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Text Messages: Avoid Extra Fees
If you've voted for a reality TV show or have downloaded a ringtone via text message, you may have incurred extra fees without realizing it. Here are some ways for you to recognize the types of texts that may impose extra fees, so you can avoid a surprise when you open your bill.
Standard Text Messages vs. Premium Text Messages
There are two types of SMS text messages—standard and premium. Standard text messages are texts you send to another person's 10-digit phone number.
Text messages sent to a short code (to a 4, 5 or 6 digit number) can be billed at a higher rate, which is known as a premium text. Short codes are widely used for services such as television voting, ordering ringtones, charity donations and mobile services. They can even subscribe a customer to a reoccurring monthly service that will be added to their mobile phone bill.
Not all texts sent to a short code will have extra fees. Pay attention to the fine print and look for texts described as "premium" to be aware of how you will be billed.
How are Fees Structured?
With standard text messages, you purchase a package to pay for a certain amount of texts per month. If you don't purchase a package, you pay per text (e.g., 10¢ per text incoming & outgoing). These standard text messaging rates always apply for sending and receiving all text messages.
Premium text messaging programs require additional fees or a subscription. Since premium texts and subscriptions are initiated through short codes, they always require your consent for the purchase prior to participation. Premium programs also must display the price clearly in their advertisements.
How Do I Know I am Signing Up for Premium Messaging?
If you are required to pay an additional charge for a text, providers will offer an opt-in when you first participate. This means you will receive an initialization text message sent from the premium provider that explains the additional charge and requires your response to opt-in to participate in the service.
Differences Between Cell Phone Providers
Different cell phone providers will bill you differently, as they have different rates for different types of messaging. For instance, American Idol currently has an exclusivity deal with AT&T, so only AT&T subscribers can text their votes. Even though AT&T users text to a short code, in this case they are not billed extra fees.
The most important thing to remember is to be aware of how you are billed. Read the terms of your contract, and don't ignore the opt-in messages you receive. That way, you won't be surprised when it's time to pay your bill. Keep in mind that in most cases, you can vote for reality shows for free online. Just visit shows' websites for voting details.
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