What can I expect my first cellular phone bill to cost?

Rebecca Atwood
Vice President from  Charleston, SC
| Published: June 18, 2006

Understanding and feeling comfortable with your cellular phone bill is a big part of being happy with your provider.  A recent survey found that 50% of cell phone users were surprised by the price of their first bill, so thank you for the question.  The following items are all things you should expect to see on your first bill.   

Activation Fee
All of the large national carriers charge a one-time activation fee so you must automatically factor that into the price of your first bill.   

  • Cingular $36.00                                
  • Sprint together with Nextel $36.00
  • T-Mobile $35.00                               
  • Verizon $35.00

Monthly Fees and Taxes
Government fees and taxes are mandatory and will be based on a percentage of your total monthly bill each month.  Some of the fees and taxes you can expect to see include: Federal Universal Service Charge, Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge, Federal Excise Tax, State Sales Tax, County Sales Tax, E911 charge.  In your specific example, on a $59.99 plan you could expect for your fees and taxes to range from $6.50 to $10.00 depending on the cost of your specific area taxes. 

Prorated Bill
Cellular phone service providers normally have multiple billing cycles.  Depending on when you establish service and which billing cycle you fall into, you can expect for your first bill to be prorated.  What this means is there is the potential that you could be charged for two full months of service on your first bill.  Here is an example of how a pro-rated bill comes about. 

    EX. You receive your new phone and call to activate the services on June 15.  The billing cycle you fall into begins on the first of the month.  When you receive your first bill you will be required to pay for the services used from June 15 until the end of the month, plus the entire month of July.  This prorated bill is for a month and a half of services, meaning your monthly charges for this bill are not $59.99 but instead are $89.98.       

So where does this put your first bill?  Here is what to expect.  $35.00 activation fee + $89.98 prorated bill + $15.00 approx. fees and taxes.  Total for your first cellular phone bill: $139.98.  Don't panic!  As long as you do not go over your minutes or add any optional features, this is just going to be for your first bill.  Going forward you can plan on paying around $70 each month.