A typical personal phone bill is made up of several components, each of which can be managed to provide maximum service at minimal cost. Business plans can be even more complicated thanks to the sheer number of lines associated with a single account. Recent plan changes by the carriers offer consumers new ways to reduce costs and increase user accountability.
The Data Plan
The major carriers have made changes to their data plans that can provide some significant benefits to the consumer, but only if the consumer asks to be put on a new plan.
- The cost per gigabyte of sharable data can be slightly lower than on legacy plans
- The new plans allow for “Carry Over” data for unused data from the prior month
- The new plans also have “Safety Mode” which will protect you from overage charges by offering slower data at no charge when limit is reached or purchase of additional data
- Some plans offer free international calls to Canada and Mexico with the new data plans
Recommendation: Know how much data you need and make sure that you are on the right plan to support it. If you have family members that are streaming a lot of music and/or video, understand the costs and manage their data usage.
The Equipment Charges
The major wireless carriers have been making a lot of changes to separate the cost of the equipment from the cost of the service. This offers consumers an opportunity to lower their costs if they can keep their phones longer than the time it takes to pay them off. Most carriers will charge a monthly equipment fee to pay off the cost of the equipment which is typically between $20-$30 per month depending on the phone. In exchange for separating the equipment cost from the service cost the carriers have been able to reduce the monthly cost for just the service.
Recommendation: Don’t feel the need to rush out and get a new phone just because you are eligible for an upgrade. The differences between some of the newer smartphones is negligible and often not worth the additional expense of getting a new phone.
The Per-Device Charge
With the equipment costs being separated out from the service costs, the actual cost of the service drops dramatically and becomes quite predictable. The latest plans offer monthly service costs for smartphones at $20 per month, and tablets and other wireless devices at $10 per month.
Recommendation: If you are paying more than $20 per month for your smartphone make sure you understand why. Smartphones can provide the same functionality that a hot spot device does; in most cases there is no need to keep the hot spot device. Tablets can function on WiFi without the need for any carrier fees; if you are paying for service for your tablet make sure that it is really necessary.
Applications and Features
If you find that you are paying for applications and/or vanity features make sure that you are truly getting the value for what you are paying. There are options like Verizon Navigator that made sense before smartphones were the mainstay, but have been since superseded by free-of-charge apps like Google Maps and Waze.
The recent move towards separating service and equipment costs makes it much easier to manage the costs of providing personal cell phones to a family or to establish guidelines for reimbursing wireless phone expenses in a business environment. The account holder can provide a sharable data plan and suitable service plan for each device while holding individual users accountable for new equipment charges, insurance and personal apps and features.
The carriers will not make these changes for you by default, but they are out there for the taking.