Best Cell Phone Service Plans - Choosing The Best Wireless Service Plans

Once upon a time, decisions about telephone service were easy ? you either wanted it or you didn't. Those fairy-tale days are gone for good since the advent of the cell phone. Now, we not only have to figure out what type of mobile phone we'd like to have, but also what features we need, whether or not we want a contract or simply prefer to purchase pre-paid minutes without such a commitment, what accessories we think we might like and what type of plan will best meet our individual or family needs.

By the time we've cut through the red tape and have gotten down to the business of choosing a specific cell phone service plan, we're often either too overwhelmed by the lengthy decision-making process, or we're just looking to get the whole thing over and done with, so that we can finally start using the not-always-so-convenient little device. As a result, many people overlook some of the finer points of selecting the best plan for their money. The best thing to do, then, is to take a deep breath and give yourself a bit of time to clear your head before jumping into such a major undertaking. Once ready, it's a matter of doing a good deal of research and narrowing down your options, until the right one presents itself.

Defining Your Needs Profile

In order to ensure that you'll be opting for the best plan that matches your needs, it's important to define what those needs are, point by point. Without the creation of such a profile, you're far more likely to overlook some critical considerations when it comes time to choose a specific cell phone service plan.

  • Track Your Time ? Accurately determining the number of minutes that you'll need to comfortably use your cellular phone service without disruption is the most significant piece of the puzzle. A miscalculation could mean the difference between the ability to use your cell phone freely and losing service altogether. Before you go shopping for mobile phone service, then, keep track of the number of minutes that you use the phone each day ? and be realistic, or you'll end up cutting yourself short in the end. Once that's been determined over the span of at least a week, you should then be able to forecast your monthly usage. That, however, won't be your target number; you'll need to add about 20% extra time onto your figure in order to have a comfortable safety net so that you won't eat up your minutes too quickly and possibly lose service.
  • Consider Long Distance Needs ? A good plan for long distance phone service is essential if you find that you're using a significant number of minutes outside of your calling area. Geographical distance isn't always the determining factor when pricing comes into play, so don't assume that you'll need less just because the calls that you make are within ten miles of home ? even though they're out of your calling range. With many plans, the charge will be the same whether you're calling someone ten miles away or 1,000 miles away. In addition, many cell phone companies levy fees against you for roaming, which completely destroys the goal of cheap long distance calls.
  • Choose Your Service Type ? Although it seems realistic to expect that all wireless phone service will ? one day ? be digital, that isn't yet the case. When you factor that into the equation, you'll understand that it's important to make sure that your cell phone service plan includes both analog and digital service. If not, you're going to find that you'll be missing out on a fairly large cell phone coverage area.
  • Be Careful About Rounding ? Some cell phone providers try to gouge the pricing of your phone service by rounding out the amount of time that you talk to the next minute. That means that, if you talk for 5 minutes and 4 seconds, you'll end up being charged for a 6 minute conversation. The better choice is to find a company that rounds to the nearest second so that ? when making the same 5 minute and 4 second call, you'll only pay for 5 minutes and 5 seconds. While these increments may not seem like much on an individual basis, they can eat up your time allotment very quickly.
  • Analyze the Rate Schedule ? Many carriers offer a special rate for nights and weekends, which seems great if you look at it on the surface. If, however, you don't know exactly which hours these rates encompass, then you might think that you're making a free call when, in fact, you're chewing up your minutes at a high rate.
  • Look for Discounted Plans ? If you're planning to provide phone service for several members of your family, be sure to find a provider that gives the best cell phone coverage options. For instance, many of them will have a discounted family plan and ? in some cases ? will even provide free phones to a limited number of family members. Don't automatically assume that you'll be placed under the family plan umbrella, though ? take the time to ask about such a plan and, if it matches your needs, make arrangements to have it put into place.
  • Assess Your Internet Needs ? Since some companies also provide internet phone service, make a realistic assessment of your online usage to see if it's worth paying the extra amount that will be required for that feature. If you tend to use the internet even as much as an hour a day, however, you'll end up losing thousands of minutes each month as a result.
Once you've developed a specific needs profile, then you'll need to consider whether or not to go with a prepaid service or sign a contract for up to a year or more. Depending upon your circumstances, you may want to consider opting for a plan that doesn't lock you into a particular time-frame, since you'll be required to pay for the service even if it isn't being used.

About the Author

Samantha Goode is a freelance technology writer who loves to provide tips to consumers shopping for cell phone service, cell phone providers and cell phone coverage.

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