05 May 2015

Fuzzy Cell Plan Logic

In trying to cut back on some of the household expenses, I have been looking at ways to potentially lower our cell phone and cable bills. Saving money on TV and internet likely means switching providers, and I have no particular love for Comcast so if that's what it takes, it won't bother me much.

I am rather reluctant to switch cell phone companies for a few reasons: inertia (it's easier to stay with Verizon); the network tends to perform better, with certain exceptions; my extreme dislike of AT&T. But the incessant ads proclaiming that Sprint or T-Mobile or whoever will pay off the early termination fees, and the lure of a new phone, led me to at least size up what others are offering and what it would cost.

It also led me to look at my account info on Verizon's website, which showed me that in any given billing period I have never used more than half of the data allowance I pay for, so at the very least I ought to be able to lower that and save a few dollars a month. I was also curious about the "More Everything" plan that Verizon has been offering, so after doing some inconclusive calculations online I called customer service to get answers from a human.

The lure of More Everything is that there are no limits on calling minutes or texts per billing period. We don't use a lot of phone minutes but currently I pay $5 a month for 250 texts on the Mrs.'s line, and on occasion she gets close to that limit, so it would be nice not to have to keep track of that anymore. (Most competitors' plans also offer unlimited talk and text.) But with three lines (my mother is also on our plan) and my current amount of smartphone data on one line for me, More Everything ends up costing a few dollars more per month. If I cut back the data to 1 gigabyte it would be a few dollars less, not what I consider a significant savings.

And what's worse is, if I configure the plan as though I were a new customer, it's about $15 less a month. This is not surprising, as these days there isn't as much growth in users as there was a decade ago, so cell phone companies fight each other for new customers, many of whom are switching away from a rival. Apparently, pleasing new customers is more of a priority than keeping existing customers satisfied, and this will certainly factor into my eventual decision.

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