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How to choose the best mobile phone plan for your needs.

With the holiday shopping season underway, you might be tempted to purchase a new phone for a loved one or even gift one to yourself. Whether you’re considering a new phone, a new plan or both, the good news is that you have plenty of choices.

But with so many options, deciding between different carriers and plans can sometimes feel overwhelming. Below, we share important factors to help you select the best mobile phone plan for your lifestyle and your budget.

Choosing a mobile plan: Factors to consider

To find a plan that meets your needs, start by reviewing each of the areas below to help you decide what makes the most sense for you and your budget.

  • Data usage. Data is usually the most expensive part of a phone plan. If you only occasionally use your phone for web browsing, apps or checking social media, a plan with a set amount of data, such as 1GB to 4GB per month, might be just right. And you’re likely to spend less per month compared to an unlimited data plan. On the other hand, if you’re accessing apps, the internet and streaming services on a regular basis, the extra cost of an unlimited data plan may give you the best value.

    To help you decide how much data you need, consider how much you and any other family members on your plan use features like talk, text, social media, streaming videos or music, playing games, attending work meetings or virtual events, or researching information.

    You can also log into your current phone provider account to review past usage reports. This can help you determine how much data you consume on average per month. Don’t forget to consider your Wi-Fi access. When you’re using your phone and not connected to Wi-Fi, you’re tapping into your phone’s data while you scroll.

  • Coverage area. Make sure your current (or potential) provider offers good coverage for your area by checking the coverage map on the phone provider’s website. Keep in mind though, that coverage maps may not give you the full picture. If a map says your neighborhood is blanketed with service, the network might still lack the capacity to provide consistent service to everyone. If you’re considering a smaller carrier, note that they may leverage larger networks to provide service at a lower rate.

  • Number of phone lines. If multiple people in your household have mobile phones, consider whether including everyone on the same plan — or even sharing data — makes the most sense.

  • Prepaid plans. If you have one phone line on your account, have low data usage and aren’t interested in a contract, this option might make the most sense. Read the fine print to confirm coverage, any limitations and any additional fees.

  • Network quality. If you’re thinking of switching phone carriers, ask friends in your neighborhood who subscribe to that network about their experience with the signal strength, speed and reliability. And if you travel regularly, whether for work or other reasons, be sure the carrier you choose works well in those locations, too.

  • Extra features. Decide which phone plan perks are (and aren’t) important to you, such as international roaming, mobile hotspot data, parental controls or free streaming services.

Tips for saving money and getting the most value out of your phone plan

The amount you have available to spend may also impact your phone plan decision. Start by reviewing your budget in advance to see how much you can comfortably put toward a new monthly phone plan. Then, be sure to check your monthly usage regularly to make sure that it’s still working for your lifestyle and your budget.

Try these tips for getting the most value out of your purchase.

  • Review your plan to make sure you’re not paying for features that you won’t use.

  • Use Wi-Fi whenever you can and try to limit background data use.

  • Compare services and offers from different carriers. If you’re happy with your current carrier but find a better deal with another one, consider negotiating with your current carrier for a better rate. Be aware of any early termination fees that may apply if you switch plans.

  • Looks for a plan with taxes and fees already included in the monthly bill.

  • Consider the pros and cons of keeping your current phone but updating your plan — or vice versa.

  • Take advantage of any carrier discounts like family, multiple line, student, military, senior or autopay discounts, or carrier-specific rewards programs.

  • Check to see if your carrier offers free streaming services. Many carriers offer anywhere from a four- to 12-month free trial on services like HBO Max, Disney Plus and more, which could lead to significant savings.

Choosing a shiny new phone and a new phone plan can be an exciting time. As with any large purchase, it’s always a good idea to go over your options to ensure that your choice meets your needs as well as your budget. For questions about budgeting, saving or borrowing, contact us.

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