The Ultimate Guide to Saving Money on Your Phone Bill: Choosing the Right Cell Phone Provider


How to Save Money on Your Phone Bill

Cell phone plans are tricky, especially if you’re in contract and have payments on your phone. It becomes even more complicated if you have a family plan. Is it really worth it to change cell phone plans?

Here’s the thing, you can try to pinch pennies, but it’s most effective to make changes on the bigger, consistent ticket items like insurance, unused subscription services, and your cell phone bill.

As a Money Coach, I consistently see so many clients spending a lot more on their phone bill than they have to. By freeing up money, you’re able to fund the things that align with your values and bring you life. That’s why it’s worth investigating phone options.

There used to be less than a handful of options, and now there are over 870 cell phone companies in the U.S. Oh, the choices! How do you know what would work best?

Here’s the deal: there are 3 major cell phone companies: Verizon, AT&T, & T-Mobile. Yep, we all know them (and see plenty of commercials). Then there are MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators). MVNOs are smaller providers that lease network coverage from the major carriers.

Here’s a quick comparison chart of all 3 major cell phone carriers:

Verizon Wireless is renowned for its extensive coverage across the United States. While their plans tend to be more expensive compared to other providers, they offer reliable service and a wide range of features. Their plans often include unlimited talk and text, with varying data options to suit different usage patterns.

AT&T is another major player in the cell phone provider market. Like Verizon, AT&T offers extensive coverage and a range of plans to suit different needs. Their unlimited plans are competitively priced, particularly for individuals or families who require multiple lines. AT&T also frequently offers promotional deals, such as discounted rates or bundled services, which can help you save money.

T-Mobile is known for its aggressive pricing strategies and innovative offerings. They offer various plans, including unlimited options, at more affordable rates compared to Verizon and AT&T. T-Mobile’s plans often include additional perks like free Netflix subscriptions, international data roaming, and hotspots. However, it’s important to consider their network coverage, as it may not be as widespread in rural areas.

Best Advise for choosing one of the Big Three

  1. If you want to stick to a major carrier, make sure that you ask for all the possible discounts available. Many carriers will pay off your phone and cover the cost to end your contract to get you as a customer.
  2. Make sure you get all the benefits possible. You are paying for extra add-ons and services; don’t forget to use them.
  3. Read the fine print. They often have added fees and charges that they tack on. Read your monthly statements with a fine-tooth comb, especially at the beginning of a contract.

If you’d rather not go with any of the major carriers, you have so many good options. Some of the best ways to save on your phone bill is to go the MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) route. Popular MVNOs include Mint Mobile, Boost Mobile, and Cricket Wireless.

Why you can save more with MVNOs:

  • You buy the coverage you need.
  • There aren’t fancy add-ons like Netflix, Tidal, Disney+ etc.
  • You pay for the bare-bones coverage.
  • If you pay multiple months for some plans, you get additional discounts.
  • They have less advertising costs, giving you more savings.
  • They lease network coverage, so they don’t have the additional costs that bigger networks have.
  • You can apply for additional savings if you’re low-income.
  • No contracts make it easy to switch plans whenever you want without penalties.

Drawbacks of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs):

  • Many plans limit data usage.
  • Most don’t cover the cost of a phone.
  • During peak times, you may have slower data speeds.
  • Can feel like a riskier option using a smaller carrier.
  • You can’t go into a store for support (it’s either online or by phone except for Cricket Wireless).

The hard part is choosing from the 870+ options out there. I simplified this for you by choosing the most popular alternative for your current carrier.

Best Advice for choosing a Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)

  1. Determine your data usage. The first thing you should do before you look into any MVNOs is to see how much data you are actually using. You can do this by looking at your recent bills from your current provider. This really is the best way to figure out your data usage trends. You can also look at your phone settings under cellular data, but it isn’t as accurate.

    The average cell phone user uses 5.6GB of data according to 2021 statistics. That’s the most up-to-date study to go off of. Once you have an idea of how much data you’ll need, you can then start looking at the different options available.
  2. Paying off your phone. The next thing you need to do is find out if your phone is paid off. You can consider changing to a larger carrier such as Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T. They may be able to pay off your current carrier when you switch. They often use that as an incentive to switch to their services. Make sure you weigh the long term outcomes of this. You can also pay off your phone the old-fashioned way.

    3. Buying a phone. If you need or want to purchase a newer phone moving forward, there are companies like that are a great option. We’ve personally used Gazelle and saved half on a gently used phone. If you’re going to put a case on the phone anyway, a tiny scratch doesn’t really matter (but the savings add up).

Let’s start with Verizon alternatives:

The three most popular alternatives are Visible, Total, and Straight Talk. Visible and Total are both owned by Verizon. Straight Talk has so many different options (kind of like the Cheesecake Factory).

Visible is a subsidiary brand of Verizon that operates as an MVNO, utilizing Verizon’s extensive network infrastructure. Visible offers unlimited plans with no contracts, no hidden fees, and transparent pricing. Their aim is to provide customers with high-quality connectivity at a more affordable price point without extra frills.

Data speeds are capped at 5 Mbps, which is sufficient for most everyday tasks, but may result in slower streaming or large file downloads. Visible, being an online-only service, offers customer support primarily through their website and online chat.

Total by Verizon offers a comprehensive solution for customers seeking a single provider for their wireless, internet, television, and home phone services. While bundling services can lead to cost savings, Total by Verizon may not be the most cost-effective option for everyone.

