Using a credit card to pay for recurring expenses like cell phone bills has its upsides. It’s convenient, plus you can earn valuable points if you pay with a rewards card. And if you carry a card that offers cell phone insurance, you can skip paying for that coverage monthly through your mobile provider.
However, it’s always a good idea to review your mobile provider’s terms and conditions, as their pricing may differ depending on how you choose to pay. This can get even more complicated if you have an account with multiple phone lines. Before you default to a certain payment method, consider the pros and cons of various payment options.
When to pay your cell phone bill with a credit card
You get cell phone insurance through your card
Built-in cell phone protection is a money-saving credit card perk. Protection plans through mobile providers can add up to around $25 a month to your bill. Some credit cards, including a few with no annual fees, offer cell phone protection if you pay your bill with that card.
Just note that there are typically limits to how much you can claim (around $600 to $800), you may be limited in how many claims you can submit per year, and you’ll be subject to a deductible.
You can earn credit card rewards
You qualify for an autopay discount
If you sign up for autopay, some mobile providers knock a few bucks off of your monthly bills. It’s a no-effort way to save (plus you don’t risk forgetting to pay on time).
Some carriers will grant you a discount per line if you have multiple lines on your plan — although as you’ll see in the next section, autopay discounts don’t apply to all forms of payment.
For Verizon plans, you must pay with the Verizon Visa® Card to be eligible for an autopay discount. However, that card doesn’t provide cell phone insurance.
When to pay another way
There’s no autopay discount if you pay with a credit card
Some major mobile providers, like T-Mobile, have eliminated the autopay discount if you use a credit card. In those instances, you might be better off paying with your debit card or via withdrawal from a bank account. A per-line autopay discount, in particular, could outweigh the credit card rewards you’d earn or the cell phone coverage you’d snag. So it’s worth doing the math.
For instance, let’s say you have five phone lines on a T-Mobile plan, which would get you a $25 autopay discount. Even if you use a credit card that earns 2% cash back on all purchases, you’d have to spend $1,250 per month to earn $25 in cash back. There are no T-Mobile plans that come close to costing that much, so in this case, skipping the credit card and opting for the autopay discount is probably the right play.
Using your debit card for autopay means you’d have to pay separately for cell phone insurance. But, again, the autopay discount exceeds the earned rewards by so much, you could still end up saving even after paying for insurance.
Make sure to compare the insurance coverage your cell phone provider offers with the cost of a third-party protection plan. Also, you can obviously skip cell phone insurance entirely — if you’re brave.