Once upon a time, people used rotary phones with cords that plugged into the wall. A phone was a vehicle for verbal communication â€“ nothing more, nothing less. Those old rotaries are gone forever; in their place is a much more advanced, versatile, and confusing product: the mobile phone.
Buying a mobile phone is anything but simple. Not only must you find a device you like, you must also select a service plan you can live with. Several years ago, most mobile phone purchases came with a two-year contract that essentially “trapped” customers into 24 months of service. Today’s offerings are a bit more flexible in terms of contract length, but the number of variables from which customers must choose still causes headaches. If you’re wondering what type of cellular contract is right for you, consider the following:
Are You Single?
Individual plans are for people who don’t intend to add other users or devices to their account. Students, single adults, and other independent souls who want their data and minutes all to themselves fare best on this type of plan. Individual plans cost less than family plans because a single user requires less data and talk minutes than a group of users.
Do You Have a Big Family?
If you’re not the only connected person in your home, a family plan is probably your best choice. Family plans apply data and minute charges for multiple users to one monthly bill. This type of plan costs more than an individual contract, but it also provides more data and minutes than an individual contract. If you have a spouse or children who use mobile, a family plan could be the wisest option. It’s almost always cheaper for a household to buy one family plan than several individual plans.
Are You in the Military?
If you belong to the U.S. military and get deployed during your contract period, you get a perk that other mobile users don’t: exemption from early termination fees, or ETFs. When a civilian bows out of a phone contract early, he or she is typically slapped with ETFs to the tune of several hundred dollars. This amount often multiplies by the number of devices on the contract. Thankfully, federal lawÂ protects military men and women who have been deployed or relocated from costly ETFs.
Are You a Frequent Traveler?
If you travel internationally but get your service from a U.S. carrier, beware: It’s easy to rack up extraordinary bills if you don’t plan ahead. Before you set foot on foreign soil, find out all you can about the service your plan provides in each country you’ll be visiting. Your carrier might cover you in Germany but not in France, leaving you high, dry, and unconnected on the French Riviera. Or, your carrier might cover you in Germany but bill you for extra dataÂ charges in France, leaving you strapped for Euros when you’d prefer to be buying Chablis and escargot.
If T-Mobile is your provider, you’ll be glad to know that the company’s Simple Choice Plan grants mobile service to global travelers at the same rate as domestic users in over 100 countries. This perk includes limitless 2G access, so if you happen to be overseas using an LG G2 smartphone on T-Mobile networks, you can still text from your hotel in Mexico or upload photos from your suite in France.
Which Combination of Variables Do You Prefer?
You’re likely to encounter a number of “package” options when shopping for a phone plan. You might choose a one or two-year contract with an inexpensive phone but high monthly payments. You might choose a contract with an expensive phone and lower monthly rates. You might jump aboard a contract plan with low monthly rates and bring your own phone to the table. You might pay full price for a phone â€“ upwards of $600 â€“ in exchange for the luxury of a “non-contract.”
The process of finding a mobile plan can be confusing and overwhelming. Take a deep breath and don’t rush your decision. The better you understand your various contract options, the happier you’ll be with the end result.