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Avoid cellphone bill shock with the right plan Add to ...

One in five people have suffered "bill shock" when receiving an unexpectedly high cellphone bill for exceeding voice, text, or data minutes, according to a recent ConsumerReports.org survey. Cell costs can creep up when you have the wrong plan. To make sure you're on the right one, call your carrier to review your usage history for the past three months.

You have the option to tweak your plan, but if you're unhappy with your provider, it's hard to get out of a contract without paying early termination fees.

One option is to post your phone and details on CellSwapper and wait for an interested buyer to take over your contract. The appeal for the buyer is saving on activation fees, likely locking into a shorter contract, and the lure of extra perks (sometimes sellers add cash bonuses for a quicker deal).

It might also make you think twice about signing another contract. Instead of locking in for three years so that you can get a shiny new cellphone for free, think about buying a refurbished phone and paying month by month. Even if you pay full price for a new phone, flexibility in shopping for providers can reduce your costs overall.

You can see what other carriers offer on Cellphones.ca (the site compares cellphones and plans in Canada and the United States) or ask friends for their plan details, before you call your provider to negotiate a better plan. And for tips on how to get faster service when calling any provider, hop onto GetHuman.com before dialling out.

When I plugged in the name of my provider, I was told to choose the French option (fluent or not) to get the bilingual call centre in Ontario with shorter wait times. The site also provides contact info for the higher-ups, which is helpful in resolving conflict more quickly.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group.

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