Cut Your Telephone Bill

We learned to choose long distance service. Now, we can choose our local phone company as well. We also have new choices for making long distance calls, including prepaid phone cards and 10 -10 numbers. How can you use these choices to cut your phone bill?

First, learn the types of calls. In the Chicago area, there are three kinds of "local" calls. They are based on the distance from the telephone switching office that serves the caller to the switching office of the place they are calling. Calls within zero to eight miles are Band A calls. Band B calls are from 8 to 15 miles. Both Band A and B calls are local calls, but the cost may be different. You might pay 5 for a Band A call, but 5 per minute for Band B. Band C calls are over 15 miles. They are called local toll calls and are charged by the minute.

Because of these differences, you can sometimes get a costly surprise.

  • You think you are dialing a local number when you use the Internet at home. But it is a Band B or C call. That 5 call you made turns out to be several dollars.
  • You sign up for a package that offers "unlimited local calls." It doesn't include local toll calls (Band B). But you didn't notice that until you got the bill.

You can choose a new local phone company to carry all those calls, or you can switch just the local toll calls to your long distance company.

We talk about "long distance" as if all those calls are treated the same. And many ads promote just one rate for long distance calls. However, in-state long distance calls (intra-state) may be much more expensive than out-of state (inter-state) calls.

You want to choose a calling plan that fits the way you call. So, look at the calls you make. Are most of your calls within Band A? Do you make many local toll calls? How many in-state and out-of-state long distance calls do you make? Do you make most of your calls during the daytime, in the evening, or on the weekend?

Call your phone company. Ask them to look at your past bills and tell you whether you would save money if you were on a different plan, or no plan at all. Compare offers from different companies. Don't assume that a package will be the best deal. Especially on local calls, using basic service may be cheaper than paying for a plan that includes extra services you don't use or need.

Written by:
Karen Chan
Consumer and Family Economics Educator
University of Illinois Extension
Chicago Extension Center

Edited by:
Katherine J. Reuter
Consumer and Family Economics Educator
University of Illinois Extension
Countryside Extension Center

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