Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Smoke and mirrors

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I liked your take on Medicare last week, but that is not what makes us nuts. How about taking a shot at cell service. We just started traveling and can’t decide what we should do. We have talked to dozens of other RVer’s and it seems everyone has their own favorite. There are more cell plan offers than Medicare ever thought of, and we are more confused than our foreign speaking GPS. (That’s another story. I won’t go there right now). Please give us some advice, or we might just stop communicating with the world.
--Smoke and Mirrors in Minot

Dear Smoke and Mirrors:
Cell plans are much like insurance. Companies have the same business plan, Confuse and Conquer. It takes as much homework to find a deal that fits your needs and budget, as finding a decent policy. To keep your sanity you need to do a few things regularly. The most important would be to read and understand your bill.

AT$T (that’s not a typo) was just ordered to return to customers north of 100 million dollars for false charges. That money was only returned to people who don’t read their bill. Because the people that do, never let them have it in the first place. Verizon has stopped overcharging me because I would call them every month to get the forty cents or a buck back that they overcharged me. No questions asked, they would just reimburse my account. Do the math--they have 20+ million customers. If they can slip a few million accounting mistakes past them every month it really good for the bottom line. Once I discovered how many people don’t read their bill, I bought Verizon stock. The dividend keeps rising--I wonder why? The point is--read your bill each month.

As for service, you would be better off sticking with the company that has the most coverage. At this time, that would be Verizon. Maybe because they have the most people that don’t read their bill. Now if you are feeling a little confused, wait until you go to a Carrier and talk to their sales tag team. Usually there is a greeter who queues you up to see a sales associate. Then they start convincing you how wonderful their deals are and sell you a device that does everything but wash the dishes for you. It all comes at a steep price. Don’t you wonder why they give you free talk and text now? That used to cost big money. Now it’s all about data. That’s where they nail you. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.

You are doing things right so far. Keep talking to people, reading consumer articles and tech news. Things are changing fast. In my humble opinion, I think the best deal going at the time is the Walmart Straight Talk plan. You can buy a smartphone with a Verizon chip, have no contract, and unlimited talk, text and DATA, for $45 a month, plus tax. It’s 3G service and no roaming. No roaming means your phone won’t pick up another carrier's tower if you are out of range of your carrier's tower. We are going on our 3rd month of this service with a Verizon phone and have logged over 4,000 miles from the Midwest to the West Coast. We have only been out of service in some of the most remote areas we backpack in. We have never been throttled on our data, and never have to worry about going over. So good luck, read your bill and don’t talk on your phone when driving.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Anonymous said...

We don't use our cell that much so a monthly plan to me is a waste of cash. Instead we have a Tracfone. Ours is a small smartphone with triple minutes for less than $200 per year we get ample service for our needs and left over time rolls over if we buy more before the expiration. We have been happy tracfone users for 5 years. We maintain a land line at home so we can have internet service.

Anonymous said...

If you have a magic jack and an android device, you may be able to download the Magic Jack app, also for ipad, and use your device as your phone.

If you have a Kindle or Surface tablet, you are out of luck. Naturally we have both of those.

Anonymous said...

One way or another you need to get online to use things like Magic jack as far as I know.

Here is a website . . . . . . where you can see where all the different phone companies and internet service have tested all over the world. The choice of providers for us is all about coverage and who has a signal where we will be. It is clear that Verizon covers more area than anyone else.

Ellen said...

I second the recommendation for a TracPhone. We often use ours in places where others are searching for signals -- my understanding is it's because TracPhone uses towers and signals from *all* carriers. Whether that's the case or not, I don't know -- just that it's always worked when we needed them. We don't need all the extra stuff the expensive phones/phone plans include, so the inexpensive, reliable, basic service of TracPhone works perfectly for us. First -- decide what you *need* and separate that out from what is *nice to have.*
Good luck!

Unknown said...

We don't use a lot of cell phone minutes and live in Canada but travel quite a bit in the US. I researched a lot of options and decided on G3 wireless It's $14.95/year and $.09/minute in the US. You need an unlocked phone and a Sim card from G3 to get started.

Anonymous said...

I too am a TracFone user for many years and rarely go over $100/year. However, one caution we learned this year -- TracFones don't work outside the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Right now I have a Verizon dumb phone with unlimited text and data and 500 minutes a month for $35 @month and it has worked fine everywhere.I may change when I go full-timing, so I keep checking around.