Saving money on long-distance calls
Another advantage of going small with your long-distance
company is six-second call rounding. Each call is rounded up six seconds
rather than going to the next minute no matter how many seconds are
left. Smaller long-distance companies offering six-second call rounding
include Primus, Everdial, Capsule Communications, 1Plus, Unitel and
"Check call-rounding policies. A lot of low-cost
plans will round to six seconds," Keiter says. "It's something
you want to look for."
The more calls you make, the more money you can save
with six-second rounding.
"If you have a lot of short phone calls or send
out a lot of faxes, you can really save a lot of money," Sayers
Some low-cost carriers may charge a fee if you receive
a paper bill and you spend less than $15 or $20 on long distance
in a month. You can sidestep this $1 to $2 billing fee by paying
your bills online.
Another thing to consider when studying long-distance
plans is in-state calling rates. If you make a lot of long-distance
calls within your state, you'll want to choose a calling plan with
a low in-state rate. Rates on in-state calls tend to be higher than
the rates for state-to-state calls, but that doesn't mean you can't
find a good deal. Once again, don't overlook the little guys. Smaller
companies tend to charge lower rates for in-state calls.
"The final decision might come down to the in-state
rate for the carrier," Keiter says.
Web sites such as MyRatePlan.com,
have search engines that make it easy to compare long-distance offers
Be sure to shop carefully. For questions about a particular
long-distance plan, contact the carrier directly.
Pure prepaid play
If your long-distance phone calls are few and far between,
you may want to drop your long-distance carrier altogether. You
can pay for the few calls you make with a prepaid phone card, a
dial-around service or even your cell phone if you've got the minutes.
And you'll avoid the monthly fees and taxes charged by long-distance
"It's time to think about not having a long-distance
company," says Sam Simon, chairman of the Telecommunications
Research and Action Center.
With rates between 3 cents and 4 cents a minute, a
prepaid phone card may be a good option for folks who make only
occasional long-distance calls. But you'll need to read through
a lot of fine print to land a good deal.
There are plenty of really lousy phone card offers
mixed in with the good ones. Carriers can levy a host of fees for
everything from connection charges to weekly or monthly fees simply
for maintaining the card.
Watch out for scams.
"I've seen all kinds of stuff," Keiter says.
"I've seen four-minute rounding. So you talk for two minutes
and they round it up to six minutes."
For tips on landing a good deal on a prepaid phone
card, check out this
article from Bankrate.com.
A dial-around service is another good option for infrequent,
long-distance talkers. With a dial-around number, you dial 10-10
plus a three-digit code to make calls from your home phone.
Dial-around numbers have gotten so popular that there
are 10-15 and 10-16 numbers, as well. Many of the best deals aren't
advertised on television. Web sites such as 10-10PhoneRates.com
can help you pinpoint the best dial-around number for your calling
needs. Dial-around numbers offer great rates on international calls.
They can also help you save money on your in-state calls.
Another way to save money on long distance is to
simply use your cell phone.
"If you've got a plan that includes long distance
that's a good option," Keiter says.
Just be careful not to go over your airtime for the
month. If you do, you could end up paying 40 cents to 45 cents a
minute for your calls. Yikes.
For tips on finding a good calling plan for your cell
phone, check out this
article from Bankrate.com.
Saving a bundle
Can't imagine cutting long distance from your landline? Do you
make a ton of long-distance calls every month? You may
want to consider a plan that gives you unlimited local and long-distance
calling for one monthly fee. Many of these plans include features
such as call waiting, caller ID, voice mail and call forwarding.
Most major phone companies offer these plans with costs running
anywhere from $30 to $70.
If you're paying more than $60 a month for your local
and long-distance charges each month, you may want to consider
a bundled long-distance plan.
Keep in mind that fees, taxes and surcharges still
get added to the cost of a bundled plan. Be sure to ask about fees
and charges. It's the only way to determine the true cost of a bundled
Study the calling details of a bundled plan carefully
before signing on. Some plans will charge you a per-minute rate
if you call a friend that uses a different long-distance company.
For example, MCI's Neighborhood Choice only gives
you unlimited long distance when you call other MCI customers. Call
a non-MCI customer and you pay 7 cents per minute for the call.
Here's another thing to think about: If you bundle
your long-distance and local phone service, you may lose the option
of using a 10-10 number for international calls.
Anyone who makes a lot of overseas calls will want
to steer clear of bundled long-distance plans.
Mix and match
As convenient as it may be to pay a single bill for all your
calling needs, there's a good chance you'll save money by mixing
and matching your phone services.
There's little chance a single long-distance company
or service is going to give you the best deal on all your calling
needs. If they did, they'd have a hard time staying in business.
"They give you a cheap deal one way and
a more expensive deal some place else to make it up," Sayers
Beat the long-distance companies at their own game
by mixing and matching your services.
Choose a cheap, no-name company you'll never hear
advertised on television for your state-to-state long distance.
Buy a prepaid calling card and save money on pricey
in-state calls. Pick up a dial-around number for international calls.
Got a cell phone? Go wireless for your long distance
whenever you can. If you're paying for the minutes you might as
well use them. Keep a prepaid calling card or dial-around number
by your landline as a backup.
Use whatever combination works for you and save money.
Love your long-distance company too much to leave?
At the very least call and ask for the cheapest calling plan that
matches your calling needs. And make this call at least one or two
times a year. New plans get introduced all the time, but you won't
know unless you call and ask.
"Call up," Sayers says. "You
can definitely find a better deal."