If you’re on a traditional solo phone plan with one of the big three carriers (Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile), these tips can give you huge savings!
1. Consider Low-Cost Carriers (MVNOs)
If you want to get some big savings, get out of the mindset that you have to stay with the big three to get decent phone service. Many low-cost carriers (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) use the same cell networks as the big three, and you can use any unlocked phone in most cases.
Metro by T-Mobile works with the latest unlocked 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.
I just moved my mom to Metro 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 year now and noticed no problems with reception or coverage. They even gave her a free case and screen protector. Finally, there’s a store right down the street so she can easily go there when she has a problem.
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 three, 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! And, they have physical stores, which she appreciates when she needs help with the phone.
Here are some other low-cost carriers to check into:
Mint Mobile: offers low-cost plans on the T-Mobile network starting at an insanely low $15/month for unlimited talk and text with 3GB of data. The catch is that you have to pre-pay in advance for multiple months at a time to get that rate. And, they have no retail locations. All service is done over the phone. But the savings is insane!
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 3GB of data for $30/month! And, there’s a 5% AARP discount.
Cricket Wireless: offers plans starting at $30/month with unlimited talk and text and 2GB of data.
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 (now T-Mobile) 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.
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2. Consider a Pre-Paid Plan
If you want to stay with one of the big three carriers, you can still save a ton of money by switching to a pre-paid plan. That’s right, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile offer prepaid plans for a fraction of the cost of their regular plans. As of this writing, AT&T’s prepaid plans start at $25/month with Verizon and T-Mobile’s starting at $40/month for a single line.
What’s the catch? Well, you do have to “prepay”, up to a year at a time if you want to get the lowest rates. But the savings are so huge, it’s more than worth it. Also, these plans often do not include international roaming, so if you travel a lot, you might be better off with a traditional plan. But for most people, pre-paid plans can save a ton of money!
3. If You Don’t Use Much Data…
Ting offers unlimited talk an text for an insane $10/month! The catch is that no data is included, but you can purchase data for $5/GB per month, or pay $25/month for 5GB. That’s still an insanely low price!
4. Get a Plan with Multiple Lines
On top of what I’ve discussed so far, you can get additional savings by getting a plan with multiple lines.
For example, T-Mobile’s Magenta plan starts at $70/line for one person, but goes to $60/line for two, $47/line for three, $40/line for four, and down to $34 for six 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.
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!
5. Make a Date to Drop Your Phone Insurance
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 or two, 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?
6. Check for Employee Discounts, and Discounts for Seniors, Military, and First Responders
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!
Some providers like T-Mobile offer discounts for senior citizens, active duty military, veterans, and first responders. Ask what is available. Just be sure to also check into the other items on this list, like pre-paid plans, which might offer bigger discounts than the employee discount.
7. 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.
8. Go with an Older Phone
If you want the latest Apple or Android phone, you’ll pay a premium. Phones have been so good that even one, two, or three year old models are still awesome.
Also, check with friends who may be getting rid of their old (but still good) phones so they can spend an arm and a leg on the latest iPhone…
9. 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.
10. Call Your Current Provider to Complain
If you don’t want to switch plans or providers, 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 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!
The cell phone market has been seriously disrupted by low-cost carriers using the networks of the big three. If you’re still on a traditional plan, you should look into some of the alternate providers and plans. You’ll almost certainly be able to save!
Let me know about other tips you’ve found to save money on your cell phone bill! – Brian