Updated on 03.28.07

Five Minute Finances #17: Check Your Cell Phone Minutes

Trent Hamm

Five Minute FinancesFive Minute Finances is a series of tips on how you can save significant money or reorganize your financial life in just five minutes. These tips appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on The Simple Dollar.

Depending on your cell phone plan, you may be paying for far more service than you’re using – or not paying for enough service. Either way, you’re handing the cell phone company money for no good reason, and you can eliminate that by just keeping simple tabs on your cell phone usage.

If you’re using Verizon or T-Mobile, you can have your minutes in your web browser window. Just check out the Verizon Minutes Used Firefox plugin or the T-Mobile Minutes Used Firefox plugin to track your minutes. Both are quite useful for keeping track of how many minutes you’ve used without any effort. These both require that you’re using the Firefox web browser – there is no alternative for IE users.

Take a detailed peek at your cell phone bills. Make sure you’re not getting dinged with overage charges or other such charges. If you never see any and are using far fewer minutes than you’re paying for, that’s also a concern.

Call up your cell phone provider and ask for a plan change. If you’re going over your minutes every month, it’s almost always cost-effective to pay a bit more each month for a plan that includes those minutes. On the other hand, if you’re nowhere near your limit each month, then you can save some cash by dropping your total minutes down a bit.

I usually check this every six months or so; it takes about three minutes to figure out if a change is needed and about two minutes more to make that change. In just five minutes, I can often save $60 over the course of six months, which is a very healthy time investment.

While you’re at it, you might also drop any extras from your plan that you don’t use. I send maybe ten text messages a month, but at one time I was paying for unlimited text messaging. Dropping this down to a very small allotment of messages saved me some additional cash.

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  1. Rick says:

    I only use prepaid. I guess I don’t talk on my phone as much as some people (I prefer talking in person). So I spend about $12-$15 a month buying prepaid minutes.

  2. Louise says:

    There is a Firefox add-on for Cingular. http://cingularminutes.blogspot.com/

  3. Anthony says:

    To get your minutes with a Verizon phone you can dial #646 and hit send. Verizon will send you a free text message with your current minutes used with a break down of Peak, Off Peak/Nights, IN-Calling, Off Peak IN-Calling and Family Share (if you have that type of plan).

  4. Brad says:

    One problem with this, at least with Sprint, is that changing your minutes may require a contract extension. I had that problem a few months ago when I was going over my allotment. I was near enough to the end of the contract that I just lived with it, but now I am well over my minutes. I may have overreacted, but I don’t have to worry about some outrageous charges and that has some value, at least in my own mind.

  5. PF says:

    Cingular automatically adds on annoying fees that they don’t mention when you sign up like roadside assistance and voice dialing. These things add up if you don’t need them.

  6. noah kagan says:

    Here is really cool app that can track your cell phone minutes:


  7. Zeb Palmer says:

    Even simpler on T-Mobile… you hit #646# and hit dial. (#min#)

    a couple seconds later you’ll get their “minute message” as an SMS text message but you don’t get charged for it.


  8. Louise says:

    Cingular mentioned roadside assistance and voice dialing when I signed up and they made it pretty clear that I would have to pay for them after the free introductory period (60 days or something) was over.

  9. Kay says:

    I’m new and LOVE this blog.
    So, I was with cingular for about 2 years. And for the last year I noticed how I was paying about $55 dollars but only using less than 100 minutes for month and my gf would put like 100 min on there when she didn’t want to use her phone. So I would still have like 200 minutes left.
    I kept telling my self I should just get prepaid minutes and now I am so sad that I waited over a year to do it.
    I decided to go with T-mobile because they have this plan that once you spend $100 dollars on minutes you are referred to as a “gold member” and you don’t have to use up the minutes until a year. So with $100 spent you get 1000 minutes. When I started out in Febuary 2007 I had 1000 min. + the free 200 they gave you. Guess what? I still have 1100 minutes left. So it appears that this will save me so much moeny in the long run.
    It’s funny because alot of my friends laugh and have so many funny comments like “why are you now prepaid” or “that’s so unfortunate”.
    No whats unfortunate is that I will be saving close to $500 or more a year in cell phone charges and I an def. put that money into good use.
    Plus I am so over talking on my cell phone. I now use it for emergencies.
    Of coure I’m sure there are people that need like 1000 minutes, pay $89 a month, and actually use all of their minutes. However most of us, with some modifications don’t need to talk on the cell phone as much.

  10. Ursula says:

    That verizon app is pretty cool, but how do you know it’s SAFE? I loaded it onto my computer and now I instantly can see my minutes used, which is cool, but … how did it know? I can only assume it used my stored password in Firefox to gain access to my verizon account, since I didn’t have to do anything other than click “install” — I provided neither my cell phone number nor my verizon password! So, now I am all creeped out … if this program clearly was able to access my stored Verizon password, what about all my *OTHER* stored passwords???

    Anyone have any thoughts on this? Thanks in advance!

  11. Bill says:

    Prepaid, prepaid, prepaid works very well and is available from any number of carriers.

    Up to 300 minutes/month, prepaid is usually cheaper than postpaid.

    If you’re not using it cellphone to make money, why even sign up for a postpaid plan – in that case, it is an expensive luxury compared to a landline.

  12. itzritz says:

    For iPhone users there is an app called QuickMin by Wildboom – they check your minutes balance daily and simply push it to the app icon badge. You don’t even have to log in to check your minutes. This makes keeping track of your minutes easy and effortless.



  13. dwyt says:

    prepaid tracphone as cellphone + magicjack as landline is the best combination for me.

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