Areas to check on before buying a cellphone and service

Remember the old Science Fiction comics you read as a kid? The ones with characters sporting TVs on their wrist watches? One of the truly personal pieces of electronics this year (and previous years) is the cellphone. We all now have a portable telephone with us at all times, chained to our hips like a boulder.

Many of us cruise the web, email and look at satellite maps on our phones as well. Talk about a personal gadget that does everything. But, just because it does everything does not mean you should pay everything for it, right? As I always do when signing, you know, a contract, examine every inch of it and investigate your options fully. That's right -- get into lawyer-mode.

When it comes to money out of your pocket, did you really look at the cost of that cellphone when you signed up for service? In many cases, new and existing wireless subscribers receiving a new phone are required to sign a two-year service contract. That free cellphone, in other words, just cost you over $1,400 (assuming $60 per month for 24 months). Did you buy service from one of the higher-rated wireless carriers? Did you buy a phone with the right mix of style and performance (but not a lot of one and non of the other)?
  • Make sure your phone works where you want it to work. In other words, if you can't get reception in key areas of town, it's time to find another carrier. And that'll cost you in broken contract fees.
  • Figure out what the estimated taxes will be on your monthly bill. They add up.
  • What exactly are the early termination fees, anyway? Are they pro-rated? Best find out up front.
The amount of questions you should have about that wireless purchase is no shorter than for a major automobile repair. Check online for customer forums on all the cellular carriers and make the most informed choice in the beginning -- or you'll be paying for it handsomely in the end. As always, a little time spent beforehand is worth quite a bit of money savings in the end since you won't burn your cash and time on problems that could have been avoided.
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