Save on Cell Phone Plans


Time to Start Saving on your Cell Bill

There is so much change going on in the telecom space here in Israel that it's hard to keep up.  First there was the ability to move your number from carrier to carrier, then there was the rescinding of all long term contracts associated with cell phone usage and now we are on the threshold of new competition by the likes of Rami Levi.

What does all this mean for you and me?  Simply put, saving money.  You will have to be willing to spend some time haggling with the sales reps, but from what I recently experienced you should see a significant drop in your cell phone bills.

Baruch Habah Rami Levi
Rami Levi is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator).  This means that Rami Levi buys minutes and usage from an existing telephone carrier and then resells the time & usage to his new customers.  Rami Levi is acting like a wholesaler & retailer rolled into one.  They formally announced their pricing to the public (Check out the YNET article on the topic).  The picture that is becoming clearer is that the average citizen has been over-paying for cellular services for a long time.  I imagine that Rami Levi is not doing this to lose money and that built in to his pricing structure is some profit.  Even with this profit, it looks like we have been overpaying for usage by at least 50%.  It is almost sickening to think about it.  Enough with the reflection, let's get down to the numbers.

Beware:  Prices will be changing
Before I do present what I've found, I would like to remind you that the numbers I am providing are only good as of the day of publishing this article.  There will be many changes to the pricing and plans over the next little while due to the recent changes, so please use the information only as a guide for what you should find as you go out to re-negotiate your plan.

Cellcom Example
As an example my daughter has a plan with Cellcom.  She speaks less than 60 minutes a month and sends around 150 sms's a month.  For this privilege I have been paying around 175 shekels a month.  After speaking with a Cellcom representative the price went to 70 shekels a month; a 60% discount on what I was paying previously.  If I were to move to Rami Levi I would be paying 34.50 per month (based on 60 minutes talk and 150 sms's).  Work out the savings!!!!!! Remember that at Rami Levi you will have to pay for a sim card and possibly a cell phone.

Please see my cellphone comparison spreadsheet which compares the plans from all the various carriers.  The list is not all inclusive.  I tried to stick with plans with 100-200 minutes and 100-200 SMS's in a month.

The Importance of Haggling
Haggling, or negotiating is not a skill they teach you in school nor are most of us comfortable with the task, given the  foreign language.  However if you are to benefit from the reductions you will need to learn to haggle.   In my Cellcom example above, the representative first came back at me with the usual pitch.  She checked our bills from the last 3 months to get an idea of the usage.  She then tried to find a plan which was around the same amount as I'm currently paying (175 NIS) .  In this case, she offered me a plan with 500 SMS's and 150 minutes.  Obviously this was not why I called them in the first place.  When I challenged the agent with "Is this the best you can do?" she replied that this was not her final offer.  I told her from the outset that I was interested in reducing the bill, so I challenged her again as to why she was wasting my time with "non-final offer" deals.  She put me on hold.  After 5 minutes on hold, she told me that she would return to me in an hour.  She did.  That is when she offered the 70 NIS plan above.  Could I have dropped it more?  Possibly, but for now I was happy with the small victory.

Don't forget to speak to the Manager
Another possible approach is to ask the representative for their best price to keep you as a customer.  With today's new rules you can switch out very easily and they know that, so use it, when negotiating a deal.  If you find yourself with many phones in your family I would try using the multiple lines as leverage to getting a better deal when negotiating.  If all else fails, ask to speak to the manager.

The Phone
As most of you will experience when you speak to a representative or when you go into one of their sales centers you will be offered a "free" phone or a phone discount against usage.  These phone deals are very tempting, however you should be aware and beware.  The phone plans still commit you to 36 months with the carrier.  This means that if you decide to leave your carrier you will still need to continue to pay for the phone (without the credit).  If you decide to upgrade your phone during the 36 month period you will need to pay for the old phone and the new phone.  Finally, the cell phones offered by the carriers are usually heavily marked up.  Phones which are priced at 1000 NIS can be found on the internet for sometimes 40-60% less.  What this means is that if you decide to upgrade you will continue to pay for a highly over-priced phone without getting any benefit.  If you decide to move carriers then the new carrier may give you a credit for the phone.  I believe the rules on these phone plans will change as well.  In the meantime, if possible, stay clear of these plans unless absolutely necessary.

Feedback on this Post
From my previous articles I received many positive emails and feedback on this topic.  It was very gratifying to receive the feedback, but I believe that many would benefit from the combined input.  I would therefore like to suggest that if you have an experience with a Telecom carrier that you wish to share with others who could benefit, please do so by making a comment after this post.

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