Cell phones are a necessary means of communication these days, and it seems that the price of them is only going to continue to go up. If you’ve been wondering how to decrease your cell phone bill, you’re in the right place. Let’s consider the variety of cell phone plans, carriers, and ways to save on your monthly bill.
Cell phone plans
The cell phone plan that you choose can greatly impact the cost of your cell phone bill. Here are some of the most popular plans available today.
Prepaid cell phone plans offer a low-commitment (and often lower cost) way to have access to a cell phone. With a prepaid plan, you pay the company or provider an upfront fee monthly for your cell phone’s minutes, text, and data usage. There’s typically no contract required with a prepaid cell phone plan, so you can stop using the cell phone or switch to a different company any time that you want. Boost Mobile is a popular carrier for prepaid phones.
Is prepaid right for you?
The no-commitment aspect of prepaid plans can be a very attractive feature. However, it’s important to note that prepaid plans aren’t the best solution for everyone. If you only use your cell phone for emergencies, a prepaid plan might be right for you. It can also be a good option if you don’t use much data or any data at all with your cell phone.
Shared data plan
If you want to purchase a phone plan that covers service for more than one person, you might consider a shared data plan. These plans provide you with a set amount of data each month that can be shared among the lines on your cell phone plan. Shared data plans may also include unlimited talk and text for each line that is on the plan. Some carriers also offer mobile hotspot access at no additional charge. This allows you to use your data on other devices that are connected to your cell phone using the hotspot.
Is a shared data plan right for you?
A shared data plan may also be referred to as a family plan and can be great for families that don’t tend to use a lot of data on their cell phones. If you and your family use your cell phones to do a lot of web browsing and streaming, you should consider how much data you usually use each month. Depending on how much data your family tends to use, a shared data plan may offer enough to make it a good deal for your family.
Unlimited plans offer unlimited data in addition to unlimited talk and text. Oftentimes, cell phone companies and carriers offer additional perks to unlimited plans as well. Common perks include unlimited talk & text in other countries, as well as subscriptions to streaming services. You can add multiple lines to an unlimited cell phone plan.
Is an unlimited plan right for you?
If you and your family use a lot of data, an unlimited plan may be the right option for you. It can also be a good option if you use streaming services already or if you’re interested in some of the additional perks that are offered by unlimited plans.
Cell phone companies
When it comes to cell phone companies, you’re probably already aware of the big four — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. These are the top companies because each of them owns and operates its own national cellular network. Although 2020 shook up the cell phone world when T-Mobile acquired Sprint – so now there are three. Then, there are mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), which use one of the big four networks to provide cell phone service to its customers.
AT&T - Unlimited plans start at $65
AT&T offers plans that could fit the needs of almost any family. It offers prepaid plans starting at $35 per month with unlimited talk and text within the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Most of these plans also include voicemail access. The carrier offers three tiers of unlimited plans, with the basic plan starting at $65 for one line monthly. For each additional line added to the plan, the cost per line decreases. However, the basic plan does not include a hotspot, and lines on the basic plan may experience slower data speeds when the network is congested. The higher tiered unlimited plans come with premium data, which means that lines on those plans will not be affected by congested networks.
AT&T often offers special deals on certain phones, including a range of iPhone models. It also offers discounts to many groups of people, including military members, veterans, first responders, teachers, and nurses.
T-Mobile - Unlimited plans start at $60
T-Mobile’s prepaid phone plans start at $40/mo for a single line. This includes unlimited talk and text as well as 10GB of data and a mobile hotspot. There are also prepaid plans with unlimited data. You can add talk, text, and data to any prepaid plan for $5/mo. T-Mobile’s unlimited data plans start at $60/mo and come with unlimited hotspot data. Every unlimited plan includes access to LIVE Nation VIP Venue Perks and the higher tier unlimited plans also include a Netflix subscription.
T-Mobile allows you to add tablets and smartwatches to the higher tier unlimited plans, as well. It also offers discounts for individuals aged 55 or older, military members, veterans, and first responders.
Verizon Wireless - Unlimited plans start at $30
Verizon Wireless offers a robust range of plans that start at just $30/mo. This inexpensive plan includes unlimited talk and text and 500MB of data. Its prepaid phone plans start at just $35/mo for 5GB of data and unlimited talk and text. Prepaid plans also include a mobile hotspot and unlimited text to over 200 international destinations. Shared data plans start at $55/mo for 5GB of data.
