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Knowia about your Nokia – moving on up with your Motorola

For those who live in Carson City, the area is pretty well covered by all major wireless communication carriers. There’s a plethora of plans available for the family or individual. Think of choosing your network and payment plan as one of the most important financial decisions you will make. Your phone will be with you for one or two years, the standard length of wireless plans – unless you go with the prepaid phones – or longer if you like your carrier. Over a two-year contract, that $50 a month plan will cost you $1,200, not including the cost of the phone (yes, that’s separate) and any extra “cool” things, like text messaging or Internet access.

Most carriers have prepaid and traditional one- and two-year plans. Generally, the monthly cost is the same for the long-term plans. The two-year commitment will save on the cost of the cooler phone, but that may not be worth two years on a plan that doesn’t fit you.

Carriers are competitive, so the consumer wins. Price such things as roaming costs, long distance, mobile-to-mobile calls within the same network, and adding lines on a family plan.

The cost of a phone for every member of the family might be a deterrent, except that carriers have special “four for the price of one” pricing. That’s why every other teen carries a cell phone today, and eight years ago you had to be rock star/tycoon/FBI agent, or play one on TV, to have one.

Visit http://www.myrateplan.com to compare every wireless plan available in your ZIP code.

Can my credit record affect

the cost of my cell plan?

Yes, and most carriers aren’t anxious to say what credit rating disqualifies customers from a long-term plan, or what credit score they have to have to avoid a hefty down payment.

A prepaid phone is an option for those with bad credit history. It works like a regular phone card. You buy the phone and the card, then call the company and put money on it. Leap Wireless gives customers two weeks to use $15 worth of minutes. If you don’t, you lose it. You have a month to use $25, and so on. But that may not be that difficult because the company charges 10 cents a minute for all outbound calls. Sprint offers Boost and Virgin mobile, which are also pay as you go.

With most companies, if you have good credit you don’t have to pay the deposit for a phone on a one- or two-year plan. Those with poor credit history may have to pay $100 to $1,000. If that sounds too high, don’t worry. According to a Sprint spokeswoman, the average deposit is $200 to $300.

Cricket Communications has no contracts. You can buy the phones at Wal-Mart or Albertsons. You pay a flat monthly fee for service ($35 to $45) and you stop paying it when you don’t want it anymore.

What happens when I want to cancel my phone plan?

Expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars. Cingular’s early termination fee is $150 after the first 30 days. Sprint’s fee is $200.

What do I do when I lose my phone, or when I just want an upgrade?

If you have insurance, then you just pay your deductible ($50 to $100) and you get a new one. If you prefer the cool phones with the iTunes, digital video camera and Internet, that may be a good choice for you. Just remember, the more pimped out your phone, the more insurance is going to cost.

If you are eligible for an upgrade, then you can get a new phone at promotional pricing, according to a Cingular spokeswoman. That varies by customer. It never hurts to ask.

Should I get insurance?

Manufacturers generally cover their phones for one year with a warranty. Beyond defections, you might decide to get insurance to cover an expensive phones. One company, used by Sprint, charges $4 per month per unit with a $50 deductible. Signal, a phone insurance company, charges $4.95 a month per unit. The deductible varies depending on the phone. Sprint offers its own insurance that’s $3 a month, no deductible, and you get a refurbished phone.

Cricket charges $4.95 a month to cover a phone lost, stolen, damaged or defective beyond the coverage of the one-year warranty.

What’s new?

The most popular feature available on many new wireless phones is Bluetooth capability. This technology allows you to answer your phone from up to 30 feet away wearing a wireless earpiece. Bluetooth is how mobile phones, computers, and personal digital assistants, or other devices, can be connected using a short-range wireless connection, according to the company.

Cingular will soon launch HBO capability. Verizon uses a new technology called Voice over Internet Protocol that sends calls over an Internet connection instead of a traditional telephone network. According to the company, this means you get to enjoy surfing the Internet and talking on the phone at the same time.