Want to Reduce Your Mobile Phone Bill?

Category: Telephony

For many, the mobile phone bill is one of the major expenses in the monthly 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 Your Cell Phone Bill

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, 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 mobile phones on eBay or Swappa, and activate them via your mobile provider's website. I've bought two phones on Swappa this year, and was happy with both transactions.

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. 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 a screen typically costs 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 fried my brand-new Motorola Z3, (see Oops! I Dropped My Phone AGAIN) and broke the screen on the used replacement phone I bought, 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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This article was posted by on 27 May 2020


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Most recent comments on "Want to Reduce Your Mobile Phone Bill?"

(See all 24 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

BK
27 May 2020

After having a family plan for years with postpaid Verizon, two of us switched to Cricket Wireless MVNO and saved a lot of money. We were generally happy with their network service though the reception was sometimes a bit iffy.

When my phone needed replacement, I looked at competing carriers and discovered Verizon's prepaid plans. Same network as their postpaid, but the costs are a fraction of their postpaid plans. Three lines (1GB, 6GB & 16GB) with autopay costs us less than $94 monthly including tax/fees.

I also recommend buying unlocked phones for easier portability if you decide to change carriers.


Posted by:

pdsterling
27 May 2020

FWIW, my tracfone costs $7/mo and I have about 1500 minutes on hand. bad news :( I have been informed that it will not roam into Canada, and I was wondering about getting a rental, as my brother did when he went to Ireland. any suggestions? keep up the good works!


Posted by:

hifi5000
27 May 2020

I don't have a smartphone,so I don't have to worry about $80 carrier bills.I do have a flip phone by Greatcall called the Jitterbug.It just does voice calls and nothing more.I pay around $15 a month and I am satisfied with its performance


Posted by:

Donald Nitkin
27 May 2020

No mention of Comcast reviewing mobile plans


Posted by:

MartinW
27 May 2020

I have several cell phones, though I seldom use them. (I'm weird!) A flip phone and a smartphone both use TracFone, and I have between two and three DAYS stored on each. One other smartphone uses Mint Mobile (unlimited talk & text) for $25/month. (Different rates apply for data usage AND how much you pay for at a time. One year is cheapest. I have the three month plan for $75 total each three months.) Also, all the phones were bought lump-sum ($7.99 refurbished for my go-to smartphone - it's a great phone!) and are unlocked. I couldn't recommend what Bob says above more.


Posted by:

J. C.
27 May 2020

Like the person said earlier, it saves plenty of money for equivalent plans. Two things to point out though: 1) postpaid and prepaid seem to be administered by two disparate wings of Verizon who hardly know if the other, so you effectively are getting a new account and 2) with an Android phone, switching to prepaid means you can no longer use Visual Voicemail. But $35 for 6Gbytes of data and unlimited text and calls is the best I have ever gotten from them and is saving me >50% monthly over when they had me managing to their artificial limit of 1 Gbyte of data.


Posted by:

Carolyn
27 May 2020

You have mentioned Boost as a "popular" MVNO; but this company took over from Virgin Mobile, which had excellent plans but is now gone. Boost has no flip phones [I had one for years from Virgin Mobile] and Boost prices are very high and their phones are very difficult, and expensive, to use. Their stores are not helpful to a new user or to a senior citizen. I miss Virgin Mobile and do recommend Consumer Cellular.


Posted by:

artm
27 May 2020

TracFone has worked for us for many years. We pretty much use it only when we are out of the house. On their site, you can find a decent refurb phone for less than 50 bucks (a Samsung Galaxy J2 works just fine for us, especially on WiFi). The first year buy a 1 year of service card for around a hundred bucks. Typically that will come with 400 minutes of service & some data. The following years purchase a 30 minute card, during checkout they will offer a year's service for about 50 bucks. I don't think there's any less expensive service available. Stay safe.


Posted by:

RandiO
27 May 2020

Spectrum Cable (Charter Communications) company advertises that they have the widest (?) coverage. We keep getting spammed by their advertisement but the $45/mo for all-you-could-eat does not sound to a bad deal. Even if AT&T was cheaper than the cheapest service; I would not do business as I have been bit-once and shy-twice. Not that Charter Cable can be considered a poster child.


Posted by:

Robert A.
27 May 2020

I've been with Comcast/Xfinity wireless for about two years, now. Xfinity Wireless uses Verizon for its carrier, with all the benefits that Verizon offers to its own customers. I've been very satisfied with the Xfinity plan, and it is certainly more reasonable, cost wise, than if I went with Verizon directly. Plus Xfinity offers even better deals if one also has its cable tv and internet service bundled with the wireless service.


Posted by:

Bob
27 May 2020

I got RedPocket on ebay for $30 a YEAR plus tax.

It's limited service but it is all I need.

It was also a pain to set up, but worth it. YMMV.

Got a refurbished Moto 6 for the wife from Walmart for around $100.

It arrived in excellent condition, looked new to me.


Posted by:

Emily Booth
27 May 2020

I've been using Tracfone for several years. Love it. Never had any problem until I went to Las Vegas 5 years ago which used a different wireless network than the one my phone used. This was before Tracfone had smart phones. Since then, I use a smart phone which can go everywhere except Canada. Before I went to Canada last September, I bought a Motorola Moto G6 from eBay and Google Fi.

