Cheapify my cellie
October 22, 2009 7:39 PM   Subscribe

cell plan change suggestions?

Income change upcoming. Currently we spend about $110 / mo on 2 phones with one dataplan on one phone. Happy to jump carriers (we are on AT&T), need to keep our numbers.

I believe the conventional wisdom is embrace the cheapskate route, kick the data to the curb, and go with disposable SIMs that limit minutes and usage.

If I do that, can we keep our numbers?

Finally, is there a decent prepaid dataplan?

There are plenty of precursors but the shifting sands ever insist on a current answer.

Lastly: Howard Forum, check. Tracfone, gotcha, to an extent. Here's a Tracfone subquestion: my parents have and still use pre-SIM phones under tracfone. Can I send them some modern handsets and get them on to the new phones with their Tracfone plans intact?
posted by mwhybark to Work & Money (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What plan(s) are you using on AT&T?
posted by zippy at 7:42 PM on October 22, 2009

I've recently switched out my family plan with AT&T and switched to their prepaid version (GoPhone), so I can answer some of your questions.

First, if you switch to a prepaid service you do not get to keep your old cell number. The number only transfers between different carriers, but not with prepaid services.

With the AT&T prepaid service you can get unlimited data for $20/month which isn't too terrible.
posted by wiretap at 7:46 PM on October 22, 2009

I use the T-Mobile pay as you go plan. I initially purchased some minutes at Target and they came with a free Nokia. You can buy 1000 minutes from online retailers for $92, and they don't expire for a year. I make almost all my calls on my computer through Google Voice and Gizmo. I spend on average about $16 on my phone.
posted by grouse at 7:57 PM on October 22, 2009

That is, I spend on average about $16/month on my phone. That includes all taxes and fees.
posted by grouse at 7:57 PM on October 22, 2009

This page appears to suggest you can keep your number even on a prepaid, and references online eligibility checks for each provider.
posted by pwnguin at 8:25 PM on October 22, 2009

Response by poster: Helpful info, keep it flowing!

We have the cheap 2-line family pane with rollover (like 400 minutes or so, advertised as $25 + $10, in reailty about $50) and a PDA dataplan (stated cost $30, actual $50 or so) with varying overages (information calls, texting) that usually cost about $10. We have thousands of unused minutes from the rollover. I would guess we need less than 2000 minutes a year.
posted by mwhybark at 8:33 PM on October 22, 2009

Check out Page Plus. You can port your number, and they have monthly no-contract plans for $29.95 for 1200 minutes/1200 texts/50mb of data and $39.95 for unlimited minutes/text + 20mb of data (enough to check emails, probably not much else.) It uses the Verizon network and you can activate any Verizon (and possibly some Sprint) phones. Only problem is if you end up roaming - then it's like 69 cents a minute.

(Disclaimer: I haven't used them yet, am planning to switch next week when my Verizon phone comes.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:34 PM on October 22, 2009

Response by poster: oh, and any insight on the Tracfone thing for my folks?
posted by mwhybark at 8:35 PM on October 22, 2009

Also it appears that T-Mobile has a $9.99 data plan, but its not for "smartphones". Where apparently "smartphone" is defined by whatver tmobile says is a smartphone.
posted by pwnguin at 8:41 PM on October 22, 2009

You can definitely upgrade your folks phones on Tracfone. Just give customer service a call to activate the new phones & transfer any minutes on the old phones to the new ones. I've done it a couple of times. They've got a good deal on their Motorala W376g with double minutes for life and free shipping right now.

Caveat: You have to buy Tracfone phones to do this (AFAIK, that is).
posted by torquemaniac at 8:53 PM on October 22, 2009

T-Mobile is coming out with new rate plans on the 25th. The closest match for what you have now would be their 750 minute family plan that covers unlimited texting. Unlimited web is another $10 unless you're running a G1 or similar iPhone-like smartphone.

The plan includes two lines for $80.


750 min Family + Unlimited Text: $70
Add unlimited data for one phone: $10

Figure taxes are another $6-$10/mo, total for around $90/mo. Includes free nights and weekends and unlimited T-Mo to T-Mo calling. No annual contract required.
posted by zippy at 8:54 PM on October 22, 2009

Check to see if you or the other person qualify for a corporate discount. I have 15% off my monthly T-Mobile bill because of who my employer is. You don't have to use the phone for work purposes, either. In fact. T-Mobile even gives a 15% discount if you're an AAA member.

It's only 15% off your bill, but it certainly adds up during the year.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:15 PM on October 22, 2009

If you're in the market for a smartphone, there is a pretty great deal going on right now at T-Mobile for a free HTC Touch Pro2 ($50 with $50 bill credit, free bluetooth headset).

The plans run from $30 for one line and 300 minutes, or $60 for two lines and 750 minutes. Data is $25 per line, which you need if you want the phone deal.

My girlfriend and I got ours a couple weeks ago and we really like them.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:22 PM on October 22, 2009

Two other T-Mobile discount options (not a shill, I recently signed up and spent a while looking this stuff up). Join Freelancer's Union (free) and when you order a new plan through them, you get a ~12% discount on your monthly bill. Note you cannot migrate an existing plan through Freelancer's deal. Alternately, if you have a .edu address, you can sign up for StudentRate and get a 10% discount. This deal allows for migrations.

