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Thread: How Cingular does things. (Comparison shop with other providers)

  1. #1
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    How Cingular does things. (Comparison shop with other providers)

    Cingular does some things that I have a problem with, but if you know what they are you can avoid them with these tips.

    Definition: Monthly Billing Cycle:
    Cingular bills you from one date of the month, until that day minus one next month. (IE: from the 20th to the 19th) There isn't a list of these dates set in stone for everyone to look at, but you will be assigned one arbitrarily when you start service. What this means is that on the first day of that cycle, you will be billed the monthly service cost for the next ~30 days and the full amount of minutes included in your plan will become available to you.

    Definition: Cycle Close Date:
    The last day of the billing cycle, in the earlier instance it was the 19th. So the 19th is the last day you will be on that plan, with the 20th the first day to use new minutes and be billed for the coming ~30 days.

    Definition: Date of Activation:
    The day you are able to make / receive calls.

    What I hate #1: Partial Service from date of activation to cycle close date.
    The first day you are able to make/receive calls on your phone until that "cycle close date" will most likely not be a full cycle. You will usually have some amount less than 15 days before you start your full month. In this "partial month" you are only charged a "percentage" of your monthly service, you are also given that same "percentage" of your monthly minutes. So lets say your on a plan for $60/month with 1000 minutes. If you have exactly 15 days (IE: activated on the 4th with a cycle close date of the 19th) then you will be charged $30 (monthly cost of plan divided by 30 day billing cycle, times the days you are on it) and given 500 minutes (minutes in a billing cycle divided by 30 days in a month times the number of days you are on it). So from the time you walk out of the store until your first new cycle you are on a "prorated" amount of minutes.
    If you exceed this "prorated" amount of minutes, you will be charged the overage rate, but if you stay below that overage rate, Cingulars rollover minutes will not go into effect until the first full 30 day billing cycle.
    So the customer who goes over loses.
    The customer who goes under loses.
    How to protect yourself: When you first sign up, ask if you can have your close day be as soon as possible (preferably before the end of your buyers remourse period). If they are not able to change it, ask what day your billing cycle will stop at, and just keep in mind what I said about the prorated minutes so you don't go over.
    Hopefully the billing system will be updated so that whatever prorated minutes you don't use will roll over. -or- You are given the full month of minutes but only charged the prorated amount for date of activation until first close day.

    What I hate #2: First Bill
    Remeber me going on about how you would get charged a month of service on the first day of a new cycle? And that you get charged a partial month from date of activation until cycle close date? That, and the activation fee, all show up on the first bill. So your first bill is higher than what you would be charged for a normal 30 day billing cycle.
    How to protect yourself: Call up after you have activated and ask what you will be charged with activation fee and partial monthly charge, they can give you a close estimate + sales tax, but it won't include the "fees" like Federal Universal Service and 911 charges, and you can make a payment over the phone or over the website for that amount, and have the first statement that is mailed to you look approximately like it would every month. You will sometimes receive this within your 15 days to give you a better idea of what your monthly bill will look like.

    What I hate #3: 2 year contracts / 1 year manufacturers warranty
    If your phone has something go wrong with it within the first year that was the fault of the manufacturer, it will be replaced with a similar phone (it will be used and most likely of the same model). But after those 12 months, you still have a long way to go until your contract is up, and Cingular will NOT just GIVE YOU A PHONE because you are still under contract.
    How to protect yourself: $3.99 monthly insurance -or- only sign a one year contract your first year.
    $3.99/month over two years adds about $100 to what you pay for service, which will definetly buy you piece of mind. Just keep in mind that a replacement costs you $50 and can only be used twice in a 12 month period.
    The second option of this solution, the "only sign a one year contract your first year" assumes you don't want to pay for insruance. Assuming you never have problems with the phone, you can get a new one after your contract is up, and keep your original as a backup. If you don't have insurance and your phone is broken in your second month, you'll have to just buy a new phone outright for ~$100-$300 (depending on what kind of phone you want), but now you only have to wait 10 months to get a new phone, and now you have a backup phone.
    I recommend that you at least purchase insurance for the first month just in case you destroy the phone during the buyers remourse period even if you choose the second option of the 1 year contract.

