Earlier this year, I upgraded my only phone — I have no need for a land line — to a BlackBerry 8830 on Verizon Wireless. Now I receive my important email (in addition to some junk mail) where ever I happen to be. I accepted the fact that I would be paying for this service. In fact, my cell phone bill increased from about $50 to about $90 to pay for unlimited data, email, and a limited amount of voice minutes.
Unknown to me, Verizon began offering a less expensive option for BlackBerry owners a few months after I signed up for the plan. The new option has all of the same features except for enterprise-level email. I do not use this extra feature, so the new plan would provide me the same functionality for a lower price.
There’s one problem: Verizon didn’t contact me to let me know a new plan type was available. Why should they? If I switch to the new plan, I’d be sending them less money each month. I don’t read websites that focus on wireless services like HowardForums so I do not keep myself up-to-date with the latest industry news.
Here is how I discovered that I have been overspending. A Consumerism Commentary reader tipped me off to Validas, a website that scans your wireless phone bill and suggests opportunities for saving. Validas works with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular customers. Using the service once costs $5 but if you order multiple reports, the price drops. One report per month costs $20 for a year. If you order a package of 24 reports, they cost only $1 each.
You can preview your savings for free, but in order to receive details about the less expensive options, you will be required to pay for at least one report.
In order to analyze my bill, I first had to visit Verizon’s online billing website to download a PDF version of my bill. I then logged into Validas and uploaded my bill.
After uploading my bill, Validas analyzed my usage from the last month and presented suggestions for saving money. The website informed me that I could save $30. My current service includes a nationwide BlackBerry plan that includes email, web, 450 anytime minutes, unlimited night and weekend voice minutes, unlimited anytime Verizon-to-Verizon voice minutes, unlimited Verizon-to-Verizon text messages, and 500 additional text messages. Validas suggested I switch to a voice plan that includes the same service except the BlackBerry service is an extra, added onto a 300 anytime minutes plan.
Validas couldn’t provide the details about the new BlackBerry add-on, so I quickly researched the “EMAIL & WEB -BLACKBERRY $29.99″ service. As I mentioned above, this cheaper option doesn’t include enterprise email. I do not use this feature, so I was happy to drop it to save $30.
I should also disclose that my employer offers a 19% discount for all Verizon Wireless plans, and Validas was able to take this discount into account.
I visited Verizon Wireless to change my plan to start saving $30 per month immediately. This change did not affect my contract. Even though I was switching to a lower-cost plan, Verizon did not require that I extend my contract for two years.
Next I visited BillShrink, a service similar to Validas, but free. BillShrink does not require a PDF version of my statement, but in order for the analysis to begin, I needed to provide my cell phone number and my login password for verizonwireless.com. After running my usage pattern through thousands of options across all wireless carriers, BillShrink suggested I could save $50 per month by switching to a 200 anytime minute plan (which also did not seem to exist on Verizon’s website).
Unfortunately, BillShrink did not take my BlackBerry into account. I could obviously save more money by dropping my BlackBerry and re-activating my old phone, but since I plan to stick with my current phone until my contract is complete, Validas provided the results that were more appropriate.
For me, the $5 spent to have my bill analyzed by Validas paid for itself six times over in one month or 90 times over for the remainder of my contract. It also made me realize that I need to pay more attention to the plans offered by my wireless provider so I don’t miss out on any price reductions. Verizon isn’t going to make any effort to let me know that I can save money by switching my plan.