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Early Cell Phone Update Plans: Are They Worth It?

It seems that right after you get a new cell phone, a newer one with improved features comes out. Standard mobile service contracts allow you to upgrade after two years. Several major carriers are offering a new type of contract that allows you to upgrade sooner.

While standard phone contracts require you to pay only a portion of the phone’s full cost (up to $250), these new plans may require to pay the full cost of the phone ($600 or more). Before you sign up for these early upgrade plans, do your homework.

Some question to ask include:

  • Is there an upgrade fee?

  • Does the upgrade fee include insurance?

  • How soon after you sign your contract can you upgrade?

  • Are you required to pay a down payment? Is a down payment required for each upgrade?

  • Does your old phone have to work and be in good physical condition to upgrade?

  • How frequently can you upgrade per year?

  • How many months will you have to pay for the full price of the phone?

  • Is the early upgrade option available with all of the carrier’s plans or only select ones?

  • What percentage of the phone’s full value are you responsible for paying before you are eligible to upgrade? After how many months?

Keep in mind that if you have an early upgrade plan and pay the entire phone’s price, you may still be required to return the phone to your provider on your next upgrade. Also, if you owe money on the phone, you may not be able to switch carriers until the balance is paid.

Learn more about shopping for cell phone plans.

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Avoid Cell Phone “Bill Shock”

Have you ever received your mobile phone bill and discovered that the amount due was much higher than you were expecting?

Well, you are not alone.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “bill shock” is relatively common. The amount of extra costs can range from mild (less than $50 extra dollars) to the extreme (in the $1,000s).

Regardless of the level, the bill shock can hurt your wallet.

Bill shock can result from several circumstances. For many years, cell phone owners’ main concern was not to exceed the minutes of talking and the number of text messages. However, smartphones require dataplans to access the internet and download apps, and you may be limited to the amount of data you can download each month.

New smartphone users may have higher than normal bills as they get familiar with the costs of having a data plan. Changes in your usage patterns, talking more frequently, sending more text messages, or roaming (use a signal from another phone carrier), could all contribute to a higher than expected bill.

Right now, mobile phone providers are not required to take action to prevent bill shock, but you can reduce the likelihood of “bill shock” with these guidelines:

  • Make sure you understand the advertising and marketing claims about the monthly cost of your plan. No matter the advertised price, you will also be charged taxes and fees.
  • Be wary of promises from sales clerks and customer service representatives. Get all promises of free phone lines, dataplans, or other features in writing.
  • Sign up for your service provider’s account monitoring features, such as text message warnings or online monitoring site.
  • Make sure your phone is set to inform you that you are roaming.
  • Consider a prepaid or an unlimited data, voice, and text plan to prevent overages.
  • While apps are easy to buy, those charges can add up quickly, and end up on your phone bill. Password protect the ability to download apps, especially if you have children that are on your phone plans.

Try to resolve your billing concerns with your service provider. If this does not work, file a complaint with the FCC online or by calling 1-888-225-5322. For more tips on avoiding bill shock, visit the FCC’s website.

Asked by Anonymous

Has legilation been enacted to ban use of cell phones while driving trucks

Yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board unanimously voted to ban the use of portable electronic devices while driving, except in emergency situations, for all drivers. The National Transportation Safety Board can make recommendations, but cannot pass laws. Each state is responsible for passing its own laws about distracted driving.

Nine states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands already prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Find our if your state has a distracted driving law.