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Consumer
Your phone bill may contain real pocket change
PITTSBURGH (4/29/09)--If you’re looking for ways to cut costs, pull out your wireless and land-line phone bills. You may be paying for services you don’t want, don’t need, or didn’t ask for (Post- Gazette April 19). When Rena Crispin’s phone bill spiked, she ignored it for a few months, thinking it was a pro-rated charge for changing her land-line’s package plan. When the bill remained unusually high for another two months, she went online to check details. “I discovered I was paying for five monthly charges I didn’t want, at $5.99 each,” says Crispin, who is a managing editor at Credit Union National Association’s Center for Personal Finance. Because voice service is a fairly cheap commodity, phone service providers are pushing extra services, to the extent that they “inadvertently” can tack them on to your plan when you make changes. In Crispin’s case, when she originally called to change her package plan, her provider did as she requested and set up the new package, which cost less and didn’t include the five services that were in her old plan: three-way calling, speed calling, call forwarding, automatic callback, and repeat dialing. What the provider didn’t tell her was that they continued all five of those services from her original package and billed $5.99 plus tax for each one, in addition to the new package plan. (At Crispin’s request, her provider discontinued the unwanted services and refunded her in full.) Take steps to trim your phone bill:
* Check your statement each month. Go beyond the amount due and look at all the services you’re paying for to see if you still need them. * Watch for mistakes. Small extra charges--which add up over time--may have been added to your statement by mistake. * Check for employee discounts. Do a Google search for your carrier’s name and “employee discount.” AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon offer discounts to employees of companies that use their services. * Review your plan at least once a year. This applies to both land-line and wireless services, no matter how long you’ve had them. You may have signed up for an introductory rate offered only for a limited time, and the price you’re paying now isn’t competitive with other plans. * Calculate your usage. If you signed up for a flat rate of 500 minutes a month but you’re only averaging 150 minutes a month in long distance calling, update your plan. * Evaluate your needs. If you’re paying 10 cents or 20 cents for each text message, depending on how frequently you send and receive them, consider an unlimited text messaging option. * Ask questions. If you have trouble understanding the charges on your bill, call your provider and ask for an explanation of each line item. * Have your call usage analyzed. Upload an electronic copy of your bill to billshrink.com. The free online tool compares your costs against money-saving alternatives and offers several low-cost options.
For more information, read “Cell Phones: Get What You Need” in Googolplex.
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