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4 Ways to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill

Have you ever opened your cell phone bill and thought, “Wow, that was cheap?” Yeah, didn’t think so.

But take heart: It’s possible to lower your charges before your next billing cycle.

Simple tweaks, such as updating your service address and changing or removing your insurance package can make small dents in your bill — and those savings add up over time. Changing your plan or even adding a line requires a little more legwork but can decrease your bill even more.

1. Change your plan

Goldilocks could relate to most cell phone users, who often struggle to find data plans that are just right. Often you pay for data you don’t need, or you don’t have enough data and you’re hit with overage charges.

Finding a plan that hits the sweet spot can save you hundreds of dollars each year. But before switching, figure out how much data you use. Take stock of your data use for the past three months, then research plans that fit that amount through your current carrier and its competitors.

Make this a habit to ensure you’re always getting the best deal. Keep in mind that wireless carriers change their plans regularly. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile have all overhauled theirs in 2016. So the best cell phone plan for you a year ago might not be the best now.

Verizon added rollover data to its new plans and eliminated overage charges on some data packages. AT&T rolled out new plans in August that include more data for less money. AT&T also eliminated overage charges and added data options.

2. Add lines

This seems counterintuitive, because adding one or more lines will increase your bill. But splitting the cost with other people can lower the amount you pay overall.

Consider this: One line with 4 gigabytes from Verizon costs $70. Add a second line to that plan and your total cost is $90, or just $45 per person, before taxes and fees. That’s a savings of $300 per year per line.

Even if you bumped up to Verizon’s 8GB plan to accommodate the second line, you’d still pay just $55 per person per month before taxes. That’s a savings of $15 per month.

 Cost for one lineCost for two linesTotal savings (family plan vs. individual plan) AT&T$60 per month (3GB)$100 per month (6GB), $50 per line$10 per month, per line Sprint$50 per month (3GB)$85 per month (6GB), $42.50 per line$7.50 per month, per line T-Mobile$50 per month (2GB)$80 per month (2GB per line), $40 per line$10 per month, per line Verizon$70 per month (4GB)$110 per month (8GB), $55 per line$15 per month, per line

» MORE: How to share your cell phone bill with your roommates

That’s because Verizon charges a set fee for your data plan and $20 for each line on the account. The same is true for most AT&T and Sprint plans. And larger plans typically give you more data for your money.

3. Change or remove your cell phone insurance

Most cell phone carriers offer a variety of protection plans. Your options can include extended warranties, insurance and full-blown 24/7 tech support for any Bluetooth-enabled device in your home. If the latter sounds excessive, that’s because it is.

In most cases, standard insurance provides more than enough coverage. It protects you if your phone is lost, stolen or damaged. It’s also the least expensive option available through your wireless carrier.

Switching from a premium protection plan to basic insurance coverage will save you a few dollars each month. That might not seem like a lot, but it can add up, especially if you have multiple lines on your plan.

AT&T customers can save $36 a year by switching from the carrier’s Mobile Protection Pack, which costs $10.99 per month, to its Mobile Insurance, which costs $7.99 per month. That’s $144 in savings per year for a family of four.

» MORE: How to make money off your old cell phone

Remove the Mobile Protection Pack without switching, and the savings for a single AT&T line climbs to more than $130 per year. This could be risky if you have a brand-new phone, but it can make sense for older devices. That’s because insurance providers for major cell phone carriers typically charge deductibles ranging from $100 to $300.

After about a year, the deductible and the accumulated monthly premiums add up to more than the phone is worth. At that point, you can typically save money by opting out of insurance and buying a used phone if yours is lost or stolen.

If forgoing a policy makes you feel vulnerable, consider an alternative, such as AppleCare+ or SquareTrade. Either option can save you more than $180 over two years on a premium protection package and even more if you make a claim. The drawback: Neither covers lost or stolen phones.

4. Update your service address

The taxes and fees added to your bill each month are based on where you live. If you’ve moved to a new state, or someone on your family plan has, you could save big just by updating your service address.

A person who moves from Washington state to Oregon would save an average of $170 per year in wireless taxes and fees, according to a June 2016 NerdWallet study. Migrating from Illinois to Wisconsin? You’d pocket $103.72 in savings on average. Those figures are based on an individual cell phone bill; the savings would be greater on a family plan.

Updating your service address is easy. In most cases, you simply log in to your account and change it under your user profile, just as you would for your billing address.

Each of these options on its own can can give you quick relief on your cell phone bill, and you can combine them for larger savings. If you’re open to a bigger change for bigger savings, consider a prepaid cell phone plan.

Kelsey Sheehy is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ksheehy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy.

