With all the taxes, insurance, weird add-ons and other items, your cell phone bill can easily become a tough-to-follow and utterly confusing mess.
But the one thing it shouldn’t be is a surprise.
It’s important at the outset to try and root out any potential hidden fees or unnecessary charges before signing a contract. But it’s always a good idea to scour your monthly statement and search for charges that you didn’t know about or can’t explain.
Look out for these four fees before you sign the dotted line for a cell phone service:
Cell phone plans that include a fixed amount of talk time—such as 2,000 anytime minutes—may come with unused minute fees. You’re paying for what you didn’t even use. Read every word of your contract for any language that hints at the possibility of this fee and ask a representative for a crystal clear breakdown of any vague phrasing.
Perhaps worse than getting charged for minutes you didn’t use is getting charged for ones that aren’t part of your plan. If you talked more than your plan allows, chances are the costs won’t be that hidden. Consider buying unlimited minutes to avoid overage and unused minutes fees.
When you buy that sleek, shiny phone the insurance for it getting lost, broken or stolen seems like a great idea. Insurance policies cost about $5 a month plus a deductible as high as $100. Don’t be surprised if your insurance plan requires a police report for stolen phones, which is an extra time investment. Insurance plans are best for reckless cell phone users. If that’s not you, you probably don’t need the insurance.
Roaming fees can really sneak up on military families who travel or move, especially internationally. When a cell phone user is outside the area where the phone service was registered the phone “roams,” or connects to another service. Check your contract and ask a salesperson about roaming fees until you get an explanation.
Bills While Deployed
When you’re approaching deployment, you should call your cell phone provider and ask them to suspend coverage while you are away. This will keep bills from piling up on the service you aren’t using. Most cell phone providers allow military members to suspend coverage up to 18 months, while allowing them to keep the same number. Once a soldier returns, all you have to do is call in and ask them to reactivate your phone.
Don’t let these charges take their toll on your pocketbook. Either avoid them in your contract altogether or contact your service provider. Disputing charges is worth it. You’ll either end up buying a package that prevents future hidden costs or getting compensated for the charge.
Photo courtesy bfishadow