Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Now is the Time to Save on your Cell Phone 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.

Don't forget to +1 me
One last request.  If you enjoyed the article, press the +1 button below.

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.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nice tool to search for Jobs in Israel

Are you looking for a job? Do you find yourself having to search many different sites everyday for new listings? Do you find your email box loaded with job alerts from many different job sites?  If you wish to reduce the drudgery of searching online then I would suggest you try out the job listing search tool provided by: which I came across the other day.

You can use their job search tool online at their website or download their app for android and iphones.  The tool allows you to search multiple job sites and view the integrated results on one page.  It also allows you to save job keywords and location keywords and then have the site automatically send you the results of your search everyday to your email.

The site takes feeds from most of the popular jobsites (jobinfo, israemploy, alljobs and many more), so that you can get a quick summary of what is out there, quickly.  The format is similar to that of Google so it won't take you long to learn how it works.

Try it out and let me know if you agree with my assessment.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's Official - Exit Telephone & Internet Contracts with minimal fees

As of tomorrow you will be able to exit your Telephone, Internet and Cable contracts without a major penalty. The maximum the service providers will be able to charge is 8% of your bill multiplied by the number of months remaining on your contract.

It may be difficult to get through to the providers over the next little while as I anticipate many wishing to make a change.  Here is one article in Hebrew from the Marker about the topic: