Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate

 

 

Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate
555 Walnut Street
5th Floor Forum Place
Harrisburg, PA 17101-1923

Phone: 717-783-5048 or toll free 800-684-6560
Fax: 717-783-7152

Email: consumer@paoca.org

Tips to Lower Your Long Distance Telephone Bill

Advice: Look over your last 3 months long distance phone bills. Get familiar with when and where you call. See if there is a pattern to your calls.

Option 1: Call your long distance telephone company.
  • Ask if changing your calling plan will lower your bill, based on your calling history.
  • Ask for details - become aware of any monthly flat fees with the plan that your company recommends. Are there other charges related to federal and state programs and taxes?

Option 2: Shop for other long distance companies.

  • Use websites and publications to begin your search. See, for example, the OCA's website at www.oca.state.pa.us There are many competitors in today's long distance market.

  • Call some competitors for their rates. Ask for their best plan, based on your calling pattern.
  • Don't forget the details - are there any monthly fees? What about other charges related to federal programs? Not all companies pass on their charges for federal programs at the same rate- shop around!
  • Always make sure that you verify and understand the rates and details of any plan you are offered. You may receive a call from a telemarketer, offering you a better deal than you have now. If you are tempted to make the switch, call the company directly, to confirm the offered rate. Don't agree to anything until you have checked it out yourself.

Option 3: Consider going without a "pre-subscribed" long distance company.
  • You can change the way you make long distance calls. If you make very few long distance calls each month, or no calls at all, you may be able to save money by dropping your "pre-subscribed" long distance company. You do not need to switch to another company. You can call your local phone company and tell them that you no longer wish to have a pre-subscribed long distance carrier. If you do this, you will not be able to make long distance calls by dialing "1" plus the area code and phone number. However, you can still make long distance calls by using dial-around companies (10 - 10 + ###) or pre-paid calling cards.
  • Be a savvy shopper if you plan to use dial-arounds. Consumer websites and publications can help. Before using a dial-around company, ask if any flat monthly charges apply. Ask about their per-minute rates. Are there any charges related to federal or state programs?
  • There are two different kinds of calling cards, one you get through your long distance company and the other is a prepaid calling card sold at a variety of places. Your long distance company includes their calling card charges on your bill, including surcharges. Those per minute company calling card rates are usually higher than the per minute rates you can get from prepaid calling cards or from your at-home service.

Option 4: Wireless Companies have many varied offers also.

  • Wireless phones sometimes offer a cheaper alternative to home long distance service.

Depending on your typical phone use, one of these plans may well suit your needs at a cost savings. Ask whether you must agree to a fixed term contract.

Other tips:

  • Some long distance companies will offer you lower rates if you are in a Lifeline Program for low-income consumers. Ask your local telephone company for details about qualifying for their Lifeline Programs.

  • If you accept an offer from a telemarketer, you will probably receive a follow-up call from a third party to make sure that you want the deal or switch you agreed to earlier.
  • Beware of phone sharks. These companies will give phone service to customers who have trouble getting phone service elsewhere, but they charge very high monthly fees, compared to other companies.

 

 
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