How to Lower a Cell Phone Bill

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For many Americans, cell phones are an indispensable tool for managing tasks, staying in touch with loved ones and browsing the web. Since the emergence of smartphones, we have become increasingly dependent on the speed, efficiency, and usability of these devices.

Unfortunately, the greater processing power of cell phones today means they are more expensive than ever to afford and maintain.

According to Statista, the average price of smartphones has risen from $567 in 2018 to $940 in 2024. As newer technologies emerge, prices will continue rising through the end of the decade.

This is why it is essential for savvy consumers to take the right steps in lowering their cell phone bill, ensuring they are paying only for features they use on a regular basis.

Here are some tips to keep your cell phone from draining your bank account.

1. Stick to Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is everywhere, so you shouldn’t have a problem staying connected. It’s worth asking an employee about it anytime you walk into a restaurant or department store. Applebee’s, Arby’s, Lowes, Macy’s, Target, BestBuy – the list goes on and on — all offer free Wi-Fi. Use it and save your data for something important. Also make sure to connect to your home or work Wi-Fi hotspots. Doing so will greatly reduce the burden on your cell phone’s data plan and lead to savings down the road.

2. Monitor Your Background Data Usage

Some apps will eat away at your data even when you’re not using them. Apps like Twitter and Facebook will preload videos so they’re ready to watch as you scroll down your feed. You can save data by going to your settings and turning off “auto-play” for these specific apps.

Turn off Background app refresh that keeps the content of your apps current by checking for new information while you’re offline. This is why your Instagram feed looks different every time you open the app after a short break. Go to your settings and toggle background app refresh to “off” or “Wi-Fi only” so you’re not eating up the last few bytes of your precious data.

3. Consider a Family Plan

A family cell phone plan can be a cost-effective and convenient option if you have multiple lines and can benefit from bundled discounts.

Before making the switch, consider the total cost of maintaining separate plans for each family member versus consolidating them into a family plan. Family plans usually include shared data and minutes among all lines. If your family members have similar usage patterns, sharing resources can be efficient and prevent overage charges.

However, if usage varies significantly, individual plans with customized allowances may be more suitable. Some carriers offer additional perks with family plans, such as discounts on devices, streaming services, or other promotional offers. Check if the carrier you’re considering provides any extra benefits for family plans.

Before committing to a family plan, review the contract terms, including cancellation policies, upgrade options, and any potential fees. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions associated with the plan.

4. Eliminate Unnecessary Services

Deciding which features to remove from your phone plan depends on your usage patterns, preferences, and budget.

Here are some features you might consider adjusting or removing to potentially reduce your cell phone bill:

  • Unlimited Data: If you find that you consistently use less data than your plan provides, consider switching to a plan with a lower data allowance. This can lead to significant cost savings, especially if you are currently paying for unlimited data that you don’t fully utilize.
  • Insurance Plans: Evaluate whether you need insurance coverage for your phone. If you have an older or less expensive device, paying for insurance may not be cost-effective. However, if you own a high-end device and are prone to accidents, insurance might be worth keeping.
  • International Roaming: If you rarely travel internationally, you may not need international roaming features. Removing or temporarily disabling this feature can prevent unnecessary charges. Instead, consider adding international features only when you plan to travel.

Before making any changes to your plan, carefully review the terms and conditions to understand the potential impact on your overall service. Additionally, consider reaching out to your carrier’s customer service to discuss your usage patterns and explore available options for cost savings.

5. Should You Switch Carriers?

Switching to a smaller carrier almost certainly will save you money. Smaller carriers cost less and use the same cell towers as the larger ones, so you don’t have to worry about second-rate signal.

Many of the smaller carriers have high reports of customer satisfaction. The downside is your data may be deprioritized during times of high network congestion. Also, you’ll have a smaller range of phones to choose from. Verizon offers over 60 different phones. Boost Infinite offers half that but carries staples like the iPhone and Galaxy.

Boost Infinite, Google Project Fi and many other carriers will let you bring in your own phone to use on their network. Just make sure the phone you buy is compatible with whatever carrier you choose.

6. Update Your Service Address

Yes, updating your cell phone service address is important for several reasons, and it can have implications for your billing, emergency services, and overall user experience.

