Frequently Asked Questions

BillShrink provides a free, web-based service that provides users with personalized recommendations for everyday services such as cell phone plans and credit cards. These recommendations are computed in real-time by matching your indicated usage profile against literally millions of different market options. The results enable you to view and compare options so that you can make a well-informed decision that maximizes your savings.

To learn more about a specific application, please choose the corresponding link below:

Wireless Overview

The BillShrink application for wireless enables you to discover the best cell phone carrier and plan to meet your personal usage requirements, with the best call quality, at the lowest cost. There are hundreds of cell phone plans available on the market, with literally millions of various plan/add-on combinations. With all this unavoidable complexity, there is no single “right” answer for everyone; rather, the optimal choice depends squarely on how you personally use your cell phone (i.e. who you call, when you call, how much you call, whether you use SMS, etc.) To solve this problem, our application allows you to interactively describe your wireless usage profile, and in return, receive comprehensive, real-time analysis and feedback on which plans are the best fit for you.

In the section below, you will find responses to the following frequently asked questions about BillShrink’s wireless application:

How are the plans ranked?

We rank plans as a function of the two parameters that wireless subscribers tend to care most about: 1) how much a plan costs; and 2) which carriers will provide the best call quality. For cost, we leverage our in-depth understanding of how each plan is structured to calculate exactly how much your cell phone usage would cost on that plan. Naturally, the plans that support your usage with the lowest associated cost are rated highest in the cost dimension. For call quality, we perform a comparison of the expected signal strength provided by each carrier’s network at the locations that matter most to you (i.e. at home, at work, etc). The carriers with the strongest network in those areas will rank the highest in the call quality dimension. Lastly, we combine the cost and coverage sub-rankings to come up with an aggregate plan rank.

How do I personalize my wireless profile?

Upon entering the wireless application for the first time, you will be given the opportunity to provide your wireless usage profile. There are two options, as represented by the two tabs on the usage profile page. The first option is to “Manually Estimate Usage,” which allows you to use the interactive form to enter details about your usage (i.e. how many anytime minutes you use, how much you currently spend per month, whether you use text messaging, etc). The second option is to “Import My Bill.” With this method, BillShrink will automatically create your usage profile by analyzing the actual cell phone usage details from your most recent monthly billing statement. Once you are in the application and reviewing your recommendations, you can see a summary of your usage profile in the top-left corner and may be able to refine your profile by selecting the “Edit Usage Profile” button.

How do you factor for the strength of coverage provided by the wireless carriers?

Since most cell phone users expect a reliable signal and clear call quality from their wireless service provider, a key aspect of our plan recommendation service is to analyze how each carrier’s network is expected to perform in the locations that are important to you. For example, when you provide us with your home and work addresses (full street address or just a zip code), we will determine the expected signal strength from each carrier at the indicated locations, as well as the commute path in between the locations. The signal strength ratings for any particular location are expressed in the number of bars you might expect to see on your cell phone. Naturally, the greater the number of bars, the better the expected cell phone signal, which lets you quickly compare the carriers against one another in terms of personalized network coverage. The signal strength ratings we provide are based on network coverage information published by each of the carriers, which is typically based on the location and configuration of their cell towers and network infrastructure. While we are confident that we are basing our recommendations on the most reliable information available, please note there are a number of external factors (i.e. weather, trees, buildings, handset-specific issues, etc.) which may lead to your actual signal strength experience differing from our indicated rating.

How do you determine my personalized savings?

A key aspect of our analysis is calculating how much each plan would cost you for your indicated (or imported) usage profile. Since we compute those values as part of our analysis, as long as we know how much you are currently spending per month, we will show you precisely how much money you can save with different plans. If you also tell us the status of your wireless contract (if you are currently under contract), we can factor in any applicable activation and termination fees and give you a bottom-line savings figure. To get a detailed breakdown of how the savings figure was computed for any plan, simply click on the “How this is calculated” link at the bottom of each recommendation.

Why should I use the “Bill Import” feature?

