SOURCE: Wireless Association

November 03, 2011 05:00 ET

Know Your Monthly Wireless Bill

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Nov 3, 2011) - (Family Features) Americans love their wireless devices. For the first time, there are more devices (327.6 million) than Americans (315.5 million), according to CTIA-The Wireless Association's survey. People continue to use more voice minutes, text messages and data than ever before, too. As with any bill, but especially since wireless devices are used more than ever, consumers should always review their monthly wireless statement to ensure the charges are correct.

To help wireless consumers better manage their usage and prevent unexpected overage charges, CTIA and many of its provider members, along with the Federal Communications Commission, announced free alerts. More than 300 million U.S. wireless customers will be protected against potential billing surprises due to the industry's efforts. As part of CTIA's "Consumer Code for Wireless Service," wireless providers will send postpaid customers alerts on voice, data, messaging and international roaming. Two out of the four alerts will be available by October 17, 2012 and all of the alerts will be available by April 17, 2013.

Currently, many wireless providers already offer a number of free tools for customers to check on their usage. Here are some tips from CTIA and its members to help you stay in control of your monthly wireless bill.

Monitor Your Usage
All of the major wireless providers offer tools so you can keep track of your usage and know exactly how many minutes, data or text messages you've used. In addition to contacting your carrier via phone or websites, many offer shortcuts on your wireless device. For example:

AT&T

  • *BAL# (*225#) and "Send" = Check your balance.
  • *MIN# (*646#) and "Send" = Check your minutes.
  • *DATA# (*3282#) and "Send" = Check remaining data usage (including text, pictures/videos and Internet).

Sprint Nextel

  • *2 and "Send" = Check your usage, balance and to find your nearest Sprint store.
  • *4 and "Send" = Check your minutes.

T-Mobile

  • #MSG# (#674#) and "Send" = Check how many text messages sent and received and how many remaining.
  • #MIN# (#646#) and "Send" = Check your minutes used and when your billing period ends.

U.S. Cellular

  • #BAL (#225) and "Send" = Check unbilled minutes, mobile to mobile minutes and text messages.

Verizon Wireless

  • #BAL and "Send" = Check your balance.
  • #MIN and "Send" = Check your minutes.
  • #DATA and "Send" = Check text and picture count and data usage.

For additional wireless carriers, please visit their websites for their device-specific shortcuts to help you manage your usage.

Check International Rates Before You Leave the Country
Many carriers will alert you to local rates or prompt you to call customer service when you arrive in a foreign country. The "Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines" require participating CTIA providers to inform consumers of international roaming charges when traveling abroad.

Regardless, it's a good idea to understand your plan when it comes to calls, texts and data/Internet usage. Most providers offer:

  • Information on where to get the best international voice and data rates and tips and tutorials for what you can expect when using your mobile devices while traveling.
  • Temporarily shut-off of your data services to prevent international data roaming.
  • Mobile apps to track international use in real-time.

To see rates and availability, contact your wireless provider via phone or website.

Stay On Top of Your Family Plan
Keeping track of your family's wireless use can help prevent accidental overages. Many wireless carriers provide plan monitoring tools that let subscribers:

  • Set limits on allotted minutes, messages and downloads each month.
  • Set voice and messaging allowances.
  • Receive free text alerts when a family member nears or reaches their limits.
  • Create a list of blocked numbers to prevent unwanted calls and messages.
  • Set specific times of day when a family member can't call, message or use data on their mobile devices (but calls to other account/family members and Emergency 911 are always allowed).

Spending a little time reviewing your service provider's website and using their tools, tips and plans can save you and your family money on your monthly wireless bill.

For more information visit www.blog.ctia.org.

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