Have you ever opened your cell phone bill and thought, “Wow, that was cheap?” Yeah, didn’t think so.
But take heart: It’s possible to lower your charges before your next billing cycle.
Simple tweaks, such as updating your service address and changing or removing your insurance package can make small dents in your bill — and those savings add up over time. Changing your plan or even adding a line requires a little more legwork but can decrease your bill even more.
1. Change your plan
Goldilocks could relate to most cell phone users, who often struggle to find data plans that are just right. Often you pay for data you don’t need, or you don’t have enough data and you’re hit with overage charges.
Finding a plan that hits the sweet spot can save you hundreds of dollars each year. But before switching, figure out how much data you use. Take stock of your data use for the past three months, then research plans that fit that amount through your carrier and its competitors.
Make this a habit to ensure you’re always getting the best deal. Keep in mind that wireless carriers change their plans regularly. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile have all overhauled theirs in 2016. So the best cell phone plan for you a year ago might not be the best now.
Verizon added rollover data to its new plans and eliminated overage charges on some data packages. AT&T rolled out new plans in August that include more data for less money. AT&T also eliminated overage charges and added data options.
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- Stay on top of due dates, automatic payments, and over-spending
- Make sure you have enough money set aside to cover your bills
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2. Add lines
This seems counterintuitive, because adding one or more lines will increase your bill. But splitting the cost with other people can lower the amount you pay overall.
Consider this: One line with 4 gigabytes from Verizon costs $70. Add a second line to that plan and your total cost is $90, or just $45 per person, before taxes and fees. That’s a savings of $300 per year per line.
Even if you bumped up to Verizon’s 8GB plan to accommodate the second line, you’d still pay just $55 per person per month before taxes. That’s a savings of $15 per month.
|Cost for one line||Cost for two lines||Total savings (family plan vs. individual plan)|
|AT&T||$60 per month (3GB)||$100 per month (6GB), $50 per line||$10 per month, per line|
|Sprint||$50 per month (3GB)||$85 per month (6GB), $42.50 per line||$7.50 per month, per line|
|T-Mobile||$50 per month (2GB)||$80 per month (2GB per line), $40 per line||$10 per month, per line|
|Verizon||$70 per month (4GB)||$110 per month (8GB), $55 per line||$15 per month, per line|
That’s because Verizon charges a set fee for your data plan and $20 for each line on the account. The same is true for most AT&T and Sprint plans. And larger plans typically give you more data for your money.
3. Change or remove your cell phone insurance
Most cell phone carriers offer a variety of protection plans. Your options can include extended warranties, insurance and full-blown 24/7 tech support for any Bluetooth-enabled device in your home. If the latter sounds excessive, that’s because it is.
In most cases, standard insurance provides more than enough coverage. It protects you if your phone is lost, stolen or damaged. It’s also the least expensive option available through your wireless carrier.
Switching from a premium protection plan to basic insurance coverage will save you a few dollars each month. That might not seem like a lot, but it can add up, especially if you have multiple lines on your plan.
AT&T customers can save $36 a year by switching from the carrier’s Mobile Protection Pack, which costs $10.99 per month, to its Mobile Insurance, which costs $7.99 per month. That’s $144 in savings per year for a family of four.
Remove the Mobile Protection Pack without switching, and the savings for a single AT&T line climbs to more than $130 per year. This could be risky if you have a brand-new phone, but it can make sense for older devices. That’s because insurance providers for major cell phone carriers typically charge deductibles ranging from $100 to $300.
After about a year, the deductible and the accumulated monthly premiums add up to more than the phone is worth. At that point, you can typically save money by opting out of insurance and buying a used phone if yours is lost or stolen.
If forgoing a policy makes you feel vulnerable, consider an alternative, such as AppleCare+ or SquareTrade. Either option can save you more than $180 over two years on a premium protection package and even more if you make a claim. The drawback: Neither covers lost or stolen phones.
4. Update your service address
The taxes and fees added to your bill each month are based on where you live. If you’ve moved to a new state, or someone on your family plan has, you could save big just by updating your service address.
A person who moves from Washington state to Oregon would save an average of $170 per year in wireless taxes and fees, according to a June 2016 NerdWallet study. Migrating from Illinois to Wisconsin? You’d pocket $103.72 in savings on average. Those figures are based on an individual cell phone bill; the savings would be greater on a family plan.
Updating your service address is easy. In most cases, you simply log in to your account and change it under your user profile, just as you would for your billing address.
Each of these options on its own can give you quick relief on your cell phone bill, and you can combine them for larger savings. If you’re open to a bigger change for bigger savings, consider a prepaid cell phone plan.
NerdWallet has partnered with BillShark, a company that can help save you money by negotiating your bills for you. If BillShark determines that you’re already getting the best rates, there’s no cost to you.