Are you looking for ways to lower your phone bill? Look no further! This article provides the resources and tips you need to save money on your bill.
[Editor's Note: David's website offers lots of great information for phone plans shoppers, including phone number look up, a toll-free directory, a glossary, area codes and country codes, even a link to get off those pesky telemarketing lists. Read this article, and then pay him a visit; his URL is at the bottom.
Long distance is a constantly changing industry; you should check that your deal is still the best for you at least every six months. This article focuses on dial-around plans, where you enter a series of digits to connect to a different carrier. They are a good solution, but not the right solution for everyone. For instance, instead of using a dial-around plan, I dial an 800 number to use a rechargeable prepaid "virtual phone card" at 2.9 cents per minute within the US, with a one-minute minimum and no monthly charge or connection fee. The information presented here is not intended to be comprehensive, but to provide at least a few clues. We do not endorse any plan mentioned here or elsewhere. The information is current as of spring 2002, and is subject to change.]
Want to save money on your phone bill? Here are some tips on choosing and using discount long distance, including dial-around calling plans. These will better inform you of what to look for and to explain how to choose a plan that is right for you. Consumers can save a lot of money by using a cheap long distance phone rate, but remember to read the fine print of every plan you consider.
There is no doubt that you will save money on long distance by using a discount phone rate. When I first started using a dial-around number 4 years ago, I saved a lot of money compared to my primary long distance carrier. A dial-around number bypasses your long distance carrier; you can even use a dial-around plan if you have no primary carrier. And you are not limited to using just one dial-around number. So if you find a plan that has low cost long distance for state-to-state calls, use it. But if that plan has a higher rate for in-state or international calls, you can always use a different dial-around number to get a better rate. For example, on my website, there are a few calling plans where you can receive a rate as low as 3.9¢ per minute for all state-to-state calls, but your in-state rates might be higher. In this instance, you could use a separate dial-around number with a cheap phone rate per minute for your in-state calling.
Choose a plan based on your needs and compare calling plans. Look at the specifics of every long distance calling plan and don’t be afraid to use more than one option. If you find a dial-around number with a discount phone rate when calling another state, what are the in-state rates for that same plan? It cannot be emphasized enough. You might use one calling plan that has a discount phone rate for state-to-state calls but that same number has a much higher rate for long distance calls within your state. Check the in-state rates! In some cases (not all), you might save more money by using one long distance carrier for your state-to-state calls, and a different number for your in-state calls.
Check if the plan has a monthly fee. This is one area where some consumers can actually lose by using certain dial-around numbers if they make only a few quick long distance calls per month. Now, if you make a lot of long distance calls every month, sometimes using a plan with a monthly fee is fine. But if you don’t make many long distance calls, watch out for plans with a monthly fee. Let’s say you average 15 minutes of long distance calling per month and then choose a plan that offers a low 5¢ per minute rate but has a $4.95 monthly fee. Your bill for that month would be $5.70. This means that in reality, you have paid a whopping 38¢ per minute for that month. If you make only a few short calls per month, a monthly fee may not be worth it.
Check if the plan has a minimum charge per call. Some domestic and international calling plans will have for example, a 10 or 20 minute minimum charge on every call. This means that if you use one of these dial-around numbers and then get connected to just an answering machine or voice mail, your call might only last 2 minutes but you will be billed for the minimum minute charge. On my website, the Call 4 Cents plan is 40¢ for the first 10 minutes, then 4.9¢ per minute thereafter. Although it is a really cheap phone rate, if you make a call that is just one minute long you will still be billed the 40¢. One great way to never have to worry about this is to use a second dial-around number first. I will use two plans on my website as an example.
If you are making a call to someone that you are not sure is home, you can use the 10-10-629 dial-around number for a 5.9¢ per minute rate. If you call and get an answering machine and your call was just one minute, then you pay only 5.9¢ for that call. But if you reach your friend, you can call right back, using the Call 4 Cents 101-5335 dial-around number and get the first 10 minutes for 40¢, then 4.9¢ per minute thereafter. If you are ever concerned about using a minimum minute rate plan, using a second dial-around number first might save you some money. [Editor's note: Of course, if your time is worth something, you might find it more effective to call on the 5.9 cent plan and just finish out the call with it. On a ten-minute call, you spend an extra 19 cents, reduce the annoyance to your friend, and have about two extra minutes in your day. Save the Call 4 plan for things like conference calls, where you know you'll be on the phone for a solid hour.]
