Let’s talk about how we cut our cell phone bill by $60.02/month, or $720.84/year (that’s a 51% savings people!). We have great service, more data, and kept our same phones and phone numbers. For realizies. The icing on top of the cake: it was really easy.
You’ve undoubtedly seen a million Consumer Cellular commercials, endorsed by AARP and targeting Baby Boomers and older cell phone users. I take that back- maybe you haven’t seen them. I’m happy to report that we don’t have cable and are avid Jeopardy watchers, so maybe it’s just us. No judgment, please.
Jeopardy definitely has a “target audience” with their commercials, as I’m sure you can imagine. So we’ve seen plenty of Consumer Cellular commercials (and ones for Prevagen, but that’s another story).
Consumer Cellular, and the other pay as you go carriers, like Straight Talk Wireless (thanks Jay Pritchett), Metro PCS, and how many more, got me wondering if we could do wireless cheaper.
Touche marketing, you win this one.
How are the cell phone providers other than the “big 4” (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile) able to offer great service at lower prices? They don’t have the overhead costs of the major providers because they’re not the ones actually building the networks and putting up cell phone towers all across the country.
In general, they’re either owned by one of the heavy hitters or have an arrangement to use their network to provide customers with service. I’m not going to go into all the details surrounding that because if I were a bettin’ gal, I’d bet you don’t care how it happens. You just want great, reliable cell phone service at a fraction of the price. I’ve got ya covered there.
I’ll start with what we did. We were longtime Verizon customers. We’re very happy with their service and coverage, we just wanted to pay less money for it (don’t we all?). We wanted to keep our current phones and phone numbers (which is quite easy to do these days).
Same service, lower bill
I did a little research and learned that Total Wireless operates on Verizon’s network so I started there. We could keep our phones and numbers, and for two lines with unlimited talk and text and 15GB of shared data for $60.00/mo total. Or, if we sign up for auto-pay and enjoy a 5% monthly discount, $57.00/mo total for both lines.
With Verizon, Chris and I were both on a family plan with my mom, brother, and grandparents. We were spending less on the family plan than if he and I had our own Verizon plan. And yet, Total Wireless was even cheaper.
With the Verizon family plan, Chris and my lines and share of the plan charges came out to $117.00 each month for both of us. Everyone on the family plan shared 16GB between 5 lines. We never went over our shared data and rarely even came close to using it all. We didn’t need more, but Total Wireless’s plan for two lines is 15GB to share, so we’re good with that.
I’m going to be honest with you- that’s where my search for a comparable cheaper wireless provider for us ends. I found everything I was looking for. We’re essentially keeping the same service/network, paying less for it and as a nice little bonus, getting more data. Bingo.
I did price out a similar plan on Consumer Cellular, out of curiosity, and Total Wireless was actually cheaper! That surprised me, but Consumer Celluar structures their plans and data differently. They’re geared towards older customers who don’t need a lot of data. If you only want one or two gigabytes of data, Consumer Cellular is probably the place to be.
Now, instead of spending $117.00/month for our cell phone bills, we’re now paying $57.00/month.
The monthly difference
I do feel I need to caveat our savings just a bit. Chris had to get a new phone last year when his old one quite literally died, and he was still paying the new one off. Verizon stopped doing contracts years ago, so we had no early termination fee or anything like that, but $31.99/month of our Verizon bill was going towards his phone payment, which is an interest-free loan.
The monthly phone payment was exactly the cost of the phone divided by 24 months, there is no interest, pre-payment penalties, or the like. In order for his phone to be able to work with Total Wireless, we had to pay his phone off.
I called Verizon and made a one-time payment for the balance of his phone of $285, so while our monthly payments dropped by the $31.99, that’s not technically savings, because we just paid it off in one lump sum. It does simplify and lower our monthly cash outflow though, for sure.
When I was going through all of this we also learned that we were paying $13.00/mo for insurance for his phone, that we thought we’d canceled with his previous phone.