It’s quite simple — the more we know about your wireless usage, the more precisely we can assess how all the plan alternatives fit with your personal profile. By choosing to let BillShrink analyze your bill, we spare you from having to recall and manually input your usage details. Moreover, the automated import feature also allows us to understand your usage in greater detail. Think about the 20+ page cell phone bill many of us receive each month – BillShrink takes into account every line item on that bill to understand exactly how you use your cell phone. With this level of detail, we can calculate precisely how much your monthly usage would cost on every other plan on the market. In addition, once the bill import is successfully completed, we will display a detailed overview of your bill that will help you gain insights relating to your wireless usage patterns. Also, please be assured that BillShrink is committed to protecting your secure information and only uses your account information for the purposes of connecting to your account on your behalf.

What if I don’t already have an online account with my wireless carrier?

Fortunately, it is quick and easy to register for an online account with your current wireless service provider. Please visit your carrier’s website and follow the steps to sign-up for an account so that you may leverage our “Import My Bill” feature.

How do I use the signal strength map feature?

The coverage map provides a visual interface for quickly viewing and comparing the signal strength provided by each carrier’s network in the locations most important to you. There is a large map that is accessible via the “View Map” link adjacent to the signal strength indicators in every recommendation.

How can you help me stay on the best plan?

Change is inevitable. Your usage patterns may change over time. Or, there could be changes in the market with the introduction of new plans, adjustments to existing plans, upgrades to carrier networks, or if your frequent contacts switch to a different carrier, etc. Our goal is to keep you updated of these changes in case they affect which plan is best for you. If you activate the monitoring service for wireless feature (accessible via the “Monitoring Alerts” page in the “My Account” section of the website), we can automatically track and inform you if your set of recommendations varies. Our goal is to build a long-term relationship with our users to help them continue to make intelligent purchase decisions.

If I switch to one of the recommended plans, will I still be able to keep my existing cell phone number?

Yes. With some recent regulatory changes (known as number portability, everyone now has the right to take their cell phone number even if they switch to a different wireless carrier. You will simply need to follow the instructions provided by each of the carriers during checkout to ensure that your number is transferred to your new cell phone service.

How does BillShrink maintain neutrality among the carriers included in the analysis?

BillShrink’s core commitment to our users is to provide unbiased and objective recommendations. Several key principles define our approach and serve to ensure our neutrality:

1. Our methodology for collecting carrier data (such as cell phone plan pricing, features, terms, limitations, add-ons, phones, etc.) is consistently applied to all carriers.

2. Our technology collects carrier data that has been made publicly available and operates in a consistent fashion across carriers. In addition, carriers may opt to provide supplementary data to BillShrink and that access is made equally available to all carriers. However, provision of supplementary data does not inherently affect the recommendations. Any carrier wishing to engage with BillShrink to share data can contact us here.

3. The recommendations are computed by performing a standardized analysis of the carrier data that is consistent across each of the considered carriers.

4. The algorithms underlying the recommendations give equal consideration to all carriers included in our analysis.

Any limitations? What should I need to keep in mind when using the wireless application?

We’re confident that the BillShrink service provides the most accurate and detailed analysis for cell phone plan recommendations available anywhere. And we pride ourselves on continuously updating and innovating our features. That being said, there are a few limitations that are worth keeping in mind:

- Carriers covered. Our recommendations are computed by reviewing the plans available from the four national carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. These four service providers are the largest carriers in the U.S. and collectively serve ~80% of the wireless subscribers. While we may expand our carrier coverage set over time, we do not currently include US Cellular, Boost, MetroPCS, Cricket and therefore you would not see recommendations from those carriers, even if they may ultimately qualify as lower-cost alternatives.

- Freshness of data. Our system is designed to continuously update the plan data which appears on our site and which is used for the calculation of your recommendations. However, there is a possibility, that on limited occasions, the data in our system (i.e. plan pricing, availability, features, add-on matrix, etc.) will differ from that which is made available at the carriers’ websites and/or in their stores.

- Coverage maps. Our signal strength maps are based on data published by the carriers and not independently verified by BillShrink. It is possible you may find that the signal strength you experience with a carrier may vary from the signal strength indicated by BillShrink due to lack of precision in the source data. Fortunately, most carriers have limited trial periods that will allow you to try a new service provider and return your phone if the actual coverage is not satisfactory.

