Are You Actually Paying More Than $3 A Minute To Use Your Cellphone?

The LA Times brings up an interesting point. You may think you are getting each cellphone minute for about $0.10… but are you really? Or are you paying for more minutes than you use?

The Times says that a new report shows that the average cellphone customer pays more than $3 per minute.

Researchers arrived at the average $3.02-per-minute charge by comparing the average number of minutes charged in more than 700 San Diego consumers’ telecom bills and dividing by the average number of actual minutes used.

“We knew it was a myth that wireless costs were going down,” said Michael Shames, UCAN’s executive director. “But we were blown away by the actual costs.”

The results are skewed by the small amount of people who pay for a large amount of minutes and only use a few — but even with those people removed the average is from $0.50 to $1 per minute. Of course, you also have to keep in mind that the study seems to only have included “any time” minutes and not the free night and weekend or in-network calling minutes that many cellphone customers get with their plans. Still, it sounds like a lot of minutes may be going unused.

The organization behind the study is pushing for less complicated cellphone bills and simplified taxes so that customers are better able to understand their usage and choose the plan that fits them best.

Talk isn’t cheap? For cellphone users, not talking is costly too [LA Times]
(Photo:hellochris)

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  1. gatewaytoheaven says:

    I think generally speaking, this study is flawed (I mean, the post makes mention to this fact as well).

    I’m getting an outstanding deal of my cell phone service, and I value my being able to access the internet (~4gb/month) and text message (~5-6k/mo) more than I do anytime minute usage (100-300/mo). With the recent acquisition of a girlfriend, I’ve hit about 2300 night and weekend minutes (as opposed to generally using about 500/mo).

    If I recall correctly, the study took place in San Diego, with a relatively small population. For the most part, they’re out partying anyways. They don’t need to be on their phone.

    • segfault, registered cat offender says:

      @gatewaytoheaven:
      “With the recent acquisition of a girlfriend…”

      Acquisition? Did you go to the girlfriend store to pick her out? If so, please let me know where this store is…

    • stre says:

      @gatewaytoheaven: holy sparklebutts, batman! an hour a night on the phone with the gf? and you haven’t run out of things to say yet? stop putting “snookums” and “sugar-pie sweetie honeypunch with a cherry on top” in every sentence and you can probably get those calls down to 10 minutes.

      • Shadowman615 says:

        @stre: “No you hang up, first!”

        “No You!”

        “Did you do it yet? OK, on the count of three we’ll both hang up. Ready? 1, 2, 3.”

        “Are you still there? Me too! Okay, for real now.”

  2. bigmil87 says:

    I consistently use my phone to talk more on weekends and nights than I do the rest of the day. Why would they make a report that did not include those periods?

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @bigmil87: I would think normally because many plans offer unlimited minutes so they could not get an accurate percentage of use for these time periods.

      My grief with paying for cell phone usage was that with rollover, I accumulated so many minutes extra that I was never using the 400 minutes I had to pay for (that was their *smallest* plan).

      • corellia40 says:

        @Oranges w/ Cheese: They still record how many night and weekend minutes you use, and they differentiate between the types of minutes used on your bill. There’s no reason for them not to figure this in.

        I think why they did it is because even most of the small plans give you unlimited nights and weekends, so if you’re paying for a larger plan and not using the minutes, you’re still wasting money.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    You pay for the type of usage that most fits your needs, not the type of usage that is cheapest. I can go pre-paid and save money, but it would be a complete pain in the butt because I make calls often. It’s not always about saving money just to save money. I’m contemplating a smartphone because connectivity is becoming increasingly important to me, personally and professionally. Is it cheap? Not as cheap as if I were going to go pre-paid, but again, it’s about what suits your lifestyle and your needs. Just because you pay more, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