My local CostCo has a cell phone kiosk where they cell T-Mobile (among others). They offer free activation and accessories (with my phone they bundled in a car charger and bluetooth earpiece).
posted by zippy at 11:36 PM on October 22, 2009

I'll second Page Plus. I got setup in about 15 minutes at a local wireless store (Wireless Toyz or Car Toys carry them). I can't tell the difference from my old full-contract Verizon service. You can easily port your number. I recommend GoogleVoice if you can get an invite.

They also have a 1200 mins, 1200 txt plan that's $29 a month! That's cheaper than the taxes on some cellphone plans.
posted by lattiboy at 11:43 PM on October 22, 2009

Agreeing on Page Plus - If you go straight prepaid at the $80 purchase level, you get $.06/min and $.06/msg rates. Also data, but it's pay-by-the-kb.

If you have, or can get ahold of, a verizon phone, you can migrate it to PP. Here's the Howard Forums wiki on them.

For almost any PAYG provider, you can get discounts on refill cards by shopping around: I tend to go to CallingMart, which almost always has some kind of sale. BabbleBug is also highly reguarded on Howard Forums, but the discounts aren't usually as good.
posted by Orb2069 at 1:26 AM on October 23, 2009

Walmart just started offering a $30/month plan for 1000 minutes and 1000 texts (and I think 30MB data). No contract.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:27 AM on October 23, 2009

Nthing Page Plus. I've been really happy with them since I ported my number over from Boost.

DO NOT GET BOOST. Nothing will work and it will make your life miserable.
posted by streetdreams at 7:35 AM on October 23, 2009

I love my Virgin Mobile plan. I tried Verizon before and it was pretty hideous, I paid for a lot of things I didn't need, want, and use.

You don't get to keep your number, I actually don't know of many companies that can do that even within their own plans if you switch to pay as you go, and AT&T isn't one of them (unless they changed something since I last tried).

Anyways with Virgin Mobile you can just add minutes as you need them with pay-as-you-go, or they have good monthly plans. I pay $35/mo, including taxes or whatever (I don't think they hide any fees, unlike other cell companies), for 300 anytime minutes, 1000 night and weekend, and 1000 text messages. I do most of my talking at night and text a lot. There are other plans...they can be cheaper too, if you don't use too many minutes, at least during the day. No rollover but I never need it.

Originally I switched from hearing good reviews. I get as good reception as with AT&T and I don't get bothered constantly with junk mail, you can do everything online or set up autopay. It's awesome
posted by problemcat at 12:28 PM on October 23, 2009

Oh, I forgot to mention other awesome things. With most cell carriers, if you (or your kids or something) buy games and music without your knowing, you get charged an outrageous crapload later for no reason. If you want ringtones on Virgin, you put money in your account and pay whatever the song costs ($2 or something) and keep it forever, no secret fees. Etc.
posted by problemcat at 12:30 PM on October 23, 2009

Response by poster: LOTS of good stuff, folks. Thanks.
posted by mwhybark at 10:57 AM on October 25, 2009

Response by poster: Hey, if anybody's still out there, since PagePlus uses Verizon's CDMA network, can I just scavenge any random CDMA phone or is PagePlius like Tracfone in that it uses non-SIM phones?
posted by mwhybark at 9:38 AM on October 27, 2009

You can use just about any verizon phone, I believe. Sign it up, do a *228, and the phone reprovisions itself for PagePlus.
posted by Orb2069 at 8:42 PM on October 28, 2009

is PagePlius like Tracfone in that it uses non-SIM phones?
CDMA phones don't really have SIMs either, from what I understand. There is no SIM card that you can pop into your phone.

From my perusal of howardforums, I gather than you can use any Verizon phone or sometimes (with some maneuvering/hackery) get Sprint phones activated on Page Plus.

I'm in the process of activating a phone (used Verizon Samsung SCH-i760, bought on ebay--nice because it has wifi) with Page Plus right now - I signed up with them, gave them my old phone number and information and the new phone's ESN, and now I'm waiting for my number to port. I'll report back after everything is set.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:32 AM on October 29, 2009

Confirmation: I easily activated the random Verizon phone that I bought on ebay with Page Plus.

Page Plus didn't notify me that my number had ported; in less than two hours I checked Verizon's number porting status page (which will also give you a status on a number you're porting to Page Plus since they use the same network) and saw that my number had been ported, so I just dialed *22890 on the phone right then and proceeded with activation. I had a $6.00 credit on my account immediately. Activation was free because I ported my number rather than getting a new number.

NB to anyone porting a number from Virgin Mobile: the Virgin Mobile "account number" (which you need to supply to your new provider) is not your phone number - it is a bizarre combination of letters and numbers that, it seems, you can only get by calling Virgin Mobile's customer service. (I couldn't find this "account number" anywhere when I logged into my account online and had never used it for anything.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:38 PM on October 29, 2009

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