    What I hate #4: What you have vs What you THINK you have.
    Mistakes happen, occasionally someone will misstate something or someone will "fat finger" in the wrong rate code and the plan you THOUGHT you had is not the one you are being billed for/against.
    How to protect yourself: When you first sign up for service, your given a pamphlet showing you your map and number of minutes and overage rate, take a good long look at it and then file it away with your copy of the contract (that pink slip they hand you) in the same place you file your other moderately important information.
    If you ever call up and need something changed, ask them to email you a confirmation of EXACTLY what changes were made to your account. Then next time you check your email you will see it, and if it doesn't look correct, call back in and ask them to make sure what you wanted to have done IS done, and if not to make it be done and have THEM email you what was not done, but what they did. (If you don't have an email address, go to Cingular.com and look for MEdia Net and sign up for a free one or have them send you the info as a text message).

    What I hate #5: Prorations: A necessary evil.
    When you start out the month, you are charged the full amount for the next ~30 days and that amount will appear on your bill, and you have a full month of minutes ahead of you, it doesn't matter if you use them on the first day, or the last day, or evenly spaced out between.
    If you want to change your plan, and you want to do it on any day other than the first day of your billing cycle, your ~30 of service will be split from the first part of the month until the day you made the change, you will be given a credit for the rest of the month that you are no longer on that plan, but the first part of the month will only have a prorated amount of minutes. So lets pretend on day 16 we decide to change plans from that $60 1000 minute to a $100 2000 minute plan. We will be given a credit of $30 (half of that $60 plan) and only allowed to have used 500 minutes within those first 15 days. Then we will be charged $50 the remainder of the month (half of the $100) and be allowed to use 1000 minutes for the remaining 15 days.
    If you exceeded 500 minutes in those first 15 days, you are charged overage, if you exceed the 1000 minutes those remaining 15 days, you are charged overage.
    How to protect yourself: Know your bill cycle dates, and if you do see some future crisis on the horizon (and you don't think you have enough rollover to cover you) call in IMMEDIATELY and request to be moved to a higher plan effective immediately so that once you start using the phone so much more, you'll already be on the higher plan.

    What I hate #6: Don't let the door hit you on the way out: Non-Prorated final month.
    Remeber all that stuff about "partial month" that happens on your first bill cycle? None of that happens on your last bill (buyers remourse is handled differntly than described here). Even if you cancel on the first day of a new cycle you are given the entire monthly minutes and charged the entire monthly charge. This isn't a big deal if you are calling in to cancel, because they will make you aware of it, but if you are porting the number out, and the port happens to complete on the first day and cancel, then you will get billed that full month.
    How to protect yourself: Be aware of your close date. Perhaps initiate the port ~7 days before to ensure enough time -or- if you "think" that it's going to complete here in "just a minute" then call in and asked to be moved to the lowest plan effective immediately, that way when it does complete you will be billed at the lowest plan rate the remainder of the month.
    Last edited by bobolito; 08-23-2004 at 04:32 PM.
    -kilo <<I used to work as a Customer Service Representative and then as a Tier II Technical Support Representative for Cingular Wireless LLC most of my info you can associate with TX OK AR KS MO>>

  2. #2
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    More Cingular Specifics to come

    Now that we've gotten that out of the way. Let's look at some other areas.

    One thing that Cingular always makes you pay for is when your phone makes a connection with the towers there is usually some sort of charge... but otherwise go nuts.

    I'm going to try and keep from "guessing" at how other companies do things, since I'm not 100% sure, I have just heard that it's "different", but I'll begin to add more posts on Cingular specifics. With the specific area in the subject.

    If you are currently with another company and want to start a post like this on their end that would be great, if possible (to make it easy) try posting in the same format.

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    Ringtones

    Ringtones

    When you first purchase a phone, there will be about a dozen or more "stock" ringtones that come with the phone, put on by the manufacturer (and usually a "Cingular Tune" as well).
    http://preview.moviso.com/PreviewCon...48/1761697.wma

    Then, you are encouraged to visit Cingular.com to purchase more.

    Depending on the kind of phone you have, you can select from "Monophonic" (One tone at a time) to "Polyphonic" (More than one tone at a time) to "Music/Voice Tones" (which are different celebrities voices or popular songs as your ringtone) as well as MP3s (provided they are in the right format). (See Cingular.com and pretend like you are downloading a ringtone to see what is available and which phones support what).

    At the Cingular.com you can listen to the tones on your computer before making a decision to purchase or not.

    You can also access the selection of ringtones by logging into the "Cingular Wireless Internet Deck" and selecting "Ringtones and Games".

