Cell Phone Plans-Don’t be Ripped Off

There are a million different cell phone plans out there. The only way not to be ripped off is to know exactly what you need, want, and can afford before you ever sign a contract. All the major providers will want to lock you into a one or two year deal. This is to stop you from switching services before they have made a profit on you.

How many minutes do you think you will need per month? It is always better to start with a smaller plan and then increase it if it isn’t adequate. Your carrier will be more than happy to allow you to move to a bigger plan.

Ask yourself if you will be making a lot of long distance calls. Do you intend to use text messaging? Are international calls a possibility? Is this phone for you alone, or do you need a family plan? It is difficult to compare cell phone plans and services, because each company has different network technologies at work. It’s not a bad idea to check on surveys to see what actual users are saying about the various plans. There are plenty of them online. PC Magazine and Consumer Reports have surveys.

There are three basic plan types available for cell phones:

  • Individual-This plan is for people who are using their phone either as a replacement for a landline, or just as a mobile phone If you are not a big user, you can probably get as little as 300 anytime minutes per month.
  • Family-Two or more people, if they want to pool their minutes, can get a family plan. However, it is difficult to monitor the call patterns for several people at once.
  • Prepaid-This is a plan for individuals that requires no signed contract. It guarantees a certain amount of minutes per month and paid for in advance. This is great for people who just want a phone for emergency use, but is also great if you have a teenager who is out of control.

Once you have decided which type of plan you want, it is time to ask yourself some pertinent questions.

  • How many minutes do you think you will need? – You need to be realistic. No plan costs more than yours when you have gone 500 minutes over your limit. But still, if you opt for caution, you can always increase your plan.
  • What other features are important to you? – Decide whether you want text messaging, camera, a Smartphone so you can surf the net, etc. If you do , you need to be searching for a plan that offers good data options.
  • What carrier do your friends use? – If most of them have the same one, you can cut your minutes by subscribing to a service that offers unlimited mobile to mobile minutes.
  • Do you call a lot of people in other states? – National plans are the most popular, and now most plans no longer charge roaming charges for other states. If you are using long distance often, make sure they are not charging additionally for it.
  • Check with other people that live and work near you. - The quality of your calls is different from one area to another. Ask people if they get clear calls, frequent disconnects, and loss of service.

Now that you have determined what you need and what you want, it is time to look for the best values in the various plans:

  • For infrequent users, the best value is more than likely the T-Mobile’s Basic Plus, which offers the fewest minutes, and the lowest cost
  • JD Power and Associates and Consumer Reports both seem to consistently choose Verizon and T-Mobile for best call quality and least dropped calls.
  • For those of you who get a lot of calls, but rarely make calls, Sprint’s Free Incoming plan would be good. You will only be charged for the calls you make.
  • If text messaging is your bag, Verizon’s Choice Select seems to be the best, offering unlimited text, picture, instant messaging and video for a set extra price.
  • If you only have a few people that you talk to on a regular basis, you might want to consider T-Mobile's myFaves, which allows you to select five people for unlimited talk. They do not need to have the same provider.

There are add-on services that should be considered as well. Certain phones will not support these add-ons, so think about that, too, when you are buying a phone and signing a contract.

  • Text messaging
  • Multimedia messaging
  • Wireless application protocol
  • Data services

Most people want to pick their cell phone first, but you must remember that not all carriers carry the same phones. It is wiser to decide what you need and what you can afford, and who seems to have the best reputation in your area first. Then check out the few that meet your qualifications, see what kind of phones they have to offer, and then make a decision. You will still be offered a variety of plans and phones from inexpensive to full-featured.

By taking the time to learn what’s out there, talking to users, reading the surveys and recommendations, you will be well armed to make intelligent decisions regarding your cell phone plan. You will not be ripped off!