Phones

Stop Paying Too Much for Wireless Service

Have you ever actually studied your wireless service bill? A recent report suggests that a majority of users wildly over-estimate their needs and end up overpaying for service. There is a pretty good chance that you are giving too much money to your wireless provider one way or another.

The report from BillMonitor focuses on wireless usage in the United Kingdom, but is also most likely indicative of wireless usage in the United States and elsewhere. The BillMonitor survey found that 76 percent of customers are subscribed to the wrong voice plan--52 percent paying for plans that are too large and using on average only a quarter of the allotted minutes, and 29 percent paying for plans that are too small and getting penalized with overage charges. Either way, the result is giving more money to the wireless provider than you should.

Most users are overparying for wireless service one way or another.
Many users naturally want to get the unlimited plan. Then there is no need to ever pay attention to the bill or worry about overage charges. But, if you are paying $70 a month for an unlimited voice plan, while your actual usage would fit comfortably within a nice 450-minute plan for $40 a month, you are needlessly paying $360 per year--enough for an extra nine months of service--to your wireless provider.

Making sense of the voice plan options and choosing the right one is not as easy as it might sound, though--at least not at AT&T. AT&T has plans that allow unused minutes to carry forward to the next month as a surplus. With rollover minutes piling up, even limited data plans can feel unlimited, but only certain plans are eligible for the rollover minutes.

I pay $90 a month for 1400 minutes shared between five lines on an AT&T Family Plan. With one week left in my billing cycle, we have only used about 450 minutes, and we have a massive pool of more than 9,000 rollover minutes available. The up side is that my plan is "unlimited" for all intents and purposes even though I am spending $190 a month less than it would cost to sign up for the actual unlimited plan.

However, for $20 a month less I could switch to a plan that shares 700 minutes between the five lines. There are some caveats to such a switch, though. First, both plans offer unlimited nights and weekends, and unlimited calls to other AT&T mobile numbers, but the 1400 minute plan also includes AT&T's A-List which lets us designate 10 additional numbers we can place unlimited calls to.

The A-List is not included with the 700 minute plan, so although we don't generally go over 700 minutes now, we probably would if we didn't have the A-List. Another pitfall is that AT&T wipes your rollover balance clean if you switch plans. So, I can't just drop to the 700 minute plan with the intent to coast along with the 9,000 surplus minutes I have accumulated.

The challenge is to find a plan that balances the goal of not overpaying, with the desire to not have to constantly monitor usage and stress about going over. There is something to be said for that peace of mind to just use your wireless phone without going over your minutes, but there is still a line there somewhere where that peace of mind costs more than it's worth.

Take some time to re-evaluate your actual usage and make sure you select the best plan for your needs to avoid paying for more minutes than you need, or paying too much for minutes that exceed your plan allotment.

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