The days of scarce and slow internet are over. Long live free and open WiFi everywhere. But if you don’t need mobile internet as much as you used to, why are you still paying what you paid in 2004? And if you’re already paying for WiFi at home and work, how much mobile data do you really need? Let’s get your cell phone bill lowered and save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.
You’d probably admit your cell phone is one of your most important possessions. You use it to keep in contact with family and friends, to seek out information, for entertainment, and for business.
But each month when you look at your payment, do you wonder how to lower your cell phone bills?
Then you stop and tell yourself you’ll check on it later or that it’s just the price you have to pay to get the service you want. And that’s exactly what wireless carriers depend on people doing.
With 95% of people owning a cell phone, service providers want you to put off researching ways to get a lower phone bill. They also hope you’ll believe reducing cell phone bills will result in worse service plans, less coverage, and reduced data plans.
But there are service providers who can get you a cheaper cell phone bill you’ll be happy with.
You just need to learn how to lower your phone bill while maintaining the service and data you need.
WiFi: The Enemy of Wireless Carriers
The big four mobile carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) had little competition for years. But WiFi now threatens these service providers because of the steadily increasing numbers of WiFi devices and hotspots.
Apart from emergencies or things like driving, hiking, and boating—most of the places you go now have WiFi available. This helps you avoid using cellular data plan much of the time.
Wireless carriers also divert cellular traffic to WiFi to ease network congestion and save money.
In 2016, mobile offload exceeded cellular traffic and the percent of traffic offloaded grows each year. The expansion of WiFi access and the redirection of cellular traffic to WiFi.
How to Lower Cell Phone Bills
You might be wondering if the savings from changing cell phone plans or wireless carriers is worth your time and energy. That depends on your current plan, your data usage, the number of phones on your plan, and the extras like phone costs and insurance payments.
But many people who downgrade plans or switch wireless carriers save half of their current bill or more – which can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year.
Dropping phone insurance, adding family members to your plan, and enrolling in autopay are quick ways to reduce your cell phone bill without shopping for a new wireless carrier. But chances are you’ll save more by moving to prepaid options on your current carrier or changing service providers altogether.
The first step in lowering your cell phone bill is reviewing the current service plan you are using and the cost of the plan. Make sure you also find out the average amount of data you are using each month.
Then decide if you need the same level of service moving forward. Is unlimited data a need or a want? Are you using enough data to justify the cost? Or are you using data to justify what you are paying? Those are important questions to ask if you want to lower your cell phone bill.
Once you determine the level of service you actually need, you’ll be able to make “apples to apples” comparisons as you move forward.
How to Reduce Verizon Cell Phone Bills
If you use Verizon and want a lower wireless bill, they now offer prepaid cell phone plans. Another bonus of prepaid? They skip checking a credit report and there is no annual contract.
On the prepaid homepage, Verizon advertises four lines for $100 when all lines are on the $40 3GB plan. There are some restrictions, but you might investigate this option to save money.
You can also research one of the Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) that use the Verizon network.
An MVNO is a company that uses and sells access on major mobile networks like Verizon. These may be more expensive than other MVNO options however, because they access Verizon’s network – the largest and highest ranking wireless network in the United States.
For example, Straight Talk offers a single line plan with unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB of high speed data for $35/month. If you need more data, a 10 GB plan runs $45 and unlimited data (with restrictions) costs $55 per month. They also offer several other options for you to consider.
Total Wireless is an even more inexpensive option. A single line plan includes 30 service days, unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of data for $35. When you add lines, the price per line drops and you can share data between members on the plan.
A four-line plan with unlimited talk and text sharing 25 GB of data is $100 per month (plus taxes and fees). That’s more than double the amount of data the Verizon prepaid plan offers for the same price. You can also buy 5 GB of add-on data (as many as you’d like) for $10 and the data rolls over and doesn’t expire as long as your service is active.
There are several other MVNOs using the same CDMA technology as Verizon including Page Plus Cellular, Net10 Wireless, Eco Mobile, and Selectel Wireless.
How to Reduce AT&T Cell Phone Bills
If your current wireless carrier is AT&T, you could opt for prepaid plans offering a single-line with unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of data for $35.
If you need more data, $50 will get you 8 GB of data and unlimited data plans are $65 per month.
There are also MVNOs using the AT&T network and GSM technology, so if they’re your preference – you’re covered. You can get the same Straight Talk deals as described above for your GSM phone.
Another popular option is Cricket Wireless. Their single-line service plan includes 2GB of data along with unlimited talk and text for $30. An unlimited plan with Cricket runs $55 per month and they also offer a four-line deal with unlimited (restricted) data for $100.
Airvoice Wireless, Consumer Cellular, EasyGO Wireless, and Puretalk USA are some of the other AT&T MVNO options to research to lower your cell phone bill if you prefer to stay on the AT&T network.
How to Reduce Cell Phone Bills with Other Wireless Carriers
In addition to the big four wireless carriers and the MVNO’s identified for Verizon and AT&T, there are many other popular options for you to consider. These include Google’s Project Fi, Republic Wireless, Ting, Boost Mobile, MetroPCS, and Mint Mobile to name just a few.
Many of these service providers use the Sprint and T-Mobile networks or some combination of networks to provide cellular service. Each wireless carrier offers a variety of service plans to meet the needs of individuals and families, while helping you meet your goal of lower cell phone bills.
Typically, users find that these cellular service plans don’t offer inconsequential savings either.
For example, take the plan that Republic Wireless is offering right now. For $15, users can get unlimited talk and text. For an additional $5, they can get 1GB of data. When you compare that figure to the average monthly cell phone bill of $73, a switch to Republic Wireless could save you $636 over the course of the year—that’s hardly pocket change.
Still, you need to keep in mind that each of these options has pros and cons to consider. Some companies limit the type of handset you can use. If you are an iPhone user, Project Fi and Republic Wireless won’t be options for you. If you are in an area with poor Sprint coverage, you probably want to skip researching Boost Mobile.
There are limitations to each plan and provider, but when you are looking to reduce your cell phone bill – you’ll have to decide what matters most. With so many options you should be able to find something meeting your needs and giving you adequate coverage at a better price than you are paying.
Take Action to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
It’s time to go from wondering how or googling “how to lower my cell phone bill” to acting on what you’ve learned here.
Research the options available to you and determine which plan is the best fit for you.
Once you’ve found one you like, view a coverage map to make sure you’re satisfied with its coverage. If you want to be especially diligent, ask your friends and family about the service you’re considering to find out what experiences they’ve had with it.
Before you make the switch, check the contract you signed with your current cellular carrier to make sure you won’t have to pay an early termination fee (ETF) for switching. If you do have to pay one, see if your new carrier will reimburse you before making the switch. After following these steps, you’re ready to make the switch and start saving money.
Once you reduce your monthly bill, you can put the savings toward paying down student loans or credit cards. A side benefit? Reducing the amount of credit being utilized boosts credit scores. You can also choose to grow your emergency fund with the money you save by lowering cell phone bills.
Then show a reluctant family member how to lower a cell phone bill and save some money every month. They might even want to switch their service provider or go in on a family plan. If not, maybe they’ll at least research options and take a step or two towards lowering their phone bill.
With few exceptions, making use of WiFi wherever you go allows you to lower your cell phone bill by searching for the cheapest mobile plan possible.
The best thing? If you’re not happy, you aren’t in a contract and you can always go back to your original plan and provider.
Taking a chance to lower your cell phone bill is easier than ever today and it’s a smart money move to make.
Amy Blacklock is the co-founder of the websites Women Who Money and Women's Money Talk, and the founder and blogger behind Life Zemplified.