Smart apps make for smarter financial planning

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If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably overpaying for your mobile plan, according to a new report from WhistleOut.

The survey found that while the majority of Americans use 15GB or less of data a month, most are paying for unlimited plans they don’t need. That’s because the price of cellular data per gigabyte is falling, with one gigabyte costing an average of $2.75 in 2023, around a 40% decrease since 2018.

And beyond paying for unused data, most Americans also sign up for plans with the three major mobile carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — all of which charge a premium compared to smaller, lesser-known carriers.

The upshot? If you’re looking to save money on your mobile plan, you should ask yourself two questions: How much data do I use? And do other carriers offer more competitive rates?

Statistic: Estimated average price of cellular data per gigabyte in the United States from 2018 to 2023 (in U.S. dollars) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Evaluate How Much Data You Use

If you use less than 15GB of data, chances are you don’t need an unlimited plan. Even Verizon, a premium carrier, offers a cheaper 15GB pre-paid plan that costs just $35 a month with autopay. That’s $15 cheaper than the carrier’s pre-paid unlimited plan and $125 cheaper than the $160 the average American pays.

Consider Smaller Carriers

You should also look beyond the “Big Three” mobile companies to smaller carriers, including mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Unlike Verizon, which operates its own network and cell towers, an MVNO piggybacks off a larger carrier’s infrastructure while selling its own phone plans at cheaper rates.

These low-cost carriers come with their own drawbacks — because they use other carriers’ networks, their data is often “deprioritized” during peak hours — but they might work if you aren’t a power user.

Speaking from experience, I was with Visible Wireless for about a year. While the service was pretty bad (I wasn’t getting texts toward the end, which is why I switched to Verizon), I was paying just $25 for unlimited talk, text, and data. A friend of mine also recommends Mint Mobile, which offers a $15-a-month unlimited data intro deal. (Full disclosure: Mint Mobile partnered with WhistleOut for the above survey, but Cheapism has no affiliation with either company.)

The Bottom Line: Shop Around

The last thing you should do when you’re shopping for a mobile plan is to just sign up for what your family or friends have. While I thought I needed unlimited data, it turns out that I use significantly less than 15GB a month, so I switched to Verizon’s more reliable pre-paid option. Of course, if you benefit from a family plan, you might be getting a great deal on unlimited data. Figure out how much data you need, compare plans, read reviews, and don’t be afraid to try something new.

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