How to save a bundle on your cell phone bill

How to save a bundle on your cell phone bill »Play Video
SEATTLE -- Have a cell phone? Think you're getting a good deal?

Chances are you're not, even if you took the time to shop around for your current plan.

But don't fret. There's a way you can pay less, even if you're locked into a long-term contract.

Kevin and Martina Mease are newlyweds on a limited budget. So they're always looking for ways to cut expenses.

They were thrilled when Kevin was able to lower their cell phone bill by $30 a month.

"That's huge. That's huge. Especially when you're trying to pile up some for savings in case anything happens to my job," he said.

Kevin found the cheaper plan on BillShrink.com, a free comparison Web site.

"The whole process literally took less than 30 seconds," he said.

During their two-year contract with AT&T, the Meases will save $720 with no reduction in service.

Most cell phone users could find a better cell phone plan if they had the time to search around. But who has the time?

BillShrink.com makes it easy to compare 10 million rate configurations in seconds to find the ones that best meet your needs.

"Eighty percent of the people that come to the Web site actually save money," said Schwark Satyavolu, co-founder of the site.

He says the average person who uses the site saves between $200 and $300 during the two-year contract.

Tell BillShrink how many phones you have, how many minutes you get and the number of text messages you send each month. And you'll get a list of options: the best deals with your current carrier, and any cheaper plans with other companies. The savings you see are after paying any termination fees.

"In some cases, competitors put out plans that are so incredibly good that it is, in fact, worth paying the termination fee with your current carrier and get on to the new plan," said Satyavolu.

Being a professional skeptic, I had to see this for myself. So I headed to the Seattle Center with Jennifer Jolly, who blogs about saving money. Her visit to Seattle was paid for by BillShrink.

I picked people at random who were willing to help out.

Maria Elena was visiting from Miami. Jolly did the math on her phone bill.

"Okay, over two years we can save you $1,100," she said.

We also met Jason, who lives in Santa Clara, California. BillShrink said he could pocket $525 over two years if he had a different plan with AT&T.

In the case of Maxine, another cell phone user we met, she could save $1,251 over two years if she's willing to change companies, BillShrink said.

"Well, I'm pretty impressed," said Maxine. "I didn't think they'd be able to save me anything. So I'm going to try it."

Clearly, choosing the wrong plan for your lifestyle is a costly mistake.

"The most common culprit is overage charges. They don't have enough minutes and they go over their minutes every month. Text messages are another culprit," said Jolly.

Jolly says many people think phone companies will let them know if there's a better rate plan for them, but they don't tell you.

"No, the cell phone companies do not tell you if they have a better plan for you," she said. "A lot of people could be paying less, within their carrier, and they just don't know about it."

While BillShrink makes it a snap to compare the big four wireless companies, it doesn't give you every money-saving option. The site does not display pre-paid service from Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Tracfone and StraightTalk.

And in many cases, prepaid is your cheapest option. For example, a prepaid phone from Boost Mobile, a division of Sprint, with unlimited nationwide talk, text and Web access is just $50 a month. There's no contract, no credit check and no hidden fees.

For more information:

Consumer Reports: Best Cell Phone Service

How to Buy a Pre-paid Phone

Pre-paid Cell Phones May Be Your Best Bet