    • dangermike says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I use a smartphone (nokia e51) and prepaid service (t-mobile-to-go). I don’t use any of the data services my phone is capable. I mostly got it because its form factor is perfect for me, it works very well as a telephone, and it looks really good. But I don’t understand why pre-paid would be a pain. There’s actually less to do since there’s no monthly bill to worry about (in my case, I just buy a new hundred dollar card every 3-6 months) and the price is FAR cheaper than any monthly plan available. Directly in line with the study, I used to be a sprint subscriber on their lowest tiered plan. The base cost was a little over $40/month. With various other fees, mostly from text messaging, my bill was usually 50-60/month. I ported to t-mo-to-go, keeping my old number (that was a pain. Not because it’s any more difficult to than porting ever is, but rather because it wasn’t until the third store that I visited that a clerk was *willing* to do it), and with my first $100 card, I got six months of usage. My latest one is about halfway done after 2 months. The price breakdown is 10 cents/minute talking, 5 cents/received text, 10 cents/sent text, and 25 cents for multimedia messages. The $10 or so of taxes and fees each month on a monthly plan do not apply. And you don’t have to try to guess how much you’re going to use phone each month or worry about going over that guessed amount and paying through the nose for it. You just use the phone, pay for what you use, and recharge the account when it gets low. It’s simple and cheap. (but I don’t know about data services with prepaid. If it works, I would bet it’s expensive.)

      • smackswell says:

        @dangermike: It’s a pain because you can’t use data services on T-Mobile’s prepaid service. That’s the reason I went post paid with another carrier. That and last I checked TMo decided to do some shady increase in price for text messages.

  4. Mr_Human says:

    Seems like a study in search of a problem

    • seattleperson says:

      @Mr_Human: really? I think that researching where people overspend is actually quite helpful. If some people reevaluate their cell phone plan in light of this and find that they would be better served on another plan, then good for them.

  5. nakedscience says:

    I have AT&T and get 450 min a month — the least amount you can get — and I have rollover. I always have a toooon of extra minutes. It’s sad, really, how little I use my phone — and it’s the only phone I use! But, still, I have unlimited data and I use the crap out of that and then some, so I think it balances out.

    The rollover minutes DO come in handy — every so often I actually make it to and above my 450 minutes, generally when something dramarific is going on in my home town/with my family.

    • calquist says:

      @nakedscience: I have that same plan and use only like 60 minutes a month, but I always come real close to my 1500 text limit each month so it is still worth it to me to have it.

      • EarlNowak says:

        @calquist: If you use 60 minutes a month and 1500 text messages, you’ll probably save money on a prepaid plan. On virgin mobile, for example, you’ll pay $35 a month for 200 daytime minutes, 500 evening and weekend minutes, and unlimited text messages. How does that compare to your AT&T plan?

        • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

          @EarlNowak: I’d go with a verizon phone for prepaid, but many carriers, ATT included, give you free calling (after your daily usage fee) for in-network callers. If I did that, I’d use about 2x the minutes I’m “using” now.

        • calquist says:

          @EarlNowak: Eh, not good. But with the ETF I might as well wait for the contract to end, and by that time I will probably not be the only one on my cell plan.

    • parkavery says:

      @nakedscience: Yes! I love rollover minutes.

    • docrice says:

      @nakedscience: +1 for rollover minutes! It helps as my wife and I are on the 700 min. plan, and some months (holidays, traveling, family emergency, etc.) we tend to max out or go over, while average months we’re around 600. It saves us the cost of overages and about $20/month since we don’t have to upgrade to the next tier for a rare thing.

    • WBrink says:

      @nakedscience: ATT/Cingular removed the $29.99 plan a few years ago and made the 450min the bottom plan. I thought about going to Pay-As-You-Go or something similar, but the charges are pretty similar with 0.25min or 0.10min with a $1/day fee.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        @WBrink: Yeah, that sucks. Their “$39.99″ plan ends up being something like $54 after taxes, fees, and if you don’t want to pay-as-you-go for texts.

  6. Shadowman615 says:

    Only including any-time minutes is a huge error.

    Suppose I have a $50-a-month plan with 500 minutes. So $.10/minute if I use the max.

    If I talk for 1000 minutes on in-network and night/weekends and 200 minutes, according to them, I’m actually paying .25/minute.

    But if I include all of my minutes, I’m really paying slightly more than $.04.

    It’s not like you can get the “free” nights and in-network calls without buying the minutes. This story is laughable.

    • dangermike says:

      @Shadowman615: that is an excellent point. It was brought up a few times when I was talking about switching to prepaid but my total usage at the time was around 100-150 minutes/month in total. BUT it might be worth noting that there are prepaid programs available that have a daily connection fee (it applies only if calls are made on a given day) and with that, grants unlimited usage during off-peak hours. The last time I read up on one, it was $1 per day, plus 10 cents per daytime minute. Using your example, and assuming at least one call per day, that would be about $30 for daily access and $20 for the daytime minutes, for a total of $50. Sounds like no advantage BUT you would avoid all the fees and taxes on a monthly plan (worth about $10/month) and each day that you don’t make calls would save another buck. FWIW, depneding on usage habits, I found that the break-even between prepaid and monthly is somewhere between several hundred up to 1500 or so minutes per month. Heavy reliance on texting and other data services pulls that number down considerably. ymmv.

