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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to reduce your cellphone bill

If you’re sent into a rage when you receive your cellphone bill each month, here are six tips to bring it down to a more budget-friendly amount.

Complaining about cellphone bills may be our most popular pastime. According to a report last month by the Better Business Bureau, across North America there were more complaints to the non-profit watchdog about cellular companies than any other industry — although
cable companies and banks were close runner-ups. Most of us have a horror tale to tell about receiving a bill for hundreds — and in some appalling cases, even thousands — of dollars because we were unaware of how we get charged for certain services. Read on to find out six ways you can trim your bill and avoid unnecessary charges.
Avoid roaming charges

This is the one that will take the biggest bite out of your budget if you use your phone outside your carrier's range, especially anywhere south of the border or overseas. If your phone accesses a cellular network not affiliated with your carrier, you will likely pay rates in excess of $1 a minute. If you know you're going to be spending a lot of time outside your carrier's range, ask your provider whether it has arrangements with a local carrier for slightly reduced (although not cheap) rates, since you may be able to buy a package of time before you leave. But the only way to avoid a big bill is to turn off roaming completely before leaving your carrier's coverage area. If there are no instruction in your phone's manual on how to do this, you may have to call your provider to get a password.

Turn off data usage on smartphones

If you think making a call outside your carrier's network is expensive, try using your smartphone to access a map or look up something on the Web outside of Canada. Added on top of roaming charges, data charges, particularly, will cost dearly: even a quick peek at a map can cost $100 or more. When travelling, carry a GPS unit or buy local maps. Find an Internet café to check email. Look for businesses that provide complimentary Web access, such as most U.S. Starbucks locations, and use Wi-Fi on your phone to check your email on the Web. If you stop to enjoy a latte, you could save hundreds of dollars on your cellular bill.

Buy a SIM card or local phone when you travel

If you know you're going to be outside your cellular provider's territory for a number of days, it might be worth the hassle of buying a local pay-as-you-go phone — sometimes called a "track phone." In the U.S., they may ask for a U.S. credit card in order to sell you one, however, so you might need help from a friend, colleague or relative who lives in the area. If you have an unlocked GSM phone that allows you to swap SIM cards, look into buying a SIM card with a number local to where you're travelling. These two options are probably your cheapest alternatives if you're planning on being out of Canada for several days or weeks and need to stay in touch.

Eliminate long-distance charges

Buying calling cards is much cheaper than buying long-distance minutes from your provider. But having to key in a calling card access code is time consuming. An even cheaper (and easier) option may be to use your phone's data plan to make calls using the Web. Since the introduction of the iPhone, a number of Web call apps have become popular and are available for operating systems for most popular phones such as Blackberry, Palm, Nokia and Google's Android. The best-known is a Skype app that is so cheap it almost eliminates long-distance charges. One international Skype plan allows you to make an unlimited number of calls to other cellphones and landlines across the planet for less than $13 a month.

Choose a cellphone plan that fits your needs

This should be a no-brainer, yet people often forget that when their calling patterns change, so should their cellphone plan. Check with your friends and family to find out what plan they are using, as many cellphone plans allow you to make free calls to other people using the same carrier or the same plan. If you're a student who's been using a pay-as-you go plan in high school and are heading off to university, investigate "student" packages offered by your carrier that allow you to make an unlimited number of calls to a specific list of frequently called numbers. Doing your homework here can reduce or eliminate the tendency to exceed your plan's minutes — and could mean the difference between an $80 phone bill and a $200 one.

Get out of your contract or renegotiate

If your plan no longer meets your needs, you have three options: cancel and pay a penalty, find someone to take on your contract (for a fee, usually much cheaper than cancelation penalties) at such websites as CellSwapper or, armed with information from a site like CellSwapper, negotiate better terms with your provider by threatening to move to a provider who has a plan that's better for you. If negotiation fails, you may find a contract on CellSwapper that you like for a much shorter term than the typical three years most contracts ask you to commit to. And, as a last resort, you can complain to the Better Business Bureau about your carrier. Cellular companies appear to have a high rate of resolution with people who file complaints with the BBB. Canadians can file a complaint through the BBB's website.

By Liz Metcalfe,


  1. Turn off data usage on smartphones...

    The Roaming Guard application allows you the freedom of choice between data you want available in roaming and that you choose not to download and pay.

  2. Swop to prepaid as I did and you'll be shattered at how much money you save!! I went on to Net10, got a super Samsung with a qwerty keyboard,got 300 FREE minutes with my phone and my calls now cost me 10c per minute, my texts 5c each and there are no roaming charges! I will save about $800.00 this year going prepaid!




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