You need to embrace the savings that come with being a student. Cell phone businesses are routinely cutting back prices with student plans and promos. But you have to know what to ask and where to look.
It's important to make sure that you're shopping around to find the best deal on a cell phone plan. We've covered the best cell phone plans for college students before - so today's article is all about discounts!
Your cost savings each month can add up quickly. So take the time to compare the best deals before you sign up for a cell phone plan.
Student Cell Phone Plan Discounts By Provider
As of October 2021, this list of cell phone plan rates for students is current. These rates are subject to change and other fees may apply, but this should serve as a basis when comparing your options between mobile providers.
AT&T is one of the costliest cell phone providers when looking at plans with unlimited data usage. Their monthly wireless plans run $65-85 per month for a single line and $120-150 a month for two lines.
However, you should still check here to see whether you qualify for any school-based savings through the AT&T Signature Program.
Sprint recently merged with T-Mobile. Today, a single line with the growing company will cost you at least $60 per month. But savings are massive if you can get three others to join your plan -- with four lines, you can pay as little as $30/mo per line.
Most students don't receive any additional discounts on monthly plans. However, there may be a chance for a discount if you have an on-campus job. T-Mobile offers the Work Perks program to provide discounts to eligible employees.
If you want to use T-Mobile, it's worth taking a minute to see if you qualify for a discount. You can find out here.
U.S. Cellular often flies under the radar. Yet roughly 5 million customers use their service. And like the other providers on this list, U.S. Cellular does own and operate its own network (rather than renting network capacity like MNVOs do).
Traditional postpaid plans with U.S. Cellular start at $65 per month for 1 line and $40/mo per line for four lines. Unfortunately, U.S. Cellular doesn’t offer a student discount.
You can, however, score a deal on a prepaid plan with U.S. Cellular for $40 per month for a single line with 15 GB of data. But you’ll have to pay between $55 to $65 to get an unlimited plan. For lines 2-5, you'll save $10 per line.
Verizon does offer cell phone plan discounts to college students. Currently, students can save up to $25 per month on unlimited plans.
With Verizon, students can pay $60 per month for one line. For two lines, the monthly price is $95 which breaks down to $47.50 per line (plus taxes and fees).
Verizon has long been able to get away with charging higher prices on average than its competitors thanks to its reliable network. However, with these student discounts, you can get Verizon service while paying plan prices that are very close to U.S. Cellular and T-Mobile.
Are Student Cell Phone Plan Discounts Worth It?
While some of the major carriers do offer cell phone plan discounts for college students, the truth is that their prices are often still higher than what anyone could get by just signing up with a discount carrier without jumping through any hoops.
Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are companies that lease network access from one of the companies listed above rather than owning their own towers. Due to lower overhead, MVNOs can charge lower prices. Mint Mobile (a popular MVNO), for example, is currently offering unlimited plans that start at $30 per month. And their prices are even lower ($15/mo to $25/mo) if you can get by with 15 GB or less of data per month.
Republic Wireless plans, meanwhile, start at just $15 per month for unlimited talk and text (which could be a great option if you're always near free Wi-Fi) and $20 per month if you need a little data. Google Fi plans also start at $20/mo + $10/GB of data that you use during your billing cycle.
The point is that there are many ways to save on your cell phone plan while you're in college. You may just need to be willing to branch out beyond the "Big Three" (or "Big Four" if you count U.S. Cellular) of cell phone providers. To see our full list of discount cell providers, check out The Best Phone Plans For College Students.
Picking the right cell phone plan can be difficult when you need a monthly contract on a new smartphone. Some providers will give you a discount on the phone price, while others will make the monthly payment lower.
The latter is preferred both in the short-term and long-term. However, you should always push for further student savings opportunities before choosing the right provider for you. Don't settle when you pay your phone off. Call your provider's customer retention line to request a discount on your service.
Regardless, in 2021 T-Mobile and Verizon (due to its discounts for students) seem to offer the best deals if you want an unlimited plan from one of the Big Three carriers. U.S. Cellular's 15 GB prepaid plan, meanwhile, is highly affordable if you don't need more data than that per month.
It's clear that the best way to save on your monthly cell phone bill is to have multiple lines. If you can find a group of family members or friends to partner with, each of you could bask in the savings. But make sure that you trust the others to pay on time. Otherwise, you could be stuck with an expensive bill.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.