Save on your smartphone bill

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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When Mimi Sun was due for an upgrade and got a newer model iPhone, she was shocked to see her carrier tacked an "upgrade fee" onto her bill.

"I definitely was like, 'What? I'm not paying so much money.' And, I was staying with the same carrier. 'It's not like I'm changing anything,'" she said.

An upgrade fee, when you're already paying for the new phone, is the latest example of a "one time" charge some cell phone companies charge consumers for. 

An analysis of the four major US carriers by found they can "dent" your wallet up to $36.

"The advertised price is never the true price," said Louis DeNicola with "If you look at the small print it says plus fees and taxes.  That can add anywhere from 17 up to 24 percent on top of the bill."

But if you want to "subtract" some of those "one time" charges, you may actually be able to talk your way out of upgrade, as well as activation fees.

"Activation fees can be shocking.  A family of four that wants to change carriers might have to pay over $140," said DeNicola.

Experts say if you're fed up, speak up because carriers are getting competitive when it comes to fees.

"Everyone in the United States that wants a cell phone has a cell phone," said telecommunications expert Michael Bremmer. "So they have to find a way to differentiate themselves, and the easiest way to do that is price."

That's what Sun  found after a quick call to customer service, reminding them she's been a long time customer.

"I said, 'As a courtesy, can you take that off?' And they said 'Yeah, sure no problem,'" explained Sun.

What other fees could you negotiate off your bill?   Experts say if the money is going to Uncle Sam in taxes or government imposed fees, forget it.   And those monthly administrative or regulatory fees, which range from twenty-one cents to about $2.50 a line, probably not.   

But what about those hefty fees for going over your limit on your voice, text, or data plan?   Or for roaming internationally?   Well, Joshua Fuentes had no international plan while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, so he got quite the surprise when he returned to the U.S.  He got a $2,000 phone bill.

Experts say if you've been a good customer and don't usually go over your plan, you can try what worked for Fuentes.

"Call into customer care and ask to have those fees waived. The worst they can say is no," advised Bremmer.

Fuentes' carrier said "yes" when he called and he says they reduced his $2,000 bill by 90%.  Now he highly recommends speaking up versus immediately paying up.

"I was happy that I called and negotiated the prices because the price they originally gave me, there's no way I could pay it," said Fuentes.

Early termination fees and late fees are also charges experts say you can try to negotiate.  

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