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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Are you paying too much for your phone? Here’s how to potentially save hundreds per year on your bill

This story is part of CNBC Make It's One-Minute Money Hacks series, which provides easy, straightforward tips and tricks to help you understand your finances and take control of your money.

Americans spend a lot to stay connected. In fact, the average monthly cell phone bill in the U.S. was $127.37 last year

But there are a lot of ways to bring down the cost of this necessary expense. If you haven't looked into the many types of cell phone plans in a while, it's probably worth taking the time to see if there's a cheaper option available for you now. 

The best way to save on your phone bill is to start with a phone that's paid off. If you bought the latest iPhone or Android smartphone through your carrier, a portion of your monthly bill is likely going toward that balance. If that's the case for you, it might make sense to either pay down the balance ASAP or wait until the phone is paid off before making any other moves, like switching to cheaper carrier.

Once your phone is paid off, check how much data you're using on a monthly basis. If your carrier doesn't provide this information on your bill, there are apps, such as Data Usage and My Data Tracker, that can help you monitor your usage.

If you use a lot of data, you'll probably want an unlimited plan, which can be expensive. An unlimited plan with one of the major carriers, like AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon, will set you back around $60 to $70 a month.

But budget carriers, such as Visible or Cricket, can be much cheaper. Both companies offer plans that could save you as much as half of what a major carrier would charge.

Verizon charges $70 for its basic unlimited plan, which has taxes and fees added on top of your plan price, while Visible offers a $40 monthly unlimited plan with taxes and fees baked in. That adds up to $360 in savings over the course of a year.

And finding a plan with taxes and fees included saves you even more. The Tax Foundation found that taxes, fees and surcharges made up 22.6% of the average customer's wireless bill last year. If you're spending $70 a month on a bill, that means you're likely paying an extra $15 a month in fees. 

Plans can get even cheaper if you don't need unlimited data. Mint Mobile, for example, has a 10GB plan that starts at just $20 a month. However, you have to buy the service upfront in three-month or year-long increments. 

Not a big talker? Tello allows users to build their own plan where they don't have to pay for unlimited talk. A single plan with unlimited texting, 100 minutes of talk and 8GB of data is $26 a month.

If you're hesitant to make a big change, consider changing from a traditional unlimited plan to a prepaid unlimited plan on your current carrier. 

Verizon's prepaid unlimited plan starts at $65 a month, but drops down to $50 if you stay on the plan for more than nine months. You can also get an additional $5 a month if you sign up for autopay. That means you can save about $135 a year off the list price of Verizon's $70 a month Start Unlimited plan

With that kind of savings on the table, isn't it worth at least exploring what your options are?

Check out: Meet the middle-aged millennial: Homeowner, debt-burdened and turning 40

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