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The Dangers of Auto-Pay

Auto-pay systems are great. I've paid my Cingular bill "automatically" for the past two years or so. I don't have to worry about it - $60 or so ($39.99+$7.99+"taxes") is paid every month without me having to lift a finger.

Today, curious to see how much I talk to Carey, I actually dropped in to check. Since moving back to PA in early October, I've apparently racked up quite a phone bill: $1043.55.

My plan provides 450 minutes nationwide with rollover and free nights and weekends. $39.99 + the $7.99 "MEdia" option that lets me get and send what amounts to unlimited text messages. 450 minutes doesn't cover the amount of time I've spent talking on the phone, though: 7051 minutes in four months. That's 117.52 hours or about 30 hours/month.

Some of those minutes are spent during the nights and weekends (and are free). Some are part of the 450 included in my plan. The rest? They're charged at $0.45/min.

Needless to say, Carey and I are going to look at our options real soon now. I talk to her 95% of the time, but she talks to her friends quite a bit. She has an unlimited plan with a local carrier (Cellular One). Both of our plans and "agreements" expire in May of this year. I really don't want to move to Cellular One - they have poor coverage - and I've been with Cingular for quite awhile. T-Mobile is the only other company I'd consider using (and they have my current phone, the Motorola V600, but I'm not sure if it can just "switch networks.") I'd like to keep my current number (or else I'll have to update about ten thousand records with companies). Carey would like to keep hers for the same reason.

Perhaps I should just get a local (land line) phone. Only one choice there, though: Verizon. And they billed me $1200 one time because I made some calls from Hawaii, and despite their coverage maps and the "nationwide" plan I had, they said it was roaming. So I'm not too keen to go back to Verizon.

Hell if I know what to do. Suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

8 Responses to "The Dangers of Auto-Pay"

  1. Why don't you just use VoIP? 25 bucks a month with unlimited local and long distance. You even get 911 and your same local phone number. Now I'm sure you enjoy the cellular mobility, but I personally think they're just the world's longest ball and chain. Still, VoIP is just such the way to go with how phone companies are these days.

  2. Yeah, I'm looking at vonage right now.

    Can't switch to T-Mobile. The "number portability" thing is not going to work in bringing a FL number up to PA.

  3. Doesn't Cingular give unlimited mobile to mobile? If so, if Carey is the source of your minutes, wouldn't getting her a Cingular phone be the answer? Verizon in Erie is ok, although Verizon nationwide sort of sucks and their phones are behind the times. As for land-lines, I don't think I've heard any complaints from my parents. You should be able to switch to TMobile by putting the sim card in, assuming it's unlocked, but yeah, the phone number thing is an issue. Are you going to FL anytime soon? Take 30 min and go to a T-Mobile store.

  4. cant you just sign up for a t-mobile account in FL over the phone, have them switch the number, and go on using it in VA?

    i have a friend that went from AT&T in colorado to T-Mobile in Norther California and kept his 719 (Colorado) number.

    Area Codes seem kinda archaic in the cellphone age (especially with sprint, where i have a nationwide plan and free roaming.)

  5. hey, is living in VA fantastic? every single person i've talked to online in the last month lives there... it must be really appealing... or i suppose it could be boring so everyone spends time online. 😉

  6. ok. here's what you do - get her a Cingular phone, whether she gets rid of hers or not. I'm through AT&T, but the plans are almost identical -- get the "friends & family" deal. I have a $59.99/mo plan, plus two extra phones for $9.99 each per month. We can make unlimited calls to each other, AND to any other Cingular customer (my parents, and some of my firends). the $59.99 came with 850 minutes, plus 500 "bonus" minutes per month for a total of 1250 minutes to be shared between the three phones -- the only reason we use anywhere near that much is my cell phone is also my business line (I'm a freelance programmer). Most of our minutes fall under the free mobile to mobile minutes.

    I've tried many of the carriers out there, and I've never been too unhappy with AT&T / Cingular, although you have to check your bill carefully when you first sign up -- they didn't add in the 500 bonus minutes to my plan (apparently the sales person has to do that manually), and they also were charging me $19.99 per extra phone, rather than $9.99.

    I've had great service otherwise, great coverage (I'm in Kentucky), the tech/customer support people are nice, and they have good phones.

    other than being a customer, I'm no way affiliated with AT&T or Cingular.

  7. Screw Cingular. They did it again. Despite promises that for this last month, they would bump me up as necessary to a higher plan. $350 later, I'm calling bullshit on them. If Cingular can't offer me an awesome deal, I'm...

  8. well, maybe the problem is that cingular tells you that you are getting free nights and weekends....but technically when it was broken down i was informed that the plan with 450 rollover minutes only comes with 5000 night and weekends and not actually unlimited. to them they told me 5000 is if yo really want to the free nights and weekends then you have no choice to pay 59.99 for the plan with 900 minutes....this is why i am thinking of going elsewere for my service.