Unless you decide to go with a pre-paid phone service, major cell phone carriers typically require a two-year commitment from you in order to cheaply obtain and use many of today’s most popular and desirable mobile handsets, including both feature phone and smart phone models. Signing up can be daunting, so here are a few things to look for and remember as you’re committing to a cell phone plan, including several tips that can save you money on your cell phone bill. Consider all before making a commitment – after all, early termination fees will apply.
Do the Math
Wireless carriers know what they’re doing when they charge you by the month instead of quoting you a yearly rate. It’s a lot more palatable to consider spending $100 a month than it is to consider that you’re paying $1200 over the course of the year. But since we often think of our income on scales of a year, make sure to multiply your projected bill by 12 to make sure it fits into your overall income, and that you’re comfortable making that commitment.
Know Your Limits
Make sure you and everyone on your plan has a clear understanding of their monthly limits for minutes, data usage and text messaging. Mobile phone providers love charging outrageous overage fees, so your best bet is to sign up for a plan that you know you won’t exceed, and then look at your usage over the first couple of months and adjust as appropriate. A good start: Look at the last six months of your current cell phone bills to get a sense of how many minutes, how much data, and how many text messages you send on average.
Be a Tweaker
Monitor your usage, and make sure you’re using a plan that’s right for you. Companies make it easier than ever to track your usage, whether it’s from the computer via your account portal or even via easy apps. Look at your actual usage in terms of time, texts and data limits, and if you’re going way under or way over your limits, investigate other plan options.
Know what happens if you cancel on the contract. Most services will have high cancellation fees in the first year, but they may diminish as you get closer to the end of your contract. Since life always seems to throw curveballs and changing circumstances at us, it’s good to know what will happen should you need to make an unexpected switch.
If you’re traveling abroad, or even think you’ll be close to another country (like in San Diego or Detroit for example), make sure you’re aware of the consequences of roaming. You can set your plan to not allow these types of charges in order to avoid any fees, but often you can find that signing up for an international plan for the duration of your trip is more reasonable than you might expect.
The old axiom for depreciating value used to be driving a car off a car phone lot, but these days it seems that the moment you commit to a new smartphone, a new and cooler one is announced or released days later, often of the same model. If you’re one of those who needs to be at the cutting edge as an early adopter, be prepared to pay full price for devices unless you’re within your plan’s window near the end of the contract which allows upgrade. Ask about this at the time of purchase so you know whether to upgrading is a realistic option for you or not.
Know How To Make Changes
Utilize the management tools your provider gives you. Know and remember your account password, and download any monitoring apps your provider offers. Make a habit to check in on these at least once a month, but it’s often useful to look a couple times so you can see how your usage is distributed as the month progresses. Even though mobile companies are out to make money (and they make a lot of it), they also provide great service and ease for their customers, it’s simply a matter of taking the time to access it.