Here's How to Trim Your Mobile Phone Bill

Category: Mobile

Your mobile phone bill is probably one of the major monthly expenses in your budget. The average smartphone bill is about $80 per month, but I've got some tips for paring down that bill and keeping it under control. Read on to learn how to save on your monthly mobile phone bill...

STOP Wasting Money on Cell Phones

First, consider getting your cellular service from a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), not directly from a big network provider like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint. MVNOs buy service in bulk from these carriers; often, they pass on to customers savings of up to 50%. It’s exactly the same network, just re-branded and re-sold.

Some of the more popular MVNOs include Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Cricket Wireless, H20 Wireless, MetroPCS, Net10, Republic Wireless, Straight Talk, Tello, Ting, Tracfone and Walmart Family Plan. You can find a much longer list of MVNOs, with links to their websites at BestMVNO.com

Over the years, I've learned that lots of AskBob readers love Consumer Cellular, which I wrote about in my article Can You Fall in Love With a Phone Company?. I've also reviewed Ting, Tello, and Republic Wireless. You'll need to pick one that's compatible with your phone, your usage patterns, and one that has a good signal where you use it most often.

Save money on your mobile phone bill

Next, buy your phone with one lump sum of hard-saved cash, if you possibly can. Avoid finance charges hidden in those “easy monthly payments” advertised by phone sellers. It’s hard to determine who offers the best deal on a given phone because offers are constantly being changed and their complex terms are all different. Just shop around and compare plans and prices carefully.

You might think your local Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile store is the best place to go when looking for a new phone. But it might be the worst, in terms of the price tag. Some good places to shop for bargains on the latest smartphones include your local Best Buy, Staples, Radio Shack, Costco, and WalMart stores. Amazon Wireless and Wirefly are two online phone sellers that offer excellent deals. These third-party resellers can access your AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon account and make any changes necessary. You can also find used phones on eBay, and activate them via your mobile provider's website.

Don’t throw your old phone into the junk drawer when you get a new one. You’re probably not going to use it again. Instead, trade it in for cash or credit on a new phone, or sell it to a third-party phone refurbisher or broker. Gazelle and others are large trading sites that pay more money for used phones than carriers do. See my article HOWTO: Sell Your Cell Phone (or Other Gadget) Be sure to do a factory reset on your phone before selling it, to erase all personal data that you may have on it.

More Money-Saving Tips for Mobile Phones

Maybe you don't need a new phone. Every mall seems to have at least one "phone fixit" kiosk where you can get a cracked screen or a broken charging port replaced for much less than the cost of a new phone. My wife's Samsung Galaxy would no longer charge after getting wet, but the phone was otherwise functional.. I verified that the battery was okay by charging it in another phone. Even a used model was more than we wanted to spend, but a guy in the mall replaced the charging port for $45 in 15 minutes. Replacing the screen will cost around $80-$100, but you can buy do-it-yourself kits for much less.

Consider a family plan even if you do not have a family, strictly speaking. Just as many cash-strapped Millennials are sharing houses, many more share cell phone service plans as “families.” Friends on family plans can save up to 60% versus buying individual service plans.

Check for discounts offered by your provider. Verizon has monthly discounts for corporate, government and education employees, as well as service members and veterans. AT&T discounts are also available through employers, schools, and associations. Your benefits or HR department would be a good place to ask. If you're a senior, call your provider and ask about discounts too!

Tweaking your data plan can make a big difference in your monthly bill. Most users do not come close to using up their gigabytes. Some cell plans let you roll unused bytes into the next month’s allotment. If you're on a family plan, and you're getting whacked with overages, a larger or "unlimited" plan may save you money.

Shop around for the extras. Power cables, batteries, protective cases, earbuds, and other accessories should be bought at Walmart or online, never in a dedicated brick-and-mortar store operated by your mobile carrier. Prices there are grossly inflated.

And finally, don't buy device insurance. I've written about the scam of electronics insurance. Short story: you don’t need device insurance, and nobody is selling a good plan. Even though I recently fried my brand-new Motorola Z3, (see Oops! I Dropped My Phone AGAIN) I don't regret not having device insurance. Over the long run, I'll still come out ahead.

What’s your favorite way to save money on phones every month, or when buying or selling a phone? Share this article with friends, and then post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Here's How to Trim Your Mobile Phone Bill"

(See all 22 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

hifi5000
14 Jun 2019

I have been using the Jitterbug service through GreatCall for over ten years.The phone is a actual flip telephone where there is no internet capacity.The monthly rate is around $18.The phone is set up to make telephone calls only which is what I want.I just don't need a complicated phone.It is crazy what these mobile providers are charging.

