A fee here, a fee there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money. Here are tips to avoid — or at least reduce — common wireless fees.
Activation and upgrade fees
Typical amount: $20 to $40.
When you start a new line of service with a wireless carrier or upgrade to a new phone with your current provider, you may be charged a fee for it. An activation fee is sometimes avoidable by switching to a new carrier during a promotional period that waives the fee. And some carriers reduce or eliminate the fee if you upgrade your device online.
Verizon Wireless, for example, cuts its $40 fee to $20 if you upgrade online or through the Verizon app, and you’ll pay no fee if you buy an unlocked phone and use your previous device’s SIM card. T-Mobile doesn’t charge its $20 “assisted support” fee if you upgrade your phone online or through T-Mobile’s app.
International roaming and data charges
Typical amount: About $2 for each megabyte of data used, 25 cents to 50 cents for text messages sent and 25 cents to $3 per minute for calls.
Heading out of the country without first tweaking your wireless plan could result in painful surcharges. “If you’re using your phone as you regularly do at home, your daily cost could be upward of $100,” says Tina Chang, of WhistleOut, a website that compares phone plans. Check out your carrier’s international packages if you intend to use your phone frequently while overseas.
Verizon and AT&T both offer add-ons that allow you to access your regular domestic plan in more than 100 countries for an extra $10 per day that you use your phone while you’re overseas. If you travel abroad often, consider a plan that includes international services. Some T-Mobile and Sprint plans include text messages, low-speed data and calls for 25 cents per minute, and you can add passes for high-speed data. Sprint, for example, charges $5 per day or $25 per week for high-speed data in most international destinations.
Typical amount: A few dollars per month.
Keep an eye on your wireless bill for services that you don’t want or never requested. Verizon, for example, offers new customers a free trial of its cloud storage service for 30 days, then charges $5 per month if you don’t cancel the subscription before the trial ends. Verizon customers who activate a new Android device also get 30 free days of premium visual voicemail service, which comes with a $3 monthly fee if you don’t unsubscribe after the free period.