How to Get the Best Cell Phone Deals

by Contributor

You're bombarded with offers for cell phone deals, each promising something better than the last. In fact, the cell phone industry has become so massive and competitive that high-dollar commercials feature cell phone wizards and magical attack dogs. However, before your plop down your hard-earned cash for a new phone, pay attention to the fine print. Because underneath all those cellphone promises is a contract that may cost you an arm and a leg.

Research company names first. It only take a few minutes to see if ATT cellphone plans are loved or hated by ATT cellphone customers on Google. What are the major complaints about Verizon? Sprint? Nextel? Enter the company name and a few choice search terms an angry customer is likely to use, such as "ATT cellphone" and "contract" or "rip-off." Do this for every company you're interested in.

Compare the base amount of minutes and the base charge for those minutes but don't let that rule your choice. Base minutes are only a starting point; more important is the amount you will be charged for excess minutes.

What is a night or a weekend to the cellphone company? If your night starts at 7PM, does the person you're calling also have to be in that time zone? Question the cellphone rep about when a 'weekend' starts and ends. Does the plan have free holiday minutes, too?

Can you save your unused minutes? If so, for how long? Some providers allow you to accumulate "rollover" minutes that expire after one month or one year.

Is texting included or will you pay extra for the service? Too many unhappy cellphone customers receive their first bill and nearly faint when they read the amount due. If you do a lot of texting, consider a plan with unlimited texting for an additional fee.

How long is the contract in force? Can you commit to one year? Two years? New legislation is heading in the direction of making it illegal for cellphone companies to charge you an early interruption fee but read the fine print - it's still going on as of now.

Opt for a prepaid cellphone if you don't trust yourself or your family to a regular plan wisely. Prepaid cellphone plans allow you to purchase minutes in advance and use them as you need them. This is a good deal if you don't have a large sign up fee for a prepaid cellphone.