Canada boasts some of the highest mobile phone and plan costs in the world. Here’s how to score a deal on your next phone upgrade and data plan!
If you follow the news at all, or you have been to a mall, you probably know that here in the Great White North we got the short end of the stick when it comes to affordable phones and plans. Add in the fact that most of today’s flagship phones cost well over $1,000 CAD and it can feel pretty bleak when you want to go buy a new phone or even just change around your plan. Luckily for you, I have compiled a list of simple tricks that I tell people to follow whenever they came in to see me at work. All you need to do is shop at the right times, come prepared with your data backed up, and be ready to negotiate a lot.
Phones are expensive in Canada!
Phones are expensive here. A recent CBC article found that we, as a country, pay almost 20% more for a 2GB plan when we compare to some of our southern neighbors. Most new cell phones that are being released, especially those from Apple, Samsung, and Google cost more than $1,000! Plans at most carriers like Bell, Rogers, or Telus can be more than $100/mo just for one person unless you get one of those retention or flash sales that seem to be flakier than the best kinds of pie. That’s a lot of money that could be much better spent paying off student loans, saving for a down payment on a house, or literally anything else.
The tricks I compiled here are from nearly a decade of working in the Telecom industry and identifying the trends that come year over year, and the best practices I have used and ones that some of my clients used over time. They are easy to follow and all they require is a bit of patience and flexibility.
You need to be flexible, and learn to shop at the right time
Phone companies are like any other business and report their earnings in quarters. Every company wants to look the best they can at the end of a quarter for their investors so they can sell more shares and keep growing. With this in mind, you can start to see a pattern if you follow the deals on sites like Mobilesyrup or RedFlagDeals. What you want to do, more than anything else, is shop at the right times of the year.
Almost everyone knows that one of the best times to buy a phone is either Black Friday Weekend, Boxing Week, or Back to School season, but not everyone can go shopping on these times. Sometimes phones break (hey, no judgments), sometimes they go missing, and sometimes people just have to swap carriers in a righteous rage. If these apply to you then here are the times you want to shop for your phone, and bonus points if you can line all three up.
- Shop at the end of the week, Saturday is the best day.
- Shop at the end of the month
- Shop at the end of a quarter: March, June, September, December
Phone carriers and dealers will often put their best deals forward on these set times to finish a reporting period as strong as they can, likewise prices will generally be higher on the start of a week (Monday and Tuesday), and at the beginning of a month or quarter. Even if you follow no other tips in this guide, shopping on a Saturday will probably save you a lot of money on its own.
The person in front of you is a salesperson first, so be ready to make a deal
With few exceptions, everyone who works as a sales rep in telecom is on some kind of commission structure. They are trained on how to talk to people, how to work on closing a sale, and on how to position products to maximize their numbers and earn them as much as they can on your sale.
This is not to say they don’t have your best interest at heart, most good reps want to make sure you’re happy so that they don’t end up spending more time fixing problems later. This just means that they are incentivized to get you to buy today and to show as many deals as they can to close the sale. Use this to your advantage and work the pavement to get the absolute best offer you can.
You’ll want to bring coffee with you, it’s a long day in the mall
To start, go to your carrier and ask what it would cost you to upgrade your phone and plan, and then ask for the following to be written down on a pamphlet for you:
- Your account number, if you don’t have it already. This is useful in case you decide to port out to a new carrier.
- What your options would be for new phones on your current price, or whatever plan is closest
- What loyalty options you have that they can see
- What your phone is worth on a trade-in.
Once you have that information from your carrier, go to each and every other carrier in the mall and even the dealers that sell multiple carriers. Get pamphlets and information from each of them and then camp down in the food court and set them down and compare.
If you see a better offer from anyone other than your carrier your next step is to call into your carrier’s care line (Dial 611 from your cell phone, it’s a direct line) and ask to be transferred to the retention department. Be blunt with this representative and tell them what you found. Ask for an offer that is at least 10% better than the new one, do not settle for a match. Once you’re finished on the phone, go back to where you started with your carrier and try to talk to that original rep. Show them what you found, explain what the retention rep told you. Ask if there is anything they can do for you so that you buy from them that day instead of going elsewhere. If they aren’t able to compete then just say thank you and move on to your best offer elsewhere. If they can do something to price match say thank you anyway, politeness isn’t all too common in this age in retail, and it’ll be appreciated.
$0 down is not always the best option, do the math
The last tip for ensuring you’re saving the most is a little counterintuitive. Don’t always go for a $0 down option. If someone is offering you a device for $0 down, but your price per month is going to increase by $10 or $20, ask them if there is a way you can pay some money upfront to save monthly. Remember that if you spend $300 upfront, but save $20 a month, you’ve put back $180 into your budget over the 2-year contract.
$20 x 24months = $480
$480 – 300 = $180
Always ask if you can spend even just a little bit of money up front to save on your bill. When people came in to buy from me I would always recommend this option to them. Sure, $0 down looks nice when you leave, but the $120/mo bill is a tough pill to swallow later.
When you go into buy your next phone keep in mind that the person behind the counter or behind the phone is still a person. They have a job to do and they get the brunt of a lot of negative emotions from people who are frustrated with how the industry works in Canada. Follow the steps above and keep yourself caffeinated. Shop at the right times, be ready to loop the mall and check everything twice, and do some math and you’ll get a great deal. Hopefully, afterwards you’ll have a shiny new phone you can show off to your friends next time you have brunch!