Thursday, November 17, 2011

Selecting the Right Cell Phone Plan for your Soldier

From Israel Defense Forces Photostream on Flikr
As you and your child prepare for the next step in their Israeli experience it is important to remember that the cell phone will become the primary vehicle for keeping in touch with the young adult. All the major cell phone companies provide special programs for your soldier.  These plans are typically much more attractive than the cheapest carrier plans on the market, so it pays to take a look and choose the best plan for your needs.

Now that the cell companies cannot lock you into a plan, the decision making has become a bit less stressful.  If you decide that you are not happy with the plan that you chose, you can make a change without any change fees or exit penalties and you can keep your number as you move from company to company.  (The new rules on no exit fees only apply to the talk/sms/internet plan.  Any deals you make for a physical phone will usually last a full 36 months and if you decide to exist prior to the end of the 36 month period, you will have to pay the remaining fee.)

All of the companies require you to provide an enlisting document from the Israeli Army.  Your son or daughter will receive these documents at least a year prior to their entry date.  This means that you can already benefit from the soldier plans a year before he/she goes into the army.

There are two types of plans: talk and pay or monthly minutes plans.  Depending on the usage you should consider which plan best fits the needs of your son or daughter.

Please see my spreadsheet on the various carriers plans for talk and pay and month minute plans.

Purchasing Telephones
From my experience, if your child will be in the field in a combat role, the phone will take a beating on many levels.  In addition, unfortunately there have been circumstances where phones have been stolen or lost.  When this happens you are left with finding a replacement, which is not always easy to do when your soldier has only every other weekend to make it home.  Therefore I would recommend staying away from expensive smartphones as much as the deals from the carriers look tempting. BTW even the operators' insurance plans are not totally inclusive and you may find yourself having to shell out funds to fix or replace the phone.

Cell Phone Insurance
I would also suggest to look into the insurance plans of each of the carriers.  If the phone breaks or is lost or stolen then the phone can be fixed and replaced at reduced rates, and at the same time receive a loaner phone until the phone is fixed.  When speaking with the carrier ask them specifics about what the insurance covers and what it does not.

Another option is to purchase the cheapest phone possible so that in case the phone breaks or is lost, you can replace it with another cheap phone.  The downside with this is that your soldier may not be interested in walking around with the cheapest phone.
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