- Pricing exclusive of taxes and fees. Our recommendations cite a monthly cost (based on the published cost of the base plan, attached add-ons and estimated overages) which does not include surcharges from taxes and regulatory fees.

- Analysis based on manually estimated usage. When you define your usage profile via the “Manual Estimate Usage” approach, our algorithm may need to make certain assumptions about your usage in order to compute your personalized recommendations. These assumptions are typically based on analysis of aggregate usage profile data, but may nonetheless vary from your actual usage. In addition, our analysis and resulting recommendations may not be 100% accurate due to limitation of information available. There are a few important notes to keep in mind related to this feature:

a. The analysis is primarily oriented around anytime minutes. As such, your individual requirement for other minute types (such as “night & weekend” minutes) is not factored into the recommendations.

b. When you provide entries for one or more frequently-called phone numbers, we make an assumption for the number of minutes you use with the specified number(s) in order to assess the applicability of mobile-to-mobile calling features for each plan evaluated. Likewise, assumptions may be incorporated with respect to clustering patterns to assess applicability of special features like “myFaves.”

c. When aggregate usage data is provided for multi-line users, our engine estimates the usage breakdown by line.

The examples above are representative, but not intended to be comprehensive. As a general suggestion to enhance the accuracy of your analysis, we recommend using the “Import My Bill” path for providing your usage profile details.

Analysis based on bill import. When you use the “Import My Bill” feature, our recommendation engine is armed with a very detailed view of your cell phone usage patterns and therefore can provide the most accurate recommendations. There are a few important notes to keep in mind related to the bill import feature:

a. Currently the “Import My Bill” feature only works for accounts with the 4 large national carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Users who are currently with another carrier are required to use the “Manually Estimate Usage” path at the current time.

b. Though we are continuously testing and improving the bill import system, we know that there are many variances between online billing statements, even within the same carrier. Therefore it is possible that the bill import feature may not work for your specific bill, even if you are with one of the supported carriers. In the event this happens, you will receive a notification that the bill import was unsuccessful and we encourage you to notify us so that we may quickly investigate the issue.

c. The bill import feature is currently configured to analyze a single monthly bill and will automatically select the most recent monthly statement available in your account.

d. Our analysis may exclude certain types of usage elements, such as international calling and roaming surcharges.

Where do you get your deals and special offers from?

Occasionally you may see deals, discounts, and special offers from BillShrink, on the website or via email. These deals are hand-picked from a variety of our partners, including online coupon site Savings.com

Credit Cards Overview

The BillShrink application for credit cards enables you to discover the best credit card that meets your personal usage requirements and provides the lowest cost of ownership. There are hundreds of credit cards available on the market, with literally millions of points of distinctions among them. With all this unavoidable complexity, there is no single “right” answer for everyone; rather, the optimal choice depends squarely on how you personally use your credit card. To solve this problem, our application allows you to interactively describe your credit card usage profile, and in return, receive comprehensive, real-time analysis and feedback on which cards are the best fit for you.

In the section below, you will find responses to the following frequently asked questions about the Credit Cards application:

Why does it matter whether I pay off my bill each month?

Generally, credit card users can be grouped by: 1) those that don’t pay off their bill each month and therefore carry a balance; and 2) those that do pay off their bill each month. We segment users by these groups to ensure that we fully address their distinct objectives.

We help users who carry a balance find a card that is optimized for the best combination of financing rates and fees. This requires analysis of all the cards on the market, compared against an individual’s usage profile, to determine the one that provides the lowest cost of ownership – accounting for introductory rates, regular interest rates, service fees, penalty rates, etc. As a result, you can see exactly how much it will cost you to carry any specific card and therefore save money by choosing the lowest-cost card.

For users who pay off their bill in full each month, we help them find a card that is optimized with reward programs that provide the greatest personal value. This requires analysis of all the cards on the market to determine the overall dollar value of the card’s rewards program. Our algorithms review the key aspects of an individual’s usage profile, such as spending categories and reward redemption preferences, so they can see how the cards compare and make a selection on one that pays rewards them the most to carry it.

