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3 On Your Side: Cell Phone Plan Confusion

jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)--When it comes to figuring out the right smartphone plan, do you suffer from cell phone confusion?  With literally thousands of combinations and options to choose from, you could be paying too much each month just out of fear of exceeding your plan.  But as 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds, navigating which plan is right for you may have just gotten a little easier.

Between talk time, texting, and data usage, the Boone family shells out about $240 dollars a month to their cell provider.  They’d like to pay less, but when it comes to finding the best plan Amy Boone says, “It’s a puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle.”

A pricing puzzle because the four major U.S. cell carriers combined offer about 200 different plans.  And within those plans, there are also thousands of combinations available for messaging, data services and device protection.

“You have to have choice for consumers, but then that choice creates confusion because when people want to buy they want things simple,” says Todd Dunphy, President of Validas, a mobile analytics firm.  Dunphy believes that plan confusion often results in wireless waste. That’s the difference between what you pay for your mobile plan and what you actually use.

Validas found last year Americans overpaid by more than 52 billion dollars and 83% of users with high data plan limits didn’t use all they paid for.   According to Dunphy,

“People are over-buying in the fear that they’re going to go over, but in fact what they keep doing is never using those gigabytes they’re buying.”

So how do you know if you’re on the right plan?  Most major cellular providers websites offer plan calculators.  You can also call your carrier for an analysis.  The National Consumers League recommends reviewing three months worth of bills.  John Breyault of the League says, “Are you using less voice than you thought you were going to?  Are you using more texts that you thought you would?  See if there’s a way that you can adjust your cell phone plan or maybe switch carriers to find one that better meets your needs for a cheaper cost.”

When Validas did an analysis of the Boone’s bill they found they don’t need unlimited data and simply changing to a shared data plan should save them $400 dollars a year.  Amy Boone is happy about the extra money she’ll now get to keep in her pocket, and is thankful for the help.  She says, “A huge headache to try to figure this stuff out. I think a lot of people just let it go.”

Many carriers recently updated their plans so now is a perfect time to check and see if there’s a better one for you.

Click the links below for calculators to help you.

 http://www.att.com/att/planner/

http://www.t-mobile.com/Tools/MBCalculator.aspx

http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/splash/shareEverythingCalculator.jsp?intcmp=VZW-VNT-SE-SHAREEVERYTHING

 http://shop.sprint.com/content/datacalculator/

http://www.validas.com/

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