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Five ways you can save on your cell-phone bill

Consumer Reports News: December 06, 2011 11:38 AM

As pricey smart phones become ubiquitous and carrier rates become even more expensive, it helps to investigate new ways to cut down your bill. Here are five tips that can help you save a little or a lot of money in this brave new mobile world.

  • Don’t automatically buy from the company store. Two-thirds of cell phones are bought at carrier stores, but we've found that prices can be lower at warehouse stores and mass merchandisers—at even at the same carriers' websites.
  • Consider a lower-priced carrier. When we compared 100 plans to similar alternatives, both prepaid and standard, Consumer Cellular came out on top; it had the best deal in more than one out of three cases. Savings usually ranged from $30 to $40 a month over pricier rivals such as Verizon and AT&T. Just note that you might not find as large a selection of the hottest smart phones with smaller carriers such as Consumer Cellular.
  • Use alternative services. Bypassing carriers and using third-party services for texting and voice calls can be a real money-saver. New apps such as Heywire let you send text messages for free over your data connection. With most carriers, that means you won’t have to pay 10 cents a text or $5 to $50 a month for messaging plans. And Skype Mobile lets you make free voice calls to other Skype subscribers.
  • Max out on Wi-Fi. Avoid using your plan’s allotment of data by tapping into the rising number of available Wi-Fi networks. If you own a 4G phone, set it to connect only to 3G when texting or streaming music.
  • Investigate employee discounts. AT&T, S[rint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon offer discounts to the employees of companies that use their services. To see whether you qualify, Google the carrier's name and"employee discount," and navigate to the Web page that asks for your work e-mail address. Discounts can be as high as 20 percent, though some deals exclude the iPhone or certain service plans.

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