According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends nearly $1,200 per year on their cellphone plan. If you look at your own plan, chances are it’s a noticeable portion of your monthly bills.
In fact, your cellphone charges are probably higher or at least comparable to many other bills you pay. Therefore, in order to save more each month, you need to ensure that you’re paying the lowest amount possible for your cellphone plan.
Thankfully, despite the rising cost of phone plans, it’s possible to lower your cellphone bill by making a few changes to your plan and altering some habits. If you want to stop wasting money by overpaying for your phone plan every month, it’s time to take action.
How to Save Money on Your Cellphone Bill
There are numerous ways to start lowering your cellphone bill. Some strategies involve finding cheaper plans, while others are as simple as making a few changes to your phone’s settings.
Whatever the case, start this frugal exercise by listing the features you absolutely need in your plan. Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s easier to shop around and trim the fat from your current plan.
1. Consider Prepaid Phone Plans
One of the fastest ways to reduce your monthly cellphone bill is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. A prepaid phone plan, or no-contract plan, is what it sounds like — you pay upfront for a certain amount of monthly minutes, text messages, and data. If you run out, you can pay for additional usage or wait until the next month for usage to reset.
Prepaid phone plans are more flexible than contract plans. With a contract plan, you’re usually locked into monthly payment for at least two years. Additionally, you can go over your monthly usage limits and incur overage fees.
Because prepaid plans let you pay month-to-month, you don’t have to worry about getting stuck with an overpriced carrier and plan you don’t need. Plus, prepaid phone plans generally piggyback off existing cellular networks from major providers, helping them remain more affordable while still offering reliable coverage.
There are several prepaid phone plans with lower rates than most contract plans, including:
- Mint Mobile. Plans start as low as $15 per month for unlimited talk and text plus 3GB of monthly data. Committing for six or 12 month drops pricing, so Mint isn’t the purest prepaid phone plan. However, if you’re focusing on saving money, Mint is worth the switch.
- Boost Mobile. Enjoy unlimited data for $50 per month. You can also try cheaper prepaid plans with varying data limits or an unlimited data plan for two phones for $80 per month.
- Tello. Build your own phone plan by choosing how much data, talk, and text you need. Unlimited talk and text plus 2GB of data is only $14 per month, making Tello another inexpensive alternative.
If you frequently pay overages on your contract plan, switching to prepaid is your best bet. Plus, unlike contract plans, most prepaid options don’t run a credit check, so you don’t have to worry about improving your credit score to qualify.
Be sure to check whether your current plan charges a termination fee for leaving early. If you have to buy out your existing plan to make the switch, it’s probably better to wait for your contract to expire and then make the switch to a prepaid plan.
2. Stick With Older Phones
If you prefer contract plans, you can still slash your cellphone bill by sticking with cheaper hardware. Contract plans usually advertise new phones as costing $0 and give you a “free” phone when signing up. In reality, carriers factor in hardware costs to your monthly price for your contract. If you decide to buy the latest iPhone or Samsung, don’t expect the cheapest phone plan on the market.
Consider sticking with a slightly older model to reduce how much you pay per month. If you can bring an old phone in, that’s even better. If you decide to upgrade your current phone, you can also ask if your carrier accepts phone trade-ins to score a discount.
3. Cancel Extra Services
If it’s been a while since you’ve checked what’s included in your phone plan, it’s time to review the details. Carriers are great at pushing extra features and data limits on you when you sign up. However, it’s important to check whether you even use your entire phone plan in the first place.
Common perks of your plan you can downgrade if you don’t need include:
- Unlimited data
- Unlimited minutes
- International phone calls
- Roadside assistance, especially if you have existing coverage from an AAA membership or your rewards credit card
- Enhanced voicemail
Data and minutes are probably the most expensive culprits, but every bit counts if you’re on a tight budget.
4. Consider Family Plans
Cellphone plans from major carriers are usually more expensive than prepaid phone plans for individuals. However, if you find the right family phone plan, it’s often a different story.
With most providers, adding an additional line will only run you around 25% above 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.
If you’re open to a family plan, several cheap phone plans worth considering can include:
- Verizon Start Unlimited. Enjoy unlimited talk, text, and data for four phones for $140 per month. You also get six months of Disney+ and Apple Music. Verizon also has plans for two and three-line families, although the price per line increases slightly.
- Metro by T-Mobile. Metro, a budget-priced sub-brand of T-Mobile, offers a range of family plans with up to five lines. Metro is an excellent choice for couples thanks to its two-line, $70 per month plan that includes 10GB of data. The unlimited plan is $80 per month for two phones.
- Boost Mobile. Although Boost Mobile is affordable for individuals, it also covers families. In fact, you can mix and match prepaid plans to create a versatile family plan that’s tailored to each member’s needs.
