Choosing a Rate Plan
The Bottom Line
Making the wrong plan choice can lead to a much higher bill than necessary — month after month.
Now let's look at choosing a rate plan (see box below). From a monthly dollars-and-cents perspective, choosing the right rate plan is the most important piece of the entire selection process. If you live in a typical city, you'll find five to seven carriers and upward of 50 plans from which to choose. This extensive choice means that there is likely to be a plan out there that comes pretty close to matching your calling patterns. Figuring out which plan that is . . . well, that's another matter altogether.
The easiest way to sort through these myriad options is to visit an unbiased website that will take your estimated calling patterns and compare them against the plans available where you live. MyRatePlan's interactive rate plan finder — CellCalc™ — does just that. It lets you select the features that are important to you (e.g., free mobile-to-mobile), while enabling you to estimate your monthly bill for almost all the plans available in your local market.
The Chicken or the Egg?
Although you'll be buying a rate plan and phone together, the options are much more manageable if you think of each piece separately. To that end, we suggest you pick your phone first, and then your rate plan. We used to recommend doing it the other way around, but competition has caused most carriers to offer basically the same rate plans. Therefore, if you first find the phone that you want, it becomes much easier to choose a rate plan, as you will only need to choose among the rate plans offered by the carrier associated with the cell phone you have chosen.
In the next several sections, we review the underlying factors that make up a rate plan. These sections begin with headers in yellow type.