Reading the fine print
TAHLEQUAH, Feb 07, 2013 (Tahlequah Daily Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Scoring a good deal on telephone service these days requires understanding the variety of plans offered by different carriers.
A customer could opt for a basic landline service with local calling capability -- the standard home phone service -- for under $25 a month with AT&T, or go with a two-year contract plan from Verizon Wireless for 4G service starting at $100, with a free smartphone that otherwise would cost $449.99 minus the two-year activation.
According to Walmart Connection Center employee Nolan Chojnacki, a pre-paid plan can help control the monthly expense of phone service.
"If you really want a cheap plan and [already own] smartphone, prepaid would be the way to go," he said. "It's really hard to get [monthly service for] under $100 with a contract. With AT&T, a $50 a month prepaid plan will get you everything unlimited [voice, text and Internet service] for a smartphone or a basic phone. Verizon and TMobile do it, too."
With Verizon's prepaid plan, though, the customer will pay $80 a month for smartphone service, said Chojnacki. As prepaid plans offer cheaper monthly rates, first-time buyers may pay full price for a device with no warranty protection.
"It does seem like an obvious choice to go with a prepaid phone. The only downside is if your phone breaks, you would have to buy a new phone," he said. "Some of the smartphones can be pretty expensive. When you buy a prepaid Samsung Galaxy S-2, you pay $300, but if you get a contract, it could cost you only 97 cents."
Those who want to activate service on more than one device, or need multiple services, can buy bundled, or combined service, plans, said AT&T Price Lang Consultant and Co-Founding Partner Emily Lang.
"I don't have specific tips [on how to save money and avoid extra charges], but I would recommend customers call the company to discuss available discounts on services and plans," she said. "There can be a discount for customers who combine services, and if you're already using multiple services, it can be helpful to combine those accounts to receive the discount."
Lang said a bill can vary, based on service plan and usage.
"Each bill lists state and federal taxes and fees as required by law. Sample bills and an explanation of terms and charges are available at att.com, and we encourage customers with questions to contact customer support at (800) 288-2020," she said. "We welcome feedback, and we appreciate the opportunity to enhance and improve the customer experience."
Lange explained the "Federal Subscriber Line Charge" and the "Federal Universal Service Charge" seen on bills. The FUSC charge is a part of a national policy to promote phone service to all households since inception in the 1930s. It's a policy charge because telephones offer a link to emergency and government services, while keeping surrounding communities connected, according to the AT&T website. The FUSC helps make service affordable and available to consumers with low incomes, those living in areas where the costs of providing service is high, schools and libraries, and rural health care providers.
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