Feature

Why your cell phone bill is through the roof

That data plan is a gold mine... for carriers

Whether it's promising $450 off your phone bill, or sweetening the deal for family plans, it seems like lately we see enticing promotions and price cuts from cell phone carriers everywhere we look.

But while a healthy dose of competition and price wars usually means lower bills for us, that's just not the case this time, the The Wall Street Journal reports — cell phone bills are actually on the rise. The amount raked in by carriers is now at an average of $61.15 a month per customer, up 2.2 percent.

Sure, carriers are indeed doling out small price cuts — but they're also finding sneaky new ways to wring more money out of customers overall. For example, T-Mobile upped the cost of its unlimited data plan to $80 per user last week — a jump of $10 a month.

Carriers are also increasingly nudging users onto pricier plans — like those that use more data — and reaping benefits from customers' overall shift to smartphones, the Journal notes. In fact, T-Mobile subscribers now consume almost 50 percent more data than they did a year ago. Most of us have gotten attached to having internet on the go, and probably aren't giving up streaming music and movies on our phones anytime soon — and it seems our monthly bills are also reflecting that new norm.

"When it comes to the monthly prices that people pay, those continue to go up," Matt Wood, policy director at public advocacy group Free Press told the Journal. "It has gotten a little more competitive lately, but it isn't effectively competitive yet where the [carriers] have to lower prices."

Sure, companies are charging more overall, but that doesn't mean you necessarily have to pay it. To keep your own cell phone bill under control, start with these tricks for reducing your data usage, and learn the smart way to negotiate with a carrier to cut your costs.

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