Cell Phone Plans – Frugality is not always easy to implement

Posted by idawrites on February 20, 2008 in Budgeting, Finance |

One of the most popular frugality tips is to lower your cell phone plans. I’d hazard a guess that it’s among the top ten ways to free up a few dollars a month.

Last month, I decided to go ahead and lower our plans. Mark has his Blackjack that has an unlimited data line and the 1350 minute plan, and 8000 rollover minutes. Obviously, he doesn’t use them all so I lowered his plan to 900 minutes a month for a savings of $20 a month.

The kids and I have a family plan. We started with a plan of 2100 minutes and unlimited text messages for 4 phones, but since the children don’t really use theirs except to call us and calling us doesn’t count toward the minutes, we lowered the plan to 700. This lowered our bill by $40, or so we thought. The bill came in the mail the other day, and instead of going down by $60, it went up by over $140.

Unfortunately, this is par for the course with AT&T. Over the years, we’ve made occasional changes to our cell phone plans with Cingular, and the service is no different now that they have merged into AT&T. When we added new telephone lines for the children, we received hundreds of dollars in unrequested “premium” text messages.. from the people who had the lines before we got them. Then those same messages started appearing on Mark’s plan. Once again, things we haven’t subscribed to. They’ve even removed services we used, and charged “per use” charges instead of the plan amounts.

So, this month when the bill came, I expected it to be in the low $200s. Instead, it was $400! They changed my family plan to the 700 minute plan, as requested. But they removed my unlimited texting! Upon further review, they kept the 2100 minute plan AND the $40 a month unlimited texting on the phone for our 10 year old, who only uses the phone to keep in touch with Mark between visits. He doesn’t text.

The unlucky representative who took my call was very patient, but not apologetic. He promised it was an “easy” fix. They fixed the rate plan. They removed the 2100 plan and one month of unlimited texting. *NOTE* The cell phone companies charge you for the current month and then a month in advance for texting.

The rep then said “I’m only removing one month of the unlimited texting, since it was available on Greg’s phone.” I’m afraid that I lost it at that point. I informed him that he had lost his mind if he thought I was paying $40 for texting for a TEN YEAR OLD that did not send nor receive one single text message, and the people who actually use the messaging had no access to it at all.

The end result is that for this month, they removed $155 in ridiculous mistaken charges, reinstated our text messaging for all phones, and corrected the plans. We’ll take a look again next month and see if the corrections stick.

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