How to ease into Google Voice: Freeze your cell phone service

The Big Four U.S. carriers have plans in place to temporarily suspend your service, giving you time to make up your mind about Google Voice.

Verizon gets cut
Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

You can listen to Google Voice messages from your smartphone, can dial out using your Google number on an Android phone, and can finally port your own cell phone number to Google Voice . But if you're not quite ready to cut the cord with your carrier, you don't have to.

Google Voice has a vast number of benefits, from managing voice mail in an inbox to placing free texts. However, there still are some flaws--barely legible voice transcription and mobile app SMS delays to name two (I know, I know, not everyone experiences the same issues)--and the way I use it for work, it frustrates my friends ). I'm also hesitant to leave the reliability of my monthly cell phone service and my special rate.

The middle path
There is, however, a third way, one that lets you ease into Google Voice--or ease out of your monthly service--before completely ditching your carrier plan. I discovered it accidentally when calling T-Mobile to cancel a service I now rarely use. I was adamant about canceling service, until the tenacious customer service rep offered me this: temporarily suspending my plan for a nominal, $10-per-month holding fee while I decided what to do. (If you already knew about this, good for you.)

As it turns out, T-Mobile will hold a phone number and rate plan for six months. In my case, the T-Mobile rep said, suspending my plan will also count toward my contractual obligation, a cheap way for me to pay out the remainder of my agreement without handing over a stiff early termination fee.

This isn't always the case, I found out--your expiration date may or may not move depending on a number of factors that the T-Mobile rep did not disclose, so you'll need to check with your carrier to see if you can dodge a termination fee should you bail before time's up.

T-Mobile isn't alone in this provision. Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint also offer temporary plan suspension.

You're suspended!
Verizon will suspend a phone line without billing for up to 180 days--as long as you're all paid up. That means you can pick up on your plan where you left off, including the contract termination date. It's ideal for long vacations. You can also suspend with billing, which will work toward the end-of-contract date.

Sprint will extend a Seasonal Standby mode for customers who have been paying their plan for a minimum of three months. You pay $8.99 per month for up to six consecutive months. You can't string these back-to-back, you'll need to wait another three months before asking to get back on. This will not advance your contract termination date, meaning you'll still have to fulfill the remainder of your contract to avoid the early termination fee (ETF).

AT&T charges $10 per month for subscribers to temporarily suspend their contract. You'll have had to be paid up for six months first.

T-Mobile (See above.)

Not just Google Voice
There are other reasons to suspend your phone line; Google Voice just happened to be my spur. Regardless of your scenario or country of residence, if you find you need to give your cell phone a rest but want to avoid losing your number or plan, and skirt a reactivation fee should you change your mind, it's a good idea to check with your carrier's customer service reps to see what they can do for you. It may be more than you thought.

 

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