Get Cheaper Wireless Service
Cellular doesn't need to be expensive, but
costs can get out of control if you're not
paying attention. The wireless companies
take advantage of this, but with some simple
steps, you can save some significant coin.
You might not need to change carriers. Our ideas are listed in order of increasing
Switch to a Better Plan:
Possibly as many as 80% of wireless customers
are on the wrong plan. You can save by switching
to a cheaper plan that more closely matches
your usage, one that includes more features
you now pay extra for, or one that includes
more minutes which keeps you from paying
expensive overages. Most carriers will help
you evaluate your usage over the past year
and tell you which plans would be best. This
is a call you can make on the way to work.
If someone in your family uses more Text
or Data than Voice, there are plans with
Data-only, or Unlimited Data with some extra
Voice minutes or Unlimited minutes to wireless
numbers. You might be able to cut the number
of "anytime" minutes needed by
adding Mobile to Mobile or Night & Weekend
minutes. If a promotional plan requires a
new 2-year contract, time it to coincide
with your next phone purchase. Want to admit
you're over 65? More inexpensive plans become
Add a Texting or Data Package:
If you're paying by the message, look into
Messaging "Packages". Also, many
people now get "family" voice packages
but don't take advantage of Family Messaging
and Data plans, which could save a lot.
Block or Limit Usage:
You can prevent the kids from downloading
too many ringtones or apps by blocking data
downloads on their, or your, account. You
can also set up warning messages that account
limits have been reached. Some carriers offer
these usage controls for free, others charge
as much as $5 per month, but it may be well
worth it. Some of these features can be set
up and changed online.
Your Employer, School or Organization Might
Get You a Discount:
If you work for a large company, government
agency or university, you probably qualify
for a discount, as much as 25%. This may
include phones for yourself and all your
family. Check our Employee Discount Page or ask your personnel department (instead
of the boss), sometimes the carrier will
help you look. It may require a change of
Cancel Unused Features:
The most common unused product is handset
insurance. Unless you have really bad luck,
insurance won't pay off when phone replacement
still may cost you up to a $125 deductible.
Most wireless companies will give you a deal
on a new phone just for re-upping for another
2 years. You also may have an old plan that
charges extra for features like long distance,
or does not include mobile to mobile calls.
You may be better off dropping long distance
if you make few long distance calls, or see
Use Broadband for Your Calls:
There are several apps that allow you to
use services like Google Voice for both incoming
and outgoing calls. At the simplest you can
just access your voice mail features while
some services actually let you make and receive
calls. Texting can be as easy as using email. This saves you money when you have a "data-only"
plan, have used up your monthly allotment
of minutes, or you're roaming in a foreign
or high-priced area. A wi-fi connection to
your phone makes it even cheaper, or free.
Change Your Billing Address:
Change your address to one in a state or
municipality that charges a lower tax. California
has very high cell phone taxes, Nevada is
among the lowest, especially outside Clark
County. You might just change from one city
in your state to another, or to a location
in an unincorporated area. You can choose
to receive an e-statement from your carrier
and you can enter a hotel address in your
chosen location. You should not need to change
your phone number unless you choose a location
out of your carrier's coverage area. Make
sure your savings is worth the effort.
Government Support and Subsidies:
Most wireless carriers offer a government-subsidized
"Lifeline" or "Link-Up"
service at a significantly reduced cost.
Lifeline support lowers the cost of basic,
monthly local telephone service and can be
Free or just a few dollars per month. An
eligible customer may receive the Lifeline
discount on either a wireline or wireless
connection but the discount is available
for only one account per household. Qualifying
programs are either determined by each state's
Public Utility Commission or the federal
Lifeline/Link-Up program. Some states and
U.S. territories do not provide state-funded
discounts, but in most cases, an individual
is eligible if he or she participates in
any one of several public-assistance programs.
Get more on our $1 Wireless Page.
Say You're Leaving:
Carriers are doing more to retain customers
now. Ask your current carrier if they can
give you an incentive to stay put. You'll
need to be out of contract to be serious,
but there are ways to get out of your contract. Being transferred to the "cancellation
department" is where you'll get the
incentives. If you decide to actually leave,
see How to Switch.
Check Out the Competition:
All carriers have a lot of different plans
and a bunch of incentives to get you to leave
your old carrier, including the fact that
you can take your current wireless number with you. Don't leave while still under contract.
You might find a plan that fits your usage
better. Don't forget the competition includes a lot
of smaller cellular carriers that can save you substantially. MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless offer Unlimited features for as much as
half the cost of the top 4 carriers. Some
very local companies can offer surprisingly
affordable service. Check their maps to make
sure you won't get surprise roaming charges. Also see How to Switch.
Switch to Prepaid:
You may be able to use your current phone
or carrier and start paying by the minute
instead of by the month. There are choices
among the major carriers as well as substantial
deals among prepaid-only companies like TracFone who offer nationwide coverage. See the Guide to Switching to Prepaid.
Watch Your Minutes:
Nearly every carrier has a code, often *MIN,
sometimes available through "611",
that tells your remaining balance, to help
you avoid overage charges. Use the code and
know your billing date and if you get close
to your maximum, think about using your work
phone or home landline more for a few days.
Some carriers now offer an alert to tell
you when you're getting close to your plan
Don't Pay Huge Data Roaming Rates While Traveling
Outside the Country or Off Your Home Network:
Many Smart phones have the ability to turn
off cellular data access and use free, or
cheap, wi-fi. T-Mobile phones can make regular calls through any
wi-fi connection in the world but will use
your regular calling minutes, although with
no long distance charges.
Don't Overpay for International Calls:
Some carriers, like TracFone, offer free international calls to a number
of countries. Others, like Metro PCS, provide unlimited international calls for
a set fee. You can also use the wi-fi features
of some phones to use service like Skype,
and even using the Skype app on some Verizon Wireless phones does not incur long distance charges
even on calls made through the Verizon network.
You can also program a prepaid calling card
code in to your phone book. There are several
inexpensive international long distance services
available through your phone's broadband connection.
Don't Overpay for Roaming Outside the US:
There are lots of options for
using a wireless
phone in foreign countries. In
you can save with your current
wireless carrier. See International Roaming.