Prices are rising in all areas of our lives right now, and cell phone service is no exception. Earlier this year, AT&T and Verizon Wireless announced price increases for existing customers.
Luckily, there are cheaper alternatives to your current cell phone service provider, and there’s no better time to make the switch than now.
How to know if you are paying too much for your cell phone service
Whether you really intend to switch to a new provider or not, it’s important to understand what you’re currently paying (and actually using) with your current plan.
You may find that you’re paying for a lot of unused data, or that your plan has exactly enough. Either way, this article will help you accurately compare prices against other available phone plans that might be right for you.
To start, collect your billing statements for the last 3 to 6 months. You may be able to access this information through your online account depending on your service provider.
Once you have your billing statements, look for the following information:
- How much is your current plan? Know how much you pay per line and how much your monthly bill totals after taxes and fees.
- How much mobile data do you use per month? You should see an amount of megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB) each row has used each month. Whether you’re taking an average or recording the highest amount of usage in the last six months, keep in mind how much data each row needs per month. If someone on your plan regularly uses hotspot data, save them too.
- What does your package include? Now that you know what you use each month, find out what you’re currently paying for. Does your plan include unlimited data? 10 GB for each row or shared data? What is your monthly hotspot allocation?
If you have trouble finding any of the above information, contact your mobile service provider and request a copy of your previous billing statements and plan details.
While it may seem like a lot to do, setting aside an hour or two to take a close look at your cell phone usage can help you determine if you’re really paying too much for cell phone service.
The best budget alternatives in 2022
There are more affordable alternatives to the main providers than ever before. So now is the perfect time to buy a new service, even if you’ve been with the same provider for several years.
If you’ve been a customer of one of the big three cell phone service providers for years, making the switch can be daunting. However, you don’t have to give up your service completely. You can opt for a more affordable prepaid plan from one of the major carriers or consider a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that works on the same towers.
Over the past year, I’ve researched and tested various MVNOs to see how they compare in price, service, reliability, download speed, and customer support.
Currently, here are my top recommendations on MVNO phone plans:
If you’re looking for the cheapest plan for a line, Tello Economy is hard to beat at just $10 per month for 1GB of data. For seniors, I recommend checking out Consumer Cellular for a moderate amount of data and above-average customer service.
Mint Mobile offers the cheapest unlimited plan available for a line on T-Mobile’s network. However, you can get Visible’s unlimited plan on the Verizon Wireless network for as low as $25 per line with Party Pay.
Of course, each of these MVNOs offers additional plans that you can check out online. You can also check out our full list of recommended mobile plans in 2022 for more options.
If you already know which provider you want to use, you can see our top picks for MVNOs from each major carrier here:
If you’re not sure which service provider has the best coverage in your area, start by entering your address on each company’s coverage map online.
How to Switch to a New Cell Phone Service Provider
Once you’ve compared your current phone bill and average data to other available plans, you may decide the savings are worth switching.
If you’re considering changing your current phone company, there are a few things to do first. For example, if you plan to take your current cell phone to your new provider, make sure it’s compatible. You can usually enter your phone’s IMEI number on a mobile service provider’s website to check online.
Once you know you’re ready to go, be sure to time the change appropriately. According to financial expert Clark Howard, this is the number 1 mistake people make when switching mobile carriers.
Your current company will not reimburse you for unused days. However, if you keep the same phone number, Clark recommends changing a few days before the end of your billing cycle.
“If you’re moving from one of the majors to one of the majors (AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile), four days is enough. If you’re going from MVNO to MVNO, it probably needs to be more than 10 days.
After purchasing your new plan and transferring your old number, you can insert your new SIM card and cancel your old service.
For more advice on how to switch to a new cell phone service providercheck out our full guide.
Final Thoughts: Should You Ditch Your Cellular Service Provider?
If you’ve ever thought about buying cheaper cell phone service, now is definitely the time. Not only are major cell phone service providers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless raising prices, but there’s also more affordable phone plans to choose from than ever before. In fact, even if you decide to stick with your current provider, you might find that you can get away with a cheaper plan.
Either way, now is a great time to take a close look at your phone usage. Gather your billing statements from the last 3-6 months and compare what you pay and what you use.
Once you see what you really need from a phone plan, look for affordable alternatives that offer service in your area. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our top picks for the best cell phone plans in 2022 with deals for every budget.
If you are with one of the big three service providers (AT&T, Verizon Wireless, or T-Mobile) and are happy with your service, Find out which prepaid plans are available from your operator as well as which MVNOs operate on the same towers. Compare the price, coverage and data limits of each plan while checking your phone’s compatibility.
If you find a better deal and decide to go with a cheaper phone plan or another service provider, be sure to check out our guide on how to switch.
Have you recently upgraded to a better plan? Share your tips and top picks in the Clark.com community!