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Why it's time to choose a cheaper phone plan


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

Angela Lang / CNET

Looking for ways to cut costs? 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 if you have Wi-Fi.

Not everyone understands this concept, so let me explain. Most of the activities you perform on your phone – downloading apps, streaming music and video, checking email and Twitter – depend on data. And with more phones that support Wi-Fi calling, many of your & # 39; voice calls & # 39; also routed as data. There are two ways to get it: cell towers and wifi. Cell towers provide data when you are in the world, walking around, driving cars, sitting on trains and so on. Wi-Fi brings your data home and office, although of course most of us don't spend time on it right now.

So if you are usually at home, and you have super fast internet thanks to your cable provider, guess what? You barely need a data plan for your phone. And that means you may be able to save quite a bit of money.

Read more: The best phones under $ 200

Here are the big questions:

  • What are you paying now?
  • Does your current provider offer cheaper subscriptions?
  • Is your phone paid, unlocked and can you easily switch providers?
  • Which cheaper subscriptions are available elsewhere?

What do you pay now?

If you subscribe to a Big Four provider like AT&T or Verizon, you probably have an unlimited subscription – which may cost you as much as $ 70- $ 80 a month. (You may also be paying off your phone, in which case switching will be more complicated.)

But even if you pay $ 40- $ 50 per month with a smaller provider, such as Cricket or Boost Mobile, you still have the potential to save a lot.

The key is to find out what your current monthly subscription costs and what is included. Then contact your provider to see if there are cheaper options. Don't worry about giving up a large or unlimited data plan; don't forget that you get all the data you need at home as part of your internet subscription. You can always downshift later if you need to.

However, downshifting can lead to the loss of several premium benefits, such as free Netflix or HBO. You have to weigh the costs against what you save.

Read more: 10 free Netflix alternatives

What could you afford?

Again, if you & # 39; If you've been chained to a Big Four provider for a while, you may be surprised to discover how cheap mobile service can be elsewhere. There's already a great list of them in the lowest cheapest phone plans you can get today but here are some that are particularly less data-friendly:

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

Before switching to another provider, make sure your phone is suitable for the switch. That means it must be unlocked and it must work with the network you are moving to.

Some phones are unlocked directly at the gate, but contact your current provider to determine the status of your model. If it's not unlocked, the provider will usually take care of that for you – subject to the requirements associated with your current plan.

As for networks, AT&T and T-Mobile rely on GSM technology; Sprint and Verizon use CDMA. Most newer phones support both; some older models are limited to one or the other. If yours only works on GSM networks and you want to go to Tello, for example, you can't, because Tello is a Sprint / CDMA provider.

That said, there is almost always a cheaper option. My advice: find it. A good source is WhistleOut, which compares plans from around 40 different providers.

OK, your turn: if you've already switched back to a cheaper plan, click the comments and tell me what you paid before, what you pay now, and how it works.

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