I’ve worked for phone companies in multiple countries. Like most industries, some simple inside information will help you get a lot further without needing to know the details of how everything works. Here are my top 5 tips to avoid getting hammered with extra charges on your phone bill.
Most people change carriers when they get sick of the cost they’re paying or sick of the coverage they’re not getting. Moving is not hard but it can take time to compare the different carriers and plans on the markets. It’s one of those jobs we hate doing.
If you’re moving phone company, the most important thing to know is that you can keep your phone number if you want to move. The only exception is if you’re moving house at the same time. Any major interstate move will mean you need a new phone number to get the new local area code on your cellphone number.
Use a comparison site
Phone contract deals used to be extremely complicated. There was an upfront amount to pay and then an ever growing list of plan inclusions and options to compare. In the last few years, the trend has been to move away from that sort of agreement. Most people now buy their phone and add a SIM themselves. They usually save money by doing it.
A quick search for cheap phone plans will take you to any one of a bunch of phone company comparison sites. They’ll tell you the SIM plans which you can use given your location and phone. What’s more, they often have advice on any issue you’re concerned about.
Now you own the phone, you’re going to want to think differently about the phone plan you have. Prepaid deals often offer the best value on data costs whatever network you’re on. That’s especially true at low spend levels. The best feature of prepaid deals is that you can move whenever you want to. Competition means phone companies (especially brands you might not have heard of, see next section) want to lure you in. It’s a great way to get more data for less $$.
Go with an MVNO
A lot of the competition we’re talking about comes from phone brands you might never have heard of. In the industry, they’re known as MVNOs. MVNOs or Mobile Virtual Network Operators buy access to the networks operated by Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. They’re the fastest growing part of the US phone market – getting bigger at a rate of 7% each year
These smaller phone companies tend to operate on wafer thin margins. They have small teams, mostly delivering marketing and customer service. They have great tools to help you manage your account online. In many cases, you’ll get exactly the same network coverage with one of these companies as you would if you went direct to the brands you know.
They’re not hard to find, either. Most high street electronics retailers will have a wall covered in SIM deals and some informed sales staff who know the subtleties of the plans you might want to buy.
Best of all, once you’ve tried one of these smaller phone companies, you’ll realise there’s nothing to worry about. Finding these guys in a world where we all own our phones means you could be saving money on your cell bill for the rest of your life.
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Avoid Unlimited Plans
Only 2% of Americans actually have an unlimited plan. The idea sounds perfect – who wouldn’t want all you can eat ? The practical reality is that most plans actually aren’t unlimited – they’re throttled (slowed down) when you get to the data limit, they’re expensive (minimum $50 a month, can be up to $90) and you’re buying data you don’t need and will never use.
Change once a year
The critical thing to remember is that the amount of data people are using is rising every year. And it’s rising fast. Most people’s data needs are growing at between 70% and 100% per year. That 5GB plan that worked so well for you last year will not work nearly so well 12 months later.
Once you’ve been through the pain of moving phone companies, you’ll realize that, with a comparison site (see above) it can take 30 minutes. It’s well worth doing it annually if you can afford the time. Even saying to your phone company that you’re comparing – and having a better deal up your sleeve when you do – can give your current carrier the kick they need to offer you more data.
Just as insurance companies, healthcare providers, banks and everyone else will slug you with a laziness tax, phone companies will take advantage of your willingness to sit there quietly and pay them money. Shake things up and let them know you’re prepared to leave.
Comparing plans and moving to new phone companies is one of those jobs we all hate. But a 30 minute investment of time on your laptop, in front of the TV can save you literally hundreds of dollars a year. If you can do it for your whole family, step by step, the numbers can add up.
These 5 tips are really all you need to take it to your current carrier.