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How to save money on your cell phone bill by going prepaid
Most adults now own at least one smartphone, and with that ownership comes the monthly ritual of paying the bill for cellular service. Even though there are plenty of promotional discounts and deals from carriers, a recent survey from MoneySavingPro.com claims that the average individual cell phone bill in the U.S. in 2018 was $80.25 a month, up from $63.33 a month in 2010.
There’s no doubt that many people pay too much money for their monthly cell phone bill, but thankfully there are ways to cut the cost of that payment. Let’s take a look at the best methods for reducing bills. Keep in mind that not every method mentioned will be for everyone; some people may have cell phone needs that are different than others, such as the need for unlimited high-speed data.
Prepaid plans from the major carriers
One of the best ways to save money on your cell phone bill is to sign up for a prepaid plan from one of the four major carriers in the U.S. A prepaid plan is good for customers who like paying for unlocked phones, such as the OnePlus 6T, so they don’t have to pay any monthly contract or payment plans. It’s also good for consumers who want to purchase a cheaper phone, rather than spend hundreds on a flagship device.
All four major U.S. carriers offer prepaid plans to some degree. Here’s a quick look at what you can expect from these companies:
Verizon currently offers a number of different pre-paid plans, but at the moment the carrier currently has a special promotion which offers unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 15GB of LTE data for just $45 a month. That should save many people a lot of money, as most of them will not go over that 15GB of 4G data before their billing period ends.
If you need really unlimited data, Verizon also offers that option in a pre-paid plan for $65 a month. The carrier has quite a few prepaid phone options as well.
AT&T also has its own prepaid plans, including one that offers unlimited talk, text and 8GB of high-speed data for $50 a month. It also includes unlimited talk from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada, along with roaming in Mexico and Canada for talk, text, and data. If you have to have unlimited data, you can get that as well, but the price goes up to $65 a month.
T-Mobile has its own prepaid plans and the one that’s perhaps the best for the money offers unlimited talk and text in the U.S, plus 10GB of high-speed data, for $50 a month. It also includes high-speed mobile hotspot data that uses your monthly data allotment. You can add unlimited calls, text, and your plan’s data amounts in Canada and Mexico for an extra $5 a month. If you need unlimited data, T-Mobile also offers its Essentials Prepaid plan for $60 a month.
The nation’s fourth-largest carrier currently doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of prepaid plans. The only one it currently has includes unlimited talk and text, but just 2GB of high-speed data, for $40 a month. However, it does offer a $10 discount on its post-paid Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Premium plans if you bring your own unlocked phone to Sprint, so that’s something.
Sprint also has only a few limited options for prepaid phones at the moment as well.
Prepaid plans from other carriers
There are also a ton of other carriers that offer prepaid plans. These companies typically connect to one or more of the major carrier’s networks. Indeed, some of these carriers are actually subsidiary companies owned by the major networks. Let’s look at just a few of these companies and the money that you can save on your monthly cell phone bill by using one of them.
Metro by T-Mobile
The recently renamed carrier (previously known as MetroPCS) is obviously owned by T-Mobile, and uses its network. The best plan for the money from Metro by T-Mobile costs $50 a month and offers unlimited talk, text and LTE data, although your speeds may slow down if you go over 35GB of data a month. You also get 5GB of high-speed hotspot data a month with this plan, plus access to 100GB of Google One cloud storage that normally costs $1.99 a month.
This carrier uses Verizon and T-Mobile’s networks, but more importantly, it also offers tons of customized billing plans that you can select from, starting at just $4 a month. You can choose how much talk, text and data you want to pay for each month, or you can pick from the carrier’s unlimited plans, which cost between $40 to $65 a month, depending on the speed of the data downloads. It even offers the option to hold your number for just $2 a month, in case you know you won’t be using your phone for a while.
If you want to customize your plan and have access to the world’s largest network, as well as the massively growing T-Mobile, you arguably can’t do better than US Mobile.
One of the most innovative carriers, at least in terms of billing, is Mint Mobile. Instead of paying by the month, you get billed every three, six or even 12 months, depending on the plan that you pick. All of Mint Mobile’s plans include unlimited talk and text in the U.S. Our pick is the three-month plan with 10GB of LTE data per month for just $75. You will pay the equivalent of just $25 per month for this plan.
Family and shared data plan discounts
All of these prepaid plans we have mentioned before assume you are the only one paying the bill, and that you are only paying for your line. However, if you are a mother or father, you typically have to pay for lines that are used by your spouse and kids as well. It used to be that you had to pay the full monthly price for each of these extra lines, but now there are lots of family discounts that you can take advantage of from the major networks, along with many of the smaller prepaid carriers as well. You can also use shared data plans for multiple lines as well.
