Prices are rising in all areas of our lives right now, and cell phone service is no exception.
Fortunately, there are cheaper alternatives to your current cell phone service provider, and there’s no better time to make the switch than right now.
This article was updated in September 2023 and I review it every six months. Detailed notes on all updates can be found here.
How To Find Out if You’re Overpaying for Your Cell Phone Service
Whether you actually intend to switch to a new provider or not, it’s important to understand what you’re currently paying for (and actually using) with your current plan.
You may find that you’re paying for a lot of unused data, or you may find that your plan includes exactly enough. Either way, this article will help you accurately compare prices against other available phone plans that could work for you.
To get started, gather your billing statements for the past 3-6 months. You may be able to access this information via your online account depending on your service provider.
Once you have your billing statements, look for the following information:
- How much does your current plan cost? Know how much you’re paying per line and how much your monthly bill totals after taxes and fees.
- How much mobile data are you using per month? You should see an amount of megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB) that each line has used each month. Whether you take an average or record the largest amount of usage from the last six months, have a number in mind of how much data each line needs per month. If anyone on your plan uses hotspot data regularly, record that too.
- What does your plan include? Now that you know what you’re using each month, find out what you’re currently paying for. Does your plan include unlimited data? 10GB for each line or shared data? What’s your monthly hotspot allotment?
If you have trouble finding any of the information above, reach out to your cell phone service provider and ask for a copy of your previous billing statements and your 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 use can help you find out if you’re truly overpaying for cell phone service.
The Best Money-Saving Alternatives in 2023
There are more affordable alternatives to the major providers now than ever before. That makes this the perfect time to shop for 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, it can be intimidating to make the switch. However, you don’t have to abandon your service entirely. You can opt for a more affordable prepaid plan from one of the major carriers or consider a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that runs on the same towers.
I’ve researched and tested various MVNOs and other prepaid phone plans to see how they compare in regard to pricing, service, reliability, download speeds and customer support.
Currently, here are my top recommendations on cheaper phone plans:
|Tello Economy||Mint 5GB||Visible|
|Tello Review||Mint Mobile Review||Visible Review|
|Price||$10/month (plus taxes)||$15/month (plus taxes & fees)||$25/month (taxes & fees included)|
|Talk and Text||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Hotspot Data||Free; pulls from monthly data||Free; pulls from monthly data||Unlimited (speeds up to 5Mbps)|
|Data Cap Overage||1GB||None||None, but speeds may slow during congestion.|
If you’re looking for the cheapest monthly plan for one line, Tello Economy is hard to beat at only $10 per month for 1GB of data.
Mint Mobile offers a great value with 5GB of high-speed data for $15/month plus taxes and fees. You will have to prepay for three months in advance with Mint Mobile, which brings the total price to $45 upfront.
If you’re looking for unlimited data, you can get Visible’s unlimited plan on Verizon Wireless’s network for only $25/month per line.
Of course, each of these MVNOs offers additional plans that you can check out online. You can also check out our full list of best cell phone plans in 2023 for more options.
If you already know which provider you’d like to use, you can see our top picks for each major carrier’s MVNOs here:
- Best AT&T MVNOs: Cheap Cell Phone Providers That Use AT&T’s Network
- Best Verizon MVNOs: Cell Phone Companies That Use Verizon’s Towers
- Best T-Mobile MVNOs: Cheap Cell Phone Providers That Use T-Mobile’s Network
If you aren’t sure which service provider offers 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 that the savings are worth making the switch.
If you’re thinking about switching from your current phone company, there are a few things to do first. For example, if you plan to bring your current cell phone to your new provider, make sure it’s compatible. You can usually enter your phone’s IMEI number on a cell phone service provider’s website to check online.
Once you know you’re good to go, be sure to time the switch appropriately. According to money expert Clark Howard, this is the #1 mistake people make when switching cell phone carriers.
Your current company won’t refund you for any unused days. However, if you’re keeping the same phone number, Clark does recommend switching a few days before your billing cycle ends.
“If you’re switching from one of the majors to one of the majors (AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile), four days is enough. If you’re switching from an MVNO or to an MVNO, that probably needs to be more like 10 days.”
After you purchase your new plan and port your old number, you’ll be able to insert your new SIM card and cancel your old service.
For more tips on how to switch to a new cell phone service provider, check out our full guide.
Final Thoughts: Should You Ditch Your Cell Service Provider?
If you’ve ever thought about shopping for 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 a bigger selection than ever for affordable phone plans. In fact, even if you decide to stay with your current provider, you may find that you can get by with a cheaper plan.
Either way, now is the perfect time to take a hard look at your phone use. Gather your billing statements from the past 3-6 months and look at what you’re paying for versus what you’re using.
Once you see what you actually need from a phone plan, shop around for affordable alternatives that offer service in your area. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out our top picks for the best cell phone plans in 2023 with deals for every budget.
If you’re with one of the big three service providers (AT&T, Verizon Wireless or T-Mobile) and you’re happy with your service, check out the prepaid plans available from your carrier as well as MVNOs that operate on the same towers. Compare each plan’s price, coverage and data limits while also checking your phone compatibility.
If you do find a better deal and decide to opt for a cheaper phone plan or a different service provider altogether, be sure to check out our guide on how to switch.
Have you recently switched to a better plan? Share your tips and top picks in the Clark.com community!
- September 12, 2023: Visible’s basic unlimited plan now costs $25 per line per month
- September 12, 2023: Replaced Mint Mobile’s unlimited plan with Mint Mobile’s 5GB plan as a top recommended cheap phone plan