If you want to keep things simple, Verizon or Metro are comprehensive family plans to consider that won’t drain your wallet. Boost Mobile is the best choice if you need different phone plans for each member of your household.
5. Skip Insurance
Chances are you had the chance to sign up for cellphone insurance the last time you started a new plan. On paper, cellphone insurance might seem like a great call. After all, if you spend $1,000 or more on a new phone, you want to protect it.
However, mobile carriers have varying levels of insurance coverage. Basic coverage typically protects your phone from damage, theft, and manufacturer defects. Basic plans have claim limits, allowing you to report a problem with your phone about once or twice every 12 months.
Premium cellphone insurance plans usually increase the number of claims you can make per year. Some plans, like Verizon’s protection plans, also improve your tech support options.
Whatever the case, you’re usually paying an extra $10 to $20 per month for every device you insure. This might be worth it for an expensive phone, but as a rule of thumb, if you can’t afford to pay to repair or replace your phone out of pocket, it’s probably too expensive for your budget.
6. Limit Background Data
Data overage fees are one of the fastest ways to turn a cheap cellphone bill into your worst nightmare. Although unlimited data is becoming more affordable, if you have a data cap, you should do everything in your power to stay within your limit each month.
To prevent data overage fees, get in the habit of turning your data off when you’re at home or connected to Wi-Fi when on the go. Granted, this is sometimes easier said than done.
Your best bet is to manually turn off data permissions for specific apps on your phone. By shutting off permission for data-heavy apps like YouTube and other video streaming apps, you eliminate the chance of accidentally draining your cellphone data when watching videos without being connected to Wi-Fi. You can also restrict background data usage for apps so they only consume data when you’re actively using them.
Finally, make sure you have a data usage alert set up. Ideally, you should get an alert when you’ve used about 80% of your monthly data so you know it’s time to slow down.
7. Travel Smart
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a digital nomad or frequently travel for business; staying connected while abroad can be expensive.
Most mobile carriers let you upgrade your phone plan to accommodate international travel. This lets you use your phone in foreign countries, enjoying calling, texting, and data as if you were home. However, roaming plans aren’t always the most cost-effective. For example, Verizon’s international plans cost as much as $130 per month and only provide 2GB of data for roaming.
The next time you travel, consider trying a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot plan instead of plans from major carriers. Keepgo is one popular option, and offers coverage in more than 100 countries. Plus, 1GB of data starts at $16.50 so you can keep your plan affordable. If you ditch your SMS needs in favor of a messaging app like WhatsApp, you can save even more money on international travel.
8. Sell Your Old Phone
If you’re upgrading your phone, see if you can get a decent trade-in value or whether your mobile carrier even accepts trade-ins. Alternatively, try a used cellphone marketplace like SellCell. It pays cash for used cellphones and accepts a range of popular models, making it quick to find buyers for your device.
Listing your phone only takes a few minutes with each website. You get a quote for your phone before completing your listing to help you decide whether you want to sell. Chances are reselling your phone won’t earn a ton of money, but every bit helps.
When’s the last time you called your mobile carrier to complain or ask for a better rate? If it’s been more than a year, you might be missing out on the chance to lower your monthly cellphone bill.
Customer loyalty is the name of the game for mobile carriers. If you’ve been a longstanding customer with the same company for multiple years, call and see if you can get a better rate. You should also mention that you’re shopping around with other providers to put some pressure on.
If you don’t have time to call, you can also use a bill negotiation service. Companies like BillShark contact service providers on your behalf to negotiate lower prices. If Billshark secures a cheaper bill, you pay them 40% of the annual savings upfront. Billshark can also negotiate other bills, like your utility, cable, and internet bills, helping you save even more.
10. Take Advantages of Cash Back
If you have a cash-back credit card, switch your monthly cellphone payments to that card if possible. This is a fast way to recover some of your monthly expenses without much effort.
If you’re signing up for a cellphone plan online, you should also shop through Rakuten. Rakuten pays you cash back for shopping at thousands of stores, and there are several mobile carriers on the platform including:
- Pure Talk
- Cricket Wireless
Rakuten usually pays cash back as a percentage for shopping at their partners. However, some phone providers pay rebates of up to $75 instead, which is a great way to start off your new phone plan.
These days, it’s practically impossible to avoid owning a smartphone. The days of having a landline phone are coming to an end, and as smartphone technology improves, these devices will only become more integrated into daily life.
Unfortunately, affordable cellphone plans still have some catching up to do. It can be hard to find a cheap cellphone plan that has enough functionality, especially if you need unlimited data or you travel frequently.
However, if you haven’t checked your phone service in a while, you can probably trim some unused perks to keep more money in your pocket. Even if you reduce your bill by $10, that’s over $100 per year in annual savings for a bit of upfront work.
Take a weekend or evening and do some research on how to lower your phone bill. If you can find room to save extra money, your future self will certainly thank you.