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Smart Buying

3 Simple Steps to Reshop Your Cell-Phone Plan

These tips can help you save big.

Step 1

Match a plan with your usage patterns. At www.wirefly.com, enter the type of phone you want, the number of minutes and text messages and the amount of data you typically use in a month, whether you prefer having a contract or not, and the number of phone lines you’d like. The tool will produce a list of suitable plans and prices. A basic prepaid plan may be a good fit for casual users, but if you stream video or music regularly, look into a plan with bountiful data. If you crave the newest devices, focus on an early-upgrade plan that allows you to trade in your phone after you’ve made a certain number of payments.

Step 2

Look for deals. Wireless carriers are battling to grab your business. But check the fine print and do the math to make sure you’re getting a better deal. For example, Sprint recently promised AT&T and Verizon customers that they would pay half their current plan’s monthly price if they switched to a similar Sprint plan. Sprint also offered to reimburse any early-termination fees and to waive activation fees. But you have to buy a new Sprint phone at full retail price (or agree to a leasing program), and you must trade in your old phone or pay a $200 fee. In addition, the plan price may jump when you eventually upgrade your device.

Step 3

Check network coverage in your area. Ask neighbors, coworkers and friends who have service with carriers you’re considering about the reception. At www.rootmetrics.com, you can check your location on a coverage map to see network performance based on RootMetrics’ testing.

The payoff

You may find a better wireless plan at a lower price.

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