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What to Look for in a Cell Phone Plan in 2013

Cell phones have pretty much become our lifelines for communication. Not only do we use them to communicate via voice calling—today’s smart phones are really more like mini computers—providing phone, SMS texting, video and photo capture capabilities, and even internet surfing and GPS capabilities.

However, all of these features depend on reliable cell phone plans. Now there are various cell phone providers nationally who will offer almost any bell and whistle you can imagine, for a price of course. So before you get overwhelmed, or stuck with an ill suited contract for longer than you’d like, my advice to you is go with a plan that offers what you require within your budget.

Here are the three top elements to look for in a cell phone plan for 2013…

1. Flexibility

Features and pricing aside, what you really want first and foremost in any cell phone plan is flexibility, and by that I mean the flexibility to pick and choose the services that you want and need. That can mean different things for different individuals. For instance, many you require a plan that offers low or free long distance so you can call loved ones from afar. Or perhaps you travel a lot and desire a phone plan that offers cheap roaming hotspot services so you can connect from home even when you’re away.

2. Customer Support

You might not consider customer service as an important element—until you have trouble with your cell phone. So go with a phone company that has a decent reputation for availability and responding to your questions and troubles with experience and ease.

3. Performance

The performance of your cell phone plan is also essential. So be sure to check to see what the available network coverage is in your area. This will largely impact your cell phone connection quality as well as the speed of your phone when surfing and connecting to the internet. If you’re curious about a provider’s coverage area, visit the website and look at the “coverage map” which will show coverage even in rural or sparsely populated areas if you are in one or visit one regularly.

Now that you’ve decided what features you want in a cell phone, and measured the different cell phone providers as far as network coverage and customer support, I highly recommend you make a list of the following attributes to take shopping with you for a cell phone plan:

4. Minute Quantity

When it comes down to it—it’s all a matter of minutes, meaning on average how much do you talk per month. Some providers offer free weeknight and weekend talking and texting, which is wise if you do most of your communicating after work hours. Otherwise, coverage charges can quickly mount if you exceed your allotted minutes.

5. Local, Regional, or National

Do you mostly connect on a local level, or do you require a plan with long distance for regional or national coverage? If you travel or call loved ones from afar, choose a carrier that offers free or discount long distance and roaming charges. You’ll need to select one of the pricier plans, but in the long run this will save you huge roaming and long distance calling charges.

6. Plan Term

If you are comfortable committing to a cell phone provider for 2 or 3 years, you can often snag a great deal on a phone (or even get a free one). However, if you can’t depend on a solid income, consider a prepaid cell phone plan that doesn’t lock you into a contract.

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