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Archive for March, 2013

Switch to Prepaid and Cut Your Mobile Phone Bill in Half

Is your monthly mobile phone bill getting out of hand? If you are using a traditional postpaid plan, you are probably paying more than you need to. Most customers can cut their cell phone bill in half by switching to a prepaid. The average US customer using a basic phone pays nearly $60 a month, the average prepaid customer only about $25. Postpaid smartphone users with unlimited voice and messaging plans and 2 GB of data per month pay around $100/month, prepaid smartphone users with similar plans spend about half that.

Do you think you are ready to try prepaid? Here are some tips for making a smooth transition so you can begin saving money.

1) Watch out for Early Termination fees. Call your mobile phone provider and ask them when the contract on your line and each family member’s line runs out and how much your early termination fee (ETF) would be if you canceled now. Termination fees can be very high, as much as $350 per line. In most cases you will want to wait until your contract expires before switching.

2) Check coverage. Rule out networks that don’t give you the coverage you need. There are many prepaid operators but most of them rely one of the big four operators (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile) for the bulk of their coverage. At the national level, AT&T and Verizon provide service in more places than T-Mobile and Sprint. But all four have areas that they don’t cover.  Use the coverage maps to eliminate operators that don’t have service where you need to use your phone. Page Plus has an excellent interactive coverage map that lets you zoom and view block by block coverage, but some other prepaid operators have very poor maps. I’ve created a page on Prepaid Phone News with links to detailed coverage maps that you can use for all prepaid carriers.

3) Determine your current usage. Go over your last few mobile phone bills and add up the maximum number of minutes and texts and the number of megabytes of data you or each family member uses per month. Be sure to include “free” night and weekend and mobile to mobile minutes in the total as most prepaid plans treat all calls the same.

4) Pick a prepaid operator and plan. Once you know many minutes, texts and megabytes of data you need it’s time to find the best provider and plan for your budget. A good starting point is the Page Plus Plan Picker Web App. It will recommend the best Page Plus plan for you based on your average monthly usage of minutes, messages and data.  There are also a couple pages on the Prepaid Phone News site that summarize plans and prices from many operators to help you make an informed choice. If you are a data consuming smartphone user go here: The Best US Prepaid Data Deals. If you just want to talk and text, see: The Best U.S. Prepaid Voice and Text Deals.

5) Make the switch. You probably want to keep your current number. That’s called “porting” your number. Thanks to the FCC’s number portability rules it’s now relatively easy to do. Here’s how:

  • Don’t terminate your existing service. You will almost certainly lose your number if you do. You old service will be cancelled automatically when the port is complete.
  • Always initiate a number port with the operator you are switching to. You will need your phone number, zip code,  account holder’s name and billing address and your account number, which should all be on your bill, if not call your current provider and ask. You will also need the account PIN code or password if you set one up. For a quick and painless port it’s essential that this information is accurate and complete.
  • Ports usually complete within 24 hours, often in an hour or less. During the porting process there may be a short period, usually less than five minutes, when neither phone works. When the port is done you may get a welcome text or voice message from the new operator. Or the new phone may just start working without any message. If the number hasn’t ported within 24 hours you need to call your new operator.

6) Enjoy the savings!

 

Dennis Bournique (@yeswap) covers the US prepaid mobile industry at prepaidphonenews.com