The phone is perfect for traveling and the battery last a long time.I can't see myself swapping left or right on these smartphones.


Posted by:

donlboy
14 Jun 2019

I have heard good things about Google Fi, especially with the Moto G6 or G7. Anyone have any feedback on that?


Posted by:

Art
14 Jun 2019

I switched to Consumer Cellular about 15 months ago and am pleased with their service. A couple of months ago I put my flip-phone away and bought a micro computer that can act like a cellphone; my Avid 557 cost $40 and pleases me very much.


Posted by:

Jene
14 Jun 2019

Thank you, Bob. As always, right on!

About Insurance: I had insurance on my Galaxy S6 from Verizon. The battery was defective and started swelling. There was a "processing fee" of $200, not refundable, to submit a claim! Trade-in value from Verizon: $0, due to swollen battery.

About retired/replaced phones: I have many apps that do not require a phone line. I use the old phone for them. eg. LAN diagnostics and WakeOnLan, cameras, remote controls for cameras, TV, etc., note taking, etc. The old phones work well over my LAN. No phone line charges, and no updates that fail or cause unwanted changes!


Posted by:

Robert Gerade
14 Jun 2019

Beware of some financial type sites that don't recognize MVNO cell phones. My Republic Wireless phone is not recognized by Wells Fargo or Barclay Card as devices that can accept SMS messages. Wells Fargo only excepts a cell phone as method for 2FA and they won't sent SMS to Republic Wireless. They can't send voice codes or email codes either. They will sell you an RSA dongle for 2FA.


Posted by:

Michael Higgins
14 Jun 2019

My family and I have a family plan with Verizon and pay $40-$50 monthly, each...and for unlimited everything! Two were eligible for $20 military discounts. We buy slightly older phones online (Glyde, Swappa, Amazon...and I'm sure there are more) and DO NOT buy the insurance! They said the 40Mbps 4g could get throttled down, but it has never happened. Love it!!


Posted by:

Wynn Manning
14 Jun 2019

I have two lines (two people, two phones) with unlimited talk and text with 2Gigs of data which never seems to get used, all for $48 a month with Consumer Cellular. How can you go wrong?


Posted by:

Art F
14 Jun 2019

I couldn't be happier with Tello, which I subscribed to based largely on Bob's review. Because i'm a light user of my cell phone (I use my land line, mostly), I found it most economical to sign up for Tello's "pay as you go" plan, which has no monthly fee. Instead, I pay 3 cents a minute for phone calls, a penny each for texts, and data is 2 cents per megabyte. My cell phone has been costing me less than a buck a month for the last few months. Can't beat that! They also offer a pretty good deal (optional) on various new and refurbished phones. Thanks for recommending them, Bob!


Posted by:

MartinW
14 Jun 2019

I use TracFone for everyday stuff on one phone. I have three full days worth of calls (with rollover) in my account after many years with the company. I HAD StraighTalk on my "good" phone. Calling and other usage was great, but their customer service was almost nonexistent. Now I use Mint Mobile for that phone. I'm quite satisfied so far, admittedly after only one and a half months.


Posted by:

Robert A.
14 Jun 2019

For those readers who have Comcast/Xfinity internet service in their vicinity, Xfinity offers a great deal for cell phone users They offer up to five lines per subscriber, with no access fees, unlimited nationwide talk and text messaging, up to 100 megabytes of shared data and access to some 18 million nationwide WiFi hotspots, for $12.00/month, shared between up to the five lines or $45.00/month for unlimited usage per month for one line, for heavy data users. The actual service is provided through Verizon, which has the most towers throughout the USA, The Xfinity store sells a decent selection of the latest and greatest phones, however one may be able to bring over their current phone and number, rather than buying new.

Another way to save on the purchase of a new phone is to consider buying one of the recent previous generations of Samsung Galaxy or Apple IPhones, that are usually sold for several years following the release of the latest generation of phones. Generally, there are mostly incremental improvements to the new models from the older ones, but the manufacturers slash the prices on the older generation units, as the technology is no longer "state-of-the-art".

Also, consider stepping down from the leading Apple and Samsung models and look at the second-tier makers offerings, from LG and Motorola, among others. LG, for example, has products that compete neck and neck with Samsung models, but usually sell for somewhat less, likely due to a smaller advertising budget, which is added into the cost of the Samsung products.


