Prepaid cell phones - best/cheapest one?

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scottydl

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I know lots of RV folks out there use prepaid cell phones to avoid a monthly charge for a phone that rarely gets used... at least "rarely" compared to the thousands of minutes/texts, and GB of downloads for today's "typical" smart phone user.  (I'm NOT one of those people by the way.)  I've had a Blackberry on Boost Mobile phone for a couple years now, paying 10 cents per minute/text.  It's my work phone, used rarely (used maybe a few minutes/texts per day) and I average spending less than $10/month on it.  It's been nice because the phone still had some decent features when connected to wifi.

Amidst the Boost (owned by Sprint) transitioning from IDEN (the old Nextel network) to CDMA, their prepaid prices are going up to 20-25 cents per minute/text.  That is too much and I don't plan on staying with them.  Verizon and AT&T's prepaid prices are no better.

I looked at Kajeet phones, marketed as "cell phones for kids" but frankly look pretty decent for my uses too... although the plan I'd need is $15/month and I'd have to buy one of their $60+ phones or find a compatible Sprint device (and they don't tell you which ones work on their website).

Then I remembered Tracfone (the original prepaid) and they have some pretty good deals on their website too, decent phones for $20-30.  What's unclear about them are the "minute" cards you buy (instead of putting actual cash on an account like I've done with Boost).  What do minute cards cost on average?  How many texts you get for each minute?  If you've had Tracfone, what's been your experience with service/signal and average monthly price for your usage?

Any comments are welcome!
 

Ned

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I've read a lot of good comments about Page Plus and they seem to have very low prices for prepaid services (<.10/min. for domestic calls).  They use the Verizon network, I believe.
 

dan2

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My wife and I have saved a-ton-of money using Tracfone over the last several years. We buy our cards @ Sams Club
for under $19. With the double min. option= 120 for 3 months, She has a new model that charges her for both
incoming and outgoing texts:my old phone only charges for outgoing texts @.3 units (min)

Dan
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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We have a Tracfone for our second phone - aka Nancy's phone - and it is inexpensive for that purpose.  The minimum cost is about $10/month, whether you use it or not. That's because there is a usage fee based on months as well as minutes of talktime.  Per minute cost is not much of a factor if you don't use it much, say less than about 100 min/month. The per minute cost is less if you buy in larger quantities or for longer terms (3-12 months), or if you take advantage of their frequent Double or Triple minutes promotions. Nancy's Tracfone came with lifetime free Double Minutes, so anytime we buy more minutes, it gets double automatically. We typically buy 3 months or 6 months at a time, varying the minutes amount according to expected needs. She uses a lot more minutes in the summer when we are traveling than in the winter when at our home base, so it is convenient to be able to scale up/down to match the need.

Prices for various months/minutes are shown on the Tracfone website.

Tracfones are available for both GSM and CDMA networks, so you can choose the onbe that has the best coverage for your usage area.
 

Larry N.

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We've been fairly well pleased with Consumer Cellular, no contract voice phones. It's $20/mo. for the line and one phone, plus $10/mo. for a second phone, with 300 minutes/mo. shared. Texting is available, but we don't use it.
 

Ernie n Tara

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Hi,

Not to hijack, but do any of these allow you to keep an existing phone number? We'd like to close out our phone at the "Storage Location", but would rather keep the number.

Ernie
 

Elly Dalmaijer

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We are Canadian snowbirds and for obvious reasons don't want a phone with subscription. About 5 years ago we bought a Tracfone and have been very pleased with it.  Initially we bought a Cingular prepaid but we noticed that the screen frequently said "Access denied" which is a way of penalizing non-subscription users.
We bought a GSM Tracfone and have been able to use it from the Dakotas to the west coast and from California east through Florida.
If you carefully check the phone you will see that some of them include Lifetime double minutes, and lately even "Lifetime triple minutes". The basic rate is 20c/minute. So if your phone is a "double minute phone" you get 120 minutes for a 60 minute card, bringing the cost to 10c/minute. And if you have a "triple" phone the cost goes further down to about 7c. This rate is the same whether you call local or long distance across the country. We even call to Europe and Canada (using a 1-800 number first) at the same rate.
But it gets even better. There are websites like fatwallet.com and momsview.com that show additional discount codes for the Tracfone. When you load more minutes on a Tracfone it even asks you what additional code you want to use!
I highly recommend the Tracfone, especially when you are willing to look for the double or triple minute phone and then get additional codes. We've had reliable reception and will definitely buy another $14.99 phone if (when?) this one stops working.

Elly
 

scottydl

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Gary RV Roamer said:
That's because there is a usage fee based on months as well as minutes of talktime.

I hate maintenance fees.  Does that get subtracted from your minutes, or is it a separate cash payment due every month (or whatever)?

Ernie n Tara said:
Not to hijack, but do any of these allow you to keep an existing phone number? We'd like to close out our phone at the "Storage Location", but would rather keep the number.

Almost all carriers will let you "port" your old number in nowadays.  You'd want to call the new company and confirm if you're thinking of making a change, but it's pretty much the norm since switching cell carriers has become pretty common.
 

geodrake

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Magic Jack is a great deal too, although it isn't a cell phone.  I hae changed our home phone out and the cost was apx $79 for five years including all toll and local.  All that is needed is internet access. 
 

