Five Low-Cost Mobile Phone Plans

Category: Mobile

If you have only occasional use for a mobile phone, it makes little sense to sign a two-year contract and pay high monthly rates. There are no-contract, prepaid phone plans that can provide anything from simple voice calls, to texting, to Internet access on a pay-for-use basis. And a basic phone doesn’t cost very much. Here are some options to consider if you're looking for an inexpensive cell phone plan...

"I'm Not Gonna Pay a Lot for This Mobile Phone Plan!"

Remember those old Meineke Muffler commercials with the tough guy insisting that he wasn't gonna pay a lot for his muffler? If you're looking for ways to save money on your mobile phone bill, you might be feeling the same way.

If you use a mobile phone only occasionally, the four major carriers are not for you. I visited Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T stores recently, asking for their cheapest no-contract options for someone who only uses voice and text maybe five days a week. The answers ranged from $35 to $50 a month, plus taxes and fees. That’s just not worth it!

Cheap Mobile Phone Plans

Sure, there are “pay per day” plans where you pay a flat fee for one day’s worth of calling. But what usually happens is that you pay five bucks or more to make one phone call. Prepaid calling is priced too high per minute by the major carriers, who really want you locked into that two-year contract. So there is no help for the frugal in the top tier of the phone industry.

In the second and third tiers, where people say, “Who?” when a company is named, you can find calling and texting plans that are designed to generate modest revenue from modest users. Here are five low-cost cellular plans to consider.

Republic Wireless is a well-kept secret. All the talk, text, and data you want can cost as little as $5/month up to a maximum of $40. There is no contract. How do they do it?

Republic’s phones are engineered to use available WiFi and VoIP technology to carrier most phone traffic essentially for free. If your Republic phone is within range of a WiFi access point it can access, connectivity costs Republic nothing so it can charge you very little. When you move out of WiFi range, Republic’s phones automatically switch to Sprint’s cellular network.

Most homes and offices have WiFi these days; odds are you use a phone at home or work most of the time. So a substantial portion of your traffic can be carried free of cost over WiFi. Only the Sprint cellular portion of your usage is costing Republic and you any money.

Republic’s five dollar option limits you to WiFi only. For $10 a month, you get unlimited talk, text, and data over WiFi plus talk and text only over Sprint’s cellular network. If you need mobile data capability (when out of Wifi range), twenty-five dollars per month adds 3G data, and $40 kicks you up to 4G speeds.


Kajeet has a number of plans designed for minors of different age brackets and (presumed) needs. Parental controls come with all phones and plans. A “starter plan” for young children is designed for emergency use and checking in with parents briefly. Only ten minutes of talk are included for $4.99 per month. Text, data, and GPS locations are priced a la carte and are not especially cheap. Progressively more expensive plans add more minutes and make text and data unlimited. The price scale maxes out at $50/month for unlimited talk, text, and GPS plus 2GB of data.


H20 Wireless has phones starting as low as $25 and service plans starting at $30 for unlimited talk, text, and MMS messages, plus 500 MB of data. Unlimited data comes with a $60 plan, and you get some international calling credits.


Consumer Cellular was rated number one among budget carriers four years in a row by no less a judge than Consumer Reports. The company’s plans start at ten dollars per month plus 25 cents a minute, or you can buy a plan with a specified number of minutes: 200 minutes ($15/month), 500 minutes ($20/month), 1000 minutes ($30/month), and up to 5000 minutes ($60/month). Text and data plans can be added for additional cost. A variety of phones are available, including a $35 Motorola flip phone, and both and Apple and Android smartphones ($150-$150).


Tracfone is popular with budget-minded low-volume phone customers. The company has a number of voice, text, and data plans starting at ten dollars a month. No contracts are required, and unused minutes carry over from one month to the next. Tracfone is also known for doubling and even tripling the number of minutes you get per dollar on select deals.


As a bonus, I'll mention that SafeLink Wireless offers free phones & free minutes to low-income people who are currently enrolled in programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, TANF/Welfare, or SSI. SafeLink offers up to 250 minutes and 1250 text messages per month. SafeLink Wireless is a U.S. federal government program, funded by those "Universal Service Fund" fees you see on your phone bill each month. (This is sometimes referred to as the ObamaPhone program, but it's actually been in existence since 1996.)

But wait... there's more! Several readers have said "Why didn't you mention Ting?" Well, I did, in a previous article. You can read more about that in my article Ting! Save Money on Mobile.

