Your choice in phone carrier has more impact than you might realize. Who you choose dictates how much money you spend on your phone plan every month, which phones are available to you, what coverage you get for your basic phone needs, and what type of service you get when you need customer support.
Accordingly, millions of Americans switch phone carriers on a periodic basis, when they feel they could save money, or when their needs change. But while switching to a new provider promises to be advantageous in some cases-it could be costly in others.
Before switching, you need to know what you’re getting into.
The Most Important Questions to Ask
To prepare yourself when switching phone providers, make sure you ask (and know the answers to) the following questions:
- Are you currently in a contract? First, take a look to see whether you’re in a contract or not-chances are, you’re in a contract, whether you realize it or not. If you’re not in a contract, switching will be easy. If you are, there may be stipulations dictating how and when you can switch carriers.
- Are there fees to cancel your contract prematurely? If you are in a contract and you’re considering switching before the contract ends, check to see what the fees are for premature cancellation. Depending on how much money you save with the new provider, the fees may well be worth the switch; in other cases, they may be prohibitive.
- Can you use your old phone? Call the new carrier to see if you’ll be able to use your old phone with the new plan. Many phones are cross-compatible, capable of being used for multiple carriers. Others are manufactured specifically for one carrier, requiring you to purchase a new phone if you want to switch.
- Can you port your old phone number? Most carriers give you the ability to port over your old phone number, so you don’t have to go through your contacts and update everyone what your new number is. This is a question of convenience, rather than necessity, but it may be important to you to verify that this action is possible.
- What promotions are available? Most cell phone providers have special promotions, sales, and plan offers for new customers ready to switch. Investigate your options before you become too invested in any one carrier. There may be a special deal for you around the corner.
- Is your new plan better in some way? Evaluate your new potential plan and compare it to your old one; obviously, it should be inherently better in some way. Look at each variable, and make sure it’s better overall, and not just in one key area. Look at things like overall price, call and text allowance, data availability, and users.
- How much data do you currently use? Do you download a lot of apps or watch a lot of videos? If so, you may need a plan with a higher allowance for data, or with lower fees for overages. At a minimum, you should know how much data you use regularly, and how much your new carrier will allow.
- Can you take advantage of a family plan? Most carriers offer discounts for “family” plans, or other group-based plans that collect multiple users together under a single network. Try to take advantage of this type of plan if you can.
- What is coverage like with the new provider? Your new carrier may assure you that they have excellent coverage, but you may want to do some investigating of your own. Talk to people in your area who have that provider currently, and ask them what their coverage is like. The last thing you want is to switch carriers and find out your home is a dead spot.
- What is customer service like? Spend some time talking to customer service representatives. Is it easy to get in contact with someone? Are you addressed politely, and with a willingness to help? Good customer service can go a long way-and it might be a deciding factor in who you eventually choose.
- Are there any smaller providers worth considering? Most people end up choosing a major phone carrier for their plan; they’re reliable, consistent, and recognizable. However, it’s worth a few minutes of your time to scope out some smaller providers in your area. They may be able to offer you a more competitive plan-or at least, some better service.
Your Key Decision Points
Everyone makes a phone carrier choice based on a different set of criteria that’s unique to them. Some people just want the cheapest plan possible that still allows them to carry out basic phone functions. Others want exceptional customer service, and are willing to pay more to get it. Once you have the answers to the questions outlined above, you can work to understand the most important variables for your own choice-and make your decision based on them.