4 Times Trump & Clinton Talked Money in the Presidential Debate

The first debate of the election season lived up to its hype Monday, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump offering drastically different visions for America’s future. Though personal finance topics took a backseat to larger issues of jobs, race, trade and temperament, there were a few moments when the candidates touched on them specifically. Here, we’ve outlined what each candidate had to say last night about the issues that could affect your wallet.

1. Equal Pay

Though incomes have been increasing at a record rate after years of stagnation, NBC moderator Lester Holt said as he opened the debate, income inequality still remains, with nearly half of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. How would each candidate address the issue?

Clinton, who responded first, was pointed: “I want us to invest in you,” she said. Beyond ushering in jobs for those in infrastructure, innovation, technology and small businesses, she stressed the importance of making “the economy fairer,” particularly for women, who suffer a 20% wage gap with men, according to the American Association of University Women. Equal pay would certainly play into her program, as would “paid family leave, earned sick days, affordable child care and debt-free college,” she said. In the past, Clinton has said her goal is for workers to receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

Trump agreed something must be done to narrow the gender gap, though he did not offer concrete solutions. “As far as child care is concerned, and so many other things,” he said, “I think Hillary and I agree on that. We probably disagree a little bit as to numbers and amounts and what we’re going to do, but perhaps we’ll be talking about that later.”

2. Jobs

“How do you bring back jobs, American manufacturers,” Holt asked mid-way through the event.

“Well, the first thing you do is don’t let the jobs leave,” Trump said. He added, “But if you think you’re going to make your air conditioners or your cars or your cookies or whatever you make and bring them into our country without a tax, you’re wrong.”

Clinton suggested adding jobs where the country needs them most: clean energy, especially for dealing with the issue of climate change. “We can have enough clean energy to power every home,” she said. “We can build a new modern electric grid. That’s a lot of jobs; that’s a lot of new economic activity.”

3. National Debt

When it came to America’s national debt, the debate grew increasingly heated. At one point, Clinton asserted that Trump “would try to negotiate down the national debt of the United States.” Trump denied this, saying, “we build roads, and they cost two and three and four times what they’re supposed to cost. We buy products for our military, and they come in at costs that are so far above what they are supposed to be, because we don’t have people that know what they’re doing.”

In a report released over the summer by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, researchers estimated Trump would have what Credit.com reporter Christine DiGiangi called “a Miracle Gro-like effect on the debt, increasing it by $11.5 trillion within 10 years.” Researchers estimated Clinton would tack $250 billion onto the national debt over the next decade.

4. Taxes

As he’s done in the past, Trump assured the public he would cut taxes substantially for businesses. “And by the way, my tax cut is the biggest since Ronald Reagan,” he said. “I’m very proud of it. It will create tremendous numbers of new jobs.”

Clinton wasn’t convinced. “Independent experts have looked at what I’ve proposed and looked at what Donald’s proposed, and basically they’ve said this, that if his tax plan, which would blow up the debt by over $5 trillion and would in some instances disadvantage middle-class families compared to the wealthy, were to go in effect, we would lose 3.5 million jobs and maybe have another recession.” For her part, Clinton would cap itemized deductions and hit taxpayers with incomes over $5 million with a 4% surcharge. Beyond that, she would enact a number of policies intended to raise taxes on individual and business income.

Previously, Trump proposed eliminating the estate tax and restructuring tax brackets entirely. As part of the latter plan, single people earning less than $25,000 annually and married people filing jointly with an annual income below $50,000 would not pay income tax. He would achieve this by eliminating tax loopholes for the wealthy and businesses. A one-time repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at a 10% tax rate while ending tax deferrals for corporate income earned abroad would also contribute.

[Editor’s Note: No matter who wins in November, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your finances. You can monitor your financial goals, like maintaining good credit scores, on Credit.com.]

Related Articles

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

A Winning Strategy for Saving on Your Holiday Flight: Book Early, Use the Right Credit Card

Booking holiday flights is never a feel-good experience. It’s more of a “ripping off the Band-Aid” experience. You click “Buy now” and wince. Afterward, you avoid looking at your credit card statements and try to focus on more cheerful things, such as family and eggnog.

But this year can be less painful, if you get an early start. The secret to paying less for your flight has two parts:

  • Minimize your airfare cost by booking early, traveling on nonpeak days and splitting your reservation.
  • Maximize your credit card benefits by using your card’s travel perks and either paying for your flight with rewards or qualifying for a sign-up bonus or 0% annual percentage rate deal.

Here’s how you can do that.

Minimize your airfare cost

Simple economics tells you that when demand for tickets increases, airlines will increase prices. But you can generally avoid the worst of those high holiday airfares by booking early.