    • corellia40 says:

      @Shadowman615: I think the point they’re trying to make is that if you have a higher plan than you need, you’re wasting money. Unlimited nights and weekends comes with just about any plan, so if you’re not using most of your minutes each month (or likely to use the rollovers at some point, as some comments have indicated), you could still move to a lower plan – assuming there is a lower plan to move to, of course – and save a little. In that case, unlimited minutes don’t really count.

  7. I_am_Awesome says:

    “Researchers arrived at the average $3.02-per-minute charge by comparing the average number of minutes charged in more than 700 San Diego consumers’ telecom bills and dividing by the average number of actual minutes used.”

    Am I missing something, or does that make no sense at all? How do you divide minutes by minutes and end up with dollars per minute?

    It sounds like what they actually did was divided the number of charged minutes by the total cost of the bill. In which case they’re not just excluding nights and weekends, they’re excluding free mobile to mobile calling or other free calls that various plans offer. This is silly, because those calls wouldn’t be possible without paying for the service. How can you not include those when calculating the cost of calls made with the service?

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @I_am_Awesome: Here’s how – they’re calculating how many minutes you’re using out of how many you purchased and based on that you get your monthly per minute cost.

      If you bought 500 minutes for $40 and only used 60, then your technical per-minute cost that month is $0.66 cents a minute. As opposed to $0.08 if you were to use all your minutes.

      • I_am_Awesome says:

        @Oranges w/ Cheese:

        You didn’t mention the step where you multiplied by the cost of the plan – and that’s my point. The way it’s phrased in the article is inaccurate and nonsensical. You can’t get dollars per minutes by dividing minutes by minutes, you need to get the dollars in there.

        For people who don’t suck at math, the simplified calculation would be (cost of plan) / (minutes used) = $/min. Your method is apparently ((cost of plan / minutes in plan)) * ((minutes in plan) / (minutes used))

        In other words, the number of minutes you get with the plan has no impact on your effective per-minute rate. If you pay $50 for 1000 minutes and use 10, it’s $5/min. If you pay $50 for 100 minutes and use 10, it’s $5 per minute.

        In summary, journalists suck at math (and usually science)

    • dangermike says:

      @I_am_Awesome: I would think that if you’re using 1000 minutes per month and your bill is $100/month, that’s ten cent per minute. I think the argument is that a lot of people overbuy, fearing overages or perhaps that data plans push the per-minute cost up (kind of a red herring, since the fee is for data access) but it would be easy to see that if someone has a $40 plan with a blackberry (+$20) and unlimited texting (+$10) and taxes/fees (+$10) and then only uses 200 minutes per month, that’s $90/200 = 45 cents/minute. But $3 doesn’t make sense. That would require basically $60/month with 20 minutes of usage. Or $100/month for 33 minutes.

  8. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    @nakedscience: that’s one of the reasons I’m switching to AT&T – Verizon doesn’t have rollover, and though I get 700 (or so) minutes now on their cheapest plan, I’d rather downgrade to fewer minutes because I don’t use anywhere near 700 – it just happens to be their cheapest plan. I use mobile to mobile all the time, so it seems like Mr. Pi and I should be fine with 450 minutes.

    • Calexxia says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Verizon DOES have a cheaper Family Share Plan that they use as a loyalty tactic, FYI.

    • stre says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: keep in mind that you’re going to have to use minutes for all of those ‘mobile-to-mobile’ minutes when you switch carriers, since that only works for in-network numbers.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @stre: I think pecan meant her husband (whom she probably calls most often) and pecan would both switch to ATT, so the mobile-to-mobile minutes would therefore stay as in-network calls.

  9. lalaland13 says:

    Like nakedscience, I have AT&T and the 450-minute plan, although no unlimited data usage. I have 200 text messages, and the most I’ve used was about 100. Since a lot of the people I call are also on AT&T, I don’t use a lot of my time. But this was the lowest plan available to me, and this is my only phone, so I guess I don’t mind too much. Saves me the trouble of a landline.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @lalaland13: I had that same plan, and with rollover I had accrued something like 2000 minutes over a 5 year period. I got fed up with paying $50 for never using any minutes at all and went with their prepaid.

