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9 sneaky ways cell phone companies get you to pay more

In a Cellular Telephone Industries Associationreport, the average monthly cell phone bill is just over $47, but according to a Timesurvey, 46% of Americans with mobile phones said their monthly bill was $100 or more, and 13% said their monthly bill topped $200 per month.

Additional charges, fees, and other gimmicks are to partially blame for these expensive bills. Here are some of the sneaky ways cell phone companies are making you pay more:



They offer new phones for free, or a low fee. 

The "free" phones a company might offer with a new plan are not actually free.


Tech Insider's reports that when you sign a service contract and get a "free" or heavily discounted phone, you actually pay the full cost of the phone over the course of your contract through baked-in fees.

A company might raise your monthly payment to make up for the phone they are giving away, and over the course of a two-year contract, How-To Geek reports that you could end up paying over $300 more than you would by buying your own phone.

And, if you try to cancel your service, you'll still have to pay for the remaining balance on the phone. 




They charge you a restocking fee if you decide to return your phone.


If you do choose to return your cell phone after buying it, you must do so within 14 days for most carriers.

But it doesn't end there: Your carrier can charge you a restocking fee from $35-$50, depending on which company you are with. 


They bill you for activating your phone. 

Companies like Verizon require a one-time feeof $20 every time you activate a new phone. 

The cell phone companies that use SIM cards usually don't charge an activation fee, but they charge you for a "SIM Start Kit" instead, like T-Mobile does. This is also a one-time fee that ranges from $10-$15, depending on the carrier. 




They charge you international fees, even when you disable your data roaming.

Cell phone companies are mostly transparent with charging fees for unregistered international calling and data roaming — making calls and using data with a cellular network your mobile operator doesn't own.

But they are not very transparent with how specific you need to be when turning off your cellular data.

Turning off the ability for you to make calls and use data internationally does not keep others from sending you content nor does it keep your apps from automatically downloading content. So even if you do not take the incoming call and forward it to voicemail instead, TechCrunch warns, you can still get charged, depending on the carrier you have. 


They could charge you a fee for having extra information on your bill. 

If you want to see the specifics of your bill, with information on calls, dates, times, duration, numbers called, or calling parties, you can request a detailed bill.

You won't have to pay much — AT&T and Sprint charge $1.99 a month for a detailed bill — but you'll still have to pay.


They pass their fees on to you. 

Cell phone carriers are subject to taxes set by the government, a federal fee. Most wireless companies pass it to their customers. 

The common fees usually include the Universal Service Fund and Telco Recoveryy Fee. Those taxes and fees are subject to change, so carriers can adjust your bill any time that happens. 

It's also common for wireless companies to make you pay for maintaining their cell towers and third-party charges imposed on the company for the delivery of calls, and for network facilities they purchased to provide you with service.



They offer (or require) insurance for your phones.

Getting insurance for your phone might be a good idea if you are prone to breaking, losing, having your phone stolen — or just as a precaution. Getting insurance might also be required, like when you sign up for T-Mobile's Jump! plan.

But before you do sign up for insurance, double check to see what is actually covered and if the money is worth it in the long run. It's only a few dollars a month, but it adds up to hundreds over the course of your contract.



They charge you a termination fee.


Getting out of a contract might be easy, but it definitely isn't free. Termination fees are common among wireless carriers and can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on the company.

Keep tabs on your cell phone bills and be sure to highlight any irregular activity to make sure you don't get an outrageous bill, like the $18,000 bill Complex reports one man received.

You can even file a complaint with the FCC if you feel your company is charging you the wrong amount. 


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