- Verizon – Verizon cuts the price down on its unlimited plans for each line by $5 to $10 a month if two lines are on the account, by $20 to $25 a month for three lines and by $35 a month for four or more lines.
- AT&T – On its unlimited plans, AT&T cuts the per-line monthly price down by as much as $8 a month for two lines, by as much as $21 a month for three lines and a $30 per-line discount for four lines. It also offers shared data plans for as low as $30 a month each for four lines on a plan that offers 3GB of shared LTE data.
- T-Mobile – The T-Mobile ONE unlimited plan offers discounts for extra lines as well. For four lines, you will pay just $35 a month for each line, and that price is with taxes and fees included, according to the carrier.
- Sprint – Over at Sprint, it is offering to give its Unlimited Basic users the third, fourth and fifth lines for “free”. That means that a family of five would only pay $100 a month for unlimited talk, text and data service from Sprint.
- Metro by T-Mobile – The no-contract carrier currently is offering four lines with unlimited talk, text and data for just $30 a month each, for a total of $120.
Special perks with your plans
It used to be that carriers offered just talk, text and data with their plans, but with the new popularity of Internet-based streaming video and audio services, most carriers offer ways to access one or more of them for free with your paid monthly plan. If you use one or more of these services, you could save some money from your overall monthly budget.
- Verizon – Currently, Verizon offers free access to Apple Music on iOS and Android for its Beyond Unlimited and Above Unlimited plan subscribers. Apple Music normally costs $9.99 a month. You can also get an extended six month free trial of Apple Music for Go Unlimited users.
- AT&T – Subscribers to AT&T’s Unlimited & More plan can access over 35 live cable TV channels for free, if you are in a cord-cutting mood. If you sign up for AT&T’s Unlimited & More Premium plan, you not only get access to those free TV channels, but also the choice of one of seven premium TV or music streaming plans (HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, VRV, Amazon Music Unlimited or Pandora). You could save as much as $15 a month, depending on which premium service you select.
- T-Mobile – Currently, T-Mobile is offering subscribers of its unlimited plans free access to Netflix. Specifically, you can get the standard plan, which offers two concurrent streams per account, at 1080p video resolutuion quality. Netflix just raised the price of this plan to $12.99 a month for new subscribers. T-Mobile has indicated that their free Netflix offer is sticking around until at least May 2019, but after that, there could be changes coming for this deal.
- Sprint – If you love extra free stuff, Sprint might have the best deals of all at the moment. The carrier’s Unlimited Basic Plan offers access to Hulu’s Limited Commercials tier package for free, which normally costs $5.99 a month. Sprint’s Unlimited Plus plan not only has the free Hulu subscription, but also free access to the TIDAL Premium music streaming service, which normally costs $9.99 a month. Finally, Sprint’s Unlimited Premium Plan adds not only Hulu and TIDAL but also a free subscription to Amazon Prime, which usually costs $12.99 a month. You also get free access to Lookout Premium Plus, which is a mobile security and identity theft service that typically costs $9.99 a month.
- Metro by T-Mobile – Even the prepaid Metro by T-Mobile has some nice extras for subscribers. Its $60 a month unlimited plan throws in its own free subscription to Amazon Prime, along with access to the Google One cloud storage service, with 100GB of space that normally costs $1.99 a month.
Other ways to save money on your phone bill
There are other things you can do that can shave some more bucks off your monthly smartphone bill, depending on which carrier you might use.
- Use your home’s Wi-Fi network whenever possible – If you want to use a cheaper plan that has a limited amount of 4G LTE data, it certainly makes sense to access your home’s free Wi-Fi network as much as possible.
- Sign up for Auto-Pay billing – Most carriers offer discounts of between $5 to $15 a month on their plans if you sign up for Auto-Pay, which means your bill will be paid automatically each month with no need for you to do anything. Of course, it’s up to you to make sure you have enough money in your bank account to pay the bill when Auto-Pay is used.
- Cut out phone insurance or other extra billing fees – Some carriers throw in an automatic fee for phone insurance each month. If you feel like you keep your phone safe from harm, such as getting a rugged case or a screen protector for your handset, you might want to consider asking your carrier to get rid of this insurance fee. The same goes for fees in your bill for services like GPS, roadside assistance and more.
- Check for employee, military or senior discounts – If you work for a large company, check to see if it offers bill discounts for your carrier. Also, all of the major carriers offer discounts for members of the U.S. military, along with their families and veterans. Finally, some carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint offer plan discounts for couples that are 55 years of age and older.
As you can see, if you feel that you are spending too much on your monthly cell phone bill, there are plenty of ways and plans that could reduce that cost by a considerable amount, which means more money in your bank account. Are there any other suggestions for cutting down your phone bill?