How To Video: Pick a cell phone plan
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How To Video: Pick a cell phone plan

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If you want to avoid excess charges and penalty fees, it's essential to understand your cell phone bill. Donald Bell shares a breakdown of your bill along with some helpful tips on paying for only what you need.

-Unless you have money to burn or someone??s paying your bill for you, you should probably understand how your monthly plan is gonna work before you buy a new phone. This really is good to know before you get your hopes up on any particular phone. So, any plan breaks down into 3 basic buckets. You get your call time, your text messaging, and data. Your bottom to your plans will likely put a cap on all 3. And if you go over your allotment, you??re going to be charged a fee and it??s always going to be more than you think. At the top tier, you??re gonna find your unlimited plan, but even here, data has capped a certain amount when you read the fine print. Now, there??s enough jargon and mysterious charges included on every cellphone bill that they deserve a master class on their own, but a lot of that stuff is gonna be there no matter what kind of phone you buy. There are some exceptions though. So, here is what you need to know. If you buy a smartphone like an iPhone, or android, or Windows phone, in many cases, you??ll be contractually obligated to buy a data and message plan. It makes sense since the whole point of this phone is to stay online and stay connected. But if you??re just shopping for a basic phone and you??re tempted at the idea of a smartphone that??s being offered for a penny, just know that these mandatory and messaging plans are going to potentially double or triple the amount that you??re paying each month. If the idea of a 2-year contract scares you, consider a prepaid phone. Every carrier has a contract-free pay-as-you-go option. Typically, they??re limited to just a few models and you often pay more upfront, but this can be a great solution if you need something right now and you??ll put off finding the perfect phone for another time. You can dish this phone whenever a better option comes along. If you need a phone that can be used internationally, let the sales person know that up front. They may point you to a cellphone plan that includes international use or phone that can be used on multiple networks, but the price of ignorance is steep as international roaming charges are insane. Finally, if you??re buying a phone for a child, you should know that there are phones and plans made specifically for them and for parents who want to be able to control how that phone is used. On the other hand, there are phones and plans made specifically for seniors, so don??t be coy about who the phone is for. It will help you find the right phone and the right plan. Of course, before signing any contract, you should read the fine print and take a look out for any hidden fees. You can visit our CNET cellphone buying guide for more information including what to expect when leaving a contract early. For cnet.com, I??m Donald Bell.
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