If you make only local calls, don't bother with a national plan. That could save more than 25 percent off your monthly bill. Ask friends how they like their carriers; some companies have awful coverage in certain neighborhoods. Avoid roaming charges—fees applied to calls when you travel outside your home market. If you make regular trips to a few cities, check to see whether the plan will provide coverage for those areas; T-Mobile, Cingular and AT&T offer national plans that include all calls in the United States.
And read the fine print: Is that phone free because you're agreeing to stay in the plan for at least two years or pay a $150 to $200 early-termination fee? Suddenly, that free phone doesn't seem so free, does it? —Suze Orman