WTB: Good prepaid SIM card for someone who never uses their phone.
January 11, 2010 9:49 AM   Subscribe

What's the best option for prepaid cell minutes in the USA (Philadelphia) if I already own an unlocked GSM phone?

I've never been a big fan of phones. I hate land lines and I hate cell phones even more. Of course, as a nod to practicality, I still maintain a phone number.

For the past couple of years I have used a bottom-of-the-line Virgin prepaid model as my sole phone. It's a piece of crap, but all-in-all I've been pretty happy with it. Sadly, it has reached the end of its life. It's casing is cracked, it's battery keeps dislodging and I swear the whole thing will just up and break in half if I so much as think about putting it in my pocket.

Now the obvious thing to do would be to just drop the $10 on another of the same model. But, there's another option. A friend of mine just purchased a swanky new phone and has been kind enough to offer me his old unlocked GSM phone for free.

I understand that I would need a SIM card to use this phone. Unfortunately, in all my looking I've been unable to find a prepaid SIM card that meets my requirements. Specifically:

- Cheap rate for minutes: I pay 10 cents/min with Virgin and would rather not see that increase significantly.
- No (or very long) expiry of minutes: I use the phone as rarely as I can get away with. In the average month I use about $10 worth of minutes. Some months, I'll use less than a dollar. If I buy 200 minutes, I want to be able to use them over three months or longer.
- Good coverage in the Philadelphia area.
-Ability to do roaming in Canada, specifically Toronto. (Virgin doesn't offer this. That's the one big black mark for the phone I currently have).

Does anyone know of a provider that offers a prepaid SIM card that can make me a happy?

ASIDE: I haven't really considered any contract plans. I've been assuming that given how little I use the phone, there would be no monthly plan that would be a good deal for me. If you know of a plan that costs $10/month or less and has no or minimal early termination charge (there's a good chance I'll be moving back to Canada within the year), please let me know.
posted by 256 to Shopping (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you want to use GSM in the US, you have two options: T-Mobile and AT&T.

I used T-Mobile pay as you go for years. The key to it is to always refill minutes $100 at a time. It's usually pretty easy to find 7-15% discounts on minutes from online retailers (I used callingmart, and usually was able to pay about $90 for a $100 refill card, which was delivered immediately by email). The Howardforums site generally has links to the best deals available.

If you always buy $100 refills, your minutes will cost ten cents or less, and won't expire for a year (and whenever you refill, the expiration of ALL minutes is extended to one year).
posted by toxic at 9:58 AM on January 11, 2010


I just looked at that T-Mobile plan. It charges $0.50/min on top of the usual rate for calls to Canada. I should have mentioned in the original post, but about half of my minutes are calls to Canada.
posted by 256 at 10:08 AM on January 11, 2010

You might want to consider a contract, as they're easier to get out of than you think.

I had a contract on my phone (with Verizon) when I lived in the States, and then moved back to Canada. Most providers will waive the early termination fee under certain conditions, with the relevant one being: No termination fee if you are moving to an area they don't have coverage in. When I canceled my contact, I paid the $175 fee and then just had to fax them proof that I was living back in Canada and they refunded the amount.

posted by blue_beetle at 10:47 AM on January 11, 2010

but about half of my minutes are calls to Canada.

Cellular companies make a lot of profit on international long distance. You're not going to find a ten cent minute to Canada, unless you sign up for an international plan (which generally costs $4-5 a month -- and even then, it's likely going to be more like a twenty cent minute).


Buy a calling card, use Jajah, or Google Voice. In each of those cases, you'll be making (or receiving) a domestic call at your normal cellular rate, and then paying 2-3 cents per minute more to connect your call to Canada.
posted by toxic at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2010

Try eCallPlus (http://www.ecallplus.com/). It isn't a SIM card but it is non-contract and some of the deals are good.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 12:35 PM on January 11, 2010

I've done a lot of research and in general - T-Mobile is the cheapest.

You can get T-Mobile prepaid minutes down to 8.5 cents a minute if you add in $100 increments. (Even less if you buy them at a discount from a vendor like CallingMart).

Minutes last for a year after you put at least $100 in and can be extended another year just by adding to your balance.

Definitely get a calling card if you're going to call Canada often.
posted by wongcorgi at 3:57 PM on January 11, 2010

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