Posted by:

dennis werth
14 Jun 2019

Retired couple as we are so we did shopping almost two years ago with our needs in mind.
Consumer Cellular @ Target fit our needs and made the purchase and with a plan of a line, 250minutes and 250MB a month all for $20/mo.
Within the last year we upgraded to better phone from Target for a great price and then we gave our replaced phone to a family member who needed to upgrade from a flip-phone.
We are happy as all get-out!


Posted by:

Russell Baldwin
14 Jun 2019

My son(s) were on a verizon pay per month plan at the tune of nearly $50 a month each... We have been switching our family over to Twigby, where it uses sprints services, but we can set the levels of service we want. Now we have 3 lines that cost less than what one line used to cost, per month. Customer service is not as user-friendly perhaps as walking into a store, but saves us a bundle. Just have to have a compatible phone. Yes they sell phones and sim cards to make setup easier. only real hard part we have had is getting numbers transferred... Yes an upfront cost, but it means savings in the long and short run in my opinion. service for the most part has been fine. My sister has been using consumer cellular for yrs and loves it! just my two cents...


Posted by:

Stephanie
15 Jun 2019

Charming husband and I love Consumer Cellular. We get a 5% discount because we are AARP members. We pay $52 month for everything - 2 phone lines, 2 GB of shared data, and unlimited talk and text, and this $52 includes all taxes and fees. Love them!


Posted by:

Mainer
15 Jun 2019

I pay $3 per month for cell phone service from TMobile. I don't use a smart phone; I just need a phone for emergency calls. Phone cost me $21.98. Works for me.


Posted by:

Tom J
15 Jun 2019

Radio Shack??? Seriously?


Posted by:

Jo L. Will
15 Jun 2019

I've been with tello for over two years, my wife for almost that long. My cost is running just over $4/month average, my wife's just under $2/month. We both have iPhone 5S, hers from ebay ($46), mine from craigslist ($75). A couple dollars taxes on are our rare $20 top offs. Out of those top-offs come 1 cent per text, 2 cents/minute, or 3 cents/mg of data. You gotta watch that data! Most of the time we're on wifi where texts from other iphones are free, and no data charges. If it was much cheaper it'd be free!


Posted by:

Shelly
15 Jun 2019

Great suggestions, don't forget if you are a member of AARP you may qualify for a discount on your service.
Also, check with your credit card company. Many offer cell phone insurance. If you pay your monthly bill with the card it may be covered if lost or damaged. Just a few that offer this coverage are below, with coverage price and then deductible.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Platinum
$600
$25
Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card
$600
$25
Wells Fargo Propel American Express
$600
$25
Wells Fargo Rewards Card
$600
$25
Wells Fargo Platinum Card
$600
$25
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card
$600
$25
Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card
$600
$25
U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Credit Card
$600
$25
Barclays Uber Visa Card
$600
$25
First Citizens Smart Option Visa Card
$500
$50
First Citizens Rewards Visa Card
$500
$50
Fifth Third Bank TRIO Credit Card
$200
$50
Fifth Third Bank Truly Simple Credit Card
$200
$50
Fifth Third Bank Stand Up To Cancer Credit Card
$200
$50
Fifth Third Bank Secured Card
$200
$50


Posted by:

Ron
15 Jun 2019

In addition to very good prices from Consumer Cellular, a thing I really like is that their customer service people are always polite and helpful. They really try to work out problems and explain things.
This is something I found lacking in Verizon.


Posted by:

j kendzi
16 Jun 2019

Hi Bob, I recently bought a used Samsung S-6 from my employer, that was $42.00. I then needed a provider. I shopped around and finally chose Red Pocket Mobile. I have been using their lowest plan which includes 500 min, 500 texts and 500MB of data. Since I am usually on WIFI somewhere I have been able to keep my usage down on data. My monthly cost is 10 + .96 tax = $10.96 a month. I bought a sim card for $10 and renew/pay my bill each month online. Red Pocket has sim cards for all 4 major carriers, all you need is an unlocked phone. My S6 was previously on the Verizon network and I purchased a sim to use on that same network since it works best in my area. J


Posted by:

Brian L in COS
08 Jul 2019

I pay by the year with Mint Mobile(T-Mobile). $15 a month includes unlimited talk, text and 3 gigs of data. I use my phone as my home phone as well as on the go smart phone(Moto G6) so I do use it alot. For me, that is a much better deal than Consumer Cellular, Republic Wireless or even Telo. Check them out if you like that deal. www.mintmobile.com


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