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Why it's time to choose a cheaper phone plan



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See if your carrier offers a cheaper plan. If not, consider taking your business elsewhere.


Angela Lang / CNET

Looking for ways to reduce spending? Consider a cheaper phone plan. Because if you spend most of your time at home, you probably don't need an expensive unlimited plan – not when you have Wi-Fi.

Not everyone understands this concept, so let me explain. Most activities you do on your phone – download apps, stream music and video, check emails and Twitter – depend on data. And with more phones supporting Wi-Fi calls, many of your "voice calls" are actually routed as data as well. There are two ways to get it: cell towers and Wi-Fi. The cell tower provides data when you are out in the world, walking around, riding in cars, sitting on trains and so on. Wi-Fi gives you data at home and in the office, although most of us obviously don't spend any time in the latter right now.

So if you're mostly at home, and you have high-speed internet with the permission of your cable provider, guess what? You hardly even need a data plan for your phone. And that means you might be able to save a lot of money.

Read more: The best phones under $ 200

Here are the big questions:

  • What are you paying now?
  • Does your current carrier offer cheaper plans?
  • Is your phone paid, unlocked and can you easily change carriers?
  • What cheaper plans are available elsewhere?

What are you paying now?

If you subscribe to a Big Four carrier like AT&T or Verizon, you probably have an unlimited plan – which can cost you as much as $ 70- $ 80 per month. (You may also pay for your phone, in which case the exchange becomes more complicated.)

But even if you have a smaller operator, like Cricket or Boost Mobile, and pay $ 40- $ 50 a month, you still have the potential to save a lot.

The key is to find out what your current monthly plan costs and what is included in it. Then contact your operator to see if there are cheaper alternatives. Don't worry about giving up a big or unlimited data plan; Remember, you get all the information you need at home as part of your Internet subscription. You can always switch back later if needed.

But downshifting can cause you to lose various premium benefits, like free Netflix or HBO. You have to weigh the cost of these versus what you stand to save.

Read more: 10 free Netflix options

What can you pay for?

Again, if you "If you've been a Big Four carrier for a while, you might be surprised to discover how cheap cell service can be elsewhere. There's already a good list of them in the cheapest the phone plans you can get today but here are some that are especially less data friendly:

Carrier Minimum per month [19659024] Network (s) Notes
Tello $ 5 [19659028] Sprint You can skip the data completely but add it when needed.
TextNow $ 0 Sprint [19659029] No data, but free calls and messages even if you are not connected to Wi-Fi.
Ting $ 6 Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon No flat rates; instead, you pay for minutes, messages and data that you use every month.

Before changing to another operator, make sure your phone holds the switch you must unlock it and it must work with the network you are moving to.

Some phones are unlocked directly from the gate, but check with your current operator to determine the model's status. If it is unlocked, the operator will usually take care of it for you – excluding any requirements associated with your current plan.

In terms of networks, AT&T and T-Mobile rely on GSM technology; Sprint and Verizon use CDMA. Most newer phones support both of these; Some older models are limited to one or the other. If your only works on GSM networks and you want to move to, say, Tello, you can't, because Tello is a Sprint / CDMA carrier.

As I said, there is almost always a cheaper alternative out there. My advice: Find it. A good resource is WhistleOut, which compares plans from about 40 different carriers.

OK, your turn: If you have already moved to a cheaper plan, hit the comments and tell us what you paid earlier, what you pay now and how it works.






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