What does Cramming Mean? How to Understand your Phone Bill

The cell phone contract may be gone, but what’s replaced it is even more annoying – complex language and agreements that can trick you into paying more than you think you’re paying. These sneaky tactics have been designed to get you to pay more than you should when you’re buying a smartphone or choosing a data plan.

1. Adding hidden fees

Many carriers add unauthorized fees to your monthly bill. These fees may charge you for services that you didn’t sign up for or have even received. As the FCC reported recently, the practice, referred to as “cramming,” has affected tens of millions of American households.

The agency stated, “Smartphones are sophisticated handheld devices that enable consumers to shop online from wherever they are or charge app purchases to their phone bills. The more your mobile phone bill begins to resemble a credit card bill, the more difficult it may become to spot unauthorized charges.”

From service charges to voicemail fees, charges as low as a dollar or two can appear on your bill for years at a time — which means that it’s important to look at your bill each month and ensure that you recognize all the charges.

2. Convincing you to buy more data than you need

Data charges make up a large portion of carriers’ revenue, so many companies may pressure you to buy a large amount of monthly data.

They may use scare tactics such as overage charges to get you to upgrade to you to a higher-priced data plan that you may or may not need. But before you increase your monthly bill to get more data, check out how much data you really use each month so that you can avoid paying for lots of data that’s going to go unused.

3. Keeping your bill the same after your phone is paid off

If you plan to buy a smartphone and keep it for longer than the period of time it takes to pay off completely, you should carefully read the terms of your agreement with your carrier. In some cases, your monthly bill will automatically decrease once you’ve paid off the retail price of your phone.

But in other cases, your carrier will continue to charge you the same amount, even after you’ve had your phone long enough to pay its entire retail price. It’s one of the most annoying and sneaky ways that carriers can get you to pay more than you should.

4. Hitting you with fees if you switch carriers

Many carriers charge early termination fees when you want to switch carriers before your contract is up or your phone is paid off. Even if your carrier doesn’t charge an early termination fee, you should pay attention to the terms of your service if you anticipate having to switch carriers in the near future.

If you’re paying your phone off over a period of a couple of years, you’ll end up having to pay off the remainder of its price all at once if you leave your carrier early.

With Republic, what you see is what you get. We don’t sneak in extra charges or use confusing language to scam you into paying more than you should. All we offer is straightforward, very affordable plans and a strong selection of no-contract smartphones with no hidden fees or surprises.  See how your bill adds up, check out the list of common cramming fees below.

Common Unauthorized (Cramming) Fees

  1. Service fee
  2. Service charge
  3. Other fees
  4. Voicemail
  5. Mail server
  6. Membership
  7. Minimum monthly usage
  8. Premium text messaging
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  • James_for_Today

    Kudos to Verizon, in my case. I paid off my new phone after 2 years and, without prompting, Verizon lowered my bill by $25 per month… just as they promised.

  • S. Ali

    Why doesn’t RW bundle taxes/fees like so many other companies are doing now? That $20 plan is really $24, that’s BS.

  • Peter Haggart

    Well, I think RW is very up-front. We have two phones. One with no data and one with 0. 5GB of data. The taxes on both phones are 0.74 cents each. So a ten dollar plan is really $10.74 – big deal! They are not “cramming anything.” They don’t hide any of this information. PLUS since we use wireless for most our data use on the one phone we get a refund every month —- ask some other company to do that! In fact our average monthly billing for BOTH phones total per month is $23.00. In my book, that is a deal and a half!