8 Things You Might Not Know About Your Cell Phone Service

With so much technology literally at the tip of our fingers, it is easy to get sucked onto the information highway and wind up blowing a budget just to keep up with the flow of traffic. We all want the latest and greatest stuff but what you don’t know  (and don’t really need) is what could be hurting you in the wallet.

Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

Here are 8 things you may not know about cell phones, providers, and service you pay for:

Did you know…

1. Your high tech network and device may be useless in an emergency.

If you live and stay in big city limits, you may be okay but if you go out to areas where connection is rocky and need genuine assistance from 911, your phone may fail you when you need it most. Additionally, if you have to call for help on a cell phone, the technology of 911 won’t be able to pinpoint your location. There are FCC regulations that require GPS chips which make location possible but the technology is not yet standard and not all users have trackable phones yet.

2. You may have paid a lot for your smartphone but it might have been a dumb idea.

Compared to traditional cell phone users, smartphones have a higher percentage of complaints generated against them. Granted, smartphones have more features to deal with than standard cell phones but for the price consumers are shelling out, great service and fewer problems are expected. This is especially true for consumers who are persuaded into the higher end phones that don’t really need them. If you can get by with a ‘regular’ cell phone, you can save a lot more money by avoiding required data packages and other monthly fees associated with smartphone devices.

3. You may not save money using prepaid phone plans.

For consumers who feel they want to avoid the expense of a one or two year contract to save money, they may be wrong in their assumption that prepaid is more cost-efficient than a contract plan if they rely on their cell phone as a primary means of communication. A prepaid plan requires the purchase of minutes each month or when the amount runs low. In the event you don’t purchase new minutes, your phone may shut off completely. You may end up spending more money on a prepaid plan purchasing minutes just to keep the phone on than you would on a regular contract plan.

4. You may not be better off switching to a new carrier.

Cell phone providers advertise the ease and convenience of switching providers. Consumers are told they can keep their cell phone number and in some cases, even keep their same device. However simple it may seem, changing providers can be complicated and costly. Plus using devices on another service provider network may mean spotty or poor operation of the old device. Consumers who try this will likely end up purchasing a new phone and signing up for more costly services than they had to start with.

5. You’ll owe the provider more than you bargained for if you do switch.

When you sign up for cell phone service, it is unlikely that the sales person revealed just how much it would cost you if you ever decided to break your contract. Some carriers charge upwards of $200 or even more just to leave early. A few service providers are creating more flexible terms for leaving before a contract ends but all in all, an early out means hundreds you could have used to pay your bill each month.

6. You’ll be charged more money on your bill than you bargained for initially.

When you agree to purchase a cell phone plan, the sales representative probably won’t be pointing out how much money in fees will be added to your monthly charges. While it may appear your phone line will run you about $60 a month, there are still federal and state fees, connection fees, and other provider fees to be paid. Plus, if you do not sign up for the plan that encompasses all of the features you regularly use on your phone, you’ll pay even more in texting charges or long distance calling.

7. You might not realize the charges your family plans can rack up.

If you have a picture texting teen or have several phones on one plan, you can end up with some outrageous charges should you go over the limits on your family plan. Texting is a huge source of revenue for cell phone providers. If your plan does not include unlimited texting or enough minutes, the additional phone line charges can be a surprise especially when you rarely use your phone throughout the month.

8. You’ll pay more if you leave the country.

When you go out of the country for business travel or vacation, you may not realize the roaming charges that go into effect during your stay whenever you use your cell phone. Some carrier can charge early $3 a minute for service in another country for phone calls and additional fees for texting. If you plan to travel outside of the US, check with your provider first to see how much it would cost to make calls and if they offer a plan for overseas calling you can switch to if you plan to stay for an extended period of time.

About the Author

By , on Aug 5, 2010
Tisha Tolar
Tisha Tolar is a co-owner of Trifecta Strategies, LLC and the author of Gen X. When she is not busy being a fiction writer, she writes personal finance articles for several web sites, including Moolanomy.com.

Leave Your Comment (5 Comments)

  1. Mitchell says:

    I recently transitioned to a smartphone – the iPhone – and am actually paying less each month than I was with my previous provider (at that point I had a no frills flip phone). One of the things I found – an app called Textfree. It’s a bit clunkier than the AT&T text service but helped me shave $10 off my cell phone plan immediately. In my opinion a smartphone doesn’t have to be a dumb move. Check out my sugestions/situation at http://www.thedollarstretch.co.....morris-do/ and let me know what you think!

  2. Meredith C says:

    @Trish, I also found prepaid to be the best money saver where it comes to cell phone expenses. Although with my low usage I prefer Tracfone. I can keep my phone active for as little as $7 a month and I always seem to have enough minutes to go around. There is just no contract that comes even close… Of course it also helps that they have exceptional network coverage! ;-)

  3. Trish says:

    I love my prepaid T401G cell phone which has a few bells and whistles but is good value and has worked beautifully so far. It cost me $49.99 from Net10, its reconditioned, slider querty keybourd, blue tooth, mobile web, mp3, 1.3 mega pixel camera and works like a dream. I received 300 minutes and 60 days service FREE upon activation which means I only laid out $20 all in all out of my pocket which is REAL value for money.

    When I call my friends overseas I only pay 15c/minute on Net10 prepaid.
    I save money using Net10 prepaid because I only make one or 2 short calls a day so I only buy 200 minutes and 30 days service for $15/month which gets sent to my phone automatically this is enough if you want tight control over your spending in general. Overall I think I am saving and winning going the prepaid route.

  4. TECHBUD says:

    I have 3 kids under the age of 11 itching for cell phones. I’m holding them off as long as I can.

  5. Jenna says:

    These seem to be pretty common points. I would be nice to see tips on how to combat these, like buying smartphones when they are buy one get one free, or updating your plan when you travel internationally rather than pay roaming charges.

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