In fact, two thirds of Canadians own a smartphone.
And as their capabilities become greater, so do the data requirements...and costs.
Here are some easy ways I save money on my cell phone bill:
- use wifi whenever possible to avoid extra data charges,
- use a separate sim card when travelling to the US, and
- use a smaller service provider.
Want to slash your cell phone bill even more? Read on...
5 Ways to Hack Your Cell Phone Bill
#1. Negotiate a better deal
One of the most valuable ways to cut your cell phone bill is to negotiate.
Keep in mind that negotiating for a lower bill typically only works for long term post-paid customers. Prepaid prices tend to be relatively fixed because customers don’t have contracts, are often light users, and tend to stick to relatively no-frills cheap plans to begin with.
When negotiating for a lower rate, review your current cell phone bill and see what you’re paying for.
Then do your research online to see what competitors are offering. If they offer a comparable plan at a cheaper rate, use that information to your advantage.
When calling customer service to negotiate a lower rate you’ll want to speak to a customer retention agent...this is not usually the first person you speak to.
Make sure you are polite and have a specific goal in mind. Mention any aspects of your situation that have benefited the company - such as being a long-time customer, always paying your bills on time and having no past issues with customer service.
If you mention you are willing to switch to another provider because of the rates you are paying - be fully prepared to do that in case you aren’t able to get the deal you are after. It also adds much authenticity to your claim.
#2. Switch to prepaid
Another option for lowering your cell phone bill is to switch to prepaid.
With prepaid plans you pay for your service ahead of time which eliminates the chance of any extra charges at the end of the month.
Prepaid rates can be less than postpaid if you use your minutes and data consciously. Most companies offer a basic plan, such as unlimited texting, for a small monthly amount.
One aspect of a prepaid plan is how often the services you buy expire. Some expire at the end of each month if not used.
On the other hand, Koodo Mobile offers ‘boosters’ that can be purchased by prepaid customers that don’t expire and get carried forward every month so long as the basic plan (around $15) is maintained.
This is the best value for your money since it means you only pay for what you use and what you don’t use gets carried forward each month.
A base plan of $15 includes unlimited texting and you can buy data ‘boosters’ in increments up to 1GB (for $30).
Your cost for the first month would be higher ($45) but keep in mind the data could potentially last for months.
I have colleagues who use Koodo prepaid and they typically pay about $15-20 per month for a base plan (unlimited texting), data and a small amount of voice minutes (also available for purchase as a ‘booster’).
The main drawback to a Koodo prepaid plan is that you aren’t able to add roaming packages to the plan when travelling out of the country. It’s something to keep in mind if you prefer to add a data or texting package to your plan if you travel out of the country often.
#3. Save when travelling
Even though roaming costs for cell phones has come down in recent years, the rates here are still expensive relative to other countries.
One way to make sure you don’t get stung by expensive roaming charges is to use a different sim card through a company that specializes in offering roaming packages to travelers.
Roam Mobility is based in Canada but sells data packages to Canadians travelling to the United States and Mexico. Their rates are generally cheaper than most major Canadian cell phone companies and they offer flexible packages that can be customized based on what you want the most – data, texting or voice minutes (or a combination of all 3).
The nice thing about using a package from Roam Mobility is that it’s paid ahead of time and can be scheduled for when your trip is set to begin. Since you aren’t using your regular sim card (you need to purchase a Roam sim card - $10) there’s no chance you’ll get stung by huge roaming charges because you are using a different provider (Roam), a different plan, and are given a temporary US phone number.
#4. Choose a service provider
One of the biggest advantages of buying your phone outright with NO contract is that you can choose a service provider.
Unfortunately in Canada, there is not as much competition as other countries and the cell phone market is dominated by 3 large companies – Bell, Rogers and Telus.
All of the big 3 companies have similar pricing and different plans based on usage, but the real savings come from choosing a smaller, more competitive company.
Companies like Koodo, Fido, Wind, PC Mobile and Mobilicity all offer plans that are different (and sometimes cheaper) than the big 3.
I have my phone on Koodo and their service is great. Also since they are owned by Telus, their network coverage is great - yet, I don’t pay as much as Telus customers do.
Koodo prepaid offers one of the best bargains in the country (as detailed above) because you only pay for what you use and the minutes/data you don’t use get carried forward every month.
Wind offers much lower monthly plans but their coverage is limited to urban areas. This works well if you don’t leave the city often or use your cell phone exclusively in urban areas.
One of the downsides of choosing a smaller provider is that they may not carry the phone you want. So if you’re absolutely set on getting a specific phone, then you’ll want to make sure it’s available first. For example – Wind offers service for iPhones but they don’t officially sell them (yet).
Another downside is that the network coverage may not be great. Companies like Wind offer great coverage in urban areas but anywhere else is considered roaming.
In my experience, coverage has been great across the country for Koodo, Virgin and Fido.
#5. Choose the right plan for you
After you have your phone and you have chosen a service provider, the next step is choosing the right plan for you.
Getting a plan that fits your needs best means you’ll only pay for what you actually use.
Many plans offer a ton of minutes every month, but will you actually use your phone for voice calls? Or, could you use your data to make voice calls instead of using actual voice minutes?
Other plans offer lots of data, but will you actually use it?
Here are a few things to consider:
- Where you’ll use your phone the most is important. If you are using it in an area that has wifi hotspots you can get away with less data and use wifi instead.
- If you’ll be calling rather than texting you’ll likely want more minutes - and won’t need unlimited texting.
- If you plan on using the phone when travelling make, sure you understand what the costs will be. Consider getting a different sim card (described above). You can also keep your phone on airplane mode when travelling with wifi turned on. That way you’ll only be able to use it when you have wifi available and won’t get hit with big roaming charges.
The easiest way to save money on your cell phone? Find a plan that works for you.
By choosing a smaller service provider (other than the big 3), you can take advantage of lower rates. You can save even more by switching to prepaid.
If you are stuck with a contract with the big 3, consider calling them to negotiate a better rate.
And always make sure you know the roaming rates before travelling to another country...Or use a separate sim card to avoid a huge cell phone bill.
For more tips on how to save on your cell phone, check out this guide by Young and Thrifty.
Question For You
What are some of the ways you’ve slashed your monthly cellphone bill?
Share your tips below - and include as much details as you can.