5 Ways to Hack Your Cell Phone Bill

5 ways to save money on your cell phone billWho doesn’t have a smartphone these days?

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).

Related: Cheap Cell Phone and Data Plans for Travelling to the USA

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.

Related: Cell Phone Contracts Are Evil (Except When They’re Not)

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).

Fortunately, you can usually unlock your existing cell phone for a small fee or buy a used one on Kijiji that is either already unlocked or to unlock yourself.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Related: $108 - My Cost For High Speed Internet, TV, 2 Cell Phones, Home Phone, Long Distance, And Movies

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.

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

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Tom's picture

Telus prepaid is cheaper, especially for kids, as you limit outgoing texts to 250 as that's only $5/month. Incoming is free. And you are only dinged 15 cents a minute for calls. Great for teaching kids self discipline. Expiry isn't an issue as it renews every time it takes the $5.

August 09, 2016 @ 10:27 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

$60 pear year is a pretty good deal for a bare bones kids plan. I assume that unused balance carries over to future months like most prepaid plans?

August 09, 2016 @ 10:46 am
Krisitina S.
Krisitina S. 's picture

I use Seven Eleven's (the convenience store) prepaid plan, called Speak Out. Texts cost 10 cents each for outgoing, and no charge for incoming texts. The voice minutes do not expire for a year. Just keep topping up the plan with $25.00 or more vouchers. I'm told the service runs on the Rogers network. I'm very happy with it, especially the price.

August 09, 2016 @ 11:24 am
Guy L.
Guy L.'s picture

SpeakOut has bonus periods ( usually around Sept and December) when top ups of $100 or more will receive a $25 bonus. So depending upon your usage, this can lower your costs further. There is no roaming on Speakout even though it uses the Rogers Network, so it is necessary to use Roamobility outside of Canada.

August 09, 2016 @ 10:43 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I've heard lots of positive things about Speak Out over the years - glad to hear they are still going strong.

August 10, 2016 @ 11:18 pm
Ken's picture

My saving is this, I dont have data. I work in IT, and to be honest, I like not having data. Im connected all the time, and to me, its good to get away. I use WiFi hot spots when Im out or travelling, and if I dont find them, it doesnt bother me

Wife is the same, she barely checks email at home, why do it travelling. She uses it to talk and text.

All in all, we pay $28 each for our phone bill, with unlimted texting, 200 daytime minutes and unlimited weekends and evenings.

I do have Windows smartphone, and use it as such, just dont need a data plan to do it.

August 09, 2016 @ 11:35 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Data is the biggest money-maker for the cell phones companies these days so avoiding it will definitely save a lot of money.

I used to do the WiFi hopping thing myself, but I found it got harder and harder to do over time and I wasted a lot of time looking for an open connection when I would rather be focusing on other things. Being a blogger, having an internet connection on my phone all the time is super useful. We managed to get a FIdo plan that costs $29/mth a couple of years back that gives plenty of talk/text + 600MB of data every month. It was only available in Atlantic Canada at the time when Fido launched here. Haven't seen much better since, but I haven't been looking too hard either because I'm happy with what I have.

August 10, 2016 @ 11:21 pm
John's picture

One thing that most prepaid suppliers don't mention is that if you buy a large block of prepaid time, the expiry can be longer. My wife and I are both on Telus prepaid and we prepay $100. This doesn't expire for a year, and we don't usually use it all in a year. The result - our monthly cell cost is $8.34 each per month. We only use data when free wifi is available.

The only hiccup we have had was as a result of an iPhone software update. We normally have Cellular Data turned off so minutes aren't being eaten up by programs checking for upgrades. The update turned Cellular Data back on, and the phone burned through my prepaid $100 in less than two days without me knowing it. Thanks Apple. The lesson here is that we always check Cellular Data after an IOS update. Our next phones will be Android.

August 09, 2016 @ 1:24 pm
Tom's picture

Android also allows data to turn off when you set a limit to it. Maybe one can do that with IOS, but I wouldn't know.

August 09, 2016 @ 5:21 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I used to do this with PC Mobile. $100 top up for 365 days. It's a great deal if you can limit your usage properly.

August 10, 2016 @ 11:22 pm
expatnzer's picture

Koodo -- not happy with them. My sister in law bought a sim from them in Vancouver Koodo Virtual Prepaid Pin 20 $20 and Koodo Version 3 sim prepaid to cover her for the few days she was spending in Canada. She spent $44.80.

Sim worked for six texts then quit. Attempts to get it fixed have included: Visit to Koodo Kiosk at Kildonan Place Winnipeg (July 18)- were there about 30 mins and then the place closed for the evening, two attempts on the phone to 1 8669956636. They were closed both time. Called the place in the Pacific Centre where she bought the card . No human being just a reference to the 1 866 number. Another visit to Kildonan Place last Saturday (Aug 6) - Kiosk has been closed down.

I've heard other complaints about their abysmal customer service.

August 10, 2016 @ 8:26 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Surprised they wouldn't just give you a new SIM at the store - that stinks.

August 10, 2016 @ 11:22 pm
Drassel_ca's picture

We have a Telus family plan and did a small change that saves $120 plus tax per year.
We kept one phone with Canada wide calling and put the second for Quebec only, a reduction of $10/month.

Also we have an alert sent to us when we are at 75% of data use to not go over. One month they didn't send it and we ended up going over, but customer service cancelled the full amount because they didn't send the message.

October 04, 2016 @ 1:49 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

The data alert is definitely a good tip! Fido sends them out automatically, which is nice.

October 14, 2016 @ 1:11 pm
Tech Guy in BC
Tech Guy in BC's picture

There are a few sites out there that allow to plug in your cellular needs and then it reports available plans in Canada, in order of price. They don't always catch everything but still pretty good.

Here is the one I use most: https://www.whistleout.ca/

Tech Guy in BC

April 13, 2017 @ 2:25 am
Les's picture

Also a lot of membership clubs offer discounts (ie CAA, or unions). If you work for a big firm or belong to such clubs, you can check there.

April 20, 2017 @ 3:37 am
Branden's picture

Good tips.

Often people are paying more then they have to. The bill arrives, you look at the ransom-like sum and you pay. Taking time to review in detail can reveal some low-hanging fees you can chop out (premium voice mail, more minutes than you use, etc.)

As for contract negotiation....I could add that often, the best time to negotiate is when you have 3 months or less remaining on your contract. Company's somewhat value your loyalty and will want to keep you. Strike at the right time.

For data....one quick win is an app like Onavo https://www.onavo.com/index.html. It helps reduce the amount of data you use. Mainly through data compression. Any data your phone sends or receives is routed through Onavo’s servers. They optimize images, video etc. to reduce your data usage. It comes at the cost of image quality and a slight delay but it does work.

Ultimately, make sure you're on the right plan for your own usage. You can use a plan comparison site like TechGuyinBC mentions above. Our site https://www.cellphones.ca works similar. And...I would very much love to hear from any readers here at howtosavemoney on how we can improve the tool.

April 20, 2017 @ 3:57 am

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