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Getting the Best Deal on Your Cell Phone Plan

By Sally Aquire

phoneWhen was the last time you checked your cell phone deal to see how competitive it is against other providers? New deals are coming on to the market all the time, so it pays to see whether you can get a better deal elsewhere. Saving money on fixed monthly bills such as your cell phone bill is the best way to find extra money in your monthly budget. We often focus on cutting out the variable expenses, but we neglect the large bills we pay on cell phones, cable, utilities, and insurance. Finding the best cell phone deals can be a daunting and time-consuming process though, so here are some tips for finding the best cell phone contract.

Think about your cell phone needs

Before you start shopping around, think about what you want from your cell phone package. Too many people blindly sign up for a contract purely because they like a particular cell phone and don’t give much thought to exactly what they’re committing to. Signing up for a deal with features that you’ll never use is a sure-fire way to throw money away, so it’s sensible to think things through before you put pen to paper. A few of the types of questions you need to ask yourself include:

  • Do you want to be locked into a contract or would it suit you better to be able to pay for minutes as you need them?
  • Do you want a cell phone with Internet access?
  • Do you want added features like cameras, videophones, mp3 players and radios on your cell phone?
  • Are you mainly making local calls or do you frequently make long-distance or international calls?
  • Do you make most of your calls in the daytime or during the evenings?
  • Do you make calls during the week or do you wait for the weekends?
  • How long does a typical call last?
  • And sometimes, you need to replace the word “want” with “need.” For example, most people WANT Internet access on their phone, but many of us do not NEED it and can save a bunch of money by resisting this temptation.

Assessing your current plan

Once you’ve thought about exactly what you want or need to be included in your cell phone deal, it’s time to see whether your current cell phone plan is as cost-effective as it should be. If you don’t use your minutes each month, you’re better off looking into downgrading your cell phone plan to one with a cheaper one with less minutes. Likewise, if you frequently go over your allotted minutes, think about upgrading your cell phone plan to one that has a greater amount of minutes factored in. While the latter will be more expensive in comparison to your current plan, it’s likely that you’ll save on charges for exceeding your minutes, so it can work out cheaper in the long term. Be aware that you may be hit with penalties for changing your cell phone plan, so it’s best to ask about this before you try to start negotiating your current plan.

Negotiating a new plan

If you want to stay with the same cell phone provider (and you’ve already established that you’re able to change your current cell phone plan without penalties), you’ll need to start negotiations with your current provider. It’s helpful to go into these negotiations having done your homework on the plans that fit your needs from other service providers. Most cell phone providers have more competitive plans that they don’t make obvious to the public, and you can increase your chances of being offered one of these plans if you emphasize your knowledge that other providers are offering more competitive plans than the one that you’re currently on.

Finding a new cell phone provider

If you’re not happy with your current provider or your contract has come to an end, it may be the right time to consider a switch. Be sure to do your research on things to consider before changing cell phone providers as the price of the calling plan shouldn’t be your only consideration. For example, factor things like network coverage and customer service into your decision.

When it comes to choosing a cell phone, expensive or fancy models aren’t the best way forward if you’re likely to change providers in the future. Before you choose a cell phone, ask if you can ‘test drive’ a few models to make sure that it fully suits you. This gives you an opportunity to trial the service at different times of the day and night to test the reception and pricing structure before you’re locked into a deal.

Not all cell phone plans are created equally, and if you take the time to look at other providers, you may find that yours isn’t as competitive as you thought. If you can’t or don’t want to change providers, try negotiating your current plan up or down to get a more cost-effective plan. If changing providers is an option, look for the best price deal for the cell phone and calling plan, but don’t ignore factors like network coverage and service, because these can turn a seemingly good deal into a nightmare.

(photo credit: wanderingone)

Sally Aquire
Sally is a UK-based freelance writer. As well as personal finance, she also writes on health & beauty and lifestyle topics. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, shopping, hanging out with friends and generally making the most of her downtime!

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  • https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Auwj1sCiQFmmdE54aXY5OGo5V0tJYU1WeUpMOUY5M1E&hl=en Mary

    I figured out how to get the best cell phone plan for my usage requirements by creating a spreadsheet and entering the relevant data from my previous phone bills, then creating formulas for the different plans to calculate what my bill would have been if I had used the various plans. You can see the spreadsheet by clicking on my website link.

    • Sally Aquire

      Thanks for sharing your spreadsheet, Mary. Just had a quick scan and the difference between the plans is quite something – shows how much it pays to shop around!

  • http://madsaver.com Mac

    I used to shop around quite a bit and had stints at Verizon, Cingular, and T-Mobile, and now am stuck with AT&T…because they are the only ones to carry the iPhone in this country. Love the phone, but not the carrier (just like everyone else). If this phone didn’t exist, I would be with T-Mobile as they have excellent phones (Android OS), good customer service, lowest prices, and a strong signal around these parts.

    • Winston

      I find it interesting that a lot of people would rather suffer poor services than giving up their iPhone. If I were them, I would just get the iPod touch and get the smartphone with the company that has the most reliable service at the best price in my vicinity.

  • gina

    I recently have been able to renegotiate a plan with Verizon before my contract was up! You never know unless you ask…

    • http://madsaver.com Mac

      That may work with some providers, but AT&T has been historically strict in regards to iPhone plans. I’ve never heard of someone successfully negotiating a modification to their cell plan w/ this phone. I hope this will eventually change when there are more competitive cell phones available.

  • Pedro

    I just left AT&T because they wouldn’t budge on my plan and I was having a problem scrounging enough money at the end of the month to pay the hefty bill. I switched over to Net10 which is a prepaid cell. Hopefully it’s only temporary, but it’s definitely cheaper and way more stress free.

    • Cam

      Pedro, you are obviously a smart consumer. Have you seen the new plan on the T Mobile network with the most aggressive cash back rewards program for sharing it with other people. It is a no contract, no credit check for only $49 per month 4G speed, unlimited talk, text, web. contact me at 918-271-8888. It’s AMAZING.

  • Winston

    Just recently, I saved a little money by switching to Pay-As-You-Go from the monthly contract.With my old calling plan, I always had a lot of minutes left over at the end of the month despite the fact that I had the lowest calling plan AT&T offered. That because I talk to my friends mostly online. And when I need to make long distance calls, I use my sister’s phone.

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