PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It used to be that cell phone bills were based on how many minutes you used per month. But with the advent of smartphones, bills have gotten a lot more complicated.

Customers now have to take into consideration the amount of text messages they send, how often they use Wi-Fi and whether they lease or buy their phones.

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The Metchels family has five phones on their plan, and their bill has gotten expensive.

“It’s one of those things you don’t really think about until every month when you pay it,” says Katie Metchel. “You’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to pay this!’”

To help customers save money, the Senior Electronics Editor at Consumer Reports did a little research. Mike Gikas says, it’s important to start with what you actually use.

“Right now, the big money is with data plans,” says Gikas. “A family of four should spend between $150 and $200 [per month], depending on how much data they use.”

Gikas says the majority of customers use one of the big name carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

T-Mobile fared the best in terms of price, service and customer satisfaction. They offer four lines with unlimited talk, text and data for $160.

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Gikas says, if your family is looking for ways to cut costs, there are ways to save even more.

“If they’re willing to take the chance, we’ve identified a number of carriers that can help you save a lot of money,” says Gikas. “Providers like Ting, Republic Wireless… What happens with these smaller providers is, they offer more opportunities to trim your bill.”

Smaller providers allow customers to pay for what they use, rather than a blanket plan. If you do not talk or text much, and use Wi-Fi more often than not, “You can get a plan for as little as $6 per month,” says Gikas.

Additionally, smaller carriers like Boost Mobile, Metro PCS and Cricket Wireless piggyback off of the four major networks, but deliver lower prices.

“Their prices are better, their customers love them… and they think their service is better,” says Gikas.

But analyzing all the available plans online can be time-consuming and confusing. Websites like My Rate Plan and Whistle Out allow customers to comparison shop based on the size of their family, their data usage and whether your lease or buy your phone.

The Metchel family inputted their information and found they could get more for their money, and keep their current cell phone provider. They also found lower cost plans with the same service.

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