Watch for different rates for days, nights, or weekends. As if phone bills weren’t already hard enough to figure out, some companies will have one rate for certain hours during the day, then a different rate for evening or night hours. Some might even have a different rate for weekends. This is nonsense. To say this can get confusing is an understatement. When you are shopping for a low phone rate, be aware if the plan you are considering has these rates based on the time of day. As always, read the fine print and know what you are getting.
Connection fees: When you compare calling plans, check to see if there is a per-call connection fee. Some companies will hit you with a fee just for connecting your call. Read the small print.
Watch for calling plans that have different in-state (intrastate) rates: I am emphasizing this again. Many plans will have different (higher) rates for in-state long distance calls. This means that you might get 5¢ per minute on all state-to-state calls, but then get nailed with a 15¢ per minute rate for any in-state long distance calls. Intrastate means calls within your state and Interstate means calls from state to state. Always ask what the in-state calling rates are and if you need to use a separate plan for just your in-state calling, do it.
Watch for rate plans that require the person you are calling to use the same plan as you. Some companies offer a calling plan with unlimited calling for a set monthly price. For example, you might find a calling plan where you pay $19.95 per month to cover all of your calls. But the catch is this: The person you are calling must be subscribed to the exact same plan as you. And if they aren't? You will get hit with a much higher per minute rate on top of the $19.95 a month. Furthermore, even if the person you are calling does have the same plan as you, make sure you are making enough calls to justify that $19.95 charge every month.
Make sure you dial the correct dial-around number: Although this sounds very simple, it is important. If you use a dial-around number, make sure you use the correct number. If you misdial on just one digit, you could end up using another long distance carrier's dial-around plan at a higher rate.
Using a dial-around number on a business phone: Many dial-around numbers can be used on a business phone for the exact same rates as if the call was being placed from a residential phone. Read the fine print and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on plan websites.
Payphones, hotel phones and dial-around numbers: Dial-around numbers cannot be used when making a call from a payphone or from most hotels. Use your calling card instead.
No matter who provides your long distance phone service, watch for rate changes. Whether you are using one or many dial-around numbers, you are considered a casual user of the companies that own those numbers. It’s very possible that if there are rate changes, you will not be notified of those changes. Periodically contact the company and ask them for their current rate. In many cases, if the rate has been lowered since you started using the number, you can request to be switched to the new lower rate.
Using a dial-around number in a family home: If you have a household full of people, make sure they all know and use the dial-around number. One good way to do this is to place a sticker with the dial-around number on every phone. Using a dial-around number can save a consumer a lot of money, but to get those savings the dial-around number should be used on every long distance call. If you are having a problem getting everyone in the house to always use the dial-around number, keep in mind that most calling plans are available as pre-subscribed service. This means that you could choose that company and plan as your primary long distance carrier and then just dial 1 + the area code + the number to receive the same cheap phone rates as you would by using a dial-around number. This would assure that every family member could just use 1 + dialing and you will always know you are getting the same low phone rate as the dial-around number you were using. (There are some pre-subscribed plans listed on my website that will also allow you to deduct 5% from your monthly bill if you pay by credit card over the Internet.)
International Calls: Don’t assume that a plan with a low rate within the U.S. will also have a cheap international phone rate. Although this can be true, it isn’t always true. If you need to use a separate dial around number to receive the lowest international phone rate, do it. If you make calls to a few different countries, check to see if you would be better served by using one calling plan for calls to one country, then a different dial around number for calls to another country. In many cases, taking the time to do this can save you a lot of money on your international long distance phone service. And always check the Universal Service Fund (USF) fee: It is becoming more and more common for companies to charge a USF fee for state-to-state and overseas calls (the USF fee does not apply to long distance calls within your state). The average fee is about 9%, but many companies have a much higher USF fee. As always, read the fine print.
If you need assistance with finding the best rates and plan for your calling patterns or if you have any questions whatsoever, please contact David at Absolute Low Long Distance toll free at 1-888-447-2529 or visit his site at http://absolutelowlongdistance.com.
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