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How to Save on Cell Phone Plans

Chances are, your wireless bill is higher than it should be. Here’s how to make sure your plan fits your calling habits.

By Lindsay Funston
Two tin cans and a string telephoneBob Hiemstra

If you send or receive more than one text a day: Sign up for a texting plan (prices start at around $5 a month; most companies have comparable plans) and you’ll avoid the average 20-cents-per-text charge. Have a teenager who texts at least six times a day? Enroll her in an unlimited-messaging plan.

If your phone usage spikes after dinner: Ask about extended calling hours. For an additional $5 to $9 a month, some carriers, such as Sprint and AT&T, offer packages that allow you unlimited calls after 6 P.M. or 7 P.M., compared with 9 P.M. for most typical plans.

If you talk for fewer than 200 minutes monthly: A prepaid plan is for you. “Thirty percent of mobile users who are not on one should be,” says Allen Hepner, executive director of the New Millennium Research Council, a telecommunications think tank in Washington, D.C. Big savings come with T-Mobile’s Pay As You Go plan (130 minutes for $25) and Virgin Mobile per-minute packs (200 “anytime” minutes cost $20).

If London is calling you (or vice versa): Go to, which offers rates starting at less than 1 cent a minute to more than 200 countries. Choose a plan (prepaid or receive a bill), then dial from your cell using a 1-800 number. Calling Moscow, for example, costs 1½ cents a minute, compared with $1.60 a minute with Verizon Wireless.

If you signed up for phone insurance: Slash this cost immediately, even if you’re clumsy. That $5 to $8 monthly charge adds up, and you’ll still have to pay a $50 deductible if you need to replace a broken phone. The replacement, which is often just a refurbished used phone, will cost about the same as a new one.

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