As new phone season begins in earnest and the holiday season approaches, people all over the country are looking at their phone bills trying to figure out if it’s worth upgrading, or if there are ways to cut costs.
Whether trying to figure out how to get the best deal on a new device or to cut costs, here are a few tips to help guide you through the process.
Regardless of whether you prefer a new iPhone or Android, there are plenty of ways to save.
Adding lines or switching carriers is always one of the best ways to get a deal, with all four carriers offering heavy device discounts to those willing to add or switch.
If you’re not willing to switch or add a line, trading in your current phone could give you sizable discounts, particularly right now when values are boosted to entice people to upgrade to the latest iPhone, Galaxy or Android phone.
Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint are each offering a number of aggressive trade-in deals on the new iPhones, with all four major carriers also having trade-in deals for those looking to upgrade to Android devices. One thing on the carrier offers: Depending on the deal, the money might be delivered as a monthly credit instead of an upfront discount, so be careful of the fine print.
Manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Apple have their own trade-in deals, as do retailers like Best Buy.
Those looking for cash to buy their new device should look at sites like Gazelle, TradeMore and uSell.
The values on your particular phone will vary based on the condition of your device and how old it is. Whether selling or trading in, you should compare how much your phone would be worth at a few different sites to make sure you are getting the best deal.
Bill too high? Switching to a prepaid carrier might help
AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint may be the most well-known carriers in the U.S., but those looking for a deal may find it on some of those network’s prepaid options.
All four carriers have what is known as prepaid networks, brands that use their wireless service but operate as their own companies. What they lose in perks like free HBO, Netflix or mobile hotspot data, they often makeup in cheaper monthly rates, particularly for those who don’t need unlimited high-speed data.
You likely have seen these companies before. T-Mobile owns MetroPCS (soon to be simply Metro), AT&T owns Cricket Wireless and Sprint owns Boost Mobile.
Verizon has been experimenting with its own offshoot called Visible that offers unlimited talk, text and data for $40 per month. The catch: You need to have an iPhone 6 or later to use it and speeds are limited to a max of 5 Mbps, significantly slower than the 20 Mbps the company averaged, according to a July report from industry tracker OpenSignal.
Beyond the major carriers, other companies have created prepaid networks that run on the nationwide service of the larger providers, offering various perks of their own to use their service.
Mint Mobile, which runs on T-Mobile’s network, offers 2GB of high-speed and unlimited calling and texting for $15 per month if you’re willing to pay for three months in advance.
Unreal Mobile uses Sprint’s network and starts at $10 for unlimited talk and text plus 1GB of high-speed data (additional data will be slowed).
While there are plenty You’ll want to make sure that whichever prepaid network you’re on uses the best, larger provider in your area.
Check your data, and the latest plans
If you haven’t changed plans in a while, it’s very possible your carrier has come out with newer data plans. All four networks update their options every few months, adding features and even occasionally better value.
They won’t make the changes automatically for you, however, so you need to be on top of your bill to see what makes sense for you and your plan. Look at a few of your recent bills to get an understanding of how much data you are using and what you are paying for. Then log onto your carrier’s website to see what the latest offers are and if there’s a better deal than what you have.
This is particularly useful if you are on a shared data plan that charged you overage fees for exceeding your monthly data limits. Most recent plans, even non-unlimited ones, will now slow your data instead of immediately charging you, but you need to turn this feature on.
The threatening-to-switch game
As always, one other option is to call your current carrier and see what happens when you tell them you are willing to leave. If you have been with your provider for a while, its possible there may be loyalty discounts that might be available to keep you on their network.
As with any negotiation, though, be prepared for them to call your bluff – the carriers know how tedious it is to switch. And remember to be kind to the rep on the phone. They don’t make the plans, and being nice to them may make them more inclined to help you out.
Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal
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