Your tips for keeping phone bills down

Canadians have a history of paying more for their cellphone plans and getting less relative to the rest of the world. So, how do you hack your phone bill?

Also: How to stay connected while travelling without breaking the bank

With higher costs, there’s a strong interest among customers to learn more about the process and identify ways to gain advantage when dealing with wireless carriers, a tech expert says.

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Canadians have a history of paying more for their cellphone plans and getting less compared to the rest of the world. As long as there's a lack of competition in the Canadian market, that likely won't change anytime soon.

So what tactics have Canadians been using to keep their bills manageable, while the price of everything increases around them?

Many of you shared your tips and tricks with us, and we put them to the experts.

Here's what they had to say.

Say no to traditional calls, and yes to apps

A lot of you suggested using mobile apps like Whatsapp, Signal, FaceTime and Facebook Messenger to make voice calls as a way to cut costs.

Technology journalist and analyst Carmi Levy agrees, saying he's been using apps to make voice calls for years.

"When you switch your traffic from a traditional phone network to Wi-Fi, you no longer are handing money over to the telecommunications company," he said.

There are also Canadian companies like TextNow and Fongo, which both offer free calling across Canada using Wi-Fi or mobile data. For a small fee, users can also make long-distance calls.

"It can save you a heck lot of money, especially if you are communicating with people who are across the border or international," Levy noted.

"It is an absolute game-changer in terms of the way we communicate, and it returns the power of communication away from the provider back to the consumer, where it belongs."

What's the catch? You can only call or message people using these apps if they have downloaded the same service.

It's also worth noting that if you are downloading and using any third-party apps, you will have to agree to their terms and conditions and will be subject to their privacy policies.

Keep an eye on your data

Track how many gigabytes of data you typically use in a month.

"That way, you can better match the size of your data plan to your actual needs and avoid paying more than you need," Levy said.

Also, monitor the apps running in the background that can quickly drain your monthly allowance of gigabytes.

"Get rid of heavy users. Not using the apps at all? Get rid of them entirely," he said. " All of these features are part of your settings. Get up close and personal with them."

Another tip is to use Wi-Fi whenever possible.

If you spend most of your time moving between home and office, make sure you use the trusted Wi-Fi networks in both of these areas to reduce your need to use your allotted data, Levy said.

Review before you travel

Some Canadian carriers recently raised their roaming fees for U.S. and international travel. Levy says opting to keep your data off while on the go is a simple way to avoid those extra charges.

He also recommends buying a local SIM card at your destination. While physical SIM cards are always an option, newer smartphones can also use eSIMs, which are virtual SIM cards that can be downloaded onto your device, like Holafly and Airalo.

"Learn how your phone uses SIMs — some devices have dual slots (one for your regular SIM and one for travel), while newer phones use eSIMs," Levy said via email.

To take advantage of swapping your SIM card while travelling, you'll need to make sure your phone is unlocked, which allows you to temporarily switch your device's SIM card with another. Since 2017, all devices sold come unlocked, and providers also offer free unlocking services for customers.

Don't forget about calling cards. Levy says they can be an easy way to bypass international fees. You can grab one for the area or country you are going to be travelling to and activate it once you arrive.

"They all work somewhat differently, but generally speaking, they offer a local number or a local access point you can use to bypass that international plan that you would otherwise have to use," he said.

While you're away from home it might be tempting to rely on public Wi-Fi. But Shruti Shekar, managing editor of Android Central, an online technology magazine, says it's not something she recommends.

"You can technically use public Wi-Fi, but it's definitely a lot more unstable and not safe," Shekar said. "There's more of a chance of a hacker getting into your phone."

Do your homework, shop smart

Many of you also mentioned shopping around for a new phone plan or renegotiating with your current provider.

Levy says if you're going to go this route, the first thing you should do is to recognize that you don't need a new phone when you go to get a new plan.

Carriers would love to lock you into a monthly plan that gets you the latest and greatest device.

"Long-term, that'll cost you more than it would if you simply bought your own phone outright, then shopped for the best plan," he said.

WATCH: How can you lower your phone bill in Canada?

Another tip is to never assume your current plan is the best plan.

"First, understand your plan and know what you are getting and for what price. Log into your account online or on your app, or talk to a rep and ask about your plan usage," Shekhar said.

Start looking at all of the main brands, including their discount brands, to see what kinds of deals are out there, and do your shopping during big sales like Boxing Day and Black Friday, she said.

"You can change your plan at any time, and you can do that to get better deals."

Levy agreed. "Just because you signed a contract doesn't mean you can't ask for changes over the life of that contract."

"The moment you mention you're not happy with your deal and (nicely) threaten to cross-shop competing carriers, they're far more likely to trot out some 'specials' or escalate you to a supervisor who can magically unlock some incentives to keep you," Levy said. "Those who don't ask, don't get."

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