The Incredible Shrinking Cell Phone Bill

iphonepixel200If you wanted to shave $1,000 a year off your housing expenses, you’d have to move or at least refinance a mortgage. That takes a pile of paperwork and lots of time. Meanwhile, with a few clicks on a website and a SIM swap, many people on a major carrier plan can easily save $1,000 on their annual cell phone bill. I just transfered my service to Sprint’s Free Year of Unlimited promotion (extended to 7/30) and my new bill is $3 a month per line including all taxes and fees. Took maybe 15 minutes of my time.

The average cell phone bill has dropped by over 12% from a year ago. If you haven’t shopped around in a while, you might be missing out on big savings. The WSJ article The New Sticker Shock: Plunging Cellphone Bills (paywall?) shows us how cell phone bills are dropping across the board:

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Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint have all been losing net customers this year. Most went to either T-Mobile or various MVNO/prepaid providers which can provide 95%+ of the coverage at a fraction of the cost. (MVNOs don’t have the same roaming agreements as a postpaid major carrier.) Sprint was both a smaller competitor and losing customers, so apparently they felt they had to do something drastic.

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I expect to switch to either T-Mobile or an MVNO after my year is up, unless Sprint can come up with another deal.

Comments

  1. Jonathan – Great advice. I assume the best phone to have is an unlocked Samsung (or similar) that is capable of
    utilizing CDMA (Sprint) and GSM (Verizon, etc.) networks simply by switching SIM cards. Correct?

    • Many of the newer phones come quad-band and can be used with basically any carrier. You’d have to check your specific one, but my older iPhone 6 has been on Verizon, T-Mobile, and now Sprint without any issue.

    • Nick R. says:

      Verizon Samsung phones are not allowed on Sprint although they are compatible with the network. It is some contractual restriction. I found out the hard way when I bought Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge a couple of weeks ago trying to jump on the Sprint free year of service deal. Only the new flagship S8 is allowed on Sprints network, as well as some strange special edition of S7 Edge (apparently released for Rio Olympics).

  2. Nice data. I wasn’t aware that it had dropped so much. I’ve been considering switching from AT&T to Cricket since it’s basically the same network for a 25% lower price.

    • I’m on cricket and it’s been great. Haven’t run into any issues. Apparently it only uses AT&T network and none of the AT&T roaming partner network but I’m in network 99.9% of the time, so.

  3. Patricia says:

    I’ve been using Page Plus a Verizon MVNO which has great coverage where I live and so far everywhere I’ve travelled For $39 a month I get unlimited talk, text and 3g of data. I got my phone new from ebay and I haven’t looked back.

  4. Good luck with Sprint. Former Sprint customer here… Apparently thieves have found a way to easily take over Sprint accounts, your phone number, and any financial or online accounts associated with that number if you have with two-factor authentication. I won’t go into any details about how this is done, but Sprint can’t do anything about it even if they’re forewarned. Nor will they help you recover anything because they don’t have to and since they’re “following FCC rules”.

  5. Jonathan, I did a Sprint deal right before the new year where they were giving a phone away with the deal, I checked and made sure the phone was on the compatible list. This is just in case after the promotion ends on Sprint I can roll to something reasonable. Compatible list: https://help.republicwireless.com/hc/en-us/articles/115005789107

  6. Phoenix says:

    I’m debating now whether I want to pay $50/mo for the peace of mind that comes with keeping my current contract (T-Mobile) vs. save the $ and deal with potential/expected frustrations that follow a switch to Sprint.

    I’m guessing this move was done strictly to drive up customer base to try and get a more favorable acquisition value — something that will only benefit upper management (large shareholders who’d rather hold Sprint in a buyout/merger than in bankruptcy). Sprint is taking water on quickly and with the infrastructure challenges they’ve had in the past (currently?) I don’t see how, from an accounting standpoint, they can bare the brunt of the upfront costs of such a large-scale customer acquisition with no solid expectation of revenue bump for the next year. Not sure I want to save now that gamble.

    Now that Page Plus Verizon MVNO for $39/mo sounds tempting.

    • Jonathan says:

      I’ve been using H2O Wireless (MVNO on AT&T’s network) for about 8 months now and pay $27/mo (with autopay) for unlimited talk, text, and 3GB of LTE data (and unlimited 2g data beyond 3GB). They do limit the download speeds to 8Mbps (on LTE… 4Mbps on 4g network), but so far I can’t say that’s been an issue for me (I don’t stream or download a lot of large content when not on wifi). You can get an H2O sim on Amazon for 1-cent w/free shipping. Their website is not very user friendly, but I haven’t had the need to log in much since I got set up.

  7. I thought about locking in a T-Mobile promo as well, but I figure that in a year there will still be plenty of promotions available. It’s not like T-Mobile will be able to raise their prices much. In the meantime, I’ll save several hundred dollars. (My bet is that Sprint gets bought by a cable company to compete with AT&T/DirecTV.)

  8. Thanks for the heads up on Sprint. I left AT&T for the free year at Sprint. I am hoping the roaming charges don’t kick in alot with Sprint. I have already noticed coverage is not as good as the big carriers. Otherwise, I appreciate you sharing about the offer.

    • Hi Joanne – What type of phone do you have? I assume that you had AT&T unlock it for you so it would work with Sprint. Unless it was an unlocked model to begin with, many carriers will refuse to unlock it.

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