How do you calculate the value of rewards for a card?

In order to facilitate comparison of credit cards which feature different types of reward structures (i.e. points cards vs. miles card vs. cash-back cards), we calculate a bottom-line value figure for every card. This analysis has three major components:

1. First, we compute the number of reward units that a user would accrue in the selected time interval (3 years is the default setting). This computation looks at how much a user spends and the distribution among the major spend categories. That spend pattern is then matched up against a card’s reward-earning rules. For example, one card may earn 1 point per $1 spent. Another card may earn 2 miles per $1 spent. Yet another card may earn 5 points for the $1 spent on groceries for the first 12 months and 3 points per $1 spent thereafter. Our system tracks all of these subtle reward earning rules for more than 200 cards and is therefore able to determine the total number of reward units that would be earned for any given usage profile. In addition, we factor for sign-up bonuses, annual bonuses and earning limits, where applicable.

2. Next, we convert the reward units earned by each card into its dollar value. For cash-back cards, this is straightforward. However, for points and miles cards, it is a bit trickier as it requires assigning a dollar value to each point/mile and that value tends to vary according to what the user wishes to redeem the rewards for. Our application allows the user to select the items they wish to redeem for via the “Redemption Options” checkboxes in the left-sidebar. Based on which redemption options have been selected, we determine which category will provide the highest dollar value and use that rate to value the card’s rewards. Consider the following example:

A user has selected “Airfare and Hotels” as his redemption preferences. That user is looking at a particular card which earns points and is associated with a rewards program that allows for redemption for airfare and hotels. The user could get a $100 hotel voucher for 10,000 points or a $200 airfare voucher for 10,000 points. In this case, the value of a point when redeemed for hotels is $0.01 and the value of the same point when redeemed for airfare is $0.02. So in this case, we value the user’s rewards at a rate of $0.02 per point.

3. As a result of the first two steps, we arrive at a dollar value that represents what the user effectively earns from the card. The last step is to deduct any fees that the user has to pay for using the card. The most common fee is an annual fee and there is occasionally a specific rewards program fee as well.

The application provides a detailed view into its analysis for each card, which is available by clicking the “See how this is calculated” link below the chart for any card.

How do you calculate the total cost (i.e. projected charges and fees) for a card?

In order to facilitate comparison between cards with disparate interest rates and fee schedules, we calculate a bottom-line cost for each card. This analysis has three major components:

1. First, we review the user’s inputs to compute their monthly balances over time. The initial balance is set to be the indicated current balance (we assume it is transferred in full to the new card). The transfer and purchase balances are then projected out based on how much the user spends and pays-off each month. The amount the user pays is applied to the balance with the lowest prevailing rate at a given point in time.

2. The next step is to calculate the costs associated with those balances. Financing charges for purchases and balance transfers are computed on a monthly basis by taking the applicable rate, factoring in for introductory periods and penalty rates (which can be triggered by late payments). This leads to a sub-total cost for financing charges.

3. The last step is to calculate applicable fees, such as annual fee, late payment fees and balance transfer fee. The fees sub-total is added to the financing sub-total to arrive at a total card cost.

The application provides a detailed view into its analysis for each card, which is available by clicking the “How this is calculated” link below the chart for any card.

What will you tell me about each card that you recommend?

Each credit card is ranked and recommended according to how its attributes match up with your personal usage profile. The key elements of the card are displayed in the base result pane. Additional card details are accessible by clicking the “How this is calculated” link on the bottom edge of each recommendation. Moreover, each card also has a comprehensive details page that includes detailed information on rates, fees, rewards parameters, features/benefits and user reviews.

How do you determine my personalized savings?

By indicating which card you currently use as your primary card, using our comprehensive analysis, we can compare how the recommended cards compare against your existing card.


How can you help me stay on the best card?

The credit card market changes quickly. Interest rates can fluctuate on a daily basis. New cards come onto the market frequently. Earning parameters of rewards program can have promotional benefits periodically. These changes may be relevant to you depending on your usage profile. Our goal is to keep you updated on these changes in the event that they do in fact affect your card recommendations and ability to save money. By enrolling in our monitoring service, we automatically track how your set of recommended cards vary each month and will notify you by email of any new recommendations.


