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CONSUMER REPORTS: Smaller cell phone carriers offer more affordable service

No one wants to pay more for their cell phone plan than they have to.

If you haven't thought about your plan in a while, now may be the time as Consumer Reports says some of the smaller carriers may offer better deals for your lifestyle than the big four.

All cell phone plans are not created the same. But whether you're a college student, a world-traveler or part of a busy family, there's a plan for you. You might save a bundle by switching, but you have to think about who is using the phone, and how they're using it.

College students are already paying high tuition bills, so they'll want a plan that keeps rates low and uses the WiFi networks that are already available on most college campuses.

Consumer Reports says Ting Wireless may be a good option. It offers one of the cheapest deals out there and is compatible with about 80 percent of phones. For six dollars a month, you get unlimited calls and texts when you're on WiFi. When you're not on WiFi, cellular prices are still reasonable—and best of all, your bill is based on how much service you used in the previous month.

If you're looking for a plan to cover your whole family, Consumer Reports says you'll want one that's highly customizable with low rates and top-notch customer service. For that, CR says check out Consumer Cellular. It's one of their top-rated services which offers plans and smartphones ranging from cheap to premium.

The downside? Although the service does offer the popular iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones, they do offer fewer phone models to choose from compared to bigger carriers.

If you often travel out of the country, using your smartphone can be expensive, but there are ways to save. For world travelers, Consumer Reports recommends the data-only Google Project Fi — which relies on WiFi for service and to keep costs low. When WiFi isn't an option, rates are still affordable, costing $10 per gigabyte.

One drawback for Google's project Fi? It offers only three models: Google's new Pixel smartphone and older Nexus phones -- the 6p and 5x.

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