Wireless Wars: How Do You Pick the Best Plan for You?

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Video Transcript

Marianne: Welcome back to Good Day, we’re talking about wireless plans for your cellphone. Maybe you’re thinking about changing or upgrading your phone, at the same time changing your plan. Well, Ryan with Nerds on Call is here to give you some pointers for what to think about when you’re picking a new plan.

Ryan: You know, wireless plans to me, it’s like going to the dentist, it is just excruciating! I mean, all the details and everything, you gotta look at your bill. I mean, who wants to look at that?

Marianne: Right, it sounds like you’re getting a pretty good deal until you start adding up all the fees.

Ryan: Well yeah, and right now there’s kind of a wireless war going on. So back in the day we used to have unlimited data, right? And then they started slowing that down as you started using it, and now everybody’s bringing back this unlimited data again. So it starts making people think, “Hey, let’s try something out.” So the first thing you want to do is figure out how much usage are you really using on your phone, don’t forget about what plan you’re on, just figure how much you’re using. So if you look at your bill, it’ll tell you specifically how much minutes you’re using for like your mobile minutes, your nights and weekends, your voice, how much pictures you’re sending, as well as how much data you’re using for your actual plan. You want to figure that out and you want to not just look at one month or three months, and then average it. You want to look at your most usage and your least usage. That way you’ll get a really good picture of how much data you’re gonna need.

Then you wanna break down your bill. This is a huge bill so we’re gonna break this down here in a second. Essentially look at your monthly charges. How much are you paying per month for just your bill or just for your service alone? Just to get connected to the network. Then you wanna take a look at it again, how much you’re paying for usage. Like are you going over, so you’re spending a little extra there? Are you staying within your plan? That kind of stuff. All the little extra bells and whistles. And then you want to take a look at other like, taxes and fees. So most wireless plans, they charge you taxes and fees on top of you what you already pay. So if you have a $59 plan, like you do, you might actually pay a few bucks extra for taxes and fees, but T-Mobile bundles it all in. So it kind of hides it a little bit, but it’s kind of cool because T-Mobile tends to be a little cheaper than most.

Then once you’ve done that you wanna find out, are you paying for your phone still? Are you going to bring a phone to the new plan that you go to? So you wanna kinda break that down too. And then last but not least, go to this place. This is called Whistle Out, and Whistle out compares all of the cell phone plans in the world. All at once.

Marianne: Wow, holy cow.

Ryan: Yeah, so 366,640 cell phone plan combinations, mixes them all up and figures out. So now that you’re armed with the data that you have, about how much usage you’re doing, you can sit there and say, well this is how much data I need, this is how many minutes I need, this is how many messages I’m gonna send. And you do a little search query on it and it’ll pull up all the plans that you can get.

Now there are some sponsored plans, so you can click a little button to hide the ones that are being paid to be in your search. And then, you can break down, so there’s a lot of mobile carriers here I have never even heard of before, Net10, and Greatcall, and so on. So you can click out the ones you don’t want, the ones you’ve never heard of before, and get a more comprehensive list. In fact, I just pulled it up here so it’s a lot bigger. You’ll see that this is a really comprehensive list, and it just puts it in order by charge. And you can see it’s every plan imaginable from every carrier you can get to. That’s how you want check out your wireless.

Marianne: Well you want to do some research for sure, you know? So check it out. Reach Nerds on Call, they’re on Marconi Avenue in Sacramento, 919-NERD in the 916 area code, and get more advice if you like. Awesome Ryan, always good to see you.

Ryan: Good to see you too.

Marianne: Thank you. Good stuff you put together for us. Bethany, back to you.

Bethany: All right Marianne, thank you.

Cell phone wars heated up earlier this month with each major carrier releasing new pricing plans. Is it worth making a switch? Here’s our guide for finding the best cell phone plan for you. We have a five step guide to help you out!

Step One: Get a handle on your current usage numbers.

Figure out how many voice minutes and gigabytes of data you’re currently using so you can determine how much you’ll need ongoing. The easiest way to get a clear idea of your usage is to pull out your most recent three months of bills. Look at how many minutes of voice calling and how many gigabytes of data you used each month. Don’t just determine an average – look at the most you used in a month. Overage charges can break your mobile phone budget so the goal here is to ensure that you don’t sign up for a plan with limits you’re likely to exceed.

If you’re currently utilizing a family share plan, look at each line’s individual usage. This will help you to determine if putting a “power user” on their own plan might make more sense than having the whole family signed on to a plan that’s more than necessary to accommodate one data hog.

Some users will find that they’re well under their limits each month. Great! You could be in a prime position to save some money. Even if you use all your data or voice minutes, a bit of shopping around could get you the same or higher limits for less.

Step Two: Break down your bill.

Determine how much you’re currently paying for your phone and how much you’re paying for your plan. Don’t just take your total bill number. Here’s a quick formula to visualize what you should consider:

Total bill = Monthly service + equipment charges + additional line fee(s) + taxes/fees + overage charges – incentives.

Step Three: Examine the hidden costs of switching.

In recent years, most major cell carriers moved away from exchanging a free phone for a 2-year contract in favor of selling phones on an installment plan. Typically, you pay the full price of the phone over the course of two years. You may not be in a cell service contract, but you could be in a cell purchase contract.

If you are still paying off your phone, factor in the expense of paying off the remaining balance due. While you may be able to sell a usable phone to recoup the expense of paying off your contract, if your device is damaged or broken you could be on the hook to pay off the balance out of pocket. Some carriers offer incentives to switch that can help you pay off your existing device, but most deals only apply to working phones.

If you’ll be buying a new phone when you switch carriers, factor in phone incentives offered by each carrier on the phone model you want.

Thinking of bringing your existing phone with you to a new carrier? You may have heard that Verizon phones can’t be used on any other network but that’s no longer the case. While Sprint uses a proprietary network that may not recognize your Verizon phone, all Verizon 4G LTE devices are network unlocked straight out of the box. Still, it’s best to contact the carrier you’re considering to confirm your phone will work on their network before you get started signing up.

Step Four: Compare!

Once you’ve got a clear idea of what kind of service you need, what you’re currently paying, and whether you’ll be bringing your existing phone or buying a new one, it’s time to compare your options. Luckily, WhistleOut makes comparing the costs of cell phones and plans across carriers a breeze.

Simply answer a few quick questions: the number of lines you want, if you want a new phone or will bring your own, and how much data, minutes and text messages you want. WhistleOut’s search engine will instantly show you all the options. They compare thousands of cell phone plans from 31 suppliers, and quotes take into account what you’ll pay over 24 months, accounting for all setup fees and promotional discounts so you know exactly what you’ll pay over time. Compare installment plans, or early upgrades, and across contract and no contract options.

Step Five: Consider network reliability

RootMetrics sends scouts all over the country to compare carrier network reliability. Verizon consistently scores highest in network reliability, speed, data and call performance but you’ll pay a premium for “the nation’s most reliable network.” AT&T typically comes in as a close second in these categories, but isn’t any cheaper. T-Mobile’s reliability has been gaining traction in recent years, with high marks in densely populated metro areas.

For anyone that lives in or travels through rural areas, network coverage should factor into your cell carrier decision. Saving $20/month on your cell phone plan won’t do you any good if you can’t use your phone in your home, or if you frequently travel through dead zones. Closely study the coverage area of any smaller or regional network you’re considering and keep in mind that service on the edge of the coverage area is often spotty at best.

Wireless coverage is a combination of the network from the carrier (towers, antennas, infrastructure) AND your phone. If you bring your old phone to a new plan, it won’t necessarily improve data speed!

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