Optimize monthly mobile service costs

A good first step in the process of achieving FI is to look where your money is going, identify leaks and stop them immediately.  As I dig through my personal situation and identify such mistakes, I will cover them as part of series -Stop bleeding. Today – I will cover my analysis of my current mobile service provider – AT&T.

Case for AT&T

Prior to moving to AT&T last year, I was using T-Mobile and I definitely see a positive difference in the performance and reliability of the AT&T network in my personal experience. I have no complaints from AT&T so far in terms of performance.  AT&T also offers a rather generous discount of 25% through my employer. To sweeten the pot further, it also came out with a BOGO offer on Samsung Galaxy S7 edge phone last year if you sign up for their AT&T next plan.

Here is current snapshot of my bill for family plan of 2 lines –

Itemized bill categoryAmount
Family Plan amount ( 5GB shared)100
Mobile device charges on AT&T Next plan ( 2 devices) for 30 months53
Rebate of Buy one Get one on mobile phone-26.50
Corporate discount (25% off data plan)-13
Taxes and fees17.5
Total131

What’s the catch in my AT&T plan

As you can see, I was getting a rather generous credit through my employer discount and a free device as well.  A point to note is that the free device is still tied to my AT&T next plan ( This plan splits the cost of the phone into 30 equal instalments) and the monthly amount due for the free phone is credited back to my account each month. In other words, I get to keep the phone for free if I keep my service with AT&T for 30 months. I am currently 12 months into my contract.  Cost of switching carriers is  $900 across my 2 phones to pay them off. No complaints here – Terms were set out before I signed the contract.

Looking around for options- What the hell is a MVNO

MVNO are service providers that piggyback on the networks of major mobile service providers such as T-Mobile, AT&T etc but at offer a much cheaper rate. The caveat here is that customer traffic from these providers is de-prioritized behind primary customers of the major cell phone providers.

Here is a quick table to highlight the cost difference for the plan I was looking for ( 2 lines with atleast 2GB data each)

ProviderUnderlying networkCompatible with my phone ( Samsung Galaxy S7 edge)Cost ( For 2 lines. 4GB data shared)Remarks
Cricket WirelessAT&TYes. 70 Plans are tax inclusive.
H20AT&TYes50Plans are tax inclusive and no other fees apply. On top, they offer unlimited international calling to 50 countries (This covers the countries I call the most).
TingT-MobileYes73
RepublicT-MobileNo60Much supported by FI community. For some reason they dont support my phone.
MintsimT-MobileYes40 ( for first 3 months)Think of it as a Costco of mobile service providers. You get a discount for prepaying 3,6 or 12 months of service.
Google FiMultipleNo. 75Good option for international travelers. Offer credit back for any unused data.

Given that I just paid off a rather large amount for my phone ( where I used by new Chase Sapphire preferred card to get to the minimum spend) , I am not looking to buy new phones to switch carriers. Another key consideration for me is the quality of the network. I will prefer to pay a little more to get on the At&T network.   With this in mind,  I have shortlisted H20 wireless to be my next service provider.  I will monitor the quality of service and update this post in some time to share my feedback.