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Long Distance and Roaming

With national rate plans now the norm, additional long distance and roaming charges don't have the direct impact on wireless bills that they once did. However, these features do come into play when considering the right rate plan, and can be influential in unexpected ways.

Cell Phone Long distance

Many cell phone plans sold today include free long distance (from the plan's calling area). Plans that don't have free long distance charge about 20 cents a minute for this feature; these plans should be avoided by those who make long distance calls with their cell phone.

Unlike many of the plan benefits listed in the prior section, free long distance actually increases the number of anytime minutes that many people need and use, as the cell phone is used instead of the home phone for making long distance calls.

However, it is important to remember that long distance isn't really free, in that the minutes you use count against your monthly airtime allowance. This creates an interesting possibility: "Free" long distance on your cell phone can end up being quite a bit more expensive than paying for it on your landline!

Example Let's say you have a $39.99 plan with 500 anytime minutes and a 40-cents-per-minute overage charge. And let's say you talk for 560 minutes, of which 100 are on long distance calls that you would have made from your home phone except for the fact that they are "free" with your cell service. The chart below shows the impact on your bill.

  Cell PhoneOnly Cell Phone + Home LD
Cell Calling Plan $39.99 $39.99
Overage: 60 Minutes
@ 40¢ / Min
$24.00 --
Home Long Distance
(100 Minutes)
-- $2.75
Total $63.99 $42.74
*Based on a 2.75¢/min. interstate rate.

In this scenario, so-called 'free' long distance actually increased your wireless bill by $21, or 50%.

Toll-Free Calls

The cost for 800 numbers from a landline is borne by the recipient of the call; with no charge to the caller. From a cell phone, however, toll-free numbers are just like any other long distance call, and will count against your bucket of minutes.