If you have a job like mine, you spend a lot of time on conference calls. I spend five or six hours a week in management meetings, sales updates, operations discussions, and other conference calls, and sometimes much longer. I had been using Skypeout or Magic Jack to make these calls, but that’s hard to do while traveling. Thankfully, AT&T has added a new calling feature, A-List, which gives you unlimited calling to a set of numbers you designate. This has saved me a bundle on overages, but it’s not exactly well-known. Just about all American iPhone users can benefit from this feature, but it’s not turned on by default!
Mobile phone plans in the USA generally give you a “bucket” of day-time minutes, but plans diverge wildly beyond this. Heated competition means providers add and remove features constantly to “one-up” each other. Roaming, free nights and weekends, and unlimited in-network calling have all spread to every carrier, including AT&T. But prime daytime minutes are still premium-priced.
AT&T’s signature feature a few years back was roll-over minutes, allowing you to “bank” unused minutes from month to month. Competitors responded with completely unlimited calling plans, and all carriers offer unlimited any-time voice calling for around $100. But these unlimited plans aren’t perfect: They are seriously expensive, don’t include data or texting, and are not compatible with cheap add-a-line “family talk” options. Since I have three phones on my 1400-minute AT&T plan, moving up to unlimited would bump the voice-only portion of my bill from $110 to $170 per month!
Circle of Friends
One feature recently migrating to AT&T is unlimited named-circle calling, allowing you to pick a few out-of-network or land-line numbers to call for free any time. AT&T quietly added this feature last year, calling it “A-List,” but leaves it inactive by default for existing customers. Used creatively, A-List is a great way to reduce the number of minutes you use.
To activate A-List, either call AT&T customer service (dial 611 from your phone) or log in to AT&T Wireless online. The feature is available at no cost on individual plans with 900 minutes or more ($59.99+) or FamilyTalk plans with 1400 minutes or more ($89.99+). Most iPhone users probably already have one of these plans. Individuals get 5 A-List numbers, and FamilyTalk plans get 10 shared among all phones.
Once A-List has been added to your account, go through your bill and look for the numbers you spend the most time calling. Remember that AT&T wireless numbers don’t cost anything anyway, so don’t add these to the list. Focus especially on conference calling numbers for regularly-scheduled meetings, since you know you’ll spend a lot of time on these numbers. Remember too that “toll-free” 800 and 866 numbers still eat up mobile calling minutes and are great candidates for the A-List!
I added a few calls I regularly make to FreeConference.com, WebEx, and Live Meeting and noticed an immediate reduction in my use of minutes. In fact, I no longer need anywhere near 1400 minutes on my plan after switching 5 regular meetings to the A-List. I also added my Google Voice number, since I can route any unexpected extended calls through that service.
A-List is a great way to save some serious money. Once my kids get mobile phones, I expect I’ll be adding a few friends’ numbers to the list, too. Let’s hope AT&T keeps the feature alive, though, since T-Mobile has already axed their similar feature!