My first cell phone was from Cingular. It was a Nokia. A 3 year insurance plan was available for not alot of money so I bought it. The glass cracked several days before the insurance expired. They repaired it.

There's no reason to pay $70 or $80 a month for a cell phone.


Posted by:

Mac
28 May 2020

One downside of MVNOs. If you are getting service from a cell tower that is loaded down with users the primary carrier, like Verizon, will deprioritize your data service. A Verizon customer will still get a decent data connection while you may not get one at all.


Posted by:

JJ
28 May 2020

We have T-Mobile. Our phones are paid off, and we switched to their "Senior" plan which costs $70 per month for 2 lines.
That's exactly $70, with no added fees.
Very happy with the service and support.


Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
28 May 2020

I'm pretty happy with our Sprint family plan. With nine people on it for a total of $282.80 per month, it averages $31.42 per person. That includes unlimited Anytime minutes, unlimited text, unlimited data, unlimited long distance, unlimited Mobile Hotspot, etc.

Four of those line came from my sister and her three kids, who had previously had their own (lousy) Sprint family plan that cost them between $400 and $500 per month. That included leases on three phones of $96/month each. I love my sister, but she is terrible with financial matters. I learned that the $96/mo charges were LEASES which would continue forever, not even monthly installments on purchases which would some day be paid off. So we paid off the balances on all the phones, and merged them into my plan at a marginal base cost of $20 per line. Her monthly bill consequently dropped drastically.


Posted by:

eb
28 May 2020

I did my due diligence and came up with the best deal I could find with a MAJOR carrier (T-Mobile).
I bought the iPhone SE (2020).
For $15 a month I get unlimited talk and text plus 2gigs of data.
Each year they give you 500mb of data until you reach 4.5gigs.
At home I use my Wi-Fi and save my data for when I'm not at home.
Hint, go to the carriers store, much better service than calling.


Posted by:

ebloch
29 May 2020

I moved from Consumer Cellular to AlticeMobile which I can highly recommend. Current price is $20 (Normally $30) per line for UNLIMITED minutes, text, AND data. Plus includes 35 countries to call from US and use of the service if you are visiting the country. No contract.


Posted by:

JP
29 May 2020

@J.R.: The $30 price I mentioned at Mint Mobile is for the iPhone SE and unlimited text/talk + 3 GB of 4G LTE data per month. (For a little more per month, you can get more data.)

I decided to give Mint Mobile a chance when they offered 3 months of unlimited talk and text plus 3 GB LTE data for free during the Super Bowl. Being able to use an unlocked phone is an advantage and I wanted to see if I got good coverage with the T-Mobile network. (I do.)

If you want to see all of their plans:

https://www.mintmobile.com/plans/

If you signup using my referral link, we both get a $15 credit. (And if you signup, you'll get a referral link you can use to get up to a free year of service.)

http://fbuy.me/oUTnC

I've been a Tracfone user for years and if you're not a user of cellular data, it's a great deal. Even with some recent changes in their plans, it's still not economical if you want or need to use more than a few MB of data each month. If you can use Wi-Fi data, you'll be fine. One problem with Tracfone is that it can be difficult to determine which network you'll be getting service on. For years I was on the AT&T network and got very, very spotty service. I found a deal on a CDMA Tracfone phone and switched to the Verizon network and haven't had problems since the change.


Posted by:

Wrigleywrat
04 Jun 2020

Beware Mint Mobile - the phones they sell come from a 3rd-party vendor, and the descriptions on the MM website do not always match the phones being sold by that vendor. I ordered a phone after carefully verifying the tech specs listed on the MM website that the ordered phone would work on the TMO network and allow wifi calling (and the receipt confirmed I ordered the right phone). However, the phone I received was NOT the one ordered (and for some reason was already provisioned for the Canadian telco Rogers). When I informed the 3rd-party vendor of the error and demanded they take it back, they had the nerve to charge ME a restocking fee for THEIR mistake! MM washed its hands of the entire fiasco, claiming they had no responsibility for a phone bought from THEIR vendor.


Posted by:

kevin
07 Jun 2020

As I pointed out when this was the topic before, a Verizon reseller (MVNO) called Page Plus Cellular has had, since at least 2005, the lowest cost for people who are very light users. It was bought buy Tracphone a couple of years back, yet its prepaid rates and plans remain mostly better than even Tracphone itself. Any recent Verizon-compatible phone of your own can be used, or you can get one from them if you prefer.

While Page Plus also has pretty competitive no-contract monthly plans, what's special is their Pay-As-You-Go service that's designed for the lightest users, e.g., seniors, who only make occasional calls & texts, or who want a special emergency phone. Those people can get a phone number that uses Verizon towers for as little as $30 - for an entire year - in the form of $10 refills applied every 4 months (and your unused balance rolls over). More can always be paid if you need a larger balance to cover more usage, including a special $80 refill for which you get an extended expiration date of one year.

Keep mind that each text will cost a nickel, each minute of a call is 6 cents, and data is charged at 5 cents per megabyte. So, obviously, if you talk for hours on end, or need to use substantial cellular data (rather than doing Internet mostly on Wifi), or if you are the type of user who likes exchanging numerous texts back & forth (in place of a short phone conversation), then Pay-As-You-Go is definitely not for you.


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