    Some phones will have a link titled something like "Cingular Mall" or "Shop Ringtones" that will go directly to available ringtones.

    Prices range from $.99 for Monophonic tones, $1.99 for Polyphonic tones, and $2.49 for Music/Voice tones.

    One of the best parts of the system is that once a ringtone is downloaded to the phone, it will stay there. Forever. Unless you delete it or wipe the phones memory. Your account could be canceled or your could give your phone away, and the ringtones you downloaded would still be there. It's a one-time purchase.

    Most phones have a certain amount of space to put ringtones on. Once you reach the limit, you would have to delete them to make space.

    Remeber the mention that Cingular mainly charges you when you use their towers? If you were to use their towers to download a tone, you would have to pay some cost on top of the purchase price. The current rate for "Wireless Internet Express" (Cingulars data connection to their towers is free every month but $.01 per kilobyte, or you can pay a certain amount and get the first however many kilobytes or megabytes free; a ringtone is usually between 30 to 60 kilobytes so your looking at approximately an extra 60 cents.)

    If you can figure out how, you can get around having to pay the $.99/$1.99/$2.49 cost of a ringtone by just pointing the wap browser to the file hosted on a website. (If someone has a step-by-step guide, please post it so that everyone will know).

    Also, if you can figure out how, you can avoid the "Wireless Internet Express" cost of downloading the tone by having it sent directly from your computer to your phone using either a bluetooth or cable connection (again, more of the "as long as you don't use the towers, go nuts" philosophy).

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    Network

    Network

    Cingular currently sales GSM service and all their towers run GSM. If you are making a new purchase it will most likely be a GSM 850/1900 MHz phone.

    If you want to know if a phone runs on GSM 850/1900 you can check:
    http://www.phonescoop.com/
    Just enter in the manufacturer and model number and as long as you see it say:
    "GSM 800 / GSM 1900" (PhoneScoop considers "800" to be synonymous with 850)
    then you can use it on the Cingular network.

    If the phone is JUST GSM 1900 then Cingular has a policy of not allowing it on any new activations, but one of the beuties of GSM phones is that they have something called a "SIM" card that the phone number resides on, and if you move that SIM card from one phone to another, the phone number moves with it. While this is not recommended, it works in many locations, but some areas do block out the ability to use GSM 1900 on a Cingular phone if Cingular runs GSM 850 in that area. (Meaning: Use a GSM 1900 only phone at your own risk).

    In some areas of the country Cingular (as well as lots of other companies) used to run a technology called TDMA, and before that most everyone ran a technology called Analog, and in many areas around the country where population is sparse, you will find more areas that operate on TDMA or Analog than GSM. To suit users who would could not do without their service when in an area that doesn't run GSM, Cingular sells a "Multi-Network GAIT" phone that runs on all three networks: Analog / TDMA / GSM. To have one of these phones also requires you to have a "GAIT Plan" which is usually less minutes for the price you pay as compared to Cingular's normal plans. But for those who absolutely need the service, it is there.

  5. #5
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    Billing

    Billing

    Remeber all that stuff about "Bill Cycle End Date"? (See the first post definitions). Assuming your bill cycle ends on the 19th, on the 20th you will get a new bucket of minutes to use for the next 30 days and charged for the next 30 days. Approximately 1 week after this date a bill gets mailed out stating that you are being billed for the time period that you are currently in. The amount will become "Due" approximately 15 days after the beginning of the bill cycle, and "Late" approximately 31 days after the beginning of the bill cycle.

    So in review:
    Month Starts on the 20th of June
    Bill in the mail on the 27th of June
    Payment Due on the 5th of July
    Payment Late on the 21st of July

    If at anytime you want to call and change what plan you are on, you can have it changed that day (see first post regarding prorations) or ask them to have it future dated to change on the first day of your billing cycle. The billing system future dates price plan changes by default, this sometimes confuses the rep into thinking that you can ONLY make the change on the first day of the billing cycle, and if you can help it, it's generally not recommended (again, see first post regarding prorations), but adding different features like Text Messaging, Internet, Insurance, etc, are typically added immediately.

    As long as we are talking about billing, let's talk about what happens if you forget to pay your bill.