  10. N.RobertMoses says:

    A lot of these reports seem to be more like PR stunts for the organization that comes up with them than anything that holds any actual value. I think news organizations love them since they are prepackaged stories that don’t involve actual reporting, just regurgitation.

  11. MikeHerbst says:

    Any flaws in the study are worth picking over, but I think the notice paid to the general trend is worth paying attention to. There are definitely lots of people who pay an awful lot but make very few calls.

    I may be one of the “corner cases” but I definitely fall into this trap. I have the bare-minimum family plan that my wife and I can have with T-Mobile and still have unlimited data for my Blackberry, but the truth is that we only use about 30-60 minutes per month TOTAL (including free nights/weekends).

    By habit, perhaps because I’ve had a mobile phone since 1991, back when they were still hellishly expensive, I minimize cell conversations. Most calls are less than 3 minutes and of the “I’m on my way home, what do you want me to pick up at the store” variety.

    Our only hope to reduce our monthly costs is to convert my wife to a prepaid plan, since her usage is similar to mine and she doesn’t need data, but this will not save us all that much because the cost-adder for T-Mobile’s “family” plans is pretty reasonable. (Compared to the cost of a minimum plan for even a single person who makes very few calls)

    • EarlNowak says:

      @MikeHerbst: Consider switching to prepaid. You’ll probably save a fair bit of money. Page Plus Cellular is a great option for people who don’t use a lot of minutes- it uses the Verizon network, but has costs as low as 6 ccents per minute. You have to top it up every four months, and there’s a monthly $.50 fee. Lots more info here.

  12. outoftheblew says:

    The problem for us is that the lowest plan we can get for two phones (due to combining my phone onto my husband’s plan) has a LOT more minutes than we need. But it’s still just a few dollars cheaper than if we’d continued to have our two separate plans. We have a lot of minutes between our phones though, due not living away from each other part of the week. But I think when our contract is up, I’ll investigate pay-as-you-go plans.

  13. Keter says:

    I have the smallest plan Sprint had available at the time – 450 minutes a month. I use maybe 40 of those minutes most months, but have occasional spikes of activity due to business that can go as high as 300 minutes – maybe 2 or 3 months of every year. I so wish I could get a plan that had 150 minutes a month and would let me bank some of the unused minutes to cover the spikes. They’d still be selling me many more minutes than I will use. (Commenters, save your electrons and don’t recommend I switch to prepaid or to another carrier: both of those are off the table for me.)

    I also have a cellular broadband plan, unlimited use, because of the same spiky activity. When I need it, I use it very heavily and it is a critical resource, but many months I don’t use it AT ALL. Again, I wish I could buy a smaller plan that would let me bank minutes against the spikes.

    Taken together, my costs for these services can be as high as $2.50/minute on low use months. BTW, I don’t have any text or data plan on my cell – I use my netbook and cellular broadband access for that – it’s way better than any data-enabled cell phone, and it still fits in my purse.

    • AaronN322 says:

      @Keter: You could switch to the Sprint Basic plan for $29.99/month. It would save you $10/month, but would only give you 200 minutes, no mobile-to-mobile, and N&W starting at 9PM instead of 7PM. It also does not allow for Company discounts which can often make the more expensive plan cheaper. So if none of those extra features are needed and you do not qualify for the discount I would suggest this route?

  14. opsomath says:

    I came to this conclusion a good while ago, with the added wrinkle that even if I were using all my minutes, a lot of that is a created need; if I had a plan with fewer, I would spend less time on the phone. So, I can save money by talking less on the cell and using email, facebook, Skype, et al. more.

    That’s why I have a prepaid phone (net10 is my flavor of choice) – that ten cents a minute sounds like a lot, but I wind up paying very little a month, something like $10/mo I would guess.

  15. RandaPanda says:

    pecan (reply is not working for me…don’t know why) – Yes, you SHOULD pay for usage that fits your needs, but more often than not, people don’t. I worked for AT&T for awhile, and I’d talk to people who kept going grossly over their minute allotment each month, and begging them to change their plan so they didn’t have a $400-$500 overage each month (plus they wouldn’t call in yelling at me again). More often than not, people would say, “Oh, no. I’m only paying for 700 minutes a month. That’s all I need.”

    The simple truth of the matter is that, for the most part, people don’t have a clue what their wireless usage is like. And then when they realize that they need to fix something, they don’t know what is available, or what information to trust.

