fees. The Tax Foundation found that taxes, fees, and surcharges made up 22.6% of the average customer’s wireless bill in 2020. If you can find a plan that includes these fees in the listed cost, you could save a bunch of money every month.
Ask for a better deal
It’s so simple, really. The competition between carriers is stiff. If you have the patience to speak to a customer service representative, ask them to match a deal you’ve found with a different carrier. They often will. Many services have retention offers, and sometimes if you ask what they are offering for new customers, they will offer you that plan as a further incentive to stay. Or, in another likely scenario, if your specific plan no longer exists, sometimes they will upgrade you to a better plan for what you’ve already been paying. While you have them on the phone, ask if you qualify for any discounts you might not be receiving, because you might be surprised by what they offer but don’t advertise.