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Reading the terms & conditions it appears to be by calendar month but I'm not 100% sure.
If it is by calendar month then it makes sense not to set up a small budget campaign right near the end of a calendar month if the campaign won't do that spend. Correct?
We had an interesting experience regarding the $20 minimum last month (July). We had disabled one of our accounts in mid-June, and turned everything back on at mid-day on August 1. So, according to the rules, we should not have been charged the $20 because it was completely turned off all of July.
But on August 2 I got an e-mail from Overture saying we were being charged $20 for the month of July because the account had been partially active. And indeed our account reports displayed exactly one impression (that's 1 impression, not click) on the very last day of July, i.e. the day before everything was reactivated. Trust me, nobody was even working that day (weekend), and certainly nothing was turned on.
They did respond to our complaint and cancelled the charge. But, whoa, it really was disconcerting.
I've also been in touch with OV Australia who've confirmed me it's by calendar month, but the first month that an advertiser is online is automatically waived.
Not sure if that applies to other Overture markets such as the US or UK.
To date all the PPC I've done is using AdWords which compared to OV is a breeze to set up. Why oh why OV can't provide a single account for all markets & decent geo-targeting I don't know... :-(