Shrink Your Long Distance Bill
|Written by: Chris Andrews |
Submitted On: 6/27/2004
|copyright, 2004, Chris Andrews
As a long distance consultant, I've often wondered why people are hesitant
to switch to new, lower priced, long distance plans.
Then it hit me. It's the same reason I get stuck in the tooth paste aisle
at the grocery store. There are so many tubes of toothpaste to choose
from. Each with different benefits, flavors, features. I'm not a
toothpaste expert. How do I know which toothpaste is best?
So I pick up the usual tube, just to avoid making a decision.
Are you doing the same thing when it comes to long distance? If so, you're
missing out on the lower rates offered in today's market. Read this and
get ready to shrink your long distance bill!
- Average Usage Plans -
Most of us make between fifteen minutes to two hours of long distance calls
If you fit into this range, you'll get your best deal from a small long
distance company. One that specializes in low per minute rates for
residential and small business callers. Small companies have to compete
against the big three (AT&T, Sprint, MCI). They often do so by offering
Most small long distance companies are very dependable. They generally
provide better, more personal, customer service. Most offer plans with
rates under 5¢/minute.
Call quality is the same whether you're using a big or small long distance
company, they all use the same fiber optic networks. There are two
exceptions to this. One is international calling, which does vary from
carrier to carrier. If you make international calls, find a service with
experience in that field. The other exception is 'voice over internet'
services, which have a reputation for poor voice quality at times.
When comparing plans that charge by the minute, look for:
1) A flat rate. The price should be the same any time of day or night.
2) No service fee. This will save you $4 to $8 up front. You may need to
use a credit card, or use certain amount of service, to get this benefit.
3) Billing increments of one minute (or less), and a one minute (or less)
per call minimum. Nothing should be billed in higher than one minute
Avoid services that advertise a per/unit price. Don't assume 'unit' means
'minute'. It doesn't.
Avoid plans that require you to sign a multi-month or multi-year contract,
and avoid plans that require you to use a certain amount of service each
month. You can find low rates without these restrictions.
Do keep in mind that the primary rate long distance companies advertise is
the state to state rate. If you make many in-state long distance calls, be
sure to check and compare those rates as well.
- High Usage Plans -
What if you make three, four, five hours of long distance calls each week?
There are four different service types you want to consider:
1) A Per Minute Plan.
2) Bundled Service, which includes both unlimited local and unlimited long
distance for one set rate.
3) Unlimited Long Distance, for a set monthly price.
4) Fixed Price Long Distance, ie: $30/month for up to 3000 minutes.
If you use a lot of long distance, it's worth sitting down with a
calculator and doing a little figuring.
Start by estimating how much time you spend making long distance
calls. Figure out what this would cost using a low cost per minute
service. Compare this to what you would pay with an unlimited or fixed
price long distance service in your area.
Then combine your estimated long distance cost with the price of your
current local service bill. Compare this with what you would be paying for
a bundled (combined) local and long distance service.
Keep in mind that fees and taxes often raise the advertised price of most
unlimited plans by $10 to $15 a month.
If it looks like a bundled, unlimited or fixed price long distance plan
would be cheaper than using a per minute service, your next step is to read
the plan's fine print.
Most 'unlimited' plans are actually limited in the fine print. Generally
you'll have lots of time, but not endless time. Look for anything that
indicates additional charges for in-state long distance calls. Do you make
international calls? Check to see if they are included. Be aware that some
unlimited plans are only unlimited if the person you're calling to is on
the same plan.
Unlimited plans can be great for high usage callers, but it's very
important to read the fine print and fully understand the plan before you
sign up. Keep in mind that you're committing yourself to pay for a high
priced plan whether you use lots of service or not. If the amount of long
distance you use varies from month to month, you might come out ahead by
sticking with a per minute plan. Calculate out the costs and consider your
future calling patterns carefully.
- Compare and Save -
When considering any long distance plan (whether per minute, fixed or
unlimited) you need to get a list of the following costs: the interstate
(state to state) rate, the service fee, USF Charge, PICC Fees, Carrier
Recovery Charge, in-state rates, and any minimum usage requirements. If
you make international calls, get international rates and any international
These costs vary from company to company. If you can't find them on the
company's advertisement or website, ask about them. Asking questions is a
good way to learn what the company is like before you sign up with them.
You CAN make a smart choice when it comes to long distance. It's well
worth applying yourself and getting a lower rate.
Chris Andrews is the president of Andrews 3.8¢ Long Distance. He provides
free consultations to our readers. Send your long distance questions to
firstname.lastname@example.org. New customers are welcome, visit http://www.andrews.com