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.
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 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 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.