How Do I Compare Long Distance Plans?

With hundreds of long distance calling plans to choose from, it is easy to be overwhelmed by your options. The only way to know for sure that you are getting a good deal is to compare these plans side by side. This will help you weed out the bad ones and select the one that is ultimately right for you. After asking yourself, “How do I compare long distance plans?” follow the tips below. They should be able to help you choose a good plan for your particular phone usage.

Rates

There are several types of rates to compare between long distance calling providers. The most popular ones include:

  • Per minute fees: These are the fees that most people think about, assuming that they are the only charges that come into play. For every minute you spend on the phone, you will be charged a few cents. The only exception to this rule is when you pay a flat rate for unlimited long distance calling.
  • Monthly service fees: These are charges you pay every month to have long distance calling service. They are similar to traditional monthly fees for telephones, but they only apply to your long distance plan. Some providers do not charge a monthly fee, and the ones that do may only charge a few dollars.
  • Activation fees: Some long distance providers will charge an activation fee to get your account working. This is especially true if they have to install special equipment to hook up your calling services. The cost of the activation fee will depend on the way the provider goes about giving you long distance calling.
  • Connection fees: If you make international calls, you may be charged a flat rate for every call to connect you to another country. This will occur even if you don’t get in touch with the person you are trying to reach.
  • Billing fees: Billing fees are literally charges on your account that you get for receiving a bill in the mail every month. This may sound silly, but it helps the company offset the cost of office supplies used to print the bills. If you sign up for e-statements, you should be able to avoid this charge and possibly keep better track of your due dates.
  • In state fees: These are per-minute fees that only apply to calls within your state. They are the lowest charges you can pay per minute because the calls go over the shortest distance.
  • State to state fees: If you make a call to another state, you will be sometimes be charged a different per minute fee than you would with an in state call. Some phone providers only have one flat fee to worry about, but you need to verify that before signing up for a long distance account.
  • International fees: These are per minute fees charged for calls between countries. In most cases, this will follow a connection fee as described above.

You need to look over each of these rates before choosing a long distance provider. They will have an impact on how much money you spend. Think about how often you make long distance calls to determine which fees will apply most to you. If you only make one call a month, you may be able to get away with a high per minute fee in exchange for a low monthly fee. If you make a significant number of long distance calls, you need to select the plan with the lowest per minute fee possible.

Billing Format

Most long distance phone companies will charge you in increments of minutes or seconds for every call you make. For instance, you may pay 2.5 cents a minute for your call with a billing increment of 6 seconds. Even if you only talk for 33 seconds, you will be charged for 36 seconds because of the way the billing is structured. This will impact your costs over time.

You also need to look into the minimum call times on your phone plan as those will happen no matter how long you talk. If you have a minimum of 18 seconds, you will be charged for those 18 seconds even if you hang up after 12. This kind of charge will happen on top of a connection fee, if you have one. The more calls you make, the more the fees will potentially add up.

Customer Service

Obviously you want a long distance calling provider that is going to have great customer service. Otherwise, you will have a hard time getting any problems solved or questions answered. We have a list of the average hold times for customer service calls here on the site based on our own experiences with the companies. Some phone providers will put you through right away, and others will take their time to get you to a representative. Keep this in mind before selecting the provider you want to work with.

Brand – Not as Important as You Think

Most people immediately look for AT&T long distance service or another recognized name in telecommunications. What you may not realize is that a lot of small long distance providers actually offer name brand service at a fraction of the cost. These companies buy minutes and usage from the phone companies in bulk at a wholesale price. Then, they are able to charge less to provide those services to their customers. If you look into a company that has an off-the-wall name, check to see if they are backed by someone you trust.

Keep all of the factors above in mind and you should be able to compare long distance plans with ease. All it takes is a little research to pick the provider that is best for you.