Ever been somewhere with the kids and wanted to pretend they weren’t yours? That’s how the big four cellphone providers feel about their offspring.
They’re called sub-brands or discount carriers and they all have one. AT&T has Cricket, Sprint has Boost Mobile, T-Mobile has GoSmartMobile and Verizon has Total Wireless.
The sub-brands use the same towers and systems as the major brands, but at a lower price and with no contract. Although you should check first, the parent network phone should be compatible with the sub-brand service. If not, simply buy a good used phone or a new one that’s unlocked and compatible.
As we explained in 4 Steps to Cut Your Cellphone Bill in Half, phone prices are dropping, so there’s no longer any reason to be locked in a contract for an extended period of time simply to get a subsidized phone. Discounters typically offer phones for less than $100.
SaveOnPhone.com says these “secret cellphone plans” can save consumers 60 percent to 75 percent off their monthly bills.
Example: As I’m writing this, Verizon’s site says that a single-line plan that includes unlimited talk, text and 2 GB of data is $75 a month on a two-year contract. But go to Total Wireless, which uses Verizon’s network, and you’ll find a contract-free plan that includes 5 GB of data for just $35 a month. More than twice the data, less than half the price!
There can be subtle differences: For example, according to consumer advocate Bob Sullivan, Total Wireless customers get 3G service while Verizon customers get faster 4G. In addition, the $75 Verizon plan includes a phone. But if you’re with Verizon now, wouldn’t you want to switch to the discount carrier when your contract is up and your phone is paid off?
So, if you have a contract with one of the Big 4, you might want to compare prices with a discounter and see if changing makes sense.
All you have to do is check out the latest addition to our Solutions Center: A comparison tool for cell phone plans. You describe your needs, it searches dozens of plans to show you the best deals.
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