Cell-phone savings strategies surveyed

LOS ANGELES The survey, which was released by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, covered more than 50,000 cell-phone users in 23 cities, and the survey shows Verizon is still a standout.

Cell-phone users have fewer complaints about service these days. And connections have gotten better, with fewer dropped calls.

That's the news from the Consumer Reports annual cell-phone survey. While last year, 71 percent of respondents had major complaints, that number dropped to 58 percent in this year's survey.

But there's one area that still has plenty of people unhappy: the bill.

Consumer Reports Editor Paul Reynolds says to save money, make sure you're maximizing your plan, and check out other options.

"You really need to look through your bills and see how many calls you're making and what time of day you're making them," said Reynolds.

It may be time to switch plans or switch companies. You won't be penalized the way you used to be.

"Carriers no longer automatically extend your contract if you make a change to your service plan and most now prorate the fee they charge if you end the contract early," said Reynolds.

A big money-saver could be switching to something all the big carriers offer: a prepaid plan. Prepaid plans are also available from newer companies like Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, and Tracfone.

"If you talk only 100 minutes a month, you could pay as little as $10 or $15 a month. But be aware, many prepaid plans don't offer free in-network calls or free calls on evenings and weekends," said Reynolds.

Another way to save: Watch that texting, now 20 cents a message. A text-message plan can cost less and Consumer Reports says some carriers let you sign up retroactively if you've gotten a hefty bill.

If you do decide to switch carriers, remember: By law you can keep your cell-phone number. And Consumer Reports says if you switch to a prepaid plan you can keep your number, too, as long as you stay in the same geographic area.

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