Telecommunications companies offer various mobile plans to their clients, making it difficult for them to choose a plan matching their needs. Having information on how to recognize the numerous plans on offer will help to make the selection process much easier. It also makes it possible for you to choose a plan that will work for you and your communication needs. This article reviews the most common types of mobile phone plans, their similarities and differences. It also covers considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a new plan. There are also some tips on saving so you can get more with less from your chosen carrier.
Different Types of Cellphone Plans
Cellphone providers offer two main types of plans: prepaid and monthly plans. Included in each plan are SMS, data, and voice all billed as a single fee. It’s, however, important to note that there exist key differences between the two types of plans.
When you opt for the prepaid plan, it means that you are getting yourself a starter kit that may or may not include a handset. With this plan, you get to access the cellphone network as well as a dollar amount of data and calls. Users on this plan are required to purchase or ‘recharge’ call credits to extend their access to the network when the initial amount runs out.
Often, you will find that the call credits provided by the phone network are limited to a given duration which is determined by the amount that you have paid. Simply put, the user can’t use the pre-paid credit forever. Also, you have to use the available credit within the prescribed time frame or else you lose it forever.
What type of user would benefit from a prepaid plan?
The prepaid cellphone plan is recommended for people who are on a tight budget or those who may be worried about their daily call expenditures. It can also work well for teenagers and children. The prepaid plan is deemed to be the most convenient for any person who normally doesn’t make lots of calls or whose calls are sporadic.
How easy is it to top-up or add credit to the prepaid plan?
Inquire how you can go about the process of recharging the call credits. For many plans, it’s possible to do so online or by purchasing credit at an ATM, convenience store, service station, or dealer outlet. Make sure you get to confirm the duration for which that credit is valid for as well as the least amount you can recharge.
Can I get a refund on credit I have added to my prepaid plan?
In case you are interested in cancelling your existing prepaid plan and getting a refund, or switching to a different network, the plan provider will expect you to part with an exit, early termination or cancellation fee. Remember to check the policies in place as all networks have different policies.
Will my prepaid credit continue to roll-over to the next usage period?
Note that the calling credits are likely to expire after a certain set duration. The only option available to you is to use the credit before expiry or you may just have to forfeit it. Certain carriers may provide you with an option to roll over the unused credit for up to one year.
If the credit is exhausted, you still get to continue using the phone. Additionally, you could also continue receiving calls from those in your circle for as long as twelve months.
The cellphone plan provider won’t be sending you a bill at the end of the month. Besides, you get to monitor your credit usage by placing a call to a free-call number. This will be in addition to regularly receiving messages or beeps asking you to top up if the available credit is low.
Rolling month-to-month plans or contract monthly plans?
When it comes to monthly plans, clients are provided with month-to-month or twelve to twenty-four month plans. Usually, any plan with a term longer than one month will come with discounts on the service and require a contract. Included in this plan is a certain amount of data to access the internet, texts, and calls. These plans can include a new phone as part of signing a contract longer than one year. This makes it easier for you to pay off your new phone in installments. However, obtaining a phone through the carrier often results in you paying more for the phone than its retail value.
Are there any minimum costs for the plan?
As you contemplate signing up for a new long term mobile plan, it will be a good idea for you to mull over the minimum total costs and the length of your commitment. While at it, also make sure to establish whether it’s possible for you to make the switch to a lower or higher usage plan without getting penalized.
What are the usage restrictions of the plan?
There are instances when the monthly plan may come with unlimited text and talk or even better and more affordable calling rates.
When the mobile phone plan is inclusive of a certain number of minutes or calls, chances are high that this will not be rolled over to the coming month. Many plans will follow the use it or lose it system. In case you aren’t sold on the benefits of having such a plan, first begin by using a prepaid plan to assess your normal usage.
You should note that the calls can easily begin to escalate especially when you venture outside the region covered by the infinite text and talk offered by a carrier. It’s something any person operating a tight or highly controlled budget should think about.
Are there any exit, cancellation or early termination fees?
Early termination or exit fees will apply whenever you opt to quit from a given plan. Depending on the agreement you have with the carrier, you may be expected for you to pay out the remainder of your contract. The best thing you can do is ask lots of questions and also take your time to carefully read the fine print.
The carrier may also offer its customers an unlimited capped plan. By paying a higher monthly fee, you get to have unlimited usage. This will, however, be guided by the fair use policies put in place by your carrier.
Inclusions Present in the Mobile Phone Plans
The perfect cellphone plan for you is one that is dependent on how you choose to use the phone and on your circumstances. It’s crucial for clients to go through the contractual summary or full terms and conditions for each plan. Included in the summary will be essential information such as data, SMS, and call inclusions, the length of your contract, and applicable termination fees.
As you are contemplating on the plan to get, there are a few significant factors you will have to keep in mind.
What Are The SMS and Call Inclusions?
Most cellphone plans provide their users with infinite SMS and national call inclusions. Besides, numerous other prepaid options provide an included number of SMS and calling minutes. For instance, the provider may offer you $500 minutes’ worth of SMS and calls per month.
Other plans may comprise of the pay-as-you-go option. A good example is where a user purchases $20 of calling credit. What will happen is that the carrier gets to deduct this credit following a given rate every time you send an SMS or make a call. When dealing with such a plan, it will be essential to consider the crucial information summary. From this, you get to establish the rates for sending an SMS and that of making a call. Expect different providers to offer varying rates to their clients.
It will be essential for you to acquaint yourself with quizzes and competitions where one subscribes by sending an SMS or by submitting your cell number to a website.