Here are some key reasons why you should consider updating your cell phone service address:

  • Billing Accuracy: Your cell phone service address is crucial for billing purposes. It helps ensure that you are billed accurately based on your location. If you move to a new address and don’t update it with your service provider, you may face billing discrepancies or issues with service activation.
  • Emergency Services: In case of emergencies, the address associated with your cell phone is vital for first responders to locate you quickly and accurately. When you update your service address, it enhances the effectiveness of emergency services, potentially saving valuable time in critical situations.
  • Service Activation and Coverage: When you move to a new address, updating your cell phone service address ensures that your carrier has the correct information for service activation and coverage maps. This helps in providing an optimal network experience at your current location.
  • Account Verification: Updating your service address may be required for account verification purposes. It helps in preventing unauthorized changes to your account and ensures that you have control over the account information associated with your phone number.
  • Service Quality and Features: Some services and features offered by your carrier may be location specific. Updating your service address ensures that you have access to all available features and that your service is optimized for your current location.

To update your cell phone service address, you can typically do so through your online account portal on your carrier’s website or by contacting customer support. Make sure to provide accurate and up-to-date information to avoid any potential issues. If you have recently moved, it’s essential to update your address promptly to ensure a seamless transition of services to your new location.

7. Enroll in Autopay

Enrolling in autopay offers several benefits, making it a convenient and efficient way to manage your monthly mobile expenses. Autopay ensures that your cell phone bill is paid automatically on the due date. This helps you avoid late payment fees and ensures that your account remains in good standing. Once set up, the process is automated, saving you time and effort.

Some mobile carriers offer discounts or incentives for customers who enroll in autopay. These discounts can result in cost savings over time, providing an additional benefit for those who choose automated payment methods.

Before enrolling in autopay, ensure that you have sufficient funds in your designated account to cover the bill. Additionally, periodically review your cell phone bills to stay informed about your usage and any changes to your plan. Overall, auto-pay is a valuable tool that streamlines the billing process and offers peace of mind for mobile users.

8. Explore Promotional Offers and Discounts

Cell phone providers frequently offer promotional deals to attract new customers, retain existing ones, or promote specific devices and plans. These promotions can include discounts, special offers, and additional perks.

Here are some common types of cell phone promotional offers you might encounter:

  • Device Discounts: Carriers often provide discounts on the purchase of new smartphones or other devices. These discounts may be offered as part of a contract or installment plan.
  • Trade-In Deals: Some carriers offer trade-in promotions, allowing customers to exchange their old devices for a discount on a new one. The value of the trade-in depends on the model and condition of the device.
  • Switching Bonuses: To attract customers from other carriers, providers may offer switching bonuses. These can include bill credits, prepaid cards, or discounts on new devices when you switch your number to their network.
  • Free or Discounted Accessories: Promotions may include free or discounted accessories, such as cases, headphones, chargers, or other add-ons, when you purchase a new device.
  • Student or Military Discounts: Carriers may offer special discounts for students, military personnel, veterans, or other specific groups. These discounts can apply to monthly plans, device purchases, or accessories.
  • Seasonal or Holiday Promotions: During holidays or special occasions, carriers often run promotions to attract customers. These promotions may include limited-time offers, giveaways, or exclusive deals.

When considering a promotional offer, carefully read the terms and conditions, including any eligibility requirements, duration of the offer, and potential limitations. It’s also a good idea to compare different promotions and plans to ensure that you choose the one that best fits your needs and budget.

9. Delay Phone Upgrades

Newer smartphones are often more expensive, and delaying the upgrade allows you to get more value from your current device without incurring additional costs. If your current phone meets your needs and continues to perform well, there may be no urgent reason to upgrade.

Delaying the upgrade allows you to enjoy stable performance and avoid the potential bugs or issues that can come with new software and hardware. This allows manufacturers to address and resolve these issues before you make a purchase. Also, prices of smartphones often drop over time, especially when newer models are released. Delaying your upgrade gives you the opportunity to purchase the device you want at a lower price.

Before deciding to delay your phone upgrade, assess your current device’s condition, your usage needs, and any potential benefits offered by newer models. Keep in mind that while delaying an upgrade can be a sensible choice in many cases, it’s essential to strike a balance that meets your requirements and preferences.

