The economy has led to many consumers scaling back non-essential services – but don’t count cell phones among those.
According to a recent nationwide poll of Angie’s List members, 98 percent of the respondents own a cell phone and nearly half said they feel naked without it. Reliability was the most important consideration when purchasing a phone, with the cost of the plan a close second.
While cell phone users aren’t likely to give up their means of mobile communication anytime soon, there are ways they can still save money by choosing a plan that suits them best.
Cell phone plans can be confusing and the phones themselves are becoming more complex by the day with a seemingly endless array of features. You can save money fast by minimizing bells and whistles you won’t even miss. A little pre-buying research will help you pick the phone and plan that best meet your communication – and pocketbook -- needs.
“The No. 1 thing consumers can do to save money on their monthly cell phone bill is to have a solid understanding of the terms of their contract and the features for which they are paying,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List (www.angieslist.com), the nation’s leading provider of consumer ratings on local service companies, including cell phone providers.
“Too often, people don’t know the details of their contract or even when it ends,” Hicks said. “It’s vital to compare the contract you’re in to other available options to ensure you’re maximizing the dollars you spend on cellular service. If you’re in the market for new service, choose your phones, carriers and plans wisely to fit your needs. Cell phone companies were ranked on Angie’s List as one of the top 10 worst grade earners for 2008, so while affordability is important, so too is reliability and quality service.”
Angie’s List offers 10 tips to save money on your cell phone bill:
1.) Skip the contract – If you’re not a high-volume cell phone user, a prepaid phone might be the way to go. You aren’t hit with pricey overage charges, aren’t locked into a long-term contract and you pay for only the minutes you use.
2.) Check for promotions – If you’re in the market for a new phone or carrier, check for special prices, promotions or rebates. Ask about a business discount, which some carriers offer. You can also get significant savings on the cost of a new phone if you sign a contract with a certain carrier.
3.) Understand your contract – Always read the fine print before you sign any contract. Look for hidden charges, including text messaging, activation and upgrade fees or insurance. Know when your contract ends and any early termination fees associated with canceling it. If you’re not happy with your service or want to negotiate a new contract, you should first know how much it would cost you to get out of the contract. Most providers now prorate early termination fees based on how much time you have left in a contract.
4.) Track your usage – There are multiple ways to instantly check your minutes used and available, either by going online to the provider’s website or by checking directly from your phone. Sign up for alerts that let you know if you’re about to exceed your allotted minutes. Also, review your usage monthly. If you consistently find yourself going over your allotted minutes – and paying high overage fees as a result – then it’s time to upgrade your plan. If you’re not using the minutes you’re allotted, then it might be a good time to downgrade or switch to prepaid. If you’re using a majority of your minutes calling a few select numbers, consider joining a friends and family or in-network type of plan.
5.) Eliminate unnecessary services – Analyze the breakdown of fees on your monthly bill. Are you being charged for services you don’t need or want? You can find significant savings by ridding your plan of the “extras” like ringtones, text messaging fees, Internet, roadside assistance and others.
6.) Insure it? - Talk to your provider about the cost of insurance, the coverage period, the length of the manufacturer’s warranty and any deductable. According to the poll, about one in five respondents have insurance on their phone and of those, nearly two-thirds pay less than $5 per month. However, if the insurance deductible is more than replacing a lost or damaged phone – coupled with the recurring monthly charges – you may be better off saving the insurance premium.
7.) Bundle services – Consider combining phone, Internet and cable/satellite services, which can result in discounted fees by the provider and more savings. More people have cell phones now than landlines, so if you seldom use your landline, lose it and save yourself some money.
8.) Watch those calls – Each time you dial 411, you’re being charged a premium fee, so use free options like the Internet, a free directory assistance service (there are multiple available) -- or dig out that phonebook you’re currently using as a table leg. Remember, you are charged for the minutes you use when calling a toll-free number from your cell phone. If you need to debate a charge with your credit card company, do it from a landline or during off-peak hours, so you’re not wasting valuable minutes because you’re on hold.
9.) Beware of over-texting – We’ve heard horror stories from parents who purchased a cell phone for their child only to get a bill the next month for hundreds of extra dollars because their child sent 4,000 text messages. If you plan to text a lot, sign up for an unlimited texting plan. Individual text charges add up quickly. If you don’t use text messaging, make sure you’re not being charged for it in your plan.
10.) Don’t be afraid to bargain - Keep an eye out for special promotions. Have examples of one or more competitor’s lower prices or better service deals and call the company’s consumer retention department. Record the name of the person you’re speaking with and note the date and time you called. These details will increase your credibility if you need to follow up later. Be prepared to end your service if you can’t get a better deal, but be sure it’s worth it to pay any early termination fees before you do.
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1 million consumers across the U.S. and Canada rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news.
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1 million consumers across the U.S. and Canada rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news releases.