cut your cell phone bill in halfIf you want to save money, your phone bill is a good place to start looking for savings. There is no need to spend a lot for cell phone or landline phone service. Third party companies, not associated with the major phone companies, are giving you more options to save.

iPhone 4Prepaid cell phone savings

A prepaid cell phone plan is the best way to cut your bill in half. These plans used to be marketed to people with poor credit who couldn’t qualify for a phone plan, but now they’re becoming mainstream. Pre-paid plans are now being used by consumers who simply want to reduce their phone bill. Some of the plans are offered by third party companies, while others are offered by the phone company itself.

One of the more popular ones is offered by Straight Talk. Walmart sells the plans, but you can also buy the service directly from Straight Talk online. The company offers a $45 unlimited talk, text, and data plan for smartphone users. That’s far less than the traditional plans for similar service that typically start at $75-80.

You need an unlocked phone for this service, but spending several hundred dollars upfront for the phone may be worth it because you are not tied into a hefty monthly charge or contract. Some users say that while it’s advertised as “unlimited” there are limits on the data you can consume before being throttled. I couldn’t get a straight answer on this, but a techie who uses it said he stays below 2 GB to avoid potential problems.

Save on landline service

Straight Talk is now offering you the chance to save on landline service too. The cost is $15 a month. My mom pays $43 a month for basic phone service. The cost is outrageous, and I’m ready to switch her to save her $28 a month.

You need to buy a $99.99 wireless home phone device to make this possible, and then you pay the monthly fee. You can keep your old number by porting it.

What’s unclear is whether your phone number remains unlisted. My mom pays $5.50 a month to keep her phone number out of the phone book. That’s an outrageous price, and she said it’s gone up considerably in the last few years.

phone book 3I read all the fine print on Straight Talk’s website, and can’t find anything about keeping your number private. I called customer service and none of the options really applied to what I needed. They were mostly for existing customers. I hit a few options when prompted, and was hung up on twice.

On my third try, I finally hit the correct prompts to get connected to a customer service representative. Or, so I thought. I sat on hold for more than 23 minutes, when I finally gave up and hung up the phone.

That’s the big tradeoff with Straight Talk. It’s hard to get straight answers because it’s hard to reach customer service. You get what you pay for in a way. If the little details are not important to you, it’s a good option for you. However, I have a feeling many of the people holding onto their costly landline phone service are not exactly willing to try new technology without asking lots of questions and reading all the fine print.

The other option is magicJack, but it requires some technical know-how to use it. A computer was once a requirement, but now you just need a router or Internet service.

That company makes it clear you can keep your private number for no additional fee, but it won’t work for my mother who doesn’t own a computer and has no desire to get one. I’m sure many people with landline phones fit into this category.

The bottom line: there are options out there to cut your phone bills in half. In my opinion, it’s worth some of the tradeoffs if you’re going to save some money. People who have made the switch seem happy they did. They’re celebrating all the way to the bank.