How to lower your cell phone bills - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

How to lower your cell phone bills

By: John Matarese

(WCPO) - Check your cell phone bill lately? What used to cost $50 a month went to $80 and now $100 or more for many people.  And rising data rates mean its going even higher.

But there are some simply ways to save.

More than half of all cell phone users now have a smartphone, and a smartphone's monthly sticker shock.

Kathy England of Cincinnati says she spends "a couple hundred a month. It's very expensive."

Tim Heltner says he has it even worse.

"I have three cell phones, myself and my two children, and it's probably $300 a month," Heltner said.

But Heltner and many others may be able to cut those bills.

What You Can Do

Verizon Wireless's Laura Merritt says start by checking to see if you are paying for more minutes than you need.

"After looking at two or three months of bills, you can see if you are really paying more for a plan that has more voice minutes than you are using," Merritt said. "What we are finding is people are still talking, but maybe not as much as they used to."

So the simplest change for most people that will lower their bills: Trim voice minutes and save.

Save on Data Fees

But that is just one way to lower your monthly cell phone bill.

To lower your data fees, Merritt said download video only when you are on WiFi.

Otherwise, streaming a one-hour TV show can use a whopping 350 megabytes of data, and set you well on your way to a higher tier of data fees. Stream that show at home, on WiFi or in a coffee shop, and there is no data charge.

Next, Merritt said, turn off automatic email alerts, that also burn up data.

"Do you really need to have email pushed constantly to your device," she said. "If you don't, go into the settings and switch to manual. You will get email only when you want to."

Click here for a data usage chart, showing popular activities and how much they use.

Click here for some popular data monitoring apps.

Prepaid Can Save Money

Another option? Consider prepaid, especially if you have teenage children or college students with smartphones.

Don't laugh:  Prepaid has come along way from the days when a prepaid phone was an embarrassment.

"A lot of customers think that prepaid has only one phone to choose from, and its this 1980 brick prepaid phone. That's not the case anymore," said John Winstel of Cincinnati Bell's i-Wireless .

Cincinnati Bell Wireless offers several prepaid smartphones

Winstel says prepaid means no surprises, especially with teenagers.

"That's the great thing about prepaid," he said. "You don't have to worry about going over.  There are no hidden fees or anything like that. You pay for exactly what you get."

Call Your Provider

Finally, call your provider:  You may be paying for extras you don't need, like roadside assistance or expensive cell phone insurance, which Consumer Reports magazine says is worthwhile only with the most expensive smartphones.

Or you could find out about a new bundle you're eligible for, which could lower your rates.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line: You don't have to go back to last decade's flip phone to lower your cell phone bills.
But you do need to spend some time online or on your phone to analyze your use and charges.  You may be overpaying for voice or text.

Make some simple changes and that way you don't waste your money.

Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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