I’m Saving $75 Per Month on My Smartphone Bill

Photo credit: Paul Hudson, CC BY 2.0.

I promised I’d tell you how I cut my smartphone bill from $98 per month to $23, and the answer is… I switched to Tello.

I know that all of you have been saying that $98 is way too much to pay per month for voice/text/data, and my response has always been “but that’s what I’ve always paid?” My smartphone bill has been just under $100 per month on every carrier I’ve ever used for the past ten years. (Technically I’m paying less than I was ten years ago, if you consider inflation.)

Still, I knew that it would be worth both my time and yours to see if I could find a less expensive alternative.

Since I was able to cut my internet bill in half just by moving from Seattle to Cedar Rapids, my first step was to search the major carriers to see if they were offering their Midwest customers lower prices. That was not the case. If you want 2 GB of data, which I do use pretty much every month, you’re going to pay around $100.

(Yes, my data usage might go down now that I’m living in a city with free downtown Wi-Fi. Also I anticipate spending fewer hours on buses and in airports. But I do a lot of walking, and I don’t always remember to download my podcasts before I leave the apartment.)

Then I started clicking on the phone companies I’d never heard of, hoping they weren’t scams. That led me to Tello, and a Reddit search confirmed that they were a legit MVNO providing both quality phone service and quality customer service.

A MVNO, if you’re not familiar, is… you know what, I’m just going to quote Wikipedia:

mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), virtual network operator (VNO), or mobile other licensed operator (MOLO), is a wireless communications services provider that does not own the wireless network infrastructure over which it provides services to its customers. An MVNO enters into a business agreement with a mobile network operator to obtain bulk access to network services at wholesale rates, then sets retail prices independently.

Since my phone was currently with Credo, I was already comfortable with the whole MVNO concept. But Tello’s prices were way, way, better.

Tello lets you customize your phone plan to include only the services you need. My current plan has 2 GB of data but only 200 minutes. (All the plans include unlimited texts.) There’s no roaming or international dialing, but I can make Skype-style calls over the My Tello app when I’m in Wi-Fi range.

Also, I didn’t have to buy a new phone; I could keep using the one I have.

That turned out to be the biggest hitch in the process; it took a week to get my phone transferred over to Tello, in part because I hadn’t changed my address with Credo before I submitted the Tello application. (Whoops.) Getting Credo to recognize that, yes, this was me took daily calls to both Credo and Tello and one 45-minute-long conference call.

But now that’s all taken care of and I am very happy with my Tello service and their customer service, who had to deal with a week of “hey, it’s me again!”

If I go over 2 GB or 200 minutes, maybe with the call to Premera I’m planning to make this afternoon, I can buy more. If I need a new phone, maybe because Apple just admitted that they slow down their old models, I can buy a new or refurbished phone through Tello.

And I save $75 every month on my phone bill.

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