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Best cell phone deals in August

Snag some of the best cell phone deals in August, including a few back-to-school specials.

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Summer is winding down and back-to-school shopping is ramping up.

Americans are expected to spend $75.8 billion this back-to-school season, according to the National Retail Federation, and cell phone companies want a chunk of that cash. If a new cell phone plan or smartphone is on your back-to-school list, check out these deals on traditional and prepaid cell phones.

A back-to-school bonus for families

Verizon took some flak for raising prices when it revamped its signature cell phone plans in early July. To counter that, the carrier just announced a new promotion that doubles that data on some Verizon family plans. A family of four can now get 16GB of shared data for $150 per month, instead of the usual 8GB, when they upgrade existing phones or activate new phones. The promotion is good on any plans sized large or bigger, with each new or upgraded line getting 2GB of bonus data per month. Since Verizon family plans share data, that’s a bonus for the whole family.

Treats for teachers and students

K-12 and college teachers and staff as well as college students can save $60 on select smartphones and tablets with T-Mobile. The catch: It needs to be a new line of service and you need to verify your eligibility with a valid school email address and dated school ID card or letter of employment or enrollment. Students can submit a current class schedule or registration receipt in lieu of a school ID. When your academic status is confirmed, you’ll get a one-time promo code to use online or over the phone.

Not a student or teacher? You can still get a great deal with T-Mobile. The self-proclaimed “uncarrier” is offering a free Samsung Galaxy On5 or Galaxy J7 for each new line of service. Which phone you qualify for depends on your plan. The Galaxy On5 promo is available on 6GB and higher plans, whereas the J7 promo is only good with a 10GB or higher plan.

Back to reality — virtual reality

Starting Aug. 5, you can get the newly released Alcatel Idol 4, plus a set of virtual reality goggles, for $190 when you activate a new smartphone plan with Cricket Wireless. The duo retails for $399. The Alcatel Idol 4 is an Android device and comes with a 16-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera (for all those selfies), 32GB of storage and specs comparable to top-tier phones. Cricket Wireless smartphone plans start at $40 for 2.5GB, and you can get $5 off per month if you sign up for autopay.

GoPhones go half-off

AT&T is selling select GoPhones for 50% off, now through Sept. 22. The deal includes the Samsung Galaxy Express 3, Motorola Moto E and the LG Phoenix 2, among other devices. This offer is only available online, and requires you to make your first payment on a 3GB ($45) or larger GoPhone plan when you buy your phone. You can later switch to a lower plan.

iPhone BOGO

Sprint is giving you one last chance to get a free iPhone 6S. The ongoing promo is a package deal, so you have to buy one to get one, and it’s good on the 64GB and 128GB models. Don’t expect this deal to last much longer. Apple is expected to release its iPhone 7 in September, and Sprint will be rolling out new plans and promos before that happens. Rumor has it, those plans will be more expensive than Sprint’s current offerings.

Kelsey Sheehy is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email:ksheehy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy.

This article first appeared at NerdWallet.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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