Buy tickets in October, at the latest

“In general, September is the best time to buy for Thanksgiving travel and October is the best time for Christmas,” says Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com.

The online travel agency, which tracks the daily average among 11,000 holiday airfares in 40 domestic markets, predicts that fares for flights around Christmas and New Year’s will dip in October by an average of $22. But in November and December, it expects those prices to increase sharply.

“It’s like playing the stock markets, in a sense,” Klee says.

Within those large-scale trends, all routes have their own ups and downs, of course. Once you know where you’re flying, watch for a drop in fares. If you see a good deal, Klee says, be prepared to buy, rather than hope for it to go lower, since the fare could spike back up at any time.

Consider traveling on a holiday

Sometimes, the cheapest holiday flights depart on the holiday itself.

For Thanksgiving travel, for instance, “The best time to fly is on Thursday morning,” says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, a flight deals website. If you leave in the morning, he points out, you may still be able to get to your destination in time for the festivities. In its analysis, CheapAir.com also notes that Christmas Day is one of the most affordable days to fly.

If you can’t stomach the idea of spending a holiday up in the air, consider flying on other less popular travel days. For 2016, these include Nov. 25 (Black Friday), Nov. 29 (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) and Dec. 19-21, according to CheapAir.com.

Split your reservation

You might be traveling with a small army of relatives over the holidays, á la “Home Alone.” But that doesn’t mean you all have to be on the same airline reservation. In fact, you’ll probably save more if you split your order up.

Because of a quirk in many airline reservation systems, “Everyone on the same reservation has to be at the same price,” Seaney says. If you buy four tickets, for example, and two are at a higher price, you’ll end up paying that higher price for every ticket on the reservation. But if you make four separate reservations, you can get the lowest price possible on each ticket, he says. This can be a good strategy if you’re traveling with adults or high-school-age kids and you’re OK with sitting apart from one another.

Maximize your credit card benefits

Even if you get tickets that are relatively inexpensive compared with other holiday airfares, you still might end up paying plenty. Round-trip airfare now runs over $400 on average, according to CheapAir.com. This is where your credit cards can help.

Research your credit card’s fringe benefits

If you’re a once-a-year kind of traveler, take stock of your credit card’s travel perks before buying plane tickets and booking the rest of your trip. Some cards offer credits for airline fees or checked baggage fees, discounts for flying with a companion, rental car coverage and trip cancellation insurance. Taking note of these can save you from paying for add-ons you’re already getting and might lower your bill considerably.

Pay with flexible travel rewards

If you have points or miles sitting on your general travel credit card, the holiday season might be an ideal time to cash them in. Unlike with frequent-flier miles tied to a specific airline, you can redeem these more flexible rewards without worrying about limited award seat availability or poor redemption value during peak season.

Say you’ve been earning rewards on the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. You can charge your travel expenses to those cards and then use your rewards to erase all or part of the cost. If you’ve been sitting on points from a sign-up bonus for a while, this could save you hundreds on holiday travel.

Qualify for a sign-up bonus or 0% APR offer

If you can’t redeem your points or miles for a holiday flight, you can still upgrade your plastic.

Before booking your flight, look for a new credit card that offers high flat-rate rewards, a sign-up bonus, a 0% APR period on purchases or all of the above. Some triple-threat cards, including the Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ and the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, do it all — and don’t charge an annual fee.

Once you’ve gotten your credit card, use it to book your flight. That might be enough to help you qualify for your sign-up bonus. And if you have a 0% APR period, you’ll have more time to pay down your bill interest-free.

Putting it all together

The less you have to worry about spending money on your holiday travel this season, the better.

Practically speaking, this is probably the best argument for planning your holiday trip early. If you dread paying for travel now, you’re going to feel the same way one month from now, or two months. And during that time, airfares will be getting more expensive, and you’ll have fewer credit card strategies at your disposal.

So, as with many of life’s decisions, it’s better to get it over with early. By the time the holidays finally roll around, you won’t have to worry about it anymore.

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: claire@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ideclaire7.

Multistate E. coli outbreak prompts meat recall

A multistate meat recall has been issued after several people became ill over the summer.

Adams Farm Slaughterhouse has recalled beef, veal and bison products, that may have been contaminated with E. coli bacteria. The recalled products include a date range between July 21, 2016, and Sept. 22, 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture recall notice, which provides establishment and lot numbers affected by the recall. Some products might have been frozen, so consumers are urged to check their freezers.

>> Read more trending stories

According to the USDA, seven people have become ill, and five were hospitalized, with all cases involving the consumption of beef products from Adams Farm. Illnesses have been reported in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  No deaths have been reported.

E. coli is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure which can be deadly in young children and older adults.

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