    Using the above example. Pretend you get caught in a situation where you forgot to mail in the check that month. If it's still before the 21st you can phone in a payment at no additional cost, or pay online at no additional cost, or pay in a store in cash at a pay station at no additional cost. Assuming you just didn't have the money and you had to wait and pay until the 22nd, you would be charged a ~5% fee of whatever balance remained on the account, so a good idea would be to pay as much as you could before the late fee date, then pay the remaining balance later so that the late fee is smaller. The late fee will not show up until your next statement is mailed and will become due along with the next statement, meaning that if you owe a certain balance, and it becomes past due, you don't have to pay the past due PLUS the late fee at the same time, you pay the late fee with the next statement.

    Let's say that payment still hasn't been received. For this "Month Starts on the 20th of June" scenario, your looking at service being interupted around the 5th of August. Cingular customer service will call this "Suspended for Non-Pay". When people call your number they would get "This number has been temporarily suspended", when you call out you get routed to "Cingular Collections Department" (also called "Revenue Management Center" RMC). While suspended you will continue to be billed your monthly service until your account is canceled. You can call in while the phone is suspended, make a payment for the past due amount, and your phone will be back on in like 15 minutes. When a phone gets "Suspended for Non-Pay" and then turned back on, a $36 "restoral fee" is charged to the account (if you have mulitple lines on the account, or multiple accounts in the same name, they would all be suspended for non-pay if just one didn't receive payment, but the $36 fee is only per account, so a family of four phones will still just have 1 $36 restoral fee). This restoral fee is not payable immediately, but will just show on the next bill.

    Let's say that it still goes without payment. For this "Month Starts on the 20th of June" scenario, your looking at service being canceled (which will break your contract, charging that contract term fee) around the 5th of September. You can call up to 60 days after that and say that you want to "Bring Back Live" your account. They will reverse the charges for Term Fee + Tax, and have you pay the remaining balance. After that remaining balance is paid a new credit check will be run on the account (similar to the credit check run on a new customer), it won't necessarily require a deposit but it may require you to pay a deposit of anywhere between $150-$900 to have service restored. If you have been "Suspended for Non-Pay" more than 3 times in the past 12 months, that's usually when a deposit will be asked for. If it requires no deposit (or you pay it) then your phone will be back on in approximately 15 minutes and you will get charged that same $36 restoral fee. Again this restoral fee is not payable immediately, but will just show on the next bill.

    Let's say it goes even longer. For this "Month Starts on the 20th of June" scenario, your looking at whatever balance on the account (plus that term fee+taxes) being sent to a collection agency (who tacks on it's own 18% collection fee) around the 5th of October.

    Let's say it goes to the 5th of December you would no longer be able to restart that phone number. It's now been recycled back into those numbers available for the public and if you wanted service it would be a new account with a new credit check. To be able to set up a new account it would most likely require a deposit unless you have the previous account already paid off.

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    Equipment

    Equipment

    The easiest way to think of equipment with Cingular is that you could buy a SIM card for $25 from a Cingular store and put that into any GSM phone. The terms and conditions do state that for a GSM Nation plan you must use a 850/1900 MHz phone, so if you wanted to use a 1900 MHz only phone you could run into problems. What problems? Well if Cingular has coverage in the 850 MHz band, they may not allow Cingular phones to connect to any provider on the 1900 MHz band, meaning you may not be able to use the phone at all. But buying a dual band 850/1900 phone that will accept a Cingular SIM card will be fine.

    Of course, like any other US provider, Cingular offers some phone that they support and steer you toward.

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    Fees

    Fees

    Cingular has a set of "standard fees".

    Activation Fee: Turn a phone number on with Cingular: $36 per line (If starting on a family talk plan it's $18)
    Upgrade Fee: If you buy a phone from Cingular and get a discount on the price, Cingular will charge you $18 per line that receives the new phones
    Number Change Fee: $36
    Restoral Fee (Mentioned earlier) $36
    Early Termination Fee: If you ever stop your Cingular service while still on contract: $150 (In some areas it is a "prorated" $220, meaning it gets less the closer you get to the end of the contract)

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    Family Talk

    Family Talk

    Family Talk is what Cingular calls it's plans where one phone line will pay a certain amount of money every month and then you can have another line "added on" to share the minutes in the plan for a smaller cost.

    Cingulars billing system sets it up like this:

    You define a group as between 2 and 4 phones.
    You decide what plan that group will have.
    You designate one of those phones as "primary".
    Every member of the group has the same access to the same features and shares the minutes in the plan.

    The only way the "primary" line is different is that it pays the original price of the plan and the lines that aren't primary pay the "additional line" charge.

