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On the cellular bubble
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There's good news for heavy talkers. Cellular providers have just started offering new unlimited phone plans. So, there's no time like the present to review your cell phone usage.

Research carefully - cell phone service plans are not all equal.

Sprint's plan includes text and multimedia messaging, Web access and calling for $100. T-Mobile's plan is also $100, but does not include Web access. With Verizon and AT&T, you get only unlimited calling for $100. To add text and multimedia messaging, you pay an additional $20.

Verizon charges $140 if you also want Web access. AT&T charges $135 to include Web access on most phones. However, if you own a BlackBerry or PDA, this rises to $150.

Truthfully, most of us don't need an unlimited plan. But we would all like to save on our phone bills.

In that case, it is time to renegotiate your contract. With a little persistence, you'll see monthly savings. Or you'll get a better plan for the same price.

Define your goals.

As with any negotiation, you need clearly defined goals. So, before you call your provider, make a list of the features you need.

Start by reviewing recent bills. Your usage has probably changed since you signed up for service. Pay particular attention to text messaging and data usage. Identify where adjustments can be made. Sacrifice other features to get the ones you want.

Do your research.

It pays to know what plans are available. Start your research on your provider's Web site. Look for a plan similar to what you need.

Of course, there are four major providers, plus smaller, regional ones. You should be aware of their plans, too. This gives you ammunition for your negotiation. Pay particular attention to the fine print. You can also visit MyRatePlan.com, LetsTalk.com or PhoneDog.com. Comparison tools will help you compare phone plans.

Call your provider.

Be prepared to spend time on the phone. Some customer service representatives may tell you that a plan isn't available. Be persistent! Ask to speak with a manager. Continue until you get what you want. You may need to call several times.

Note the name and CSR number of anyone with whom you speak. If a representative promises something, you can refer to the conversation later.

Keep your cool.

Anger won't help you get what you want. Be courteous and polite and don't waste your time or the representative's.

Don't threaten to cancel your service and switch providers. Negotiations will end prematurely if you're encouraged to take your business elsewhere.

Instead, use your knowledge of competitors' plans to your advantage. Work the details of them into your conversation. Make it clear that you're prepared to switch providers. You may need to renew your contract when changing plans. But maybe you can negotiate that as well.

Not all calling plans are equal, so it might be time to explore your cell-phone options
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