Doing so may cause you to unintentionally register for a super expensive service where the provider gets to charge you a certain amount each week on an ongoing basis.
How Much Data Is Included?
When it comes to data, the inclusion is often measured in terms of how many GB (gigabytes) is provided. This will often vary significantly from one provider to the next. Before you can start comparing the plans available, make sure that you have determined just how much data you require.
Depending on the nature of your mobile plan, you may find it automatically recharging the data when the monthly inclusion is exceeded. This is often costly for the user. Apart from this, you will also find plans that don’t attract any additional expenses when the available data gets exceeded. However, the same plans may also place a limit on the download speed that will be available to you. Download speeds get limited when you use up a given amount of data within the billing duration.
Is a Handset Included in the Mobile Phone Plan?
A monthly or annual plan may also offer you a chance to lease or purchase a handset. You will notice that the carrier will include these costs into the monthly payments you are to make. By leasing a gadget, one can either return it at the end of their contract or opt to buy it. Individuals with a plan on a contract, will find it better to lease a gadget instead of buying one. Carriers will also provide users an option to upgrade to a better handset at the end of the initial contract period.
For this option to apply, the user will need to ensure that the gadget they are returning to the provider is in top shape. A one-off upgrade fee will also need to be paid before going home with your new handset. In case you decide to buy this device, you will be expected to pay it off using monthly installments for the duration of your contract.
The phone will automatically become yours when the contract comes to an end. For customers that already own personal gadgets, the carrier will provide them with SIM-only plans. Here, the contract will either be a month-to-month one or a 12-month plan.
Which Other Services Are Included?
There exist a broad range of extra offers and services that providers can include in the mobile phone plan. Additional services they can include are:
- Entertainment and content inclusions such as subscriptions to video streaming services. These can be services such as Stan or Netflix, free music streaming, and sports-related programs.
- International calling minutes to several select countries.
- International roaming inclusions (text and calls received or made when abroad)
- Call to 1800/1300/13 numbers
- Calls to specific special services, e.g., 12, 14, and 15 numbers.
How can I save money on my mobile plan?
There are a few ways of saving on your mobile phone plans. Here are a few tips:
Get the phone yourself – Buy your phone from the manufacturer or Amazon, as you will pay more if you purchase it on a plan. Mobile carriers divide the cost up of the phone and spread it across the term of your contract. Add up the total monthly difference differences in a service-only plan versus a phone and service-plan. You will find out that the carrier is charging well over the retail price of the phone. Why pay them premium for a depreciating asset like a phone? Save up and buy the phone outright and pay for the plan separately.
Ask for a discount or more perks on renewal – When your contract is coming up for renewal, you should call the customer service department of the carrier. Tell them you are thinking about leaving and that you want more data, minutes, SMS, or a cheaper bill. Carriers usually increase data limits to lure in new customers on a yearly basis. Why shouldn’t you get the same benefits? By checking in annually with your carrier you put yourself in a good position to get more from your plan. Carriers spend a lot of money acquiring new customers. They can easily give out 5-10% discounts, or more, to keep an already loyal customer so it never hurts to ask.
Use airplane or do not disturb features to limit data usage – Does your phone need to be receiving calls or texts while you travel or sleep? Unless you work in a profession requiring you to be on-call, the answer is probably no. So, you can put your phone on airplane or do not disturb mode to shut off data services while you sleep. When you awake, switch data services on manually or automatically. Your phone will download the emails, call history, voicemails or anything else it missed while both of you were sleeping.
Use low data mode or switch to 3G when you need connectivity but not browsing – You can stay connected to data services and receive emails while being efficient with data usage. Switch to low data mode or 3G and your phone should continue to receive emails. This is convenient when you need to stay connected yet aren’t needing 4G or 5G for web browsing or video watching.
Geographic Coverage You Should Expect
It’s essential to also look into the amount offered by each plan when in the market for a cellphone. By doing so, you will get a chance to select the plan that will meet your daily usage. Through the process, a consumer also gets to walk away with a plan that provides them with everything they require to meet their usage needs.
How to Estimate Mobile Phone Usage
Not all mobile phone providers will provide you with matching coverage. One can simplify the decision making process when there is a better understanding usage and objectives of buying a cellphone. Estimate expected usage for a month. This will help to get a rough number on the number of calls made each week. This also includes looking into the amount of data used up and texts sent within a given time-frame. Check past phone bills or phone usage statistics to determine a monthly or yearly average.
Can I Use the SIM Services When Abroad?
Check if you can use your SIM when abroad on holiday. This option may come with certain limitations. For example, some carriers in the European Union waive roaming charges when a user is outside their country coverage area . Check with your carrier to find out if they waive roaming charges, and under what circumstances. Also, confirm that the country you intend to visit has a bandwidth that is compatible with that of your phone. Your phone will also need to have the roaming feature activated once you land for data services to work.
Roaming charges can be costly, and continue to rise on an annual basis. Carriers justify the increase in cost as a way of maintaining the network to ensure service quality. Thus, consumers should be aware of the costs when taking their prepaid or contract phones abroad.
There are a number of considerations consumers should keep in mind when shopping for a new mobile phone plan. Monthly or annual contracts tend to bring in better monthly rates on data, SMS and voice. Buying a phone on plan may be better for cash management, and may be the only option for some to get the phone they wanted. However, in a majority of cases you will pay more for the phone on a plan than if you bought the phone outright and then just paid the service provider for data, SMS and voice services. It’s your choice and your money.