Tough Call: If You Never Use a Landline, Why Do You Still Pay for It?

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One in seven households still pay for landlines despite the fact that nearly all of the calls made or received are handled via cell phone. What’s holding them back from ditching the landline for good?

I still have a landline—and in my house, it gets used a lot. My wife and I both have cheap prepaid cell phones, and we use them sparingly. The house phone is still our go-to phone, and the arrangement works for us because we’re both in our home most of the typical work week. But I know that we’re unusual (and yes, the phone thing is only one example of this). If I’m trying to reach a friend, I’ll call his cell phone first, then try e-mail, and then, finally, a home phone—if he still has one. Often, when I call a friend’s home line, he won’t answer and I’ll leave a message. When he gets back to me, he’ll often say, “Sorry I couldn’t pick up. I was on my cell.”

At some point, it is foolish to continue to have a home phone. If you don’t use it, or use it only when some out-of-touch caveman type (like me) tries to call you, you’re probably better of saving the $20 or more per month it costs. Most people I know have a “triple-play” bundled package that includes landline, cable, and Internet, and they almost never use the landline. So why pay for it? A package with just cable and Internet, or some other a la carte arrangement would save them money, and they wouldn’t miss a service they don’t use. Nearly one-quarter of American households are entirely without landlines, and the cell-only crowd’s percentages have been rising steadily.

To ditch or not to ditch can obviously only be decided on a case-by-case basis. You probably know already whether a landline is a waste of money or not for your household. But if you’re the type who likes to make those pro/con lists to help you decide, check out a Chicago Tribune story that argues for and against the landline. On the pro side: better reception, 911, multiple users (so friends and family can reach all members of your home at the same number), and multiple phones all over the house (so you don’t have to carry your cell everywhere, or struggle to find it before it goes to voicemail). Also, this argument falls on the pro side:

Power: Relying solely on a cell phone demands diligence in keeping it charged.

This is one of those things that probably become less of a concern if you switched whole-hog to your cell and unplugged the landline—because if your only phone is a cell phone, you’ll be better at remembering to keep the thing charged.

On the con side, these three are compelling:

Power outages: In a power outage, a charged cell phone still works, and it will continue to work even as you wait for hours or days for the electricity to be restored to the premises that houses the landline.

Telemarketing: In most cases, federal laws prohibit telemarketers from calling wireless phones, which reduces the likelihood of a buzz kill during a romantic dinner in.

The biggie — savings:
Landline service might run $20 to $50. Presuming you have a cell phone, you might need to add minutes to your calling plan if you drop your landline, but falling rates for unlimited minutes on cell phones are making those contracts better bargains.

If you pay $50 a month (or anything close to that) for a landline, then you should use that landline right away: Dial your phone provider and demand a better deal. That’s an easy call to make.

In the Future: No More Landlines? No more Pay Phones? No More Cemeteries? No More Personal Checks?