Stretching Your Dollar: Dealing with cell phone overage charges

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV)  -  It has happened to many of us, you open your cell phone bill to find overage charges.  It is not a pretty picture.  But there are some things you can do to protect yourself the next time you sign on the bottom line.

First and foremost read your contract. Ask questions before you sign. Get the sales rep to explain each and every charge, and break down for you what could happen if you go over your allotted minutes.

Our station in Wilmington met the Tyree family.  They had three wireless lines for their woodworking business.  One month they spent almost $500 dollars on their cell phone service.  The cost was almost double what they expected.

But they are not alone.  According to the FCC 30 million Americans will see and average of 85 dollars in overage fees per month!  That's bringing in 2.5 billion dollars extra to cell phone companies.

Reporter Colin Hackman from our  Raycom station WECT spoke with an industry insider who said we have to keep in mind, sales reps are paid on commission.  "So if it's the end of the month and you happen to land at the desk of somebody who is in it for the money and they are trying to make their numbers they are absolutely going to push every product that they can," said the insider who wanted her identity hidden.

So what can you do if you are facing huge overage charges?  First try asking for a reduction from the company.  One published report found 70% reduction for people who asked.  Secondly you can sign up for notices, by test message from your company when you are getting close to running over you plan's minutes.

Finally, consider prepayment.  Companies will basically limit you to what you have already paid for.

For the Tyree family, they're cutting ties with their company, "Now that we don't have the contract and there are no charges for stopping the service, we just called and set up a payment plan and when we are done paying it off we'll be done with that particular company."

You can also consider auctioning off you contract, is one of many companies that will help you sell or trade your contact with someone else.

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