It’s hard to believe, but my monthly cell phone bill is less than it was nearly 20 years ago.
In this article, I’ll share four strategies to lower your cell phone bill. You’ll learn how to get reliable wireless service for a fraction of the price that most of your family and friends pay.
Table of Contents:
1. Switch Cell Phone Service Providers
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are the three major players in the wireless industry, but their plans can get expensive. You may be able to cut your bill in half by switching to a low-cost provider. All of these options let you keep your existing phone number if you want to. They fall into three categories:
- Discount brands owned by major networks
- Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile’s prepaid brands
- Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
Discount brands owned by major networks
If you want to lower your cell phone bill, a good place to start is by checking out the discount brands that are owned by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. This is an easy way to keep the network that you already have and pay a lower monthly price.
- Verizon owns Visible
- AT&T owns Cricket
- T-Mobile owns Metro by T-Mobile
I was a Verizon postpaid customer for years, but now I’m with Visible. I pay $25 a month for unlimited talk, text and high-speed data. The service uses Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Read my full review here or watch the video below.
I really like the discount brands for multiple lines of service. Visible, Cricket and Metro by T-Mobile have all advertised unlimited plans for as low as $25 a month per line. In some cases, you may be offered a free entry-level smartphone with these plans.
Although these discount brands are owned by the major networks, the coverage maps aren’t identical. That’s why you want to enter your ZIP code on their websites to check coverage where you live and travel. This is a key step that you should take no matter which cell phone provider you end up choosing.
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile’s prepaid brands
If you don’t want to switch to one of the discount brands, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have their own prepaid brands that feature affordable data plans. They are:
- Verizon Prepaid
- AT&T Prepaid
- T-Mobile: Simply Prepaid and T-Mobile Connect
These prepaid options have become cheaper over the past year or so. For example, T-Mobile Connect now offers unlimited talk, text and 2GB of high-speed data for $15 a month, plus taxes and fees. That’s a great option for light data users.
With these prepaid plans, you pay for a month of service in advance and there are no contracts or long-term commitments. The traditional plans from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are postpaid plans, which just means that you are billed for service at the end of a cycle. Postpaid plans may require a credit check, but prepaid plans do not.
Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) provide low-cost cell phone service plans, but these companies don’t own any towers. Instead, MVNOs have agreements with one or more networks to offer wireless service. Here’s a partial list:
- Verizon MVNOs: Total Wireless, Xfinity Mobile
- AT&T MVNOs: H20 Wireless, Consumer Cellular
- T-Mobile MVNOs: Mint Mobile, Walmart Family Mobile
- All Major Networks: Straight Talk, Red Pocket Mobile
TracFone is a company that runs several of the most popular MVNOs: Straight Talk, Total Wireless, Simple Mobile, Walmart Family Mobile and more. You’ve probably seen displays for these brands at major retailers.
I’ve tested more than a dozen MVNOs over the past few years and think they’re a great way to save money. Many MVNOs offer cheap prepaid plans for people who don’t use a lot of data. But some of their unlimited plans aren’t as good as the discount brands, especially when multiple lines of service are added. If you don’t need a plan with lots of bells and whistles, MVNOs are a solid choice.
If you want to switch to an MVNO and keep your existing network, that’s certainly possible. For example, Straight Talk has partnerships with all of the major networks. You’ll be assigned one of them after entering your ZIP code and device information on its website.
Take Action: Make a list of the discount brands, prepaid brands and MVNOs that utilize the network you currently have or the network you want to switch to (Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile). If you don’t know which network is best in your area, check RootMetrics’ website. You may also want to ask community members on Nextdoor or Facebook about their experience with the major networks where you live.
2. Shop for Phone Deals
After you’ve identified a few low-cost cell phone service providers, the second step to lower your cell phone bill is to shop for phone deals.
Depending on the sales, it could take 4-6 weeks to find a great deal. I generally recommend that people switch carriers when they’re planning to upgrade to a new device.
