If you’re on an an individual phone plan with one of the big four carriers, these tips can give you significant savings!

1. Call Your Current Provider to Complain

The easiest way to save money on your plan might be to simply call your current provider to complain about your bill.

That’s exactly what my wife did with Verizon. She was paying $71/month (while I was paying $55 at T-Mobile) and she called them to complain and see if she could get her bill lowered.

Here’s what happened. At first, the guy at Verizon said she could get a $6/month discount for one year (later we found out this required a one-year contract). Hmm… not very exciting, but it was a start.

Then, he said there was a special deal where she could get $20 off her bill for the next three months. Okay…

Finally, they realized that she was still paying for insurance on an old nearly-obsolete iPhone. $10/month saved.

So, if you’re not happy with your rate, and especially if you have friends or family getting lower rates on other carriers which you can reference, call your carrier to complain! Tell them about lower rates on other carriers.

The big caveat here, however, is that these rates may require a new one-year contract with the carrier. The representative probably won’t mention it. Instead it will be buried in fine print in an email you might receive. So, if you want to switch carriers, check to make sure you’re not on a contract that you might have inadvertently signed up for!

2. Make a Date to Drop Your Insurance

That brings me to my next point. I like to have insurance when I buy a brand new phone. It would totally suck to lose or break your phone shortly after getting it.

But, I make sure to cancel the insurance after a year, when the replacement cost of the phone has gone down. I actually put an event in my calendar to cancel it in one year so I don’t forget.

Think of it this way: insurance costs about $10/month. If you have it forever, say 50 years of your life, that’s $6000 you’re paying for insurance. That could pay for a lot of new phones! Do you think you’ll lose $6000 worth of phones over your life?

3. Consider Low-Cost Carriers Like Metro (formerly Metro PCS)

If you want to get some big savings, get out of the mindset that you have to stay with the big four to get decent phone service. Many of the low-cost carriers use the same cell networks as the big boys, and offer the latest phones.

The retail stores for these providers are not as nice, and you may have to wait longer to get served. But if you’re willing to put up with slower customer service once in a while, you could save hundreds of dollars per year!

Metro by T-Mobile (formerly Metro PCS) works with the latest iPhones and Android phones. Individual service starts at $30/month, pre-paid, for unlimited calling and texting and 2GB of data on the T-Mobile cell network. Note, this plan is not widely advertised, and they push more expensive plans online and in-store, so you have to ask for it!

I just moved my mom to Metro by T-Mobile and it’s been great! She now pays $36/month (including $6 phone insurance) saving her over $40/month compared to Sprint! And, there was a special for new customers, so she saved $150 on the iPhone XR! She’s had the service for a month now and noticed no problems with reception or coverage. They even gave her a free case and screen protector.

So what’s the catch? Metro is great for most people but there are a few caveats:

  • Metro’s selection of phones is not as big as at the big four, but you can get an unlocked phone at the Apple store or other store and use it at Metro.
  • Their lowest priced plans don’t allow using your phone as a mobile hot spot (their higher price plans do though).
  • Metro phone data is prioritized lower than T-Mobile data when the network is crowded (perhaps say, in a big concert).
  • Metro has no international roaming service. If you want to use your phone overseas, you have to get a SIM card in that country.
  • Metro is a pre-paid service, and if you don’t pay, they’ll shut off our phone without a grace period.

For people like my Mom who rarely travel out of the country, Metro is terrific and will save a thousand dollars after just a few years!

Here are some other low-cost carriers to check into:

Consumer Cellular: I’ve had a few readers rave about Consumer Cellular’s low prices with no problems reported. Looks like you can get unlimited talk and 2GB of data for $30/month! And, there’s a 5% AARP discount.

Straight Talk Wireless offers the previous-generation Samsung and Apple phones for as low as $35 per month.

Walmart Family Mobile is owned by the same operator that owns Straight Talk. They offer plans starting at an insanely low $25/month!

Republic Wireless has a variety of Motorola phones and uses the Sprint network. Plans start at $15/month for voice and text only, with data for $5 more. Several readers have told me they swear by Republic Wireless! Republic Wireless is an awesome deal if you are OK with Android phones.

