There was once a time when you could get rid of your cell phone if the cost was too high, but that’s not the case anymore. Phones help us catch up with friends and family, read the news, and even get work done. In other words, cell phones are no longer a luxury — they’re essential. As with most essential bills, such as internet and utilities, cutting down the cost of your cell phone bills can put more money back into your wallet than you might expect, which allows you to save money and inch closer to financial freedom. The average cell phone bill costs Americans $127.37 per month, according to CNBC, which leaves a lot of room for saving. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that you can get a lower cell phone bill.
- Eliminate the excess services
- Hang on to your old phone
- Take advantage of discounts
- Add more lines
- Use Wi-Fi
- Set up automatic payments
- Go no-contract
- Confirm your address
- Ask for a lower rate
- Switch carriers
Eliminate the Excess Services
Just as your wants and needs evolve, so can your phone bill. From year to year, the services that you need access to change, so you shouldn’t hesitate to adjust your monthly bill accordingly. You may have too many minutes, unlimited data, or additional services that you don’t need at your disposal. For instance, some phone providers wrap emergency roadside assistance or streaming services into your cell phone bills. If you don’t use these services, they could be running up your monthly cell phone bill unnecessarily. Cut them out, lower your cell phone bill, and save money each month instead.
Another area of your cell phone bill that you could save money on could be cell phone insurance. When you purchased your new phone, it’s possible that the salesperson asked you if you’d like to include insurance. With a shiny, new phone, it’s equally as possible that you jumped at the premium package that covers far more than just loss, theft, and damage — maybe tune ups, battery replacement, and unlimited photo and video storage.
But now that you’ve had the phone for a while and seen how you use it in your day-to-day life, you may feel comfortable leveling down to a basic phone insurance plan with less coverage — or eliminating your insurance altogether. Depending on your carrier, plan, and the number of devices that you cover, you could lower your cell phone bill and save a few dollars each month by sizing down. Eliminating your plan altogether could save you several hundred dollars each year.
You could also opt for a prepaid plan. Prepaid plans allow you to pay upfront for the services that you need while eliminating the services that you don’t.
Hang On to Your Old Phone
It’s tempting to trade up your smartphone to a brand new phone each time they come out with a new and improved version (what are we on — the iPhone 13 now?). If you’re able to resist the temptation, it can pay off to hold onto your current phone for a little while longer.
Usually cell phone service providers do not require you to pay upfront for the device itself. They instead allow you to pay in installments, or use a payment plan, over the course of 12–24 months. The cost of the device is tacked onto whatever you’re paying in texting, calling, data, and storage. Keeping an old phone longer than a year or two can save you $40 or $80 each month on your cell phone bill depending on which phone you would upgrade to and how long it would take you to pay off.
Take Advantage of Discounts
Members of certain groups or populations may be able to cash in on phone deals. Some phone providers extend offers to students, service members, healthcare professionals, first responders, teachers, and employees of the government or certain companies.
If you think you may be eligible for a discount on your phone bill, you should contact your cell phone service provider or visit a branch to learn more about how you can take advantage of their deals. Every once in a while, you may need to re-verify your status with an active email address or pay stub.
Add More Lines
Seemingly counterintuitive, sometimes it pays to add lines. Occasionally cell phone companies will offer discounts if you opt for a family plan, which usually include at least four lines. This is because operating costs are cheaper when servicing multiple phone lines in the same household, and phone providers have to compete to attract families that aren’t as willing to pay top-dollar for several phone lines.
Therefore, if you can split your cell phone bill with multiple people, or spread your cell phone usage across multiple lines on a family plan, this can help you reduce your monthly bill and make the most of your cell phone plan.
Connect to free Wi-Fi whenever possible rather than using up data that could run up your bill. Unlimited data plans give you access to high-speed internet basically whenever you need it, but using up data on a limited plan could cause you to run out of high-speed internet quicker than you need to.
You should also keep an eye out for whether apps on your phone are using data even if they are not open. This can run up your bill. You can check your status in the Cellular Data Usage section of your phone settings. To conserve data, you can turn off cellular data to restrict data to when you’re on Wi-Fi.
Set Up Automatic Payments
Autopay can be another way to bring down your cell phone bill, though you should carefully weigh the pros and cons of automatic payments before setting them up with your phone provider.
Pros of automatic payments
Your cell phone carrier may reward you for setting up automatic payments by lowering your monthly bill or offering bonuses in the form of bill credits and additional lines.
The average American pays about 12 bills each month — your cell phone bill is commonly part of that mix. Each month, you’re required to set aside time to log into the biller’s website, access your payment page, input your information, and await confirmation. Although the process may appear seamless and quick, the time and effort involved with bill pay adds up.
