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Cellphone Bills: How to Avoid a Text Aftershock


“OMG! Did you feel that? Are you OK?” There were text messages like that flying around the country yesterday afternoon just after the 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Virginia, which sent tremors across the east coast. The east coast rarely experiences such events, so people were nervous at first and then, understandably, pretty excited. And that’s usually when we stop thinking about our bill.

But there is good reason why you should be text-aware. Texting is the top mobile phone activity in the U.S. with 68% choosing to text, according to market researcher ComScore. And, last week, AT&T said it will slim down its text-messaging service plans, offering unlimited messages for a flat monthly fee, or a pay-per-text service, and won’t be offering its 1,000 texts for $10 a month.

Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint Mobile and AT&T all suggested texting during a crisis during to help reduced congestion on the network. AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel says texts take up precious little network resources. “Texting is a great alternative in situations where call volumes are very heavy,” he tells Pay Dirt. To ease the burden at the end of the month, here are some tips to prevent a bill aftershock:

Think Before You Mass Text

For those who had difficulty calling friends and family on Tuesday, Sprint Mobile spokeswoman Crystal Davis says: “We encourage customers to be patient.” Naturally, that benefits both company and customer. But AT&T went one step further: It sent out automatic texts telling customers not to worry, which may have helped reduce call volume. It read: “5.8 earthquake 40 miles from Richmond Virginia. Affects felt in tri-state area. No cause for alarm. Please resume your normal day.” Alas, one customer told Pay Dirt their AT&T text came through three times, but the gesture was appreciated.

Consider Unlimited Texting

If you’re a heavy texter, as most teenagers are, you don’t want to pay for texts à la carte unless you really have to. Texting without a pre-paid text plan can be expensive and, even if you have a text bundle, overage can add up. For instance, Verizon charges $20 a month for unlimited texts, but customers must pay 20 cents for pay-as-you-go texts and 10 cents per text for “overage” if you have pre-paid for a limited amount of texts. Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T also charge for sending and receiving domestic pay-as-you go texts.

International Texts Add Up

We know that international roaming can give you bill shock, but so can international texts. AT&T and Verizon charge 25 cents for every overseas text sent – and 20 cents for texts received from a non-U.S. phone. Sprint and T-Mobile charge 20 cents for both sending and receiving international texts. These texts don’t qualify for “friends and family” free text packages or other kinds of similar promotions. On the plus side: the major cell phone companies all make these rules on international texting clear on the company website.

Pay Dirt readers, did you go text crazy on Tuesday?


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    • , he had eight years to push at least some areas of job growth and we see / saw nthiong (even before this crash, jobs were lacking – though the unemployment figure did not accurately represent that for a myriad of reasons including people dropping from the workforce or working part-time).

    • There is a single rgnotine sound file stored in the Palm Pre designated for incoming text message alerts. You can replace this sound file with any rgnotine you have available. However, it is only accessible by configuring root’ privileges to your Pre or by a homebrew utility that might be available.Good luck!

    • I have had success avoiding Bill Shock by using Telicost-Lite, a free app that gives iPhone, Android and BlackBerry users instant real-time alerts to track voice, data, SMS and roaming activity to ensure that they don’t go over their mobile plan. Go to http://www.anomalousnetworks.com to download the free Telicost app by Anomalous Networks. This is a must-have app when traveling for business or pleasure, and businesses of all sizes can take advantage of a more robust Telicost portal to manage their whole fleet of mobile users.

    • How do you not mention Boost Mobile or Virgin Mobile (Sprint Subsidies)

      for $45/mo you get unlimited calling, texting, and internet

      I am saving $80/mo switching from Verizon

    • I use TextFree on my iPhone. They give you a phone number. Works internationally, you can include pictures. There are Android and Blackberry versions.

      Google Voice is another option, but only works in the US and Canada.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.