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  • Dave Kinzer

Are Discount Cell Phone Carriers Worth It?

If you’re not careful, your cell phone bill can bust your budget. Luckily, unlike the early days of cell phones, we have a plethora of choices when it comes to cell phone carriers. And usually, more choices means lower prices.

If you Google “cell phone carriers for Springfield, IL”, you’ll get the Big Four everyone knows: Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T. You’ll also see several lesser known carriers, like Consumer Cellular, Visible, Boost, Cricket, Mint Mobile, and others.

With so many options, it’s understandable that a lot of people simply go with one of the major carriers, like Verizon, because they are confident they can trust one of the Big Four. But what if one of the smaller carriers offered cell phone service that was just as good for half the cost? Wouldn’t that be worth the switch?

AT&T used to be my company for cell phone service. I was paying about $60/month. That seemed like too much, so I decided to give a discount carrier a try.

When I got a smartphone about 18 months ago, I signed up with Republic Wireless, since I’d heard a lot of good things about them.

They have several plans with different options, but it all boils down to this: You’ll pay $15/month for unlimited talking and texting, and for every gigabyte (GB) of data you need, you’ll pay an extra $5.

I rarely use more than one gig each month, so I signed up for the one gig plan. Taxes add a few dollars, so it cost me just under $23/month. The service seemed fine. Essentially, my cell phone service was just as consistent and reliable as it was with AT&T, but I was now paying $37 less each month.

I was pretty satisfied with my cell phone service.

And then I saw an advertisement from Mint Mobile. It said I could get three gigs of data each month for only $15/month.

This is a great example of how we get sucked in by good marketing. Mint Mobile was offering me something I didn’t need- more data- for a great price. I rarely even use an entire gig, so why was I enticed at their offer to get three gigs every month?

I suppose it was the lower price. I paid $23/month for one gig with Republic Wireless, while Mint Mobile would charge $20 (after taxes) for three gigs/month. Paying $3/month less, while getting triple the data seems like a good move.

So I made the switch. And Mint Mobile worked fine. Usually.

About once a month, however, there would be a few days where I would have quite a few dropped calls. After several days, the dropped calls would stop, and everything would be fine. Then it would happen again in three or four weeks.

This. Was. Annoying.

At first, I wasn’t sure what was causing the dropped calls. Was it the weather? My phone? The building I was in?

Eventually, I determined that Mint Mobile’s service was the culprit. So after a few months of saving $3/month at the cost of spotty cell phone service, I switched back to Republic Wireless. I haven’t had a single dropped call since.

So are discount cell phone carriers worth it? I think they are, but you’ve got to find the one that works for you. Before you switch, be sure to talk to some friends who live in your area to see how their reception is.

The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to give one a try. You can instantly cut your phone bill in half or more. My phone bill shrank by $444/year when I first moved to Republic Wireless. If you put the savings into your emergency fund or invested it for your retirement, it could be a big boost for your financial situation.

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