Avoid late fees and credit damage
If you’re certain there will be sufficient funds in your checking account when it’s time to pay your bill, autopay helps you make on-time payments and avoid penalties. Late fees are one of the most detrimental hidden costs associated with bill pay. According to a recent doxoINSIGHTS report, the average American spends $132 per year on fees for late bill payments.
Additionally, your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score, so missing a payment can do real damage. By setting up autopay for your bill, you can avoid fees that jack your bill up higher than it needs to be, as well as delinquencies that get reported to the credit bureaus.
Both physically and mentally, automatic bill pay can help clear up a lot of chaos in your life. Autopay includes paperless billing — which is better for the environment. It also removes the burden of staying on top of your bill dates and amounts.
Cons of automatic payments
With automatic payments, a chunk of money comes out of your account each month, and without your immediate approval. For the most part, you are not able to specify when funds are withdrawn from your account, or from which account, which limits how much control you have over the payment process.
If you are considering autopay for your cell phone bill but would like more control over the payment process, consider asking your cell phone carrier if you can:
- Pre-select which day the payment is withdrawn from your account
- Adjust or cancel your automatic payments on a monthly basis
- Resume autopay after a one-time manual payment
Lead to overdrafts
Overdraft fees are one of top charges that Cushion detects on customers’ accounts. According to the doxoINSIGHTS report, it’s also one of the biggest hidden costs of bill pay, costing Americans $117 per year on average. If you set up autopay for your cell phone bills, you’re responsible for making sure there is enough money to pay the bills as they are charged to your account.
Beyond overdraft fees, autopay can also lead to bounced checks and excessive credit card interest if autopay is only set up to cover the minimum payment each month. All in all, autopay can lead to a lot of additional charges that you hadn’t originally planned on paying.
Can cause you to overpay
Remember how important it is to eliminate the excess services on your cell phone plan? Setting up autopay can dissuade you from reviewing your cell phone bill each month, which can lead you to overpay on products and services that you don’t necessarily need.
Additionally, your cell phone provider may accidentally add charges or services to your bill by mistake; if you pay these charges automatically, you could miss the opportunity to flag mistakes or negotiate down the cost.
Phone contracts might help you feel more secure, but they can lock you into a costly deal that’s difficult to get out of. Much like autopay, you’ll have to weight the pros and cons of whether a no-contract phone aligns with your financial needs and lifestyle.
Pros of no-contract phones
- Big savings long-term
- Less fees and simpler terms
- No credit report checks
Cons of no-contract phones
- Higher up-front cost
- Lower priority for carriers
- Lower quality customer service
- Less coverage
Major carriers, such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, offer no-contract options. However, these services are most common among mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Essentially, MVNOs are carriers that do not have their own wireless network but instead piggyback off of the networks of the major cell phone carriers. Some well-known MVNOs include Metro (T-Mobile), Boost Mobile (T-Mobile, Sprint), Mint Mobile (T-Mobile), and Google Fi (T-Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular).
The benefit of MVNOs is that they offer you a great deal of flexibility; however, since these carriers don’t have access to their own networks, coverage can be spotty at times so be aware of access when using these cell phone plans.
Confirm Your Address
When you move, the last thing on your mind is probably updating your service address, but doing so could save you more than $100 on your monthly cell phone bill. That’s because the fees and taxes on your bill are partially determined by where you live. If you move to a state with lower fees, you could reap the benefits in the form of a lower cell phone bill.
Updating your service address only takes a few minutes. Log into your biller’s website, navigate to your profile, and change your address.
Ask for a Lower Rate
There are a number of ways that you can reduce your phone bill, but sometimes just asking your phone provider for a lower rate does the trick. Believe it or not, it actually costs banks and service providers more money to sign on a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. This can work in your favor.
If you’re not happy with the cost of your phone bill or the services offered to you, ask your cell phone carrier if they’d be able to make some changes to your plan. Chances are that they will not want to lose you to one of their competitors, so they may be willing to bend on some things. Worst case scenario: They say no. Best case scenario: You lower your cell phone bill and save money.
If you’re not able to lock in a lower rate, it may be time to switch phone providers. Your cell phone wants and needs change — so can your provider. It may cost more upfront to sign up with a new cell phone carrier, especially if you have to sign a new contract or purchase a new device. However, if you’re able to lower your cell phone bill and save money in the long run, it may make financial sense to switch providers regardless.
Before switching carriers, be sure to weigh all of your options, including short-term and long-term costs, contract obligations that you may have to your current provider or future provider, whether there’s a cancellation fee, and the services and additions that you may need. All of these affect whether or not it makes sense for you to actually switch providers.
Related article: Does Financing a Phone Build Credit?