Common terms for consumers and users who buy cell phone services from providers

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Table of contents to cell phone, wireless and mobile plans, costs, hardware and providers

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Accessories for a cell phone often include a carry case, a car battery charger, an AC adapter for talking and not draining the battery, a hands-free earpiece, a computer cable and an extra battery.
Activation Fee
A one time fee to activate your account.
Calling Plan
Providers generally "package" a cell phone plan that will allow you a limited number minutes to call during the day, minutes on weekends, cost or no charge for long distance, local calling with roaming charges or nationwide calling with no roaming charges. It is generally much cheaper to get a package that includes lots of minutes of the kind you will use. For example, if you travel a lot you should get a plan with no roaming charges but which will cost more per minute. If you stay in the same general area, you should get a local plan and pay extra for the occasional times when you must call outside your area. Plans can vary widely from provider to provider even in the same area.

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Charges and Surcharges
There are often charges and surcharges not required by law but imposed by many cell phone providers. One provider has estimated these as costing between 6% - 28%, or an average 17%. These could add an extra $10 to a plan that is supposed to cost about $40 a month. These surcharges are in addition to your monthly fee. Before you agree to any contract make sure you understand how much these fees will increase your monthly bill.
Contract and Contract Cancellation Penalty:
Typically cell phone plans require a one or two year contract. There can be a stiff penalty for canceling before the end of the contract as much as $200.
Coverage Area
This is the area that will be considered local. In this area you will not be charged a roaming charge. It is essential that before you sign up for a cell phone plan you look at a map of the coverage area. Different providers may have very different coverage areas. For example, one provider might only cover part of the home state, while another provider might cover all of the home state and a neighboring state within the local area. Outside the local area you will be charged for roaming or you will need a nationwide plan that includes roaming.
Flat Fee
Some plans include the taxes, charges and so on in the cost of the plan. This is much easier to budget for. For example, the TracFone prepaid cell phone minutes include all fees in the initial price of the minutes.
Local Calling, Local Minutes
Calling within the coverage area (see coverage definition) is considered local. This can be a very large area such as the entire state. The local area varies from provider to provider.
Defined as minutes above those allotted or allowed in your calling plan. The cost of overage minutes that go over the agreed allowance can be 10X the cost of the regular minutes in the plan as much as 45 cents/minute.
Prepaid cell phone
Prepaid plans are quite different from normal calling plans. All charges, fees, activation are included in the price of the minutes which are paid for ahead of time. There are no overage charges because when your minutes are used up, your phone simply will not work. Plans such as those by TracFone will tell you on the cell phone screen how many minutes are remaining. Roaming charges can be handled by charging the user two local minutes for one roaming minute as in the TracFone plan. In order to keep the service, users need to renew minutes once every 60-90 days although there are some yearly plans in which the minutes cost a bit more.
Roaming charges
Charges for calls made outside your local calling area. These can be as much as 99 cents a minute.
There are also taxes on cell phone service. Again ask your provider.


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