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The Cellular Back Door
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Getting 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 achieve significant savings, often more than half off.


Join the "Family":
Carriers now offer competitive combinations of Calls, Texts, Data and Features that are split among all members of a "family". The big benefit is how loosely they define a family. You can join with a friend or colleague to share a plan, just make sure you agree how billing and overages will be handled. Many carriers will bill each "member" separately.

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 wireless companies.

Switch Plans - Eliminate Overages:
Possibly more than 50% 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 Data 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. Want to admit you're over 65? More inexpensive plans become available.

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.

Have You Reached a Certain Age?
Most carriers offer a special discount or special plans for customers at 65 years of age. Some of these discounts are available to the 55+ crowd.  These deals can either be for "Unlimited" plans or plans with a smaller amount of minutes or data.  Careful, you could save even more with other methods of saving money such as family plans or switching to prepaid.  You might have slipped into this age group without thinking about it, but be prepared to prove your age.  Yes, you'll get "carded".

Switch to a "Wi-Fi First" Service:
There are several carriers that try to complete your calls over Wi-Fi and failing that then will try to complete your calls on a cellular channel.  Examples of this type of service is Republic Wireless.

Look for Bundles:
Some communications companies offer "bundle" discounts for their cellular products when you subscribe to their other services.  In addition, some communications companies, not affiliated directly with a wireless carrier, offer a bundle discount with an unaffiliated wireless service tied together with one bill and a fixed rate.  These include wireline phone companies, cable operators and Internet service providers.

Switch to a Data-Only Service:
Most carriers will sell you a package that only includes wireless Data access.  When you need to make a call or text you will do it through an app that completes calls through VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) either through a data connection or Wi-Fi.  This is available from several carriers, many prepaids and 
Google Project Fi.

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. 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 Change Plans.

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.

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 FREE 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.

Switch to a Carrier That Doesn't Add Taxes or Fees:
Several carriers now absorb all taxes and fees and offer your monthly charge as a single flat fee.  Even some Prepaid carriers charge taxes and "government-imposed" fees.  Look for a new carrier that doesn't charge anything above the fixed cost.  You may need to press your new carrier to reveal all of the charges that will be added to your bill.

Watch for Special "Deals":
Some carriers will subtract a certain amount from your bill if you sign up for "Auto-Pay".  Also, watch your online account page for extra deals that may only require you agreeing to the new (lower) charge.  This may include promotions that are being offered to new customers. Watch out, making changes to your account, like changing your credit card, may cancel these deals.


Don't Pay Huge Data Roaming Rates:
Many smartphones have the ability to turn off cellular data access and use free, or cheap, Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi Calling can make regular calls through any Wi-Fi connection in the world but may use your regular calling minutes, although with no long distance charges. This can also be supplied by a "Wi-Fi First" carrier.

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 some cases you can save with your current phone and wireless carrier. See International Roaming.