5 tips to save on cell phone service

Save on your cell phone bill by searching for the best plan for your needs and using tactics like replacing data with Wi-Fi. Spend less on cell phone service with these tips.

Save on cell phone service with these 5 cost-cutting tactics

The days of getting a deeply discounted phone with a two-year cell phone contract are over. Today, wireless carriers offer a wide range of plans—while allowing you to buy your phone outright, finance a phone purchase or use a phone you already own. The trick is finding the best cell plan for your needs at the lowest cost.

Tip 1: Seek out savings by negotiating with your current wireless carrier

Start with your existing wireless carrier. If you think you are paying too much for phone service, it never hurts to ask your carrier if there's any way they can lower your bill.

Your current carrier wants to keep you as a customer, so they will be highly inclined to work with you and find a mutually agreeable solution. The trick is to ask, rather than demand, if there's anything they can do.

Cell phone plans are changing all the time as wireless carriers race to out-compete one another. Your provider may have a new plan that's a better value—or be willing to provide a special promotional offer usually reserved for new customers. You won't know if you don't ask.

Tip 2: Slash your monthly phone bill with a low-cost MVNO

MVNOs, or mobile virtual network operators, are a secret that many of the big wireless carriers don't want you to know about. MVNOs don't operate their own networks. Instead, they pay to access the big carriers' networks—then resell that service to consumers. In fact, there are MVNO’s that access networks with the four big carriers. To find out if there are MVNO brands on your carrier network of choice, simply search for it online.

Because MVNOs don't have to spend money on network construction or maintenance, you can get MVNO service at a big discount to conventional phone service. Some MVNOs offer voice, text and data for $40 a month or less.

MVNO plans tend to be pretty bare-bones. There are definite pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Great cell service
  • Huge cost savings
  • Easy setup (just insert a SIM card into your phone)
  • The flexibility to bring your own phone

Cons:

  • Not the latest smartphones
  • Limited support options
  • May not be able to pay for a new phone in installments

If you don't require in-person help at a retail store or the latest and greatest smartphones, an MVNO can be a great choice.

Tip 3: Cut back on data use and move to a lower plan tier

Today, most cell phone providers offer multiple tiers of service based on data consumption. A quick and easy way to cut your cell phone bill is to move to a plan tier with less data.

This step may require you to cut back on your data use—but consuming less data doesn't have to be difficult:

  • Check your account summary to see how much data you are using on a monthly basis – you may already being paying for a plan that is beyond the amount of data you use.
  • You can also make an effort to use Wi-Fi as often as possible to significantly reduce your data consumption.

Many public places provide free Wi-Fi, and your phone can be set to automatically connect to networks it recognizes. Aim to hop from one Wi-Fi hotspot to another when you're in public, while also making an effort to use your phone less often when you're not on Wi-Fi. Free apps can help you monitor your monthly data consumption so you stay on track.

Tip 4: Avoid upfront device charges with a phone financing plan

Another way to make your phone service more affordable: Spread out the cost of your device across 12 or 24 months rather than paying the full cost upfront.

Many cell phone carriers offer these kind of phone financing plans. Often, you'll be charged no interest when you finance a phone through your wireless carrier—but you can expect to be locked to that carrier until your phone is fully paid off.

Some device manufacturers also offer phone financing at 0% interest, but good credit may be needed to qualify.

Third-party phone financing providers may also be an option: one that gives you more freedom and portability. Keep in mind that you will pay interest when you finance a phone through a third party.

Tip 5: Identify free services that can supplement your cell phone

You don't always need a smartphone to stay connected. Video services like Skype and Google Hangouts and messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger make it simple to keep up with friends, family and business associates.

These tools will work on nearly any device with an internet connection. It's possible to have a seamless video chat on your Windows laptop with someone thousands of miles away on an Android phone.

Plus, many of these web-based services allow big groups to connect all at once. You can keep up with distant family members—or friends you haven't seen in person for years—in multi-person text or video chats.

Best of all, web-based communication tools are almost always free to use. You may find that they can totally replace your cell plan's voice or text functionality!

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