    The best way I can illustrate this, is to use myself and my siblings on our family plan. I’m on a family plan with my mom, two sisters and a brother. When I first joined the plan, I wanted unlimited messaging. I knew that my siblings already had the capabilities, just wasn’t sure of what option they had. My one sister had unlimited messaging on her line ($20/month), the other sister and brother each had a media net bundle (400 texts, 1MB of data a month = $10 each), but were constantly going over on their messaging. They also paid for their messaging options seperately.

    When I joined the plan, I sat down with my siblings and told them that A) they were paying for something that they weren’t using (the 1MB of data) and B) they were over paying. I told them, add a family messaging plan. Unlimited messaging for everyone on the family plan, it’s $30 a month. Divide that by 5 people on the family plan, and we all pay $6 a month for unlimited messaging (which I need more than my minutes!)

    Moral of the story? Learn to read your wireless bills and learn what options are available.

    • Calexxia says:

      @RandaPanda0283: AMEN! I’m often amazed how many people won’t pay more per month (when they are USING a high amount of minutes), and yet wind up paying hundreds in overages. By the same token, though, if someone is averaging 300 minutes of usage, why pay for an unlimited plan (and yes, I’ve seen that happen)?

      It’s all about being aware, and I wish more “average people” would be attentive to their plan details.

  16. exploded says:

    It seems that they may have their math wrong. I use my phone very little. Only once or twice a day, usually. I just looked at my phone bill from last month, I used a total of 284 minutes, which is about 9 minutes on the phone a day.

    My bill includes data for iPhone, but I’m going to use the bill total to keep it simple. The bill total was $72. $72 divided by 284 minutes = $0.253/minute. Now if we take minutes that were actually charged (not included in nights and weekends) that number shrinks to 49 minutes used. $72 divided by 49 minutes = $1.46/minute.

    I am not a phone talker, at ALL, so I think I’m proably on the low end of the minutes used spectrum. So either people in San Diego don’t use their phones at all (doubtful), or their plans are INCREDIBLY expensive (also doubtful). My guess is someone did the math wrong, and flipped the numbers they were dividing by. If you divide incorrectly and divide $72 into 284 minutes, you get $3.44/minute (wrong answer), but flies with the study.

  17. Keter says:

    On an unrelated note, I am completely baffled by the number of people I see who apparently can’t go anywhere or do anything without a phone stuck in their ear. What on earth are they doing that requires that much constant contact? Are they really generating enough content to fill all of that time? If so, I’m in awe, but in reality I doubt it…they’re probably just gossiping. My point with that is that if people analyzed their quality use of their cell phones and eliminated the fluff, most probably could go with much smaller plans.

    • battra92 says:

      $35 a month for about 2000 minutes used (mostly In-Calling) so less than 2¢ a minute is just fine by me.

      I tend to talk on my phone a lot (hello brain cancer) and I put it on speaker when driving home and talk to a few different friends.

  18. pb5000 says:

    The people that benefit from these types of studies are those that typically don’t understand how cell phone plans are sold. When my wife was away in college her parents got her a cell phone to make the 9 hour drive to and from school with, keeping in mind this was a round trip drive she made maybe 3-4 times a year. In that case a pre-paid phone would have been the best option, hands down. What actually happened was that my (now) Mother in law went into the cell phone place and walked out of there with a monthly plan, a phone, a leather belt clip case for the phone, a desk charger for the phone, a car charger for the phone, an insurance plan for the phone, just about everything available in the late 90′s for cell phones. When they say there’s one born every minute they mean it.

    Bottom line, they didn’t do their homework and got screwed for it. So the point of this study I think is to get people thinking about what they use and how they pay for that usage and maybe re-adjust their products to better meet their needs and budget. To me this seems like common sense, but to other people… not so much.

  19. nakedscience says:

    Yeah, @pecan 3.14159265, the rollover really makes sense for me. Now that I’ve had the same plan for a few years, I have a ton of extra wiggle room — I never, ever have to worry if I have enough minutes, even if I know I’m going to be on the phone a lot. It’s really nice.

    It’s about a week into my current billing cycle, and I have 422 minutes left, and 1,028 rollover minutes.

    I guess prepaid would work for someone like me, but I like the convenience of my contract, and of course the unlimited data/text which I use the CRAP out of.