He had insurance at one point, and we both thought it had been canceled a while ago and we were no longer paying for it. We’re obviously no longer paying for that with Total Wireless, so that is a true $13/mo savings, but even if we were still with Verizon, we would have canceled that and saved that money anyway.
The very basic savings between just our share of the Verizon family plan (not including the phone and insurance payments) and our new Total Wireless plan is $15.08/mo, or $180.96/year, which still equates to a 21% savings! It’s not as much as what our monthly bill dropped by because of the factors discussed above, however, savings are still savings, especially when it’s totally transparent to our lives!
How to switch
It was surprisingly easy to switch service providers. I called Verizon to find out if I needed to cancel with them first or set up with Total Wireless then cancel and wanted to make sure we didn’t lose our phone numbers. I was expecting a drawn-out sales-y conversation trying to convince us to stay.
Instead, I had a lovely short and to the point conversation with the associate who answered my questions and wished me a nice day. I didn’t have to defend my decision or go through all that typical rigamarole. He told me to not cancel anything with Verizon until Total Wireless had imported our phone numbers, otherwise, we would lose them and not be able to get them back.
It was even easier since we were leaving the family plan, but everyone else was staying with Verizon (at least for the time being…I’m still working on them). We didn’t have to cancel the account or settle the final bill with Verizon. My mom saw a credit on the next month’s bill for the pro-rated amount of service Chris and I didn’t use, our line charges went away entirely, and that was it.
After confirming that our specific phones would work on Total Wireless’ network via their website, I ordered two bring your own phone sim cards from Total Wireless for $0.99 each and they showed up a few days later. We swapped the existing Verizon sim card for the Total Wireless sim card (very simple, but how to video was provided just in case), then selected the 2-line plan on the website and followed the instructions.
They say it may take several hours for everything to switch over and be up and running, but both of our phones were working just how they should be within several minutes.
One thing I did not think about beforehand is my voicemailbox. If you have any saved voicemails that you want to keep, figure out a way to back them up before switching carriers. I had old voicemails that I lost. They weren’t anything terribly important, but that thought didn’t even cross my mind beforehand.
Everything else, text messages, phone settings, app layouts, etc. is all exactly the same.
So far so good
Several months later, there are only two noticeable differences since we’ve switched carriers. One of them probably doesn’t even qualify as a “noticeable difference” to normal people.
The first is our monthly cell phone bill is much lower. We’re quite pleased with that.
The second is that, in the top left corner of our phones by the service bars, instead of Verizon, it says TFW. When we first saw it, Total F*ing Wireless popped into both of our heads. I thought, there’s no way that’s actually what it stands for. Shortly after, I realized its Tracfone Wireless, Total Wireless’ parent company. Tracfone makes way more sense, but it’s still not the first thing that comes to mind when I see it… it makes the child inside of me chuckle a tiny bit every time.
Other than that it’s been business as usual. We haven’t come close to using all of our data. If we were to need extra, we can purchase an additional 5GB for $10. The extra 5GB doesn’t expire and will roll over month to month until it’s all used up.
We’ve noticed exactly zero difference in our coverage and quality of cellular/LTE service. All in all, we’re quite happy with our new carrier!
Other pay as you go/pre-paid carrier options with considerably more affordable options are as follows:
- MetroPCS – owned by T-Mobile
- Boost Wireless – owned by Sprint
- Cricket Wireless – owned by AT&T
- Consumer Cellular – operates on AT&T’s network
- Straight Talk Wireless – operates on Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile’s networks
- Virgin Mobile – owned by Sprint
- Project Fi (Google) – uses Wifi (the Fi in this case) and operates on Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular
- Republic Wireless – defaults to WiFi, if unavailable operates on T-Mobile and Sprint
- Tracfone Wireless – operates on Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular
Is there another carrier you know about or use that I missed? Do you use one of these carriers and have feedback to offer?
Leave your comments below, or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to hear from you!