Saving (Lots of) Money on Phone Plans

For the last few years, I’ve monitored my family’s AT&T plan by adding text messages for my brothers and me and arguing unnecessary charges from time to time. We started with 200 text messages, but there came a point where I was exceeding that limit and needed an upgrade. $15 for 1,500 text messages seemed like a lot, so I found a code online, spent an hour finding a representative who would add the code for me, and I now have 1,500 text messages for $8.99, which is must more reasonable.

Our Current Plan

What I didn’t consider until a few months ago is that while we were on a 2,100 minute plan, we were only using about 1800 minutes a month. So while we had lots of rollover minutes, we never had a need for them. I wanted a solution. I found another code online, this one for 200 free bonus minutes. I called up, talked to several different customer service representatives, and finally one agreed to add it to my line. Nervously, I asked the woman if she could add it to some of the other lines, and she said that it would be no problem. So suddenly we had an extra 1,000 minutes for the month that we weren’t paying for. I was able to drop us down to 1,400 minutes and reduced the monthly cost from $109.99 to $89.99 (plus an employer discount). I was pretty happy about saving the family about 200 a year.

My biggest accomplishment was not this, however. With 1,400 minutes, plus an additional 1,000 a month, we were now at a 2,400 plan for the price of 1,400. We were racking up rollover minutes an alarming rate, but they were never needed. I wanted to drop us down to 700 a month (for $69.99), but was aware of the AT&T policy that the number of rollover minutes could not exceed the number of minutes paid for each month. So with just 1,700 minutes (plus 700 rollover minutes to start), we’d be dipping into our rollover minutes and after a few months, we would need to go back to the 1,400 minute package. I called AT&T and negotiated reducing our minutes to 700 under the condition that as a buffer, they would add 1,000 rollover minutes. After getting this applied, we now had 700 minutes a month, plus 1,000 free minutes a month, plus 700 rollover minutes, plus an extra 1,000 rollover minutes. So 1,700 a month plus a 1,700 buffer. Our phone usage has increased steadily an we now use about 2,000 minutes a month, so I expect our buffer to last about 5 months. At that point, we’ll be forced to increase back to the 1,400 minute plan.

New Features

While that seems like an appropriate amount, AT&T has introduced a new feature, “A-List” which allows you to select 10 out of networks numbers that anyone in the family can call at any time, without using minutes. That’s a great deal, and would reduce the number of minutes used each month, but the offer only applies to plans with 1,400 minutes of more.

So eventually we’ll be stuck between a 700 minute plan (+1,000) that won’t cover our minute usage and a 1,400 minute plan (+1,000) that would cover us and give us many hundreds of rollover minutes a month. Neither plan is ideal, and the best idea seems to be to switch between plans every few months. It’s not ideal, but likely worth the little time and effort required.

Overall, I was able to reduce our monthly costs by $40 a month ($480 a year!), even while our phone usage increased. A little research a lot of haggling can sometimes go a long way.

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