Peanutman

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My vote is for Tracfone. I have had one for several years now. The model of phone i have gives you double min and air time. I got tired of keeping up with all that and went with their  30 min per month plan. Taxes and all it cost me $11.53 per month. You have to buy the phone but you can get a double min phone for well under $50.00
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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That's because there is a usage fee based on months as well as minutes of talktime.
I hate maintenance fees.  Does that get subtracted from your minutes, or is it a separate cash payment due every month (or whatever)?

When you buy service (either card or online), it is expressed as xx days plus mmm minutes of talk time. You have to keep a supply of both, i.e. if you can run out of monthly service while you still have talk minutes, or vice versa. You can buy increments in a variety of combinations to meet your needs.  It's a lot harder to explain than to do.  8)

For example, you can buy 365 days of service plus 400 minutes for $99.99, or you can buy one year + 1500 minutes for $199.99. Or at the opposite end of the scale, buy just 30 days and 30 minutes for $9.99. Or choose from several levels in between. Minutes always carry forward if unused, but nobody has figured out how to stop the calendar yet.  ;)
 

mweber (KC9NPT)

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Wife has Trac-fone LG 800g with triple minutes. Just bought a 120 minute card for $29.99 @ Target. Activated the card, she got 360 minutes and 90 days.
I have same phone but with Net-10 and only get single minutes, but Tracfone didn't have the 800g at the time.
 

kenz

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I also have a tracfone. Also have one of them there smart phones from sprint. I've had the tracfone for quite a few years and I haven't been anywhere that it didn't work. Unlike my sprint phone that is without a signal the vast majority of time.

I purchase the $99 card for one year. Don't use it much, I believe the times up in December and there's still 1700+ minutes left. If you are traveling around and just need a basic phone the tracfone is a pretty good deal. And the cards are available at all major stores and most gas stations to.
 

NY_Dutch

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I just renewed our double minutes Tracfones (on Verizon network) for another year last night. The $99 cards plus a bonus code added 1050 minutes to each phone, giving my phone a total of about 3700 minutes, and my wife's phone about 2900 minutes, since the existing minutes carry over. The total bill for each phone was $110 due to federal fees and taxes, making our average monthly cost for the next year $9.16.
 

NY_Dutch

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Ernie n Tara said:
Hi,

Not to hijack, but do any of these allow you to keep an existing phone number? We'd like to close out our phone at the "Storage Location", but would rather keep the number.

Ernie
Most of the prepaid cell plans have number porting available, so yes, you could likely keep your storage location number. There are a few "mom & pop" land line phone companies that don't have porting agreements with the major cell carriers, but they're pretty rare these days.
 

wgb1

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My wife uses a Straight Talk phone by Tracfone and she was able to port her old Verizon number to the new phone.
 

scottydl

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NY_Dutch said:
I just renewed our double minutes Tracfones (on Verizon network) for another year last night. The $99 cards plus a bonus code added 1050 minutes to each phone, giving my phone a total of about 3700 minutes, and my wife's phone about 2900 minutes, since the existing minutes carry over. The total bill for each phone was $110 due to federal fees and taxes, making our average monthly cost for the next year $9.16.

This is sounding really good... Tracfone that is, and I'm finally "getting" the minutes + calendar time concept.  ;)  That $99 1-year / 400 minute card you mentioned can be had on eBay for $85 or less (no taxes that way either) which would bring a monthly cost down to $7.08.  Triple minutes + 250 bonus on the LG 800G would translate to 1450 minutes for the year (120 per month).  More than enough for my uses.  I'm tempted by the LG 500G too, which has the hard QWERTY keyboard (like a Blackberry) instead of a full touchscreen.  But the LG 500G only doubles the minute cards, instead of tripling with the 800G.  Decisions, decisions...
 

randy1252

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I used to use Tracphone and was very happy with it.  I travelled from VA to NM and drove all around New Mexico for 2 weeks and only found 2 places it didn't work.
 

NY_Dutch

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scottydl said:
This is sounding really good... Tracfone that is, and I'm finally "getting" the minutes + calendar time concept.  ;)  That $99 1-year / 400 minute card you mentioned can be had on eBay for $85 or less (no taxes that way either) which would bring a monthly cost down to $7.08.  Triple minutes + 250 bonus on the LG 800G would translate to 1450 minutes for the year (120 per month).  More than enough for my uses.  I'm tempted by the LG 500G too, which has the hard QWERTY keyboard (like a Blackberry) instead of a full touchscreen.  But the LG 500G only doubles the minute cards, instead of tripling with the 800G.  Decisions, decisions...
Be careful about buying Tracfone cards on eBay. There's a lot of bogus ones being sold. Check the seller out fully.
 

scottydl

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After a bunch of shopping around, I discovered and purchased one of Tracfone's newest phones... the Samsung S390G, Triple Minutes for life and wifi compatible so I can still do data stuff without using any minutes.  Better yet, I bought it from this established seller (at their ebay store) bundled with 1200 minutes and a year of service for $99.99.  Since that's the same price as the minutes/time purchased directly from Tracfone, the Samsung device was essentially free.  Should be arriving soon and I'll get it activated.  Thanks for all the tips!
 
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