This post by Tara Donnelly originally appeared on partner site Whistleout.com.
Wireless networks are all about persuading you to upgrade, update and be the first to scoop up the latest gadgets. But unless you’re a serious tech junkie with attention deficit disorder, jumping to a new phone with every new product cycle is silly, expensive and unnecessary.
There’s a better way. Major carriers and smaller companies renting space on their networks – known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators, or MVNOs – offer deals for customers who have a phone and want to avoid contracts. Result? Big savings.
So if you’re looking to slash your phone bills, MVNOs are your best bet. You may not always get the bells and whistles that Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile offer, but you’ll make up for it with money in your pocket.
Here’s a full list of deals if you want to Bring Your Own phone.
Before you switch, know your phone
Not all phones can be used on all networks because U.S. carriers don’t all use the same technology.
Cellphone companies use two types of networks — CDMA and GSM. Of the biggest U.S. carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile run on GSM networks, while Sprint and Verizon Wireless use CDMA.
GSM-compatible phones use a SIM card: a small removable card that stores the data necessary to identify a subscriber on a wireless network. You can remove your SIM from your current phone and insert it into another compatible device, provided it’s either with the same carrier or you’ve unlocked it from its original network.
Phones running on CDMA networks can be unlocked from a network, but they need to be reprogrammed to work with a different carrier because CDMA networks use electronic serial numbers to identify subscribers.
So if you have a phone that’s out of contract or purchased outright, you’ll need to check if it’s compatible with your intended wireless operator before signing up.