Any limitations? What should I need to keep in mind when using the credit card application?

We’re confident that the BillShrink service provides the most accurate and detailed analysis of credit card recommendations available anywhere. And we pride ourselves on continuously updating and innovating our features. That being said, there are a few limitations that are worth keeping in mind:

- Coverage of cards on the market. Our recommendations are computed by reviewing 200+ of the most popular credit cards offered by most of the major credit card issuers. We are constantly adding more cards to the system, but the recommendations are always limited to the scope of cards that are available in the system at that point in time. Please note that we occasionally are required to exclude certain cards/issuers from our system due to industry compliance requirements. For example, at the current time, cards from Chase are not included in our analysis.

- Freshness of data. Our system is designed to continuously update the card data which appears on our site and which is used for the calculation of your recommendations. However, there is a possibility that on limited occasions the data in our system (i.e. card pricing, availability, features, terms, etc.) will differ from that which is made available at the issuers’ websites.

- Published rates vs. personal rates. When you provide your current primary card, we compute savings relative to the recommended cards compared to the currently published rates for your current card. You may find that your actual current rate may differ from the currently published rate, in which case our savings calculation will be not fully accurate.

Gas Stations Overview

The BillShrink application for gas stations enables you to discover the best gas station for your individual profile. The objective of the application is to provide insight on the lowest-cost gas station given an individual’s home location or typical commute path. In either case, the application automatically computes the real dollar cost of going out of your way to visit any particular gas station, thereby arriving at the “true cost” of gas for each alternative. The application provides a real-time set of recommendation and also is able to continue monitoring changing gas prices to provide changes to the recommendation set via email-based alerts.

In the section below, you will find responses to the following frequently asked questions about the gas station application:

Why does BillShrink monitor gas stations?
Gasoline is a top household expense and the price can vary widely among gas stations – even those right next to one another! Moreover, the price at any individual station can change several times a day. Being able to track all these changes and repeatedly pick the best station is a task that is particularly well suited to algorithmic expertise. Our application allows you to find the lowest price gas station in your area at any point in time.

How do you calculate the “true cost” of the gas?
We want you to get an accurate picture of the “true cost” of gas represented by each station and that includes the cost of driving out of your way to get to that particular station. So we compute your personalized cost for visiting each station based on the retail fuel price, your car and your specific commute path.

How do you track the prices at each station?
Our service integrates two industry-leading sources – GasBuddy & OPIS – to provide our gas pricing data. Gas prices are updated several times per day and we select the source with the most recent update at any given time to ensure you’re seeing an accurate price. On occasion, you may find that the price we display is different from the one displayed at the station – in which case you (or fellow BillShrink members) may update the price directly in the application for an immediate update.

What else can you tell me about the gas stations you’re recommending?
In addition to highlighting the cost of gas at each station (both the retail pump cost and the “true cost”), we also provide information on key station features for many stations. For example, whether a station accepts credit cards, has a car wash, etc.

How do you determine my personalized savings?
If you have a “usual” gas station and share that with us in our application, we will show you how much each of the recommended stations may be able to save you relative to your regular station.

How can I always know what station is the best?
We can keep you updated on your gas station recommendations via email by turning on the “Savings Alerts” service. (Go to the “My Account” tab and click on “Monitoring Alerts”`). We will send you an email that tells you the lowest price gas station on your commute. You can control the frequency that we notify you.

Any limitations? What should I keep in mind when using the gas application?
We’re confident that the BillShrink service provides the most accurate and detailed analysis of gas stations available. That said, there are a few limitations that are worth keeping in mind:
• Not every gas station in the US is covered by our analysis. We currently track 130K+ stations and are adding more each day, but you may find that certain stations in your area are not included in our analysis.
• We make a significant effort to keep our gas prices as updated as possible. However, we are dependent up on third-party data and therefore are limited by their ability to provide the latest pricing data. Our algorithm makes recommendations based on the data available at any available time.
• We do not independently verify the features associated with a station. So while we make a significant effort to keep our feature data updated, it is limited by third-party data availability and assumptions we make for particular gas station brands.

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