10. Avoid Phone Payment Plans

Purchasing a phone outright means paying the full cost upfront. However, this eliminates the need to commit to monthly installment payments, potentially saving you money over the long term. Many phone payment plans include interest or financing charges, increasing the overall cost of the device. Avoiding these plans allows you to avoid paying additional fees associated with financing. When you own your phone outright, you have the flexibility to switch carriers without being tied to a specific network contract. This flexibility is valuable if you want to explore different service providers based on your changing needs or location.

It’s important to note that while avoiding phone payment plans has its advantages, it may not be the best option for everyone. Consider your financial situation, preferences, and the overall cost of ownership when deciding whether to pay for a phone upfront or opt for a payment plan. Additionally, assess any potential benefits or promotions that carriers may offer with phone payment plans, as these can impact the overall value proposition.

11. No Contract or Prepaid Phone Plans

Choosing a no-contract or prepaid phone plan can offer flexibility, cost savings, and freedom from long-term commitments. No-contract plans provide flexibility, allowing you to change or cancel your plan without facing penalties. This is beneficial if your needs or circumstances change frequently. With no-contract plans, you have the freedom to switch carriers at any time. This flexibility is valuable if you find a better deal or if your current carrier’s coverage doesn’t meet your expectations. Since there’s no contract, you won’t be subject to early termination fees if you decide to leave your current carrier. Some no-contract plans offer pay-as-you-go options, allowing you to pay only for the services you use. This is suitable for light users who don’t need a fixed monthly plan.

Ultimately, whether you choose a no-contract or prepaid phone plan depends on your specific needs, budget, and preferences. Consider factors such as coverage, data allowances, and additional features when comparing plans to find the option that best suits your requirements.

12. Choose a Credit Card with Phone Bill Benefits

Several credit cards offer benefits related to phone bills, providing cardholders with perks such as cashback, rewards, insurance coverage, and discounts.

Here are some credit cards known for their phone bill benefits:

  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card: This card offers 3X points on eligible streaming services and 3X points on eligible phone services. Cardholders can redeem points for various rewards, including travel, cash back, and more.
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠: The Chase Freedom Flex card provides 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in rotating categories each quarter, including eligible streaming services and phone services. It also offers 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card: The U.S. Bank Cash+ card allows cardholders to choose two categories for 5% cash back, including categories such as TV, Internet & Streaming Services. This can be an excellent option for those looking to earn rewards on their phone-related expenses.
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: This card offers 6% cashback at U.S. supermarkets (up to a certain limit) and select U.S. streaming subscriptions, making it a good option for those who bundle their phone services with other streaming subscriptions.

When choosing a credit card for phone bill benefits, consider your spending habits, the specific categories that offer rewards or cash back, and any annual fees associated with the card. Additionally, check the terms and conditions to ensure that the card aligns with your preferences and financial goals.

I Need to Pay My Phone Bill but I Have No Money

If you’re struggling to pay your phone bills you may qualify for Lifeline, a government program that offers subsidies to low-income families and individuals.

Households with an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty level are eligible for Lifeline. So, if you are a family of three with a household income of $33,561 or below, you qualify. Be ready with proof of income like a tax return or three consecutive pay stubs.

Another way to qualify is if you, or someone in your household, is a beneficiary of federal assistance programs like:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit

Just remember, only one Lifeline allowed per household.

» Learn More: What to Do When You Can’t Pay Your Bills

A lot of us are constantly on the go and need unlimited data plans to stay up to date with news and work. But some of us just need our phones to talk to family or friends now and then.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on the latest features. Be frugal about spending on your smartphone. Use the money you save to help you pay other debts.

About The Author

Bents Dulcio

Bents Dulcio graduated from Florida State University in 2016 with a degree in Political Science, and knows a thing or two about Millennial student loan debt. While in school, he developed a passion for classic literature, reading books by authors from Homer to Adam Smith and developed a penchant for dealing with tight financial circumstances. Bents used the student loan money to pursue a semester of language study in France that helped convince him to become a writer. Bents still hits the books – he read 70 in the past year – and still knows how to cut corners financially. You will see examples of both in his writing for


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