Looking for a pay-as-you-go option for a Canadian cell phone
January 11, 2015 1:07 PM   Subscribe

I want a plan that has NO monthly fees for a rarely used cell phone.

This is a follow-up question to THIS question that I asked last week. (Many thanks to everyone who helped - you've given me a big boost up my steep learning curve). And apologies in advance for my wordiness.
I have now acquired an iphone 4s, and am going to be signing up with Payd to accept both credit and debit cards. For starters, is it correct, as some people in my previous question said, that I can do this with no SIM card or phone plan at all, i.e. only using the iphone to access the internet?
I will be using this phone primarily to accept cards, but given that I now have it, it seems silly not to activate the phone feature. However, I will rarely use the phone, probably only to contact my wife from time to time while traveling.
When I lived in UK, I had a T-Mobile phone that had no monthly fees. I would just add money to a little card whenever I needed to, and that was the only cost.
I've been examining Rogers' "pay-as-you-go" plans, and they're not really what I think of as "pay-as-you-go", i.e. it appears that I have to pay at least $15 per month to get any service.
Is this the case?
This is a locked Rogers phone, so any solutions need to deal with them. Is there a cheap way to have very occasional cell phone use and no monthly fee?
posted by crazylegs to Technology (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We just went through this. My son was using my wife's cellphone, which is on Virgin mobile. He put it in the wash. The phone (a smartphone) does not work anymore.

But we still have the Virgin account. Luckily my dad had an old LG feature-phone (physical keyboard for texting no less) that he gave to us.

We had to take it to a local shop to get the phone "unlocked" so it would work on the Virgin network using our Virgin SIM card. It cost about $40 here in Victoria, including a SIM card adaptor kit.

So the phone is now accessing the network using the Virgin SIM card, but the phone can accept any SIM card now AFAIK.

7-11 has some prepaid SIM cards. There is one for $120 bucks or something (just minutes, no data, but if you have WiFi why would you need data?).

So when I get around to upgrading the Virgin plan to a better phone we will do the 7-11 thing and get a prepaid SIM card for our son, who can use it with the hand-me-down, unlocked feature phone we're using now (ie, we'll swap the Virgin SIM card back into whatever smartphone Virgin lets us upgrade to, give that to my wife, and give my still-young son the dumb phone).
posted by Nevin at 1:13 PM on January 11, 2015

Be aware that the no-monthly fee options can have a de-facto minimum amount you have to spend. They set it up so if the phone goes X days without any value they deactivate it. Any value you add to your phone expires in Y days (you can't put $10 on it and use it for the year). So de facto you have to spend (minimum value to add at one time)*365/Y if you want to always have value on the phone so you can use it or (min value)*365/(X+Y) if you're ok with the phone sometimes being value-less and unusable.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:24 PM on January 11, 2015

is it correct, as some people in my previous question said, that I can do this with no SIM card or phone plan at all, i.e. only using the iphone to access the internet?

Your last question suggested you will largely be using this at an outside market, so it's worth clarifying that unless you have actual wifi at the time of the transaction, this won't work. This may be stating the obvious, but the transaction is real time - so if Payd is anything like Square (which I use) you will need to be connected either by wifi or cellular data during the transaction.

The payg plans I have seen on Rogers all have a minimum fee per month, so that will be your limit. But you shouldn't have much trouble getting that phone unlocked, but all the US plans I have looked at for my stuff (Canada seems to follow them) all follow the $15 THEN pay as you go per month billing model.
posted by Brockles at 1:29 PM on January 11, 2015

Mobilicity is purely PAYG, but I think 90 days without a payment and your account is turfed