How to Save Money on Your Mobile Phone Plan

Cut down on usage, change your plan, switch carriers, and more

Mobile phone bills can add up month after month, but there's a lot you can do to lower them. Whether that means taking steps to reduce your usage, shopping for a new plan (or even a new carrier), or being more strategic about how you use the network, chances are good you don't need to pay as much as you currently do. Here are some steps you can take to save money on your monthly bill.

Some phones, too, come connected to carriers that automatically apply lower rates for seniors or other groups of customers. Never hesitate to ask if there's a discount for a group you might be part of.

Use Less Data

By lowering the amount of data you use, you could reduce a big chunk of your bill.

  • Track your data usage: In addition to looking at your monthly bill for overall usage, track your data usage with a third-party app, or, if you use an Android device, built-in functionality. Check to see which apps are data hogs, and which use data in the background.
  • Whenever possible, connect to Wi-Fi: When you're at home, work, or anywhere else with a trusted connection, use Wi-Fi. This action should help cut down on your data usage dramatically.

When you use Wi-Fi frequently, it's a good idea to install a mobile VPN to keep your connection private and safe.

  • Use Wi-Fi calling: If your device and carrier support it, make calls over Wi-Fi rather than digging into your minutes. If this strategy works for you, you can ditch the unlimited calling plan if you have one.
  • Try out a mobile messaging app: WhatsApp and other messaging apps use data rather than SMS to send texts. If you use them, you'll no longer need unlimited texting from your carrier. Just be aware that this strategy will increase your overall data usage unless you regularly connect to Wi-Fi.

Lower Your Data Limit

Look at your bills from the last several months to figure out your average data consumption, and the number of phone calls and texts. Does your activity match your plan? For example, if you pay for 8 GB of data monthly, and you only use 3 GB on average, then it might make sense to switch to a plan with a lower data limit and lower cost. 

Ditch Your Unlimited Data Plan

If you regularly use more than 100 GB per month, you're getting your money's worth, but if you use much less (think 5 GB to 10 GB), you can likely save a significant amount of money by switching to a metered plan.

Some carriers, such as Verizon, charge extra for mobile tethering if you have an unlimited plan, but bundle it for free in its metered data plans.

Look Into Employee or Senior Discounts

Ask your employer or carrier to find out if you're eligible for these or other discounts. A senior cell phone plan could be just what you're looking for.

Sign up for a Family Plan or a Shared Data Plan

Most carriers let you share data, minutes, and text buckets with others with what's often called a family plan, though you don't necessarily have to be related. Look into joining your account with your spouse, partner, roommate, parent, child, or good friend. You may be surprised how much you can save.

When choosing a new plan, look for one that offers rollover minutes and data, rather than the typical use-it-or-lose-it arrangement. Some carriers offer regular device upgrades with certain plans so you can get a new device every year or two.

Get in Touch With Your Carrier

Visit your carrier's website and log in to your account. Navigate to the plan section and see if there are any new, lower-cost plans. To be sure that all fees are considered, choose a plan and navigate to the shopping cart or confirmation page. Here, you should see the actual price including taxes and fees and you can then determine whether or not you'd save money if you switched plans.

On the phone or in-store, you'll be assisted by salespeople who are trained to keep your business. Ask about any promotions that aren't available online. They may try to get you to upgrade your phone. Don't give in unless you happen to need a new device.

Switch to a Different Carrier

A great way to save money is by switching providers, or at least threatening to do so. If you threaten to leave, your current carrier might offer you a promotional deal to keep your business.

If you shop around, you may find that a different carrier has better options. Many carriers offer special deals to new customers; while you're doing the research, make a note of how long a promotion lasts and what your monthly costs will be after it ends.

Before you cancel a contract, check what the penalties are, if any, and if your new carrier will cover them for you. Also, make sure your phone will work with the new carrier.

Consider a Prepaid or Alternative Carrier

Generally, when you think of a cellphone carrier, you probably think of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. But there are a number of established prepaid carriers as well as a few new carriers that offer cheap plans with no contractual requirement.

Check coverage maps and ask around about reliability. Look at Cricket Wireless, Google Fi, Republic Wireless, and others. Also, see what your current carrier offers in terms of prepaid plans; you may be able to continue to use the same device if it's been paid in full.

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