How Many Minutes Do You Need?
Wireless service plans give you a certain number of airtime minutes to
use each month. You'll pay a per-minute fee for any calls that you make
over this limit, and most plans won't let you carry over leftover minutes
to the next month. With cell phones, you pay for the calls you receive
as well as the calls you make, so you will need to figure incoming calls
in your allotted airtime minutes.
Minutes also come in different varieties. Most popular plans give you
minutes that you can use at any time of day. These are conveniently referred
to as anytime minutes. You'll also see companies still selling plans with
blocks of airtime divided up into peak and off-peak minutes. Peak minutes
come at a premium and can be used from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Weekends
and evening hours are considered off-peak, and off-peak calls cost much
less per minute. There aren't very many plans that restrict your calling
by time of day anymore. Most companies push plans with only anytime minutes.
Then, they offer huge blocks of cheap off-peak minutes as features that
you can add to your plan. Sometimes, you can even get them free as a part
of a promotional package when you sign up!
Almost all plans are available in incremental steps beginning with as
little as 30 minutes per month up to 2,000 minutes or more. The more minutes
you buy, the more you pay per month. At the same time, the more minutes
you buy, the lower your per-minute cost.
If you just want a phone for road safety for example, a 30-minute plan
might do the trick. But if you'll make a couple of calls a day, you probably
need 10 times that amount.
When you decide on how many minutes you use, remember that it costs a
lot more to go over the minutes of your plan than to actually pay the
$10 or $20 more a month to get the extra minutes. Remember to factor in
checking your voicemail as airtime. It's better to get too many minutes
than not enough.
- You not only have to count the minutes for the calls you've made,
you are also charged minutes for all of the calls you receive.
- Most calls are rounded up to the highest minute. So a 15-second call
will cost you 1 minute. Now, a lot of phones have a groovy little feature
that displays how many minutes you've used. DON'T be fooled. This option
calculates your total time by seconds, not minutes. Whatever the display
reads, your actual use is much higher.
If you get a busy signal or no answer, you'll still get charged.
Some plans now have it where you'll only get charged if you wait for
three rings, or other variations, but think of it this way: you're
still using radio waves, so you're still getting charged.
A common formula for estimating monthly usage is to estimate the number
of calls you'll make or receive per day. And figure out how many minutes
each call lasts on the average. Your daily calling minutes will be calculated
by multiplying the number of calls by the average minutes. Finally, multiply
that total by 30 days per month
Here is a formula that we find works well in deciding how many minutes
your should get in your block plan:
- Guesstimate the length of time you spend on an average phone call.
- Multiply that by the number of calls that you make and receive in
- Add another 50 minutes.
If it is a close call, it is better to buy slightly more minutes than
you need, rather than fewer. This is because the rate per minute declines,
often dramatically, as you commit to more minutes each month.
For every minute that you use above your block, you will pay an extremely
high "penalty" rate. This rate can be as high as 25 ?50 cents
per minute. For this reason, you must give serious thought to how many
minutes you want.