Depending on your specific needs, you might find that individual plans from different providers offer better value. Total may lack the flexibility to customize services to your exact requirements, which can add up to unnecessary expenses.

One of the significant advantages of Straight Talk Wireless is its cost-effective prepaid plans. With no contract obligations or credit checks, you have the flexibility to choose from a variety of plans. Straight Talk Wireless offers transparent pricing with no hidden fees or overage charges. This simplicity in billing can help you budget effectively and avoid unexpected expenses.

The major drawbacks to Straight Talk are data throttling, customer support, and video streaming quality. After you reach a certain amount of high-speed data usage, your internet speed will be reduced for the rest of the billing cycle.

Some customers have complained about the wait time and the lack of experience of the representatives when needing support. Straight Talk Wireless limits video streaming quality to 480p (DVD quality) by default. If you prefer higher-resolution streaming or enjoy watching content on larger screens, this limitation might be a downside. However, this restriction can be bypassed by using Wi-Fi or opting for a separate streaming service.

Top Three T-MOBILE Alternatives

Here are the top 3 T-Mobile alternatives: Mint Mobile, Boost Mobile, and Google Fi. These are cheaper than Verizon alternatives and have different monthly plans. You can get bigger discounts on Mint and Boost if you buy longer month plans. If you’re an I-phone user, Google Fi is not a good option for you.

Mint Mobile offers competitive plans with significant savings, making it a popular choice among budget-conscious users. All Ryan Renolds fans will love his Mint Mobile commercials. With flexible terms ranging from three months to a year, Mint Mobile provides various data options and unlimited talk and text. T-Mobile’s coverage has improved, but there may be some weak or no signal areas, especially in rural or remote locations.

Boost Mobile, part of the T-Mobile network, offers value-packed plans with unlimited data, talk, and text. Their plans include features like mobile hotspot and international calling options, making it a versatile choice for individuals with specific requirements. Make sure to check Boost Mobile’s coverage in your area, especially if you live in rural or remote regions, to ensure it meets your needs.

Google Fi operates on a network that combines the coverage of multiple carriers, ensuring strong connectivity. They offer flexible plans where you pay only for the data you use. Additionally, Google Fi provides international coverage at no extra cost in over 200 countries. Google likes their own stuff and gives the best experience to Google phone users.

Three Alternatives for AT&T

AT&T Alternatives are Good2Go, FreeUP, and Criket Wireless. Cricket Wireless is the most recognized from this group and is one of the few MNVO’s that have physical stores. Good2Go and FreeUP have the same owner Ztar Mobile.

Good2Go Wireless offers no-contract, budget-friendly plans that can fit various budgets. Whether you’re a light or heavy mobile user, you can find a plan that suits your specific needs without breaking the bank. This affordability makes it an attractive option for individuals or families looking to manage their wireless expenses more effectively.

Like other providers, Good2Go Wireless may throttle data speeds after reaching a certain usage threshold during peak times. Some customers have reported mixed experiences with Good2Go Wireless customer support.

FreeUp Wireless offers no-contract plans and a discounted rate. They have a unique data rollover feature, allowing you to carry over unused data from one month to the next. This can be advantageous if your data usage fluctuates or if you want to maximize your data. With data rollover, you can avoid wastage and ensure that you have data available when you need it most.

Again, the drawbacks are very similar to most MVNO’s: limited network coverage, data speed throttling, and not amazing customer support. Good2Go and FreeUp are owned by the same company.

The most well-known of these three phone providers is Cricket Wireless. Cricket is a prepaid wireless service provider that operates on the extensive network of AT&T. By leveraging AT&T’s infrastructure, Cricket Mobile offers reliable coverage and a wide range of plans designed to meet different usage needs. Their commitment to affordability and flexibility has made them a popular choice among consumers seeking cost-effective mobile solutions.

Cricket Mobile’s plans come with a range of features to enhance the user experience. These may include mobile hotspot usage, unlimited international texting, and international calling options. Customers can choose from various plan options based on their specific requirements, including data-only plans or plans with high-speed data allowances. Cricket Mobile also offers add-ons such as additional high-speed data, international calling minutes, and device insurance. They also have physical stores you can go to for in-person support.

Finding the Right Phone Plan: Saving Money Without Compromising Quality

Choosing the right cell phone provider can make a huge impact on your budget and overall satisfaction with your phone service. With the ever-increasing number of options available, it’s crucial to make an informed decision that aligns with your needs.

If you’d prefer to stick with major carriers like Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile, make sure you take advantage of all possible discounts and benefits. Carefully read the fine print in your contract to avoid unexpected fees and charges.

Opting for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) can be a great way to save money while still enjoying reliable coverage. These smaller providers offer more cost-effective plans and the flexibility to switch whenever you want without penalties. However, be mindful of potential drawbacks such as limited data usage, slower speeds during peak times, and lack of physical stores for support.

Before you make a decision, determine your data usage and weigh out your options. Think about whether you need a new phone or if your current one is already paid off. Also consider if you want extra features like international calling or mobile hotspots.

Ultimately, by making an informed choice, you can free up more money to invest in things that align with your values and bring fulfillment to your life.

Written By Amberlee Rich

Amberlee is a Money Coach, content creator, podcaster, and avid reader who is passionate about intentional living. She's a recovering couponing addict and aims to help others break free from survival mode. With her husband, James, they're certified financial coaches and have been helping people experience joy with their money for over 15 years.

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