November 2 2009|09.22 AM UTC

Erik Chang

Anatomy of a Cell Phone Bill

Category: UncategorizedTags: , , ,

What are you paying for? We broke down all the fees and charges on a typical cell phone bill and found some things you pay for that you may not be aware of. Pay-per-use data access charges can rack up quickly if you’re charged by the KB and if you’re on a cruise, you’ll want to turn the phone off to avoid expensive roaming charges.

(click to enlarge)

Anatomy of a Cell Phone Bill

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan Grand January 11, 2010 at 4:53 pm

This happens because people love being exploited. Why do people keep buying iPhones and other “smart” phones with expensive plans, and THEN complain about it online?

STOP BUYING FLASHY PHONES WITH FLASHY DATA PLANS!! Oh, I’m sorry… you REALLY need to check your facebook when you’re hanging at your buddies place? THEN PAY FOR IT.

Wanna save money? Get pre-paid, like I have. And try not to make a lot of calls. I charge my card with $50 every 2 or 3 months. And I use a cheap phone. I’m doing better against these vampire corporations by doing this, than to buy their flashy phones and then post a protest online…


ben January 11, 2010 at 4:58 pm

A “typical” bill? I don’t think so.


John January 11, 2010 at 5:32 pm

For anyone who has actually looked at their phone bill, or actually looked at their rate plan before purchasing, none of this is surprising at all and is in fact more confusing than the bill itself.


Anthony January 11, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Thats why you use at&t with unlimited txt talk and internet. saves a load….. probably


Craig T January 11, 2010 at 5:54 pm

LOL, WHAT! This must be a pay as you go phone or something. Because Verizon doesn’t charge for roaming. Also I own a blackberry and have never had a 350$ data charge. As well you can alter your plan before your bill for the month is up to not get charged these amounts. BE SmART PEOPLE.


Jen February 19, 2011 at 8:56 am

Yes, Verizon is going to charge you for romaing (if you are outside the US)
If you are roamng, they are charging you .02 a kilobyte for date which includes (internet and bmm) My bf just went to DR and he was only using bbm and his bil came back at $1,500. They charge you text received (even if you didn’t open). He is currently fighting this right now and he has been a customer for over 10 yr!


Lupin January 12, 2010 at 6:00 am

Is this real? I’ve never seen such prices! Here in Austria I get 2000 free minutes EU wide, 1000 free minutes within the own provider network, 1000 free textmessages and 3GB of data volume for a total of 25€ (35$ ?) a month. And I didn’t even search for a better offer, but listed the first one I found. A plan that would cover all the usage of the listed bill, would cost around 5€ (7$).

And what’s with this “incoming call”? You have to pay for this, too, if it’s not in the plan? Never heard of that either here.


Phone Freak January 12, 2010 at 8:55 am

I can’t make heads or tails of this graphic. It seems like random nonsense and the math is faulty.

On the matter of cell phone plans, the issue is the providers intentional effort to trap customers with overage charges. Plans describe themselves as unlimited text or voice but, they have undisclosed limits that, when exceeded, result in overage charges or termination. Some plans have “unlimited data” but, mysteriously classify data and internet access as two different things and heap overage charges on unsuspecting users.

The issue is that cell phone providers continue to use predatory practices against consumers and they continue to be allowed to do it.

How and why are they allowed to advertise “unlimited” when it is indeed limited? It is patent false advertising but, they continue to get away with it every day!


Mitchell January 12, 2010 at 10:47 am

this is dumb. you obviously know nothing of phone bills, BillShrink Guy.


Chris January 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

I doubt the validity of your sample bill. You’re taking the listed per minute call charges and per kb data charges and extrapolating your figures from that, giving no consideration to the fact that the majority of cell phone plans include allotments of minutes and kbs for use before those charges come into effect. Your $178.25 for 125 minutes of airtime is not reasonable. I don’t know of any contract plans that offer such a low amount of minutes for such a high cost. More likely, the charge for airtime usage should be around $35 for well over 400 minutes. Data is another factor that needs to be modified. Unlimited data use plans are available from most carriers for much less than $351.00. I think $20-25 is a safe number for most unlimited data plans. Unlimited messaging plans are also available for $10-20. If we put that together, the average phone bill shouldn’t run more than $65-80, not including any roaming charges from international calls.


Stop Complaining January 12, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I have a phone plan with three phones on it. There is 500 anyitime minutes and unlimited night and weekend. There is also unlimited mobile to mobile. No texting or data plan and my monthly bill rarely breaks 80 dollars. At&T FTW.


anthony January 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm

ive checked my bill and all of what i said above cost about $80 but ive also dont have unlimited talk so i get 1000 min with roll over so yhea at&t ftw


CuriousEllie January 12, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Bill, as the previous posters said, your point is well taken, but you could’ve come up with a better example to get the message across. This isn’t a good example of a “Typical Cell phone user”, and nor of his/her behavior, not even those with Smartphones!

In the span of one month, who travels abroad, takes a cruise, travels internationally and while doing so watches YouTube videos? And few, very few, are unaware of the per MB charge associated with a Smartphone, thus the availability of data pkgs for those who have such phones. (Though I did see in the fine print for Verizon that one could be charged as much as $15 per kB under certain cirmcumstances.)

Nevertheless, good job on the infographic visual layout, as always. And btw, I don’t have a Smartphone, don’t go over my minutes usage, have unlimited text, don’t use video or data, but have a cell phone bill of $US 75.00 per month, which I think is way too high…!


catherine johnson January 19, 2010 at 12:55 pm

thanks for letting me know im already on a good plan with sprint maybe ill stick with them after all


ouch2 February 18, 2010 at 6:45 am

We ALL need to complain to two different groups that I have listed below. If we all flooded these web sites with complaints then MAYBE something will be done. Complaining on a forum does not get us anywhere but to help us vent our frustration.
Cell phone bills go to
complain to the Federal Trade Commission.
This goes for your gas and electric bill, cable, direct TV, etc.
If we don’t start doing this as a whole, a few complaints a company will dismiss, but if they were flooded with complaints then MAYBE something will be done.
I for one am disputing a .92 charge for “Administrative fees” on my Verizon cell phone. When I asked a mamager at the customer service dept about this he said it was a “Federal” charge and that they have no control over it. I told him that I WILL NOT PAY A BUSINESS TO DO THEIR PAPERWORK! THis is really getting out of control on all of our bills if you have noticed. I think the Gas and Electric company will soon be running out of words and ways to add charges on our bills. Contact your state and local reps, email them and complain. If we just sit and take it these companies will nickle and dime us for everything we have because they can get away with it.
As for the gas and electric bill, in Michigan, complain to the MICHIGAN PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION who is responsible for allowing all the extra charges on our bills. WE ALL NEED TO FIGHT BACK!


Andy July 30, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I agree with Jonathan Grand. People need to stop buying flashy phones and data plans that they dont use. I realized I was one of those people so I switched to prepaid with Tracfone. Phone prices start around $10 and my service averages less than $7 a month when I bought a $20 airtime card, which provides me 60 minutes of airtime and three months of service. Tracfone has given m the safety and security of a wireless phone without the problems of a contract and monthly fees.


jake mayer March 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm

i have a very stupid question, im getting a new phone from sprint, do i pay for my first month of service after or before my first month, just trying to learn how to manage a cell phone bill, and im never on this blog so just email me ur answer at, thanks, appreciate it


Alex Gutow March 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Hi Jake,

Yup, usually you pay the first month in advance + the time you use the phone before your month actually begins. Expect this first bill to be a bit higher.


SprintMan April 14, 2011 at 10:37 am



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