4 Your Money

Saving on your smartphone bill

CREATED Mar 31, 2014

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When Mimi Sun was due for an upgrade and got a newer model iPhone, she was shocked to see her carrier tacked an 'upgrade fee' onto her bill.  "I definitely was like, 'What?  I'm not paying so much money.' and, I was staying with the same carrier.  'It's not like I'm changing anything.'"  

An upgrade fee, when you're already paying for the new phone is the latest example of a 'one time' charge some cell phone companies 'ding' consumers with.  A recent analysis of the 4 major U.S carriers by cheapism.com found they can 'dent' your wallet up to $36.

Louis Denicola is with cheapism.  He explains, "The advertised price is never the true price.  If you look at the small print it says plus fees and taxes.  That can add anywhere from 17 up to 24% on top of the bill."

If you want to subtract some of those one time charges, we found you may actually be able to talk your way out of upgrade, as well as activation fees.  Experts say if you're fed up, speak up, because carriers are getting competitive when it comes to fees.

Telecommunications expert Michael Bremmer says, "Everyone in the United States that wants a cell phone has a cell phone.  So they have to find a way to differentiate themselves, and the easiest way to do that is price."

That's what Mimi found after a quick call to customer service, reminding them she's been a long time customer.  "I said, 'As a courtesy, can you take that off?' and they said 'Yeah, sure no problem.'"

What other fees may be no problem to negotiate off your bill?  If the money is going to Uncle Sam in taxes or government imposed fees, forget it.  And those monthly administrative or regulatory fees, which range from 21 cents to about $2.50 a line, probably not.  But what about those hefty fees for going over your limit on your voice, text, or data plan?  Or for roaming internationally? 

With no international plan while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, Joshua Fuentes got quite a surprise when he returned back to the United States:  A $2,000 phone bill!  Experts say if you've been a good customer and don't usually go over your plan, you should call into customer care and ask to have those fees waived.  The worst they can say is no.

Luckily Joshua's carrier said, 'yes' when he called, and he says they reduced his bill 90%.  Now he highly recommends speaking up versus immediately paying up! 

"I was happy that I called and negotiated the prices because the price they originally gave me, there's no way I could pay it," he exclaims.

Early termination fees and late fees are also charges experts say you can try to negotiate.