Cell Phone Information

Review the following tips when shopping around for a cell phone

Step 1 – Cell phone basics


  • This means the geographic areas that the cell phone will work in.
  • Not all service providers cover the same areas.
  • Some rural areas have limited coverage.

Add-On fees:

Most service providers have a basic fee for service (system access fee) and a fee for being able to access 911.

Step 2 – Minutes and data

  • Most service providers charge you by how many minutes you use on the phone.
  • Some plans have cheaper rates for making calls at certain times.
  • Most are cheaper during evenings or weekends, but the times vary by provider.
  • For instance, “evenings” may start at 6 p.m. for one company and 9 p.m. for another.
  • Some providers offer a flat fee to have your evenings start earlier.
  • Most offer a fee for unlimited minutes. Service providers also offer plans for texting and data.
  • Text messaging can be unlimited or charged per text sent AND received

Step 3 – Features

Long Distance:

  • Long distance phone calls are usually charged by the minute.
  • These minutes are not included in regular evening and weekend minute plans.
  • Different service providers offer different rates for calling long distance.
  • Some offer flat fees for people who make frequent long distance calls.


  • Roaming is a service that allows you to use your cell phone outside of your regular coverage area.
  • There are roaming charges for incoming and outgoing phone calls, text message, and emails.
  • These charges can be expensive.

Call display:

Call display allows you to see who is calling before you pick up.


  • Voicemail allows people calling you to leave a recorded message on your phone.
  • Voicemail plans vary from a completely unlimited number of voicemails to one or two voicemails.

Step 4 – The cell phone

  • If you sign up for a longer contract, you usually get the phone at a lower cost or free.
  • Do you need a fancy phone with all kinds of features, or will a basic phone do?

Step 5 – Prepaid cards or contracts?

  • Most service providers offer the option of prepaid cards or contracts.
  • With prepaid cards, you buy a set amount of minutes and use your phone until they run out.
  • Contracts are longer term; t have a regular monthly plan for a set period of time. There are a vantages and disadvantages to both (see the chart for details).

Step 6 – Your cell phone bill

  • It is important to review your bill to make sure that your plan is working for you.
  • Make sure you are not paying for services that you do not use.
  • If you are going over your minutes, have a lot of long distance, roaming, or text messaging charges, maybe there is better plan for you.
November 12, 2014
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