SPECIAL REPORT: Cell Phone Plan Confusion - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Cell Phone Plan Confusion

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(WTVM) -

When it comes to figuring out the right smart phone plan, many people suffer from cell phone confusion.

There are thousands of combinations to choose from when you're selecting and customizing your plan.

Talk time, texting and data usage costs the Boone family about $240 a month. They would like to pay less, but when it comes to finding the best plan it's a pricing puzzle.

The four major U.S. cellular carriers combined offer about 200 different plans.

Validas, which is a mobile analytics firm, has some answers for consumers.

The company crunched the numbers and found that within those plans, there are also thousands of combinations available for options like messaging, data services and device protection.

"You have to have a choice for consumers, but then that choice creates confusion because when people want to buy they want things simple," said Todd Dunphy, the president of Validas.

Dunphy claimed plan confusion often results in wireless waste. That's the difference between what you pay for your mobile plan and what you actually use.

The company found last year Americans overpaid more than $52 billion and 83 percent of users with high data plan limits didn't use all they paid for within the plans.

"People are over-buying in the fear that they're going to go over, but in fact what they keep doing is never using that- those gigabytes they're buying," said Dunphy.

Thanks to the FCC pressure on carriers, 97 percent of wireless customers now get alerts if they're about to exceed their plan limits, so there's no overage charge "bill shock."

So how do you know if you're on the right plan?

Most major cellular providers websites offer plan calculators. Consumers can also call their carrier for an analysis.

The National Consumers League recommends reviewing three months worth of bills.

"Are you using less voice than you thought you were going to?" commented John Breyault from the National Consumer League. "Are you using more texts that you thought you would? See if there's a way that you can adjust your cell phone plan or maybe switch carriers to find one that better meets your needs for a cheaper cost."

Validas did an analysis of the Boone's bill and found they don't need "unlimited data."

Simply changing to a "shared data plan" should save them $400 a year.

Amy Boone is happy about the extra money she'll now get to keep in her pocket, and is thankful for the help.

"It's a huge headache to try to figure this stuff out. I think a lot of people just let it go," said Amy Boone.

Many carriers recently updated their plans so now is a perfect time to check and see if there's a better one for you.

There are some other ways to save as well.

Use WiFi when you can to surf the web from your phone, which will save on data.

If you have cell phone insurance look closely at how much you're really paying over the life of your contract.

Also look at the deductible, and make sure it's worth it.

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