7 Ways to Save Money on Cell Phone Plans

Don’t pay more than you have to for your cell phone plan! Here are seven ways to save money on cell phone plans, including how to get free phone insurance!

These tips are so smart! Don't pay more than you have to for your cell phoneWhen I was 16, I received my first cell phone for Christmas. It was a small, Nokia phone that was in black and white, and the only game it had was snake. I had to buy minutes and texts for it. But I loved it. I was so excited to have a phone of my own!

Well, over the past eight or nine years since I bought it, I’ve gone through plenty of phones and worked with many different cell phone companies. I’ve gotten into fights with sleezy cell phone sales people (the main one being when I was eight months pregnant and NOT in a good mood), gotten great deals, and really learned the ins and outs of the cell phone world. A few times, I have had someone at a cell phone store tell me I should work there, because I really know my stuff.

So, I thought I’d share a few of my “secrets” here today. Fortunately, in the recent months, cell phone plans ahve dropped significantly and continue to do so. It’s a pretty intense market, and all the networks are constantly trying to win over other company’s customers, typically in our benefit. However, there are still a few ways to decrease your monthly bill and the prices you pay for phones. Here are a few ways to save on your cell phone plan!

1) Student and Corporate Discounts

This is probably the easiest way to save on your monthly cell phone bill. You don’t really have to twist any arms or be a good negotiater. Many companies and universities have partnered with various cell phone providers to give customers a certain discount off their monthly bill. When I attended BYU, we got, I believe around 12 percent off. Depending on the company, it may waive all activation fees.  If you are working or going to school, be sure to check with your cell phone company to see if you qualify for a discount!

2) Buy phone somewhere else (or a prepaid one)

Whether you are signing up for a new plan, or due for an upgrade, buying your phone can be quite the financial investment. While some plans include a “free” phone, many companies are migrating away from the contact plans that include these, and you can either purchase them on a payment plan, or straight out. While this can be convenient, the best deals are not always found in store.

While I’ve bought my fair share of cell phones directly from the company I’m with, I’ve also bought them from various other sources for cheaper. I’ve had a lot of success with Craigslist, EBay, and even Best Buy. There are also cell phone stores that sell used phones for cheaper prices. While you have to exercise some caution when buying from some of these sources, you can save a bundle!

One cell phone company rep advised us to buy a phone from the pre-paid phone section. These were actually significantly cheaper. You can typically find these at Target, Walmart, and Best Buy. Just make sure it’s compatible with your network!

2) Skip the “extras”

As soon as you upgrade your phone or start a new plan, you’ll be bombarded with all sorts of “extras.” The rep will most likely tell you how you can’t live without them, but I assure you, you can. My friend, Anita, wrote a great post about how cell phone insurance is not worth it, and I would have to agree! I’ve always been fine without any additional insurance from the company. However, if you are worried about insurance, here is another couple options:

  • My brother-in-law clued me into an awesome service Wells Fargo offers — if you pay your monthly bill using your Wells Fargo Credit Card, you can get up to $600 of protection (with a $25 deductible) against damage, theft, etc., for free. I’m not sure if other banks offer this, but it’s definitely something to consider doing. Some companies also offer the option to upgrade early for an additional fee. Not worth it! There are tons of different optional services your company may offer you but think twice before you say yes. You most likely can do without it!
  • SquareTrade is a very popular protection plan company. They offer protection for phones, tablets, cameras, laptops…pretty much all electronics! The deductibles are significantly cheaper and so are the monthly plans.
  • LoJack offers reasonably priced protection plans as well

3) Family Plans

Simply put, the more people you have on your cell phone plan, the less you’ll end up paying. Most companies offer some kind of family plan and discounts for adding additional lines. I share a plan with my parents, my brother, and, of course, Forrest. It’s a lot cheaper for us than if Forrest and I had our own cell phone plan. If you do this, just fine some trustworthy friends and family and divvy it up from there!

A lot of companies are coming out with great ways to save on Family Plans. We are on a family plan with T-mobile, which is very affordable. We have five people on it, and I believe the total is $120 (plus taxes.)

4) Negotiate

The thought of negotiating can really make some people sweat, but with cell phone companies, there is almost always room for negotiation. I’ve heard (and experienced myself) stories of companies completely waiving certain fees, giving a few months free of some type of service, or throwing in free accessories, just because the customer was adament about their cause. Whether you are on the phone or in person, the key is working with a manager! Some things are non-negotiable, but in the past, we’ve gotten free data for a month or two, activation fees waived, and more!

I always get free accessories when I get a new phone. Always. Sometimes the reprensentative will just throw them in, or sometimes I’ll just say, “So, anything you can throw in for free.” It works every time!

5) No contract plans

No contract plans are becoming very popular with companies nowadays. You don’t get a free phone with them, like contracted plans offer, but they are quite a bit cheaper and offer much more flexibility. On contracted plans, if you leave the company before the contract is up, you have to pay a hefty fee. However, with non-contract plans, you can really leave at any time (though if you have a payment plan on your phone, you’ll have to pay it off) if you find another deal!

6) Double check everything (and get everything in writing)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, not all cell phone sales people are honest. This is definitely not the case all of the time, but I’ve run into a few swindlers every now and then who will say anything to make a sale. We’ve had some “promise” us things, only to discover that the promotion or deal they gave us wasn’t applied to our account. And, unfortunately, if you don’t have something in writing, you don’t have much of a case. So if you are getting a special deal on something, get it in writing, make a couple of copies of it, and insist that they put a note in your account.

If you do make a change on your account, be sure to find out (if you are under contract) if it extends your contract. You may end up with a good deal but for longer than you may have wanted.

Always check your bill — we’ve had many, many times where we’ve had unexpected charges show up, and it almost always wasn’t our fault. If we hadn’t paid attention, we could have easily paid $10-20 more than we needed to!

7) Go back later

Cell phone plans and prices change constantly. While you may have found a great plan today, it may even be better next week, or next month. If you aren’t in a big rush, take your time — you never know when you’ll save $20 bucks for waiting.

I think the biggest place you can save money by going back is on the actual purchase of your phone. Cell phone companies switch out the available phones on a pretty regular basis. If you go in when the newest phones were just released…you aren’t going to get a very good deal. However, if you go when they are starting to clear out stock, you can get a great deal. For instance, a few months ago, Forrest was in the market for a new phone. We went into T-Mobile and almost all the phones were in the $500-700 range. The rep told us that the prices weren’t going to drop at all. However, I knew that wasn’t true, so we left. We came back a month later, and guess what? Some of those phones that “weren’t going to drop in price” were below $400. It was worth waiting for.

Bonus: End of Contract?

When you are nearing the end of your contract, that’s usually the best time to get great deals. I’ve found this to be true with so many companies — cell phones, television, Internet….they don’t want you to leave! If you are thinking about leaving the company, it’s worth calling to ask about different specials or discounts they can offer you. If they think you are going to leave, they will often go to great lengths to keep you. One secret — always ask for the retentions department.

Bonus Two:

Be sure to check out my post on how to make and save money with your smart phone! These tips could help you pay for your bill, plus some!

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10 Comments

    • Ugh, that's the worst! I'm sorry! Sometimes I wish some companies would actually act like they liked and appreciated their customers!
  • Hi, great article! Can you tell me who did the artwork for your blog header, please? (I tried to use the "contact us" feature, but it kept popping to the ebates page instead, making it impossible to fill in the spaces.) Thanks! corinne
    • Yikes, thanks for letting me know about the contact box! Just fixed that. We actually got the pictures from a site called shutterstock.com. My husband changed the color of the hair and shirt though :)
  • I am joining from the Frugal Friday Link Up Party. I have been on a prepaid plan for years. I get phones that are refurbished to save money if something happens to my phone. I got an awesome deal on a phone through EBAY. Super cheap and is a great smart phone. These are great tips.
    • That is such a great tip! I remember I used to get phones on Ebay as well. I haven't done that in a long time, but maybe I should look into it again! I'm glad you liked the post :)
  • Great tips! To add onto number 4, I agree that negotiating is a hassle and a little uncomfortable. BillCutterz will call cell phone companies on your behalf and negotiate for the lowest bill possible. If no money is saved, nothing is owed from you. And if we do save you money, we'll split the savings with you. Just thought I'd let you know, it's a great service!

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