Money expert Clark Howard is a big fan of routinely checking your cell phone bill to make sure there aren't any discrepancies.
“The reason to check a cell phone bill is to monitor for any stray charges added to your bill,” Clark says. “Generally, people don’t look at their cell phone bill, and if it goes too many months you lose all but the last two months of whatever overcharge you’ve been hit with.”
3 Reasons To Check Your Cell Phone Bill
In this article, we’re going to give you even more reasons to make a habit of going over your monthly cell phone bill.
Look for Unusual Charges on Your Cell Phone Bill
While many carriers offer an autopay discount on your bill, it makes it even more important to review your monthly statement. One example of this was recently shared by a consumer who contacted Clark through his Ask Clark form.
“I was on autopay and hadn’t checked my phone bill for months. I found from AT&T a $75 monthly charge for an extra line and number I knew nothing about.
In December of 2020, I went to an AT&T store for a new phone. The agent said I could get a free iPhone SE (current retail value $399) with a trade in. He even said my bill would go down, which it did for the first month.
I didn’t notice 30 days later when AT&T started billing me $75 per month for an extra line. I called them today about this and was told the phone was free under the condition of the new line at $75 a month for 20 months.
That meant the $399 iPhone SE was costing me $1,500. They did cancel the extra line and gave me a voucher to pay off the $750 I owe on this $399 phone after I pointed out their obvious deceptive practice. I have however paid $750 for a $399 phone.”
Not only will companies potentially slip fees and other charges on you, but if you’re not careful, you could be easy prey for scammers.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warns of a scam called "cramming" in which unauthorized charges are put on your wireless or bundled telephone bill.
Here’s how the FCC describes the crime:
- Charges for services that are explained on your telephone bill in general terms such as "service fee," "service charge," "other fees," "voicemail," "mail server," "calling plan" and "membership."
- Charges that are added to your telephone bill every month without a clear explanation of the services provided – such as a "monthly fee" or "minimum monthly usage fee."
- Charges for specific services or products you may not have authorized, like ringtones, cell phone wallpaper, or "premium" text messages about sports scores, celebrity gossip, flirting tips or daily horoscopes.
Review Your Data Usage
One thing you may not look at as much as you should is your data usage, which you should be able to find on your cell phone bill. Do you really need to pay for an unlimited cell phone plan?
Some questions you can ask yourself as you review your data usage are:
- Am I using most of the data I'm paying for?
- Am I getting hit with overage charges because I'm using more data than my plan allows?
- Should I switch to a cheaper plan?
For example, one line of unlimited service through Verizon costs $70 per month. However, Twigby is only $20 per month for unlimited talk, text and 3GB of data. That's a savings of $50 a month!
Check for Discounts and for Charges You Can Cut
Are you paying a monthly fee for cell phone insurance? Take a moment to see if your credit card offers this protection for free. In addition, look for any discounts you may qualify for to lower your bill. Those could include the following:
Add Additional Lines for Family Members
Many cell phone companies offer steep discounts on family plans compared to individual plans.
Cell phone provider Visible offers a Party Pay discount that gets you unlimited talk, text and data for $25 per line with four lines.
See if You Can Get a Workplace or Military Discount
Some companies may have deals with wireless providers that offer a percentage off your monthly bill. Check with your employer to find out if you qualify.
If you’re a member of the armed forces, you may qualify for a military discount.
- AT&T offers military members plans as low as $27 a month when you get four lines.
- T-Mobile has Magenta plans for $25 and $35 a month for military members.
- Verizon offers military members a $10 discount per account for a single line.
You typically have to confirm your eligibility status when applying for the military discount.
Sign Up for Autopay
Many wireless providers give customers a discount on their monthly bills when they enroll in automatic payments.
T-Mobile and Verizon both give their customers $5 off their monthly bills for autopay. AT&T is offering as much as $25 off for autopay on its prepaid unlimited plans.
(But remember to always check your bill every month to avoid surprise charges!)
Overcharges and junk fees can find their way onto any of your bills. And it’s usually up to you to get those charges removed.
Make it a habit of scrutinizing your bills each month so that you can control your money more closely.
More Cell Phone Resources From Clark.com:
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