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5 Creative Ways to Lower Your Monthly Cell Phone Bills

By Jason Steele

smartphone buttonWhen I first signed up for wireless service, my bill was under $30 a month for plenty of minutes and the short list of features I needed. Nowadays, carriers know that most people require a cell plan for their everyday routine, and they’re able to charge a lot more. Sure, phones are more powerful, but they also come with costs and fees for features I don’t need. My bill is nearly $90 a month, and it’s quickly becoming one of my family’s largest monthly expenses.

Your cell phone charges are probably higher than any utility bill you pay. And unlike your mortgage, your wireless expenses aren’t building you any equity. Put it all together, and you need to make sure that you’re paying the lowest amount possible for your wireless service.

Try the below five ways to save on your cell phone costs (and maybe even make some money too).

How to Reduce Your Cell Phone Payments

1. Consider a Family Plan

With most providers, adding an additional line will only run you around 25% of the cost of your original line. If you have a chance to split a plan with a family member or even a friend or roommate, take it. Everyone wins. My wife and I split our plan with her parents. A family plan split four ways costs far less than maintaining accounts in each of our names individually or as couples. And since many of our calls are to and from each other, we use up far fewer out-of-network minutes than we would if we had different providers.

Tip: Make sure at least one member of your plan monitors the bills to make sure you have enough minutes for everyone on your plan. Providers love to trap you with outrageous rates for each minute you go over.

2. Get a Corporate Discount

Four years ago, I was working for a large company that had the benefit of a 15% employee discount for wireless services. While I am no longer with that company, I am still receiving the discount. Over the years, it has saved my family hundreds of dollars.

Tip: When signing up for a new plan or renewing an existing one, wait until just before the transaction is complete to ask about any group or corporate discounts. You might be able to negotiate a lower cost before you bring up a corporate discount, and you’ll also make sure that the discount applies to any accessories you add to your purchase. A salesperson who is eager to close the deal might not ask you to substantiate your membership, especially if you tell them that you would have to return later. It is just not in their interest to do anything to jeopardize or postpone their sale.

3. Cancel Extra Services

Here I was with my family plan and my corporate discount, but I was still seeing my bills jump up every few months. I scrutinized my statements closely and found that I was being charged for services that I don’t remember using, like Internet downloads and directory assistance. It turns out that accidentally pressing a few buttons can result in a small monthly charge here and a small extra fee there, and before long my bill went up $5 or $10 higher every month for services I didn’t want. In fact, I didn’t even know I had them.

Review your bill every month for services you forgot about or features that you didn’t even realize you were paying for. Not only do you need to cancel the service, but you may also get your provider to reverse the previous charges.

Tip: Call up your service provider and ask them to block all optional services that you’re not using. Call me a Luddite, but I do not even have text or Internet service on my cell phone plan. I get more than enough from my high-speed Internet service provider at home and at my office.

4. Make Money from Upgrades

Every 22 months, our provider offers us a deal on an upgraded phone if we renew our plan. We can choose from a variety of free phones, or get hundreds of dollars off of a brand new, top-of-the-line smartphone. But usually after 22 months with my current phone, I have just barely learned all of the features and I do not have the pressing desire to give it up. So what do I do? I take advantage of an offer for the greatest phone they have, and then turn around and sell it on eBay the next day. If you pick the right phone, you can sell it for at least $200 more than you paid.

Tip: Even if you do want to upgrade your phone, you can still sell a top phone on eBay, and then use a portion of those earnings to buy your own new phone, leaving you with some extra money left over.

5. Don’t Forget to Complain

Have you had an important call drop? Have you read about a nationwide outage? Were you unable to get a signal somewhere within your provider’s area? Take a moment to report your dissatisfaction to your carrier, and you will usually receive a credit that will lower your bill.

Tip: Contacting your provider through live online customer service chat is much easier and faster than calling them. Also, sometimes you can just explain to them that the fees are just too high on your account and that you are considering going to a competitor who offers a better deal. You’ll end up chatting or speaking with a supervisor, who can authorize lower monthly fees or a hefty one-time credit to your account to retain you as a customer. For more info, check out these tips to beat out customer service strategies.

Final Word

Some companies have bonus plans like free in-network calling or a short list of favorite contacts for free minutes. But your provider is still out to make a profit, and you have to take your own initiative to find some real savings. If you’ve already cut back on your calls during peak-hours, you’re going to need to dig deeper for some creative ways to lower your bill.

When you try these tips, make sure that you vigilantly review your monthly bill to see how much they’re helping. Keep an eye on your statement to see if there are other ways to cut back as well.

What other clever ways do you save on your wireless mobile phone costs?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Jason Steele
Jason has been writing about personal finance, travel, and other topics on blogs across the Internet. When he is not writing, he has a career in information technology and is also a commercially rated pilot. Jason lives in Colorado with his wife and young daughter where he enjoys parenting, cycling, and other extreme sports.

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Comments

  • C. A. Cabré-Martínez, MD, FRCS (Eng)

    I thought to REDUCE and to LOWER meant the same thing. I think this is a gramatical defect called redundancy (i.e., “a false lie”).

    Regards,

    César A.

  • Chris

    Well, I’m glad(?) to see that Jason regards parenting as an extreme sport!! Not far off the mark…………..

  • Rick

    Another way to control cell phone costs is a good pre-paid plan. We had a three-phone family plan that was costing over $100 a month. We dumped it and got three relatively current refurb smartphones for free, free shipping, by buying $100 of airtime each (@5 cents a minute) and a year to use it. Now WE control our usage and costs, and we can quit any time. Any left over three months is gravy. Oh, and our network is one of the top three.

  • http://www.tricktoday.com John Cason

    Rick, What prepaid service did you use?

    Jason, I really liked the article!

  • Paul Fravin

    Yeah, that prepaid service sounds like the one I’m on. I use Net10, but I use it a little differently. I just do a month by month plan with a small amount of minuted, but I can add more if needed. It’s nice to have control over the bill every month and have exactly what you need with no extras…

  • http://www.lisaoverman.com Lisa

    Saving on cell bills is critical, they can be really expensive.

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