Cell Phone Plans – When Minutes Count
Whether a consumer is new to the world of cell phone plans or simply trying to select the best plan to control their costs, understanding the minutes involved is key. Matching the number of “free minutes” in a cell phone plan to an individual’s usage is the primary factor in avoiding extra fees and in assuring that the monthly bill is not higher than necessary.
If there are too few minutes in a given cell phone plan, the user may routinely exceed the plan limit and pay a high per minute rate for the extra talk time. If all of the available minutes are not used however, a plan with fewer minutes, and potentially a lower monthly charge, could save the user significantly.
To be able to really understand cell phone plans and make comparisons, consumers need to understand the common terminology related to the all important minutes described in the plan.
oAnytime Minutes: The anytime minutes in a cell phone plan cost nothing beyond the monthly fee. They include all calls received or placed Monday through Friday during the day time; generally considered peak times. The hours included in this time frame can vary somewhat by plan so reading the details of the plan can be important.
Any minutes used which exceed the allotment of anytime minutes are generally significantly more expensive. For instance, given an allotment of 500 anytime minutes the monthly fee might be $39.99 which averages out to just under 8 cents per minute. Minutes which exceed the plan however could run as high as $0.35 or $0.40 per minute. In addition, some plans charge roaming and long distance fees on minutes which exceed the plan, which may not be charged on anytime minutes within the same plan.
It is important to remember that the anytime minutes include minutes used to both place and receive calls in most cell phone plans in the US. There are some exceptions with specific plans which offer “free incoming” and free calling among a core group of frequently called numbers.
oNight and Weekend Minutes: If a cell phone plan includes night and weekend minutes there is no additional cost for these minutes and they do not consume the anytime minutes. In many cell phone plans, these night and weekend minutes are unlimited while others offer a set amount of time. These minutes are used during off peak times; generally between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday. Again, the specific hours included as night and weekend minutes are defined in the plan.
oShared Minutes: Many families share a cell phone plan. Shared minutes allow them to use a common pool of anytime minutes. In many instances, this is more economical and certainly more efficient than having and monitoring separate plans for each individual. Shared minutes are also used by businesses which can use a single plan for multiple employees.
oRoll-Over Minutes: Cell phone use from month to month can vary somewhat of course. A cell phone plan that allows roll-over minutes offers the advantage of rolling over anytime minutes that are not used throughout the month. There are still limits however, as to how long the rolled over minutes will remain available so knowing the plan details is important to avoid losing unused minutes.
oMobile-to-Mobile Minutes: Mobile to mobile minutes include calls within the same network; for instance, a call from a Sprint customer to another Sprint customer. Although it is unlikely everyone a user calls will be within the same network, this can still be a significant cost savings when signing up with a cellular provider that offers a large customer base or includes many of the people an individual calls frequently.
One twist on the mobile-to-mobile concept offers free calling to a select group of numbers identified by the user. Some T-Mobile plans for instance allow users to identify five frequently called numbers and provides free calling within that group. The five numbers can change monthly and can be different for the various members of a family that share minutes within a cell phone plan.