    If your primary line were to move away from the group or be canceled, another line would immediately become the primary line.

    You can technically have a group of just 1 phone if all the other lines were canceled.

    It's hard to say what Cingular plans will be now and forever more, but some of the classic things to remember about family talk:
    If you and me have cell phones and we call each other, you use a minute and I use a minute.
    If we have share minutes, we are both pulling minutes out of that share package, so ever phone call that lasts for one minute counts as two because we are sharing minutes.
    Now in all of the family plans that are out today, your calls between the members of the group do not count against your share minutes but instead come from something called "Mobile-to-Mobile" minutes. Which on all of todays plans have an option for unlimited. So it negates that concern.

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    Re: Ringtones

    Originally posted by kilo
    Also, if you can figure out how, you can avoid the "Wireless Internet Express" cost of downloading the tone by having it sent directly from your computer to your phone using either a bluetooth or cable connection (again, more of the "as long as you don't use the towers, go nuts" philosophy).
    The way I go around this is by using another Ringtone website such as PCS3g.com or 3GUpload.com where you can upload your stuff for free and then download it to the phone for free. I also go around the "as long as you use the towers" charge, by using CSD in conjunction with M2M. That means free internet 24/7!
    I DON'T HAVE A SIGNATURE....SORRY

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    Re: Family Talk

    Originally posted by kilo
    Family Talk

    Every member of the group has the same access to the same features and shares the minutes in the plan.
    So does that mean if I get the $20 MEdia Package on the primary line, all other lines will be able to use the same MEdia package as well?

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    Re: Re: Family Talk

    Originally posted by bobolito
    So does that mean if I get the $20 MEdia Package on the primary line, all other lines will be able to use the same MEdia package as well?
    MEdia Packages aren't shared. I have MEdia Works on my phone, but my mom's still has PPU WIX and messages.

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    Re: Re: Re: Family Talk

    Originally posted by cinguliano
    MEdia Packages aren't shared. I have MEdia Works on my phone, but my mom's still has PPU WIX and messages.
    Sorry, I should have made that clearer, what Cinguliano said is correct.

    Some features can be added onto a group, you pay 1 price, and everyone gets the benefit. Right now a feature that you can use like that is 1000 shared M2M for $9.99 or Unlimited shared M2M for $19.99; On the bill it shows the "first line" paying the cost of the feature, but every line gets the benefit.

    Media Works, and all the other TXT / MMS / WIX packages are not set up that way.

    Specifically what I was referring to was stuff like:
    Voicemail
    Caller ID
    Call Waiting
    Three Way Calling
    Call Forwarding Immediate
    Call Forwarding Conditional

    Meaning that everyone get's their own voicemail box at no additional charge.

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    So would it be safe to say that the shareable features are those that don't require a monthly payment?

    What about the International Long Distance packages where they give you a lower international rate for a monthly fee? Can that be shared? If not, I guess there isn't really any feature that requires a monthly payment and can be shared because what would be the point on adding M2M if the rate plans already include it?

    By the way, what about International Roaming and International Dialing? Can those be added once and shared across the family plan? These don't require a monthly payment.

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    Originally posted by bobolito
    So would it be safe to say that the shareable features are those that don't require a monthly payment?

    What about the International Long Distance packages where they give you a lower international rate for a monthly fee? Can that be shared? If not, I guess there isn't really any feature that requires a monthly payment and can be shared because what would be the point on adding M2M if the rate plans already include it?

    By the way, what about International Roaming and International Dialing? Can those be added once and shared across the family plan? These don't require a monthly payment.
    Some people opt for the Shared M2M to avoid contract (the "included M2M" requires 12 month contract extension)

    You can technically "add" a feature to a group account that's not a shared feature and it will just add it individually to each line. IE: If you add Media Works to the group plan, it's the EXACT SAME thing as if you added it to each line individually.

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    Hey everyone, I'm new and only have one question about cingular fees. My son just told me about this site after all my complaining about this question. I may be in the wrong thread; but I hope you can answer this for me. The last person at cingular I spoke to told me that not only am I charged 10cents everytime I send and receive a text message ( which I knew) that I am ALSO charged 10cent everytime I just REREAD an already saved text message on my phone. I told her that was ridiculous and underhanded and what were they going to charge us next for------pulling up a saved phone number ? So if anyone here knows if this is true and how long this has been going on I would appreciate your replies.

    Thanks bunches, LS

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