If you're using an hourly calling plan to hold down monthly long-distance bills, better take another look. There might be better deals elsewhere.
That's the word from the Telecommunications Research & Action Council (TRAC), a Washington-based non-profit group that tracks the best -- and worst -- long-distance deals for consumers.
According to TRAC's latest survey, released yesterday, hourly calling plans such as American Telephone & Telegraph Co.'s Reach Out America, MCI's PrimeTime and Sprint's Select series, are among the worst options for consumers.
Hourly calling plans typically offer, for a set fee, one hour of out-of-state, direct-dialed calls a month. Additional calls are prorated usingthe hourly rate.
The catch is that consumers must pay the hourly fee each month, whether or not they use up the full 60 minutes.
And according to TRAC, many people don't make an hour's worth of long-distance calls a month.
One of the best deals today, according to TRAC, is Sprint's new "The Most" plan. The plan provides a 20 percent discount on all calls madeto the phone number that is called the most during a month's billing period.
The Most plan also includes a 20 percent discount on all calls to other Sprint customers. TRAC says consumers can also save big with MCI's Friends & Family Plan, which offers an extra 20 percent savings on calls made to other MCI subscribers.
But TRAC has listed Friends & Family as a "limited use" plan because it carries many contingencies.
Long-distance discount plans
(Ratings by the Telecommunications Research & Action Council, or TRAC, a Washington-based non-profit group. Cost is for 15 calls for a total of 152 minutes -- assuming 25% of calls
during daytime, 45% in evening, 35% at night.)
BEST PLANS Sprint The Most
discount on calls to the phone number most frequently called and to calls to other Sprint customers $20.33
MCI Standard with Friends and Family
Offers 20% discount on calls to friends and family who are also MCI subscribers $20.98
WORST PLANS AT&T Reach Out America Basic
One hour of evening, night or weekend calls for $7.15; additional
calls are 11 cents a minute. $25.95
Sprint Select E/N/W
One hour of evening, night or weekend calls for $7.50; additional
calls are 11 cents a minute. $22.87
One hour of evening, night or weekend calls for $7.95; additional
calls are 11 cents a minute. $22.53