Making Sense of Cellular Phone Minutes

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Cellular phones are different from your land-line home phone in that you'll need to determine in advance how many minutes you'll use in any given month. Deciding how many minutes you'll need and making sure you don't go over your allotted minutes is one of the trickiest parts of using a cellular phone.

The most common arrangement for cellular phones is a block minute plan. With a block minute plan, you'll pay a flat fee to purchase as set number of minutes each month. The disadvantage of this plan is that if you purchase 200 minutes per month, you'll be billed the same amount whether you actually talked for 199 minutes or 60 minutes.

Something that many new cellular phone users don't realize is that you'll also be charged to receive calls. If you're worried about going over your allotted minutes, it's best not to give out your phone number to any more people than absolutely necessary.

Like a prepaid calling card, all calls made on a block minute plan are rounded up to the nearest minute. If you call a friend and listen to a 30-second answering machine message, you'll be billed for one full minute. You'll also be charged for one full minute if there's a busy signal or no answer, although some block minute plans will only bill you if you let the phone ring more than three times.

With a block minute plan, going over your allotted minutes can quickly get expensive. You'll be charge a penalty rate for every additional minute you use. If you're not careful, this can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars a month in unnecessary charges. The best defense is to buy more minutes than you think you'll actually need and reduce your plan at a later date if necessary.

Timothy Gorman is a successful webmaster and publisher of He provides cellular phone plans, service and free cellular phones on his website that you can research in your pajamas.

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