In the past few months, I’ve used very, very little cellular data. Yet my family has paid around $200 per month for our five-member unlimited-data family plan on AT&T. That seems … silly, to put it nicely. If you’ve thought the same, well, you have a few options.

First, you can suspend your phone service. It lets the carrier hold onto your phone number and account, and while you still pay a small monthly fee, it’s a way to save a little money month to month. In this climate, every dollar counts. The downside? You lose cellular data connectivity, and you cannot make or receive phone calls or texts.

But your phone will be able to connect to Wi-Fi networks, like the one you might have in your home, allowing you to use almost all your usual apps. To get around the SMS and calling issue, you could use an instant-messaging app like iMessage or WhatsApp as well as audio- or video-calling apps like FaceTime and Google Duo over Wi-Fi. For less-drastic options, we have a few alternative and affordable carriers for you to consider.

Suspending Service vs. Shutting off Data

We have instructions below on how to suspend your data plan if you’re on one of the major US networks. If you use another carrier, like US Cellular, check the company’s support pages (or ask a customer representative) if there’s a way to suspend your service.

Most carriers also have an option to shut off data to one of your phone lines on the account. That is not the same as suspending service. By shutting off data, you’ll still be charged your plan’s monthly rate. It’s more a measure for when you want to stop your kid from watching too much Riverdale.

Suspending service means your phone will no longer connect to your carrier’s network, and you cannot make any calls or send texts. It’s not a permanent solution as most carriers limit the length of suspension to a few months, after which service resumes automatically and you’re back to being charged your full rate.

For Verizon Subscribers

If you have trouble paying your Verizon wireless bill, contact customer service. The carrier says it will not terminate service or charge late fees if you can’t pay bills due to “disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.” This will stay in effect until June 30, 2020.

If you still need to suspend service, you can easily do it through Verizon’s website or the My Verizon app.

Verizon offers three types of suspension: reduced-rate billing, without billing, or suspended with billing. You can suspend your line without billing only if you have lost your device or if you are in the military. For a reduced rate, you’ll need to suspend your service using the Other Reason option, which is typically used for travel or illness and hospitalization.

Go with the reduced-rate billing, but know that Verizon will still charge you $10 per month for up to 90 days during a 12-month period. If you are paying for a device in monthly installments, you’ll still get charged for it. Your contract and upgrade eligibility dates will be extended for the length of time your service is suspended.

In the My Verizon app, the one you use to check and pay your monthly bill, head to Devices > Manage > Controls > Suspend Device > Vacation or other reason, and choose Reduced Rate. On the web, choose the line you want to suspend, click on Other Reason, choose Reduced Rate, and tap Suspend Selected Line.

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