Taking Control of Your Wireless Bill
You signed up for the "Super Saver" calling plan, but your monthly wireless bill is starting to resemble a mortgage payment. Sound familiar? While wireless offers tremendous freedom and convenience, it can also be a costly proposition if you don't keep an eye on your usage habits. Here are a few tips to help keep your monthly wireless bill under control and within budget.
- Select a plan that fits your needs.
By choosing a plan tailored to your needs, you take control of your monthly bill before you even make the first call. Carefully assess when, where, and how much you will use your phone when selecting a plan. Most plans include an allotment of "anytime" minutes in the monthly service charge; many also include a number of off-peak (generally evening and/or weekend) minutes as part of your package. Frequent travelers or those who make a great deal of long distance calls may want to consider one-rate national plans that are free of roaming and long distance charges. Keep in mind that underestimating your needs can lead to high per-minute charges for additional airtime. For help finding plans fitting your needs, check out our Find & Compare tool.
- Use the call timer feature.
Many wireless phones offer a built-in timer that tracks cumulative usage and also reports the duration of the most recent call. Take note of when your plan's monthly billing cycle begins and ends. Reset your timer on that day and you'll have a fairly good idea of how much time you are spending during a given billing cycle. One caveat to this tip: most service providers round calls up to the next minute for billing purposes. In other words, even if you only spend 4 minutes and 10 seconds on a call, you'll probably be billed for 5 full minutes. So while checking your phone's timer is a good way to estimate monthly usage, remember that billed minutes may be slightly more.
- Screen calls with caller ID.
Caller ID displays the number of the calling party. If the number has already been programmed into your phone book, caller ID can even identify the caller by name. By notifying you of who is on the line, this feature can help you determine if a call is urgent and prepare you to accept important calls. If you suspect that an incoming call is not urgent or time sensitive, you may want to consider calling back later when you are near a landline.
- Check voicemail from a landline.
Remember that the time checking voicemail from your wireless phone is debited from your monthly package minutes. If you check voicemail several times a day, every day, this can really add up. If a landline is readily available, consider checking voicemail from a landline and saving your package minutes for other purposes.
- Take advantage of your first free incoming minute.
Many plans offer a free first incoming minute either as part of the monthly rate or as an optional feature. If you receive a lot of calls, this feature can be a valuable cost-saver. Not only is a minute just enough time to convey quick messages, but if you have access to a nearby landline, you can also let people know that you can call them right back.