Internet and Phone Bundles
The concept behind internet and phone bundles is older than the technology itself. Fast food restaurants have been using this marketing strategy for decades via offerings like children's meals. Even my favorite grocery store gets in on the action with their prepackaged Thanksgiving feast, which includes everything you need for a complete holiday dinner. So why not apply this idea to your home communications services as well?
Bundling is an established fixture among home internet service providers, with names like Double Play and Triple Play denoting the number of services offered in a given package. You may wonder if internet and phone bundles are right for your needs, and just as importantly, your budget. In this guide, I'll give you an overview of how internet and phone bundles work, along with tips to help you decide on a package.
What Are Internet and Phone Bundles?
Bundling is a common practice among communications services providers. Companies put various services together in packages to make it simpler for you to get everything you need, ideally at a better price than if you purchased the services separately. The best internet providers offer plans including a variety of combinations. In addition to internet and phone service, you can also combine other services, like cable and internet bundles. For example, Comcast Internet (Xfinity) pairs cable television and internet, television, and phone, or internet and phone in their Double Play offerings.
Why Buy Internet and Phone Service Together?
The main reason to go with internet and phone bundles rather than a la carte services is for the discount. By choosing a package that includes everything you want in one place, you can save anywhere from $10 to $60 or more per month over purchasing your communications services separately. For instance, Comcast's Xfinity Voice Unlimited (which features free calling nationwide as well as to several other countries) retails for $44.95 per month. By choosing one of the cable giant's current Double Play offers, however, you get 25Mbps internet with their Voice Unlimited for $49.99 a month (for one year). This amounts to total savings of $35 per month.
By choosing a package that includes everything you want in one place, you can save anywhere from $10 to $60 or more per month over purchasing your communications services separately.
Economical benefits aren't the only perks of bundles, however. There are a few more potential advantages of buying everything together:
- One bill - budgeting can get complicated with everything you've got on your plate. Between the mortgage, utilities, credit cards, and other household financials to keep track of, having all of your home communications services aggregated onto one piece of paper (or e-statement) simplifies at least part of your budgeting responsibilities.
- One rate to negotiate - having internet and phone service together in one package means you only have to make one phone call when the time comes to renegotiate your rates and terms. This saves you time over having to call multiple companies.
- Bonus perks - some companies give you extras just for combining your services on one bill. For example, free unlimited internet plans are few and far between in the industry, but AT&T gives you this benefit just for subscribing to both internet and cable television on the same bill. If you order the internet by itself, unlimited data will set you back $30 extra per month.
It's important to evaluate all angles before making the decision to dive into internet and phone bundles.
Internet and Phone Service: What to Consider
Choosing between internet and phone bundles isn't as simple as clicking on the first affordable offer you see. There are a few things you should keep in mind as you evaluate not only the benefits but the implications of each package as well.
- Do I really need it? If you weren't planning on buying landline service, then internet and phone bundles don't make sense. Only bundle services you were already planning on ordering, even if the customer service representative insists that the deal is too good to pass up. Data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) shows that nearly half of households use only wireless phone service. If you won't use it, you don't need to spend money on it.
- Account for the fees. When you figure your internet and phone service budget it's important to remember that the package price isn't the real amount you'll be shelling out each month. As The Consumerist points out, the fees can really add up. On top of tax and regulation fees, there may be other fees assessed by your provider. Plus, modem rental typically adds about $10/month. If you add cable television to your bundle you could be looking at more than $20 per month just in associated fees, such as the regional sports fee and broadcast TV fee. Be sure you ask for the actual total you'll be paying before you subscribe.
- Consider future-proofing your connection. I know it flies in the face of what I recommend above about only ordering what you need, however, if you foresee yourself utilizing all of the latest technology as it comes out you might want to level up your internet speed ahead of time. Things like 4k video and virtual reality devices are quickly becoming mainstream. Who knows what else the future may bring, but one thing is certain - these high-demand tasks are bandwidth and data guzzlers. If you're the type to keep up with tech trends, it's wise to choose something like fiber or gigabit DOCSIS for your connection.
- Know your phone line. As technology advances, copper phone lines are gradually moving to the back burner. Services like Verizon phone and internet are switching many of their customers' phone lines to fiber optic. Fiber offers advantages over copper in terms of clarity and reliability, but there is a caveat. You should be aware what you have because fiber requires power for your phone to work, whereas copper does not. Internet and phone providers do offer battery backup solutions, however.
Only bundle services you were already planning on ordering, even if the customer service representative insists that the deal is too good to pass up.
Approach your investigation of internet and phone bundles just like you would any other purchase involving a commitment. Use common sense and read all the fine print.
How to Find the Best Internet and Phone Bundles
Whether you're searching for the best internet deals or you need an affordable international calling plan, there are ways to keep your internet and phone service bill under control.
Calculate the a la carte prices
Before you commit to any bundle, you should add up the costs of the individual services. Buying them together is usually the better deal, but that's not always the case so be sure you know exactly how much you'll save with a phone and internet bundle. CNET reports that Comcast has claimed a 40% or better savings by subscribing to their Triple Play. You should examine claims like this to make sure they're accurate.
The challenge is that many of the major providers do not have retail price information easily accessible on their websites, so it can be tough to verify claims like the above one by Comcast. The best thing to do is call or use live chat to talk to a rep and get the scoop on regular pricing, or Google "retail pricing (provider and service names)". Because pricing varies by location, companies typically organize their price lists by state. As I said, however, this information isn't typically posted right in the consumer area of their websites.
Be aware of temporary promotions
Many of the best rates are offered as a part of a promotional offer. Just be vigilant about knowing the terms of these offers. They're typically available to new customers only, and the prices last for 12-24 months. After that time your bill will jump to retail pricing. The best way to keep your internet and phone service bill low is to call before your introductory period expires and negotiate a new rate for after the current one expires.
Use our easy and convenient zip code checker tool to find local offers on home phone and internet service and then look into each provider to see who has the best deal. Consider the big picture - one company may have an unbeatable promotional rate on high-speed internet and unlimited calling but the price you pay later may be higher than another provider. In other words, calculate what you'll end up paying over the long haul rather than just the first year or two.
If personalized service is especially important to you, don't discount local internet providers. These smaller independent companies tend to have faster customer service response times and competitive rates. The trade-off is that they can be harder to find and may not offer the deep promotional discounts the big guys can afford to give new customers.
Internet and Phone Service Companies Team Up
You may be in a situation where you want phone service from one company, but they don't offer internet or vice versa. This is especially common when it comes to satellite internet or television providers. Fortunately, some companies partner with each other to offer good deals on combined services. This means that you can get TV, internet, and phone bundles even from companies that don't directly provide one or more of these services. This practice allows you to get the services you really want from multiple providers, yet with the benefit of bundled prices.
One thing to keep in mind is that you will need to be vigilant about monitoring your bill (which you should be doing anyway). Be sure you're getting the prices you were quoted and that each company is billing you accurately.
Internet and Phone Bundles: Recap
There are so many different ways to get communications services in today's high-tech world that it can be a bit overwhelming to decide on the best option for your household. By using the tips in this guide, along with our handy zip code checker tool, you can maximize your savings and minimize confusion. There's nothing wrong with taking advantage of bundles offered by phone and internet providers, just make sure you know what you're getting and exactly what you'll be paying - in the short term and the long.