Verizon’s unlimited plans are where the perks really start to shine. The lowest tier unlimited plan starts at just $35/mo per phone line. Even this tier includes subscription perks, offering you Disney+, Apple Music, and discovery+ for 6 months. The higher tier unlimited plans can also include subscriptions to Hulu, Apple Music, and ESPN+. Plans can be additionally purchased for tablets, smartwatches, laptops, streaming cameras, and more.
Note: In 2020, T-Mobile acquired Sprint, making the carrier and it's prepaid services obsolete.
Cricket Wireless - Unlimited plans start at $30
Cricket Wireless is one example of MVNO and uses the AT&T network, so you can expect similar coverage from this carrier as you would with AT&T. For one phone line, the least expensive option from Cricket Wireless is the plan with unlimited talk and text and 2GB of data for $30/month. However, you’ll notice that as you add more lines to the plan, the least expensive option may change. For example, if you purchase a plan with four phone lines, the least expensive plan is the unlimited one at $25/mo per line.
These plans are relatively simple and don’t come with a lot of extra perks, but can provide a great budget option for families that just want to have a reliable cell phone plan.
Amazon offers unlimited talk and text cell phone plans exclusively for Prime members. These plans don’t require a contract or even a credit check, and you can receive 10% credit back monthly on these plans. Plans are available from SIMPLE Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Tracfone. To enroll, you simply choose your favorite plan, make sure that your phone is compatible (most unlocked phones are), add the plan to your cart, and check out! A SIM card will then be mailed to you and you can follow the instructions on your phone that pop up after you install the SIM card. After purchase, you can manage your plan using your Amazon account, where you’ll find it in the Your Memberships and Subscriptions section of the website.
How to save money on your monthly bill
When budgeting for your cell phone costs, it’s important to understand your needs so you can compare plans and carriers. Ways to save:
- Number of lines. Prices can vary depending on how many phone lines are included in your plan, so there’s a chance that if you add some family members and all pitch in, you could actually end up saving money.
- Autopay. Most carriers offer an autopay feature that can save you up to $10 off of your monthly bill.
- Paperless billing. You may also be able to get a discount by enrolling in paperless billing.
- Data plans. One thing to be aware of if you don’t purchase an unlimited data plan is that if you use more than your allotted data for the month, you may be charged extra on your monthly bill. To reduce the chances of this happening, some carriers offer a feature that will warn you when you’re close to going over your data allowance.
- Wi-Fi. You can also turn wi-fi on in your phone settings and connect to wi-fi networks in your home and other trusted places. When successfully connected to wi-fi networks, your phone will use your wi-fi instead of your mobile data.
Insurance. You should also be sure that you’re not paying extra charges for things that you don’t need. For example, if you already have Apple Care, you don’t need to pay for extra phone insurance through your carrier.
Pros and cons of cell phone plans
Prepaid or shared data plans
- These are most often the least expensive option for cell phone plans.
- You can choose the amount of data that you want to be included in your plan instead of paying for an unlimited amount that you may or may not use.
- These plans don’t always include features such as mobile hotspots or coverage for talk, text, or data outside of the country.
- If you exceed your data allowance, you could be charged additional fees.
- Unlimited plans often offer additional perks such as subscriptions to streaming services.
- In some cases, adding multiple lines to the plan can actually make unlimited plans the best value option.
- Some cell phone carriers with special offers may require you to purchase a new phone to be eligible for special deals.
- Some of the lower-tiered unlimited plans that are offered by carriers may throttle your data to allow more space on the network for those with premium data plans.
The bottom line
With all of the bills that adults are dealing with today, cell phone bills are just one more thing to think about. Fortunately, there are ways that you can save on your cell phone bill without sacrificing your coverage. For some, switching to another carrier with a better deal can help you save money. For others, changing your plan to one with a lower data allowance may be beneficial.
No matter what cell phone plan you currently have, there are ways that you can look into reducing your monthly bill. Don’t hesitate to ask your carrier about discounts and savings opportunities, or you could consider switching if you’re not locked into a contract.