Discount brands, prepaid plans and MVNOs run frequent sales on phones, but don’t expect the same offers that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile postpaid customers get. Those postpaid plans are more expensive, so the companies offer more attractive phone deals to lure you in.
I purchased my last two phones from low-cost carriers. Here are the offers that I got as a new customer:
- Paid full price for a Google Pixel 3a and got a $200 gift card (Visible)
- Got $200 off a Samsung Galaxy S8 (Xfinity Mobile)
Low-cost carriers are offering more phones than ever before. Some of them sell the newest Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel phones. Meanwhile, others will feature phones that cost $100 or less, both new and refurbished. There’s something for everyone if you shop around.
Although I pay for my phones in full and recommend that you do the same, many people finance their devices. Financing offers vary by provider, but many low-cost carriers let you spread out payments over 24 months with as low as 0% interest.
When I purchased the devices from Visible and Xfinity Mobile, I didn’t have to turn in an old phone to get the deal. That meant I could sell my phone online to offset the price of the new device. Decluttr is a great website to get an instant cash offer for your old phone.
Of course, you don’t have to purchase a phone directly from the carrier. You can always buy an unlocked device on eBay or elsewhere and bring it to your new wireless service provider. Before you proceed, go to the carrier’s website and check to make sure the phone is compatible.
3. Keep Your Phone Longer
Apple, Samsung, Google and other cell phone manufacturers release new models every year, but that doesn’t mean you need to upgrade on an annual basis.
If you like to have the latest and greatest technology, I think it’s fine to purchase a new smartphone when you find a deal — if you can afford it. From my experience, the best new phone offers come to those who wait a few weeks after a device is released. People lined up at the Apple store on the first day a new iPhone is available aren’t getting the lowest price.
After purchasing a device, the key is to keep that phone for at least two years. Resist the temptation to upgrade after only a year and you’ll be able to lower your cell phone bill for a longer period of time.
If you paid for your phone in full, consider setting aside $25 a month in separate high-interest savings account to fund your next device. If you do that for 24 months, you’ll have $600 saved up for when it comes time to upgrade again.
4. Protect Your Device
Cell phone service providers will try to sell you an insurance policy that costs between $10 and $15 a month, but I always decline this offer. Instead, I get free cell phone protection from my credit card company.
This is another great way to lower your cell phone bill. The best policies offered by select credit card issuers will provide up to $600 for cell phone damage or theft after a $25 deductible. Here’s my list of the best credit cards with free cell phone protection.
Not all credit cards have this benefit, but it’s worth checking out. To activate the free protection, you typically have to use your credit card to pay your monthly cell phone bill. I put my bill on auto-pay to make sure that there’s no lapse in coverage.
I haven’t needed this coverage yet, but that’s probably because I always use a phone case. That’s my second tip to protect your device.
I’ve bought plenty of cell phone cases over the years. Amazon, Five Below and T.J. Maxx are my three favorite stores to buy cell phone cases for $10 or less.
Don’t make the mistake of purchasing a cell phone case from a Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile store. Their cases are high-quality, but they could cost you $50 or more. I’ve been using the cheap cases for years and they’ve never let me down.
Most people are overpaying for cell phone service because they’re stuck with postpaid plans from the major wireless companies. But you can keep the network that you like and get cheaper service by following the strategies I’ve outlined in this guide.
- Identify low-cost carriers that use your current network or the one you want to switch to.
- Check their websites for phone sales until you find a great deal.
- Purchase a phone that you can afford and plan to keep it for two years.
- Buy a phone case and explore free cell phone protection that’s offered by select credit card issuers.
Bottom line: If you’re able to use these tips to lower your cell phone bill by $50 a month, you’ll have an extra $600 a year to show for it. That’s money that you can use to reach other financial goals like paying off debt, saving for your child’s education or funding your retirement.
Have you been able to cut your monthly cell phone bill? Share your story in the comments below!