  20. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    @keter: I agree, to an extent. Since we don’t have a landline, we use our cell phones for every type of mobile communication. I can frequently be seen calling customer service or making appointments. There’s fluff (some people make talking on their cell phones a hobby) but there are certainly people who don’t have landlines and must use their phones for communication. And it also means that if you’re trying to meet someone at location X, and you can’t find it, it’s often easier to call them up and ask rather than wander aimlessly or stop people on the street.

    And the point is, people like the fluff. We like talking to our friends, don’t we? Part of the enjoyability of having a cell phone is the mobility, and we tend to take that to heart when we need to get out the door but we still want to talk to our friends about what we watched on TV last night.

  21. Hoss says:

    I’m in the low volume category since I’m mostly an office slave or at home. I’ve used NET10 for a year. I’m VERY pleased with the service — it’s a great way to save money. I bought the phone on Amazon — it’s a nice Motorola w camera, internet, etc. My cost is $15 per month for 150 minutes and roll-over. I enrolled in the automatic monthly credit card charges, so there is nothing I need to remember each month in terms of continuing the service.

    The same pay as you go service costs more with the big cell providers such as ATT mentioned in the story. I recommend a service such as NET10 to anyone with low call volume. $15 versus $50 is not a small savings (in my book)

  22. Anonymous says:

    This study is seriously flawed.

    based on their estimations, a customer who is paying a 100$ a month phone bill is only using 33 minutes a month.

    Yeah, Right.

    By the way, I use about 800 minutes a month (NOT COUNTING Mobile to Mobile, which is another 500), divide that by the amount I am currently spending on my phone service (60$) and it works out to about .07$ a minute. Count my mobile to mobile in and I’m paying .04$ a minute … and I have data on my phone!

  23. Russ Savage says:

    bottom line: cell phone companies are charging more than their service is worth. period. they’ve found many ways to rape the consumer.

  24. LTS! says:

    Dear God who cares? If the consumer thinks what they pay is worth it then why should they not be allowed to pay it? Who cares if they could get a better deal? If they wanted a better deal they would have looked for it.

    And this study is a joke as has already been pointed out. So there’s nothing worse than trying to make a moot point even worse by using ludicrous methodology. How do you make moot point worse? You make it work against you instead of not doing anything at all.

    Chalk another one up for a waste of society’s time and money.

  25. t0ph says:

    @gatewaytoheaven:

    You said “acquisition of a girlfriend”…

    maybe one day if you are lucky, you can ‘spin off’ some children lol

  26. corinthos says:

    Did any prepaid services every get blackberry plans? I mainly use mine for sms and emails. I got payperuse voice for 40 cents a minute but rarely use it. I have a grand central number that I have set up to go directly into my voicemail box provided by youmail. I never recieve my calls directly but do get a mms and email when I get one and listen to it over mms. Still I spend $55 a month before taxes and extra fees and don’t even have a voice plan. I’ve never used over 20 minutes in a month on my line. I tend to just call people back on phones I happen to be near, usually my work phone.

  27. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    @corinthos: I don’t think prepaid plans support Blackberries or other smartphones.

  28. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Calexia: What’s the cheaper family plan Verizon offers as a loyalty tactic? I really want to know, cause the whole reason for my leaving them is because AT&T is cheaper.

    • Calexxia says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Ask your representative about the loyalty plan–it’s not listed online; I don’t recall the specifics of it, but it’s been working well for my fiance and his mum.

  29. Xay says:

    The study is interesting, but really limited. I have a 500 minute My Circle plan with Alltel (soon to be Verizon) and I may have 60 anytime minutes but 2000 mobile to mobile minutes that are not nighttime or weekend calls. According to this study, I’m wasting money even though I’m paying for unlimited calls to the people in my circle.

  30. bdsakx says:

    I hardly use my minutes. In the last 4 months alone, I’ve used what… an average 49 anytime minutes and 13 mobile-to-mobile and weekend minutes? I’ve accumulated about 4,000 rollover minutes ever since. What’s worse is that I’ve got an iPhone 3G, so I’m not sure if I’m happy at all. I might even eat the ETF and just go prepaid – to hell with a fancy phone.

    • chris_d says:

      @bdsakx:
      Eat your ETF and unlock the iPhone and go to prepaid there. You can still use wifi and your costs will be way down.

  31. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    stre: Using minutes once I switch carriers isn’t an issue since both of us are switching and will be on the same carrier (we only use M2M with each other).

