Cell phone secrets: How to save cash now!

WILMINGTON, NC (WSFX) - At one point in time or another most of us have done it: Run over on minutes, data or messaging and been shocked by a cell phone bill.

And then there is the case of the Tyree's. Bonnie Tyree thought her bill was going to be $150 maybe $200 a month.

But when the bill came in, "My husband hit the roof about it," she told us in her home near Whiteville, "We couldn't keep paying it."

Her bills look more like car, or perhaps even house payments rather than cell phone bills.
"Probably the biggest bill we ever had was $452 I think."

The Tyree's have three wireless lines for their woodworking business and were as upset as they were surprised to learn their unlimited data plan did not include, well unlimited data.

In fact according to the FCC some 30 million Americans were charged overages for data, minutes and text above and beyond their contracted plan.  An  average overcharge of $85 bucks per bill - that's 2.5 billion that was charged to U.S. consumers last year.

We talked to an industry insider -who wished to remain anonymous-  to find out just how folks like the Tyree's can lower the price of their cell phone service.

"The consumer that is not educated is the one that gets taken advantage of," they told us.

The Tyree's of course thought they were getting unlimited data - but they were not. Confusion that occurred not when the bill arrived, but back when they signed up for service.

"The first thing you need to know as a consumer is that sales associates are paid on commission," the insider revealed. "So if it's the end of the month and you happen to land at the desk of somebody who is in it for the money, and they are trying to make their numbers, they are absolutely going to push every product that they can, and that's where you as a consumer need to be educated."

"At the end of the day it doesn't matter what your sales rep told you, it doesn't matter what you heard on the phone, what they are going to stick to is what is on the paperwork that you sign."

Our insider says fewer than 30 percent of customers even read the paperwork - they just sign. But even after signing our insider says there are still ways to lower monthly payments.

Here are 3 things they say you can do right now:

Number One: If your bill is high, perhaps the most obvious but least used trick: ask for a break. Competition is everywhere and companies want to keep you.  One published study shows an average reduction of 70 percent on overage bills

Number Two:  If you are not on an unlimited plan, monitor your usage.  Smart phone users will find a host of free minute and text trackers.  Many companies will even text you when you are about to run over - but you have to sign up.

Try this free one: http://www.validas.com/

Number Three:  If you still can't get it under control, consider prepaid.  Most major carriers allow for prepayment options, where you can't have any more minutes than what you pay for in advance.

But the Tyree's are going a different route.  They are cutting off the company they believe did them wrong.

"Now that we don't have the contract and there are no charges for stopping the service you know,  Jimmy Tyree said, "We just called and set up a payment plan and when we are done paying it off we'll be done with that particular company."

Perhaps to pay more attention when signing a new cell phone contract.

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