7 Alarming Signs Your Cell Phone Company is Overcharging You

You might not realize how much extra money you spend on phone bills until you start looking for the signs.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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If you are like most people, your cell phone bill is among your biggest monthly expenses. That cost can soar even higher if your service provider overcharges you, causing even more financial stress.

Such charges can range from legitimate to outright scams. Because your phone bills may be confusing, it's all too easy to become complacent about checking to see if you're being billed correctly.

But don’t fall into the trap of paying your cell phone bill without giving it much thought. Look for these clues that might indicate your carrier is overcharging you — or that you've bought expensive services you don’t need.

The bill is higher than expected

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If your gut feeling tells you that your bill is higher than expected, you might be right. It’s possible you were misled about the service you selected because you were given:

  • Inaccurate product or service information
  • Incorrect advice about which product is best for you
  • Hidden or camouflaged product or service information

If your bill seems higher than you expected, talk to your provider and see if you can switch to a plan that makes more sense for you.

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You see charges you don’t recognize

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In the past, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has gone after cell phone providers for an illegal activity known as "cramming." This occurs when you see unauthorized fees on your bill, such as being signed up for services you did not authorize.

These fees may appear as notations such as:

  • Service charge
  • Service fee
  • Other charges
  • Voicemail
  • Mail server
  • Minimum usage fees
  • Activation or subscription fee

To prevent these fees, the FCC suggests that customers verify all expenses on their monthly bills on a regular basis. If any charges appear suspect, contact your provider to have the fees removed. If your efforts are unsuccessful, you can file a complaint with the FCC.

You’re paying for warranty coverage you don’t need

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You might have purchased extended warranty coverage that, although perfectly legal, is unnecessary. If your phone's manufacturer covers you with a strong warranty, extended warranty coverage may be unnecessary. 

However, if the manufacturer's warranty does not protect you for a long period of time, an extended warranty can be a beneficial investment. 

For example, the manufacturer’s warranty may provide 90 days of coverage for sensitive electronic materials and one year or longer of coverage for some of the most crucial components. But an extended warranty can offer many years of such protection.

Pro tip: You can also protect your phone by purchasing it with one of the best credit cards with cell phone protection.

You are paying for an unlimited plan you don’t need

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If you consume a lot of data, an unlimited plan may offer savings. But an unlimited subscription may not be cost-effective if you’re not a heavy data user.

One great way to lower your bills is to switch away from an unlimited plan if you do not need it. You might even save a bundle by purchasing a prepaid plan that offers a specific amount of data.

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You are being charged for data you didn’t use

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A few years ago, thousands of Verizon customers howled that they were being charged for data they did not use. The carrier worked with its customers to rectify the situation, but the lesson is clear: You must monitor your bill regularly to make sure you are not being charged for services you don’t use.

If you see something that doesn’t seem right, reach out to your carrier. If you get no satisfaction that way, file a complaint with the FCC.

You haven’t stayed on top of new deals

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Some people sign up for a plan with their provider and just stick with it year after year. In many cases, this is fine, especially if you are getting the service you need.

But plans change regularly, and it’s possible you are missing out on a newer, cheaper plan that better suits your needs. So, make sure you occasionally check your cell phone provider’s latest offerings and that you are getting the best possible deal.

You regularly upgrade your phone

dusanpetkovic1/Adobe Man trying out new smart phone

If you constantly upgrade your phone, not only are you adding a new expense to your ever-growing pile of bills, but you also might end up buying a bunch of new accessories, such as a new phone case or a power cord.

These costs add up, especially if you buy these accessories directly from your phone provider, which may charge you more than you would pay for the same accessories at a retail outlet.

Pro tip: If you need a new phone, you may be able to find a better price with you shop around other carriers and online retailers. Check out these genius hacks Amazon shoppers must know for additional savings tips.

Bottom line

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Sometimes, your phone company overcharges you in ways it shouldn’t. In other situations, you are paying for services you do not need. Whatever the case, make sure you stay on top of your cell phone bill and regularly check out your options so that you are always getting the best deal.

Keeping track of your monthly wireless account is beneficial for understanding your payment history and noticing any substantial changes. Reducing unwanted charges can help you in your battle to stop living paycheck to paycheck.

Before you choose a provider, look before you leap. Make sure you know what to expect from your phone bills.

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Author Details

Amaka Chukwuma

Amaka Chukwuma is a B2B and B2C freelance writer with a focus on personal finance, sexual health, and tech. When she's not writing or reading newsletters, she's either on social media or playing peekaboo with her daughter.