  32. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    bdsakx why did you get an iPhone at all if you don’t even USE a phone much at all? Was it the data and the connectivity?

  33. Maulleigh says:

    I’m one of those people who under uses. I have the 400 minute plan and only call my friends and family on the weekend.

    But if I don’t have that plan, then I get way overcharged every now and then when I do talk more. Ugh.

  34. Ratty says:

    I do the t-mobile prepaid per-minute. I do indeed KNOW I am paying 10 cents per minute for calls to the U.S. when in the U.S.

  35. Brontide says:

    VoIP + prepay cells = 3 lines costing less than $25/month.

    The reason that costs keep going up is the fact that most mobile carriers are judged by their EPS ( earning per subscriber ). They really don’t care HOW they keep that number up. When TXT’ing got hot you either got screwed with individual messages or you got hosed monthly with a plan. Cost per minute is on the rise because the revenue is coming from TXT packages and data plans these days.

    In the end you have to decide how you will get screwed and stick to it. I chose to not use my phone a lot and that works for me.

  36. bishophicks says:

    About 6 years ago my wife and I had a plan with the second fewest number of minutes you could buy (200 + 100 “free” = 300 minutes). After about 4 years paying $40 per month we finally got real, realized that the max number of minutes we EVER used was 60 and half the time we used 0 (not a typo – ZERO). We then downgraded to a 15 minute/month “emergencies only” type account for $15/month. Our “per minute” rate is high, but our plan is a lot more closely aligned with our useage pattern (if you can call it that) and we save $300/year compared to the plan we had before.

    • Ratty says:

      @bishophicks: Why not just prepay if you’re shalling out $15/month? If you go prepaid you’ll pay less per minute and the minutes carry over provided you top up a coule times annually.

  37. Brazell says:

    I’m definitely killing these stats. I pay for 450 mins and use … 7 of them. I’ve got Verizon and don’t know of a plan that I can get w/ unlimited texts that has a more reasonable number, like 100 (just incase I suddenly start making a lot of calls one day).

  38. econobiker says:

    I want to know what the f-in’ “Regulatory Recover Fee” actually covers…

    Wasn’t it recently that some guy was trying to buy a phone and plan at a carrier’s store and the rep could not provide him with an actual local taxes/fees breakdown? That the rep said- “Wait for your first bill” and the customer’s reason was that it was false advertising not to fully inform him prior to purchase?

  39. wcnghj says:

    I have a BlackBerry Curve with U.S. Cellular, I am on the $29.99 data only plan, and currently get a $10 credit/month that will last for 2 more months.

    For voice I pay .99/min. I use about 3 voice minutes a month.

    My bill is always $23-$25/month. Cheap.

  40. Bocachica says:

    Thee fact is that unless you’re using a prepaid phone and paying by the minute you have no idea what your cost is.

    I use Net10, too, and I save a ton and I know that I pay 10¢ a minute for calls and 5¢ per text.

    Period.

  41. freelunch says:

    their method of calculating cost per minute is retarded.

    By their math I pay $0.15 per minute of cell phone usage.
    While if you count all my usage, it is more like $0.03 (which still ignores the fact that my plan includes unlimited data on two blackberries).

  42. techstar25 says:

    I did the math and come up with the same numbers as they have. So I switched to Net10.
    I found that I was paying a decent price with Cingular, but I wasn’t using all the minutes I paid for. I had literally 1000 minutes rolled over that I could never possibly use (even with no landline). Those rolled over minutes were just wasted money. So I switched to prepaid.
    It makes sense for many people, but not for others. You have to look at how many minutes you have rolled over. If you have ANY minutes rolled over, you are probably wasting money.

  43. Psychicsword says:

    Each month my brothers and I use up our full 550 shared minutes. I personally use them all up (I think my brothers don’t have any friends or they may just only be friends with people on the ATT network). I have also managed to use up almost all of my roll over minutes from when I was the only one on the plan and before I went away to college.

  44. balthisar says:

    Yeah, so? It’s not any different than the high per-minute rates when I had a land-line, either. My monthly service is all I really care about; I know I’ll never, ever exceed the allotment, and that’s with the cheap plan. Really, who talks that much? Little girls, maybe, but reasonable adults?

  45. razremytuxbuddy says:

    I’m caught in this trap. I’m paying for almost 5 times the minutes I actually use each month, but if I try to downgrade my plan, or go to a prepaid plan, it’s only $10/mo cheaper, with a drastic reduction in minutes, to the point where I risk going over my limit.