Of course, this is not a complete listing of all cheap mobile phone service providers. There are several other options to consider, including Net10, Straight Talk, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile's Paylo.

Have you found a great deal on low-cost mobile phone service? Share it with othere here! Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Five Low-Cost Mobile Phone Plans"

(See all 36 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Niccolo
07 Jan 2014

I only use a cell phone rarely and only carry it so I can be reached during an emergency. My cheap phone solution was AT&T's GO PHONE. I pay $100 per year plus taxes for 400 minutes of talk time. In a typical year I only use about 150 of those minutes.


Posted by:

Tom307
07 Jan 2014

I have been using Virgin mobile for years. Recently added my iPhone to my account and am pleased with the service and the price. The beyond talk plan is 300 anytime minutes and unlimited messaging and data is $35 a month or $30 with automatic payment plan. 1200 anytime minutes plan is $45 and unlimited anytime minutes plan is $55 both with unlimited messaging and data and $5 off for automatic payments


Posted by:

Bob D
07 Jan 2014

I have T-mobil pay as you go for 3 years now and it is great for me as I do not use a cell phone very often as they cause cancer.
I payed $100 for 1150 min, I only used 200 min the first year. I then paid $10 at the end of one year which added 33 min allowing me to roll over my 800 minutes so my cost for 2 years came to slightly less that $5 a month. did the same thing this year and still have 750 minutes left. That brings my cost down to less than 3.50 a month foe the 3 years


Posted by:

Michele
07 Jan 2014

I use Republic Wireless. I have their $19 plan with the Defy XT phone which cost $99. Not sure if that plan or phone is still available for new subscribers but I sure to like the plan and the phone is not bad either.


Posted by:

Shawn Rosvold
07 Jan 2014

My wife and I switched from Verizon ($200 per month) to Republic ($40) about a year ago and we have been very happy with the service. The Motorola Defy phone has an incredibly small internal memory, but other than that it's a great phone. An unexpected bonus was our ability, via Wifi, to make calls to the US at no charge while we were in Europe. As long as we had a Wifi connection, we had phone service to North America. Unfortunately, the phones do not work in Europe.


Posted by:

Wynn Manning
07 Jan 2014

I use ATT's .10 a minute plan. I buy minutes in $100 increments(1000 minutes) because they don't expire for 365 days. I don't talk much but I still buy $200 per year. That's about $17 a month. It's amazing how much you can say in a minute.. Texting is included but at .20 per text I don't use it much. I find the coverage to be quite adequate where I live and travel.


Posted by:

Lyeal
07 Jan 2014

U. S. Cellular has plans with no minutes charged for incoming calls. U. S. Cellular also has a $10 per month plan but I do not remember the other details for that plan.


Posted by:

Kevin
08 Jan 2014

Bob covers this topic every year or so and I've posted this tip as feedback each time: Page Plus Cellular has pretty competitive plans for heavy texters and data-hungry smart phones. But they also have what is probably the best plan for light users with ordinary phones, especially emergency-only users like the elderly. Instead of choosing unlimited this or that, go with the "standard plan" and pay just $10 once every 4 months. 100 minutes are added with each of those refills - and they rollover. Effectively, you get a phone number and 300 minutes for just for $30 a YEAR! (Actually, since they debit 50 cents monthly, those 300 minutes eventually drop to 240, but you can buy more minutes anytime, which also resets the expiration date. )

The minimum $10 refill gets the 10 cents/min rate, while larger amounts will discount that to as low as 4 cents/min. Texts cost 5 cents each under the standard plan, regardless of the refill rate. I buy their most cost-effective refill, $80, which gives me 2000 minutes (at 4 cents/min) and has the added benefit of automatically extending the expiration period to a full year (which T-Mobile does only for $100 refills and only for their rate of about 10 cents/min). Unfortunately, Page Plus's $80 refill is not available from them directly, only from certain full-service dealers who are few and far between. H=owever, all other refill levels (and the unlimited plans) can be bought at regular dealers or online from Page Plus customer service.

So what I like is:
To keep your phone number & balance, refills are not needed for at least 120 days...
Unused minutes do carry over...
Rates are low to start with, plus they get lower with larger refills...
Coverage is on Verizon's network, including voicemail and other standard features...
Any old Verizon-compatible phone can be used; you don't have to get one from Page Plus. (I got a used LG from eBay for $10.)


Posted by:

Hank Buckley
08 Jan 2014

I now pay $10 per year for cell phone service after taking the steps listed below.

I use the cell phone very rarely only when I am away or out of the house for emergencies or notifying family members of my location & doings at times.

