(BPT) - If you’ve reached your limit with paying for unused minutes and features, overage fees, and long-term contracts, it may be time to shop around for a new provider. With cellphone service providers being as numerous and diverse as today’s phones themselves, it can be a daunting prospect. However, with a little legwork, you can find a cellphone company that works for you and your changing needs.
1. Reputation - It’s not hard to learn which companies are considered the best cellphone service providers in the country. A quick Google search for the best in the industry will provide a number of independent reviews and ratings, taking into account various features and services. Also, you can poll family and friends for recommendations on companies they’ve found to be customer-friendly and worthy of consideration.
Once you narrow down the possibilities, do some additional research to learn how long the provider has been in business and the results of its tenure. For instance, Consumer Cellular has been around for more than 15 years and has been named the No. 1 cellphone company in the country for two years in a row by the leading consumer reporting magazine.
2. Selection - While you may be able to get the latest, most expensive phone for a discounted price through a big-name carrier, you may also find that you’ll be tied into a two-year contract with severe penalties for early termination. It is possible to get a top-tier phone at a reasonable price without a long-term agreement, as many no-contract providers now offer phones from leading manufacturers.
A phone may only be as good as its plan, and it’s important to shop around for a plan that fits your anticipated needs. However, needs may change, and it’s helpful to have some flexibility to upgrade - or downgrade - your minutes, texts or phone model without penalty. Look for a provider that offers a range of plans and the ability to move between them without penalties. Don’t be surprised to find that some of the best cellphone plans could end up costing you the least.
3. Service - At some point, you’ll likely need to call upon your cellphone provider for some assistance, and companies can vary greatly in what is considered good customer service. Think about features that are important to you, such as 24/7 phone or online availability, a domestic call center to minimize miscommunication and flexibility in selecting and changing your plan. Also, consider how well a provider will help you avoid fees, such as alerting you when you may be reaching your plan’s limits.
4. Price - Cellphone charges can add up quickly, particularly when you start finding hidden charges, such as activation fees. Spend some time reviewing a company’s pricing structure and history to answer a few questions: How often does the provider raise its fees and prices? What is the least amount you’ll need to budget for each month? Are there lower cost options for casual users? How much will shared plans increase your costs? With some providers, basic services can run as little as $10 a month.
5. Coverage - Finally, consider a cellphone provider’s coverage area. If the price seems too good to be true, there may be some gaps in coverage or you may be looking at steep roaming fees. Some providers, like Consumer Cellular, use the networks of the largest cellular networks in the country, ensuring top-of-the-line coverage without the price to match.
Keep in mind these five points, and you’re sure to find a cellphone and a plan that is a perfect fit for your needs.