4. If You Don’t Talk Very Much…

Ting is a cell phone service provider where you only pay for as much as you use. Go to their site and plug in your usage numbers from your last three bills to see if it can save you money.  I talk on my cell phone for about 500 minutes per month, send and receive about 500 texts (wow, I had no idea it was that many), and use about 500MB of data.  With these usage numbers, I could save about $100 per year by switching to Ting vs. T-Mobile.

So, plug in your numbers and see if Ting can save you money.

5. Get a Family Plan

If you want to stay with the big four but get big discounts, family plans are the way to go.

For example, T-Mobile’s ONE plan starts at $70/line for one person, but goes to $60/line for two, $40/line for three, and $35/line for four people

Verizon’s Unlimited plan is $75/line for one person, $65/line for two, $50/line for three, and $40/line for four.

AT&T’s Unlimited plan is $70/line for one, $63/line for two, $49/line for three, and $40/line for four.

Sprint’s Unlimited Basic plan is $60/line for one person, $50/line for two, $40/line for three, and $30/line for four people.

If you are single, don’t dismiss family plans just yet.  You don’t actually need to be in the same family to use a family plan.  The main thing is that the bill goes to one address.  You each get separate phone numbers.  Perhaps you could go in with a trusted friend?  Or, how about your parents or grandparents?  Extended family?  Cousins, aunts, uncles?  Keep an open mind here, because the savings are dramatic. Depending on which company you choose, you can cut your phone bill in half!

6. Research Limited Plans

Cell phone sales people like to tout their “unlimited” standard plans, but if you don’t need unlimited data, there might be a cheaper plan.

For example, when shopping for a plan for my parents at Sprint years ago, the salesperson insisted that we were getting the cheapest plan, which was an unlimited plan.  Only after talking to the manager did we find out that there indeed was a cheaper plan with limited data / minutes that would be fine for my parents. This will save them hundreds of dollars per year.

Similarly, when I went to Metro by T-Mobile to get a new plan for my mom, the salesperson only mentioned the $50 and $60/month plans. Fortunately, I had done my homework online and knew about the $30/month plan.

Do your homework and check for the carrier’s lowest rates online,. The salespeople will not always volunteer that information!

7. Check Your Employer for Employee Discounts

If you work for a big company, check to see if they offer discounted phone plans for their employees.  Several of the previous companies that I’ve worked for have offered these. Savings can be up to 25%.

My wife and I were at an AT&T store checking on prices, and we glanced at the sales person’s iPad which had a list of companies which had employee discounts at AT&T. The list was HUGE!

How about other discounts for active duty military or educators? Ask what is available.

8. Beware of Extra Costs and Fine Print!

When I took my parents to the Sprint store to get a new phone, the salesperson said that they were giving away a free Samsung tablet with the plan.  It turns out it wasn’t free; there was a $10 monthly charge for it. We had to go through a huge ordeal to get it corrected. Beware of tricks like this to inflate your bill!

The salespeople also will push accessories.  If you can get them for free, then great.  Otherwise, get cases and screen protectors from Amazon or other sources where they are insanely cheaper!

9. Live With Your Old Phone as Long as Possible

The longer you can live with your current phone after it’s paid off, the more money you will save.

In many cases, the one thing that has forced my friends and family members to upgrade their phones is lack of storage space. Apple sold a ton of phones with only 16GB of storage space, as was widely criticized for it. My Mom and my wife were among those who had otherwise perfectly good iPhones but had to upgrade because they only could store 16GB.

So, don’t skimp on storage space, since it can’t be upgraded on an iPhone. I’d recommend at least 128GB these days.

10. Trade in Your Old Phone

If you need a new phone, your old phone might have some trade-in value. Be sure to ask when you get a new phone. Also, check the Apple store if it’s an iPhone.

When I traded in my parents’ old iPhone 4’s at Sprint, they gave us some Bluetooth speakers which I was able to sell on eBay to recoup some of the cost. Or, you might want to just sell your old phone on eBay.

BONUS: Ask for Freebies and Waived Fees!

It never hurts to ask for freebies when you’re getting a new plan.  Ask if you can get the activation fee waived as part of the deal. Ask for a free case, screen protector, or other accessories. These cost almost nothing to the carrier relative to the cost of your plan. I love freebies! I was able to get a free case from my T-Mobile store. Hey, it might not be much, but it’s something!

Let me know about other tips you’ve found to save money on your cell phone bill! – Brian