I went with the T-Mobil "Pay As You Go" "Gold Rewards" plan.

I bought a simple flip phone on the T-Mobile web site for $35.

I took it to the T-Mobile store and had it loaded with 1,000 minutes for $100. That makes you a "Gold Rewards" member.

I now buy $10 worth of minutes each year and that allows me to carry over all unused minutes from the previous year.

You can do any or all of this on the website or in the store.


Posted by:

HA
08 Jan 2014

Check out PlatinumTel.
I don't remember the exact details, but it got it for my daughter as an emergency phone for when she's driving.


Posted by:

howard
08 Jan 2014

How come you never mention Boost Mobile? With their shrinkage plan I pay $40 bucks a month for unlimited everything, not a bad deal compared to all the rest. The only down side is that you have to buy a phone, but they have phones from $35 to $400 so theres something for everyone.


Posted by:

ronin
08 Jan 2014

You're right about the Muffler, I went with that slogan to Meineke, the muffler cost me $27.99 but they "gave" me the "TAIL PIPE" that was like a colonoscopy! The same goes for Cable, internet, phone, and other. Face it it's the 21st Century and nothing's for FREE!


Posted by:

John
08 Jan 2014

Like Kevin below, I am very happy with my PagePlus, generally going with $39.95 for unlimited talk and text, with 500mb of data (3G data speed only at this time). As he also states, it's on the Verizon network and coverage is excellent. Alternatively, the $80 for 2000 minutes good for a year can be purchased via various resellers such as kittywireless.com , and you can even get a discount off of that (or any other PP plan) if you pay to join one of Kitty's clubs. Another PP option for the minimal user is the $12 for 250 minutes and 250 texts, which I believe also includes a nominal amount of network 3G data as well. Having set my phone to do most stuff via wi-fi only, I've never run out of my network data allowance.


Posted by:

Lee
19 Aug 2014

We use Page Plus for 3 different phones. Get 2000 minutes good for a year at $80 (need to order from a pageplus dealer, e.g. wireless refill). One needs to be renewed about every 8 months. Another yearly or less, and one that is used less so we add 4 months of 100 minutes at $10 to keep the balance as necessary. pagepluscellular.com


Posted by:

carmen
30 Dec 2014

From the comments, it seems like T-Mobile and Page Plus are the least expensive, so I will be looking into these.
I've had TRACFONE for years and I have nothing to complain about (sometimes the customer service can be trying, but they always come through). I use it mostly for texting and short conversations.

I don't have a smartphone, so my phone was about $15 at a drug store. I only buy one air time card per year, so I pay about $8 a month, and I once purchased a "double minutes for life" card (for no extra cost), so I have never needed to buy extra minutes. I use my phone mostly for texting and each text only uses one third of a minute.


Posted by:

Shawn Rosvold
30 Dec 2014

Thanks for putting Republic at the top of your list. My wife and I have been using them for about two years now after ditching Verizon and their almost $100 per month per person. Now, it's $25 a month per person. Unlimited data, text, and long distance. No contract. It's that simple. We changed phones form the Defy to the Moto X when it became available. It is the best phone I have ever used.


Posted by:

Lesterhel
30 Dec 2014

Got a real good deal at the CRICKET store. Zero cost for a state-of-the-art windows phone, non contract, $35 per month with autopay, 4G LTE service, and 1Gigabyte of data. No dropped calls for past three months in Los Angeles. CRICKET is now owned by ATT and windows phones by Microsoft.


Posted by:

Robert Lim
30 Dec 2014

I like freedompop.com. For a fixed number of mins, texts and data, there is no monthly fee. You only need a sprint compatible phone. I use this as a standby phone. Their app also work greats on smartphones and you get a second line.


Posted by:

P. Dhir
30 Dec 2014

Bob: You render a great service to the community. I hope you realize though that some of the readers of your newsletters are Canadians. Your article on Five Low-Cost Mobile Phone Plans is great and I called some of them. I was surprised to learn that the plans are for US residents only. Aren't you ignoring your Canadian readers? Please run a such a useful article for Canadians as well. Thank you.


Posted by:

P. Dhir
30 Dec 2014

Bob: You render a great service to the community. I hope you realize though that some of the readers of your newsletters are Canadians. Your article on Five Low-Cost Mobile Phone Plans is great and I called some of them. I was surprised to learn that the plans are for US residents only. Aren't you ignoring your Canadian readers? Please run a such a useful article for Canadians as well. Thank you.


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