  46. nakedscience says:

    Um, blathisar? Plenty of “reasonable adults” talk a lot on the phone. I’m a “reasonable adult” and while my total useage is pretty small, sometimes I’ll chat with my twin siste for upwards of an hour, getting caught up on family and home-town happenings. What if someone calls their mother every evening at 6pm and chats with her for half an hour? That can add up pretty quickly. And what about people who use it for business? Or those who have long-distance relationships? Or family out of state? You can’t judge how “reasonable” someone is by their phone useage.

  47. t0ph says:

    Over the last few months, I went from an unlimited ‘all you can eat’ plan on Sprint to a 900 min Everything Data to 450 min Everythng data. Prob bc I live with my girlfriend now so we dont talk as much and I asked ofr and recieved Pick 3 with is like Fave 5 etc.. I have effectively cut my bill in half in the last few months.

  48. Powerlurker says:

    I’m still on my family’s shared plan (and I have no landline). With five of us we don’t come anywhere near using up our allotted monthly minutes (I think we have 800 or 900 per month at this point and family text.) Most of my phone calls are either very short, or done during nights and weekends to family and friends. For a marginal cost of only $10 per month it’s a great deal, which is why cell service is one of the last family ties to be severed nowadays as evinced by people like me (20-something grad student.)

  49. itsgene says:

    This is 2009. Isn’t it time that wireless companies stopped selling “minutes” and just sold phone service without minute restrictions? And for a reasonable price? Gah, they are just raking in the dough, aren’t they? Between my old fashioned landline ($70/month!) and wireless line (another $70 month!) you’d think that phones were still high-priced luxury items in 1901.

  50. lenagainster says:

    Bogus study. As a previous poster pointed out, a customer with a $100 bill only uses 33 minutes? That’s bogus. So what if I get 700 anytime minutes and only use 30 in a month because the other 1000 minutes I use are mobile to mobile (free) or night and weekend minutes. I pay $100 and use 1000 minutes. That’s ten cents a minute, not $3 a minute. Spreading this bogus ‘report’ around is just sensationalizing someone’s biased, erroneous conclusions.

  51. wildhare says:

    Even if I talk 10% of the time I am paying a mere .11 cents a minute. This is figuring that I have 1000 anytime minutes, and if I talk 100 of those minutes. The nights and weekends should be included as they are a significant value. Despite the fact that they are “free” you wouldn’t get them without paying for the plan. Duh.

  52. Rosasharn says:

    I guess I technically pay $7 a minute, since I do almost all of my calling during the night, and mainly use my phone for texting.

  53. HogwartsAlum says:

    Gaah!
    I’m even more confused!

    I think it was Net10 someone was telling me about at the tire shop one day…he said it was insanely cheap and reliable and he loved it. I wish I could remember if that was it!

  54. MooseOfReason says:

    I use TracFone (prepaid). I pay $20 for 60-minute cards, and my phone doubles the airtime, so I pay $20 for 120 minutes. That’s about 17 cents per minute.

    I rarely use my phone, though. I just get another card every three months to make sure my service doesn’t expire.

  55. Anonymous says:

    I pay about 22c a minute for anytime minute. Just my bill cost (45) divided by minutes used (200). Nowhere near what this suggests. But my plan includes unlimited data, text, mobile 2 mobile, nights and weekends, and insurance (which for somone that has a habit of destroying expensive things is worth the 7$ a month). SERO

  56. BlazerUnit says:

    @MooseOfReason: I see you’ve got a “Double Minutes for Life” Tracfone. I hope you’re aware of the bonus codes program that Tracfone has. If you activate a new card online at the Tracfone website and type in a special code, you’ll be awarded bonus minutes (depending on the code and the amount of time you’re buying).

    Just in case you didn’t know about it, this ongoing FatWallet thread will get you up to speed:

    [www.fatwallet.com]

  57. MooseOfReason says:

    @BlazerUnit: Yeah. I have used promo codes before. Crazy amounts of units.

    Thanks for the link. Usually I search by Google, but that looks much more organized and updated.

  58. synergy says:

    I’d say on average I pay about 35 cents per minute. I’d pay less if they had a smaller plan. I’m considering skipping down to a pay-as-you-go plan, but the amounts are too even for me at the moment for it to be worth the bother of switching.