Cell phone rates

What to consider when choosing a calling plan

In recent years mobile operators have shifted towards encouraging subscribers to sign a two or three year contract by providing significant discounts on the handsets...some of the handsets are even offered free of charge.

Keep in mind that the contract may have penalties such as a $200 cancellation fee if you decide to terminate the subscription prior to the end of the contract.

Note that in addition to providing you with a reduced price handset, a contract rarely gives you discounts on the price you pay per airtime minutes.

Most calling plans may be confusing for some, so here are a few points to consider:

  • Ask yourself when you use the phone most frequently (daytime, weekdays, evenings, weekends). If you know that most of your usage is after 8pm, you may be a good candidate for a “nights” package, in which you may talk for unlimited time if the call is placed between let’s say 7 pm and midnight. Ensure that you understand during which times of the day you will enjoy such discounts as they may vary from carrier to carrier.
  • Also ask yourself if you need additional services such as call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID, etc, since some carriers may want to bundle them in their basic offering, however not everybody will benefit from the service at the same level.

In contrast to Europe, prepaid service is not very common in Canada, however most carriers will have a at least one form of prepaid service. You may be required to recharge your phone with different frequencies (once every 15,30,60 days)

Monthly packages start from approximately CAD$ 20 (excluding taxes) and up. For CAD$ you should be able to get at least 200 minutes of talk time.

Other Fees

In Canada, your cell phone bill will come with a few add-ons that are important to understand. Here are three other fees that you may see in your bill:

  • System Access Fee: This fee is somehow a way by the carriers to inflate your bill, and it could go as much as CAD$ 9 per month. If you come from Europe you may be familiar with “call connection fees: of about €0.10 every time you press the “send” key.
  • Emergency 911 Service: It is a few pennies that could save your life.
  • Taxes: In Canada services such as the phone have two types of taxes which add up to 14% of your total bill

Prepaid or per-month billing?

Similarly to other countries in Europe, South America and Asia, in Canada you may either get a prepaid or a “pay as you go” billing system in which case you literally need to refill your account by purchasing extra minutes and the second option is getting a monthly bill for the cellular service. In Canada you are not forced to get a long-term contract with your wireless provider to enjoy the reduced rates that usually come with it, however if you need to buy a phone, then be prepared to pay a substantially higher price for your phone if you chose not to sign a two or three year contract.

Prepaid

If you choose to get a pre-paid system, note that per minute rates in the pre-paid world are substantially higher than if you got a package of let’s say 200 minutes per month, however having a pre-paid phone may be a better deal if your phone usage is low. If you do not have a credit card and/or prior credit history in Canada, you may have no choice but to get a pre-paid system.

Some of the wireless companies in Canada have a portfolio of several prepaid packages based on which card you buy and there are no switching costs between prepaid packages. That said, a $30 pre-paid card may have a different per-minute rate than a $10 one.

Where to buy Prepaid Cards for your Canadian Phone?

Prepaid “refilling” cards can be bought at major electronic stores, cell phone outlet stores (Bell World, Fido/Rogers, etc.) convenience stores, and even at Canada Post (Canadian Postal Services Company). Justlanded.com is planning to set up a service for users shopping for pre-paid phone cards across Canada.

Per-month

Per-month billing is usually convenient if you want to enjoy the relatively lower per-minute rates.

Contract vs. No-contract

If you choose to have a contract, you may get a new phone with it at a reduced price, however there may be some hefty penalties if you decide to terminate the contract prior to its expiry date. Normal penalties vary from the actual cost of the cell phone handset you have or an amount equivalent to the monthly rate of your package multiplied by the number of months remaining in your package. That said, terminating early a cell-phone contract may result on paying between CAD$ 100 and as much as CAD$500.

Normal contract durations are two to three years, so if your stay in Canada is shorter, you may end up paying more money than you anticipated. If you choose not to have a contract, you will still enjoy better rates than via pre-paid with the only disadvantage that if you need a phone, the carrier will sell it to you at the market price for the phone without any discounts.

Per minute rates-per second billing

In Canada many wireless carriers (but not all) provide you with a per-second billing system at no extra cost. The advantage of such system is that if you make calls that are less than a minute (or a minute and a fraction) you get billed for the actual seconds that you talk instead of the full minute.

Further reading

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