Good news for those of us feeling trapped by our cell phone plans: It is possible to eliminate certain fees and even score some freebies.
We spoke with Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine for some lesser-known strategies. Altogether, the advice is worth a savings of close to $1,000 a year.
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Don't Pay For Text
If you have an iPhone or Android, you can easily save $240 a year by downloading the "Textfree" app, which allows you to send and receive texts and picture texts for free over a data or Wi-Fi connection. Of course, it may require you to watch an ad or two.
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If you're a light caller and hunting for a new plan, consider switching to a p repaid calling plan. For example, Virgin Mobile, which now includes iPhone plans, start s at $30 a month for unlimited text and data, as well as 300 minutes. To determine whether prepaid is right for you, review six months worth of bills and tally up how many minutes you're actually using. You can also use a free website like BillShrink.com to help with the math.
And despite the stigma that they're for unsophisticated or low-end phone users, Bodnar explains that prepaid plans are actually rising in appeal. The quality gap among cell phones is becoming nearly non-existent among the major players, she says, so pre-paid is becoming a more popular way to go.
Also See: Save $1,000 on Monthly Bill
Eliminate the Activation Fee
Major national carriers often charge an activation fee -- ranging from $18 at T-Mobile to $36 at AT&T and Sprint -- for each new line you open. Major carriers may even try to slap an activation or upgrade fee when you're simply extending your contract - as if you purchased a new phone. But threaten to buy your phone from another carrier and you'll often get th e salesperson to waive that.
If you own a smartphone, you're probably no longer dialing 411 for phone numbers or addresses Your phone's web browser can often get you answers on the go - for free. But for consumers with simple phones, toll-free numbers such as 1-800-FREE-411 will do the job at no cost. All you pay for is airtime.
Another way to save on your bill, though not for everyone, is to switch to a local-only plan. It's available through some carriers and best for those who only use their cell phone for local calls.
Bypass Early Termination Fees
For those of us who simply want out of our contracts, you may be able to avoid the hefty cancellation fee, which runs as high as $350. If you've moved, lost your job, or can legitimately argue that your carrier's service isn't satisfactory in your area, you may have a case. Also, if the terms of your original contract suddenly change - for example, your carrier starts charging customers more for texts or data and that's pricier than you initially agreed - you can try to argue you way out of the fee.
Block Third-Party Charges
Finally, unless you buy a lot of ringtones and games, you can fend off unexpected or hidden fees - sometimes even fraudulent fees - by asking your carrier to block third-party charges that come from unauthorized sources. "Look for anything unrecognizable on your bill," says Bodnar. "If you're unsure of anything, call your carrier and ask the rep to go through the bill line by line to explain all the charges to you."
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How are you reducing your monthly cell phone bill? Connect with me on Twitter @farnoosh and use the hashtag #FinFit.