4 Carrier Agnostic Ways to Control Your Cell Bill

2/27/2013 Unknown 0 Comments

Whenever anyone finds out I have a lot of enthusiasm and experience with the wireless industry, there are 2 questions they always ask (after the standard "Is that really your name?  I bet you get a lot of jokes about that! Har har.").  They want to know first, "What's the best phone?" which honestly, if someone asks that questions I just say "get an iPhone."  The second question is always "what's the best carrier?"

I'm not going to answer either of those questions today, though.  I don't believe there is a static answer to either.  What most people want to know is where they will get the most bang for their buck.  That answer will change on a city by city basis, because a low cost bill is irrelevant if you have terrible service.

I'm not going to cover no-contract pay as you go carriers like Boost or Straight Talk and I'm not going to break down Verizon and AT&T and compare them to Sprint.  I've read plenty of those articles and they are always hack jobs and subject to the writer's ignorance of plan pricing and structures.  Instead, I will focus on 4 ways to minimize your bill, regardless of what carrier you signed a contract with.

You do the legwork and determine who works best in your area or has service that most satisfies your needs.  I'll tell you how to get the best deal with wherever you choose.

First: Know Your Usage
The number one thing I see people suffer from is having eyes that are bigger than their usage.  Sometimes it's because of ignorance and fear of running up expensive bills by overshooting their minute allowance, something I think is an overcompensation due to fear of the days back when people would have heart attacks after opening their bill because they accidentally made an hour long pocket dial while roaming, and sometimes it's out of some weird manner of pride where someone wants to brag about how many texts they sent, or how exceptional their excessive data usage is.  It's like the people that brag about how much alcohol they can ingest before blacking out or how many wings they can eat in one sitting.  It's like, cool, here's my praise for your impractical skill.

Most carriers have free mobile to mobile and free nights and weekends.  Peak voice usage is usually both calls to other cell phones and at night, so don't think you need to splurge on your minutes and with WiFi becoming more and more universally available, the same thing goes for your data cap.  Check your usage and take a little effort to stay within it and  you will find you can reduce your flat rate monthly cost by at least $10-$20 a month.
Plan rates are not contractual anymore either, so if you know you will have an excessive month, you can call your carrier up and change your plan for just one month, or even go back date it after you have a longer than planned phone call or downloaded something over the network you meant to download over WiFi, provided you don't wait until after you've already been billed for that cycle.

Second: Know Your Available Discounts
Nearly everyone qualifies for a discount of at least 10% with most carriers, but they don't know it.  You can get a discount for where you work, where you go to school, holding a membership for somewhere like AAA or even a credit union.  Do some Googling and talk to your carrier rep, it's likely you qualify.  Some discounts go as high as 30% or even give you access to special plans or perks such as waiving activation fees or giving you additional device discounts.

Third: Automatic payments
This one's pretty straightforward.  Set up automatic payments with your carrier so your bill is always payed on time.  Late fees are somewhere around 10%, so that's another $10 or so a month you can shave off.

The second benefit of this is sometimes there's an additional discount of 5% or so from setting up your card for auto payment.  This also covers any additional credit based surcharge you will find with many carriers, which is usually about $5 if you fall into that credit category.

Fourth: Go Simple and Data Centric
This last point is another big one.  Services are moving more and more to be data specific.  Once voice over LTE is standard, there will be no reason to pay for anything other than a data bucket.  If you are willing to use Skype and Google Voice, you can already forgo paying for voice or text buckets.  I personally still use voice minutes, but all my texting is via Google Voice, which is over data, so I don't use a single text as far as my carrier knows.  This eliminates chances of me going over on texting or having to pay for a text bucket, which brings me to the second effect.
Disable premium texting. Probably half of cell phone users have an average of $3-$10 of added charges each month because they didn't read the fine print of that TV ad that said they would get a free ringtone just for sending them a text.  Premium texting allows these companies to take a text as consent to subscribe to their service.  Free MP3s, horoscopes, daily pix of Megan Fox, or whatever.  This is super shady and fortunately becoming illegal in some states, but make it easy on yourself and disable premium texting in addition to standard texting and use a data based texting app such as Google voice.

Most people will find that at least 1-2 of these are true in their case and the savings, while not super significant, can add up to enough to purchase a phone every year instead of following your upgrade eligibility, or finally splurge for a tablet, or even add an additional line to your account without changing your monthly expense.

I'm admittedly a Sprint fanboy, but I'll be the first to say, just as how no one phone is right for everyone, no one carrier is right for everyone, but everyone can find savings on every carrier.

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