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What to ask before signing a phone contract

Here are the most important questions you should ask before signing a phone contract.

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If you’re looking to get the latest model of iPhone or Samsung or get a deal on minutes or data, you probably need to sign a new phone contract. Phone contracts can vary wildly when it comes to terms and conditions, so before you sign on that dotted line, it is important to check through the contract carefully.

Here are the most important questions you should ask before signing a phone contract.

What is included?

This is the first question you should be asking when looking to sign any phone contract. Check through the fine print to see exactly what is included. For phone service contracts, how many call minutes, text messages, and how much data will you get? For hardware contracts, which exact model and accessories are included? Also, check what happens if you go over your minutes or data allowance.

How much will you pay?

Another key part of the contract is also the price. However, this goes beyond the minimum monthly fee you need to pay: there may be other fees and charges that apply, so it is important to dig into this. For example, many providers will charge elevated fees once you go over your data or minute allowance. It is important to check these as this can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars if you’re not careful. You should also confirm other charges such as the costs for international roaming, and charges for calling certain numbers such as 13 or 1300 numbers in the US.

How long is the contract for?

When you’re looking for phone service, you have two main options: you can either get a prepaid SIM and pay for your calls, text, and data as you go, or you can sign up for a contract with a specific plan in terms of the number of minutes, texts and data allowance (sometimes with unlimited amounts). Contracts generally provide better value and are more cost-effective overall compared to prepaid plans.

With a phone contract, although payments are made on a monthly basis, you commit to paying a certain amount each month for the duration of the contract. Therefore it is important to check this duration before you sign up. Most phone contracts last for 24 months (two years), however, some operators offer 12 or 18-month arrangements. Generally, the better the deal (and the less you pay per month for what you get), the longer the contract commitment.

What happens if I want to leave the contract early?

There are many reasons why you may want to terminate your contract before the 12, 18, or 24 months have finished. Your life or financial situation may change, or the service may not live up to your expectations. When this happens, you want to know that you can leave your contract without too much hassle.

Before you sign up, check what the penalties will be if you need to leave early: you can expect there to be some kind of penalty, but the best providers do not expect you to pay out the contract in total for every remaining month. Ideally, there will also be some kind of “quick trigger” termination for the contract if there is a failure on your provider’s end in terms of performance or service.

Can I use my service overseas?

This question is important for users who travel often. If you are regularly going to other countries and want to be able to make and receive calls or messages, you need to know whether you’ll be able to use your phone service internationally. Check the plan’s global roaming provisions, including whether calls, texts, and data are available, in which countries, and at what cost.

Can I keep my old number?

Some providers will allow you to transfer your old phone number over to your new contract, saving you the hassle of notifying all your contacts and avoiding the risk of missing important calls. Ask if this is a possibility before deciding on a new provider.

Is the “free” phone worth it?

Some phone service providers will include a “free” phone with your plan when you sign the contract. This can seem like a great deal – who doesn’t want a new phone for free? However, it is important to calculate all the costs to work out if this is actually worth it. Look at the total cost over the entire life of the contract, and compare this to the cost of a comparable contract plus buying the phone separately. Often it is actually cheaper to choose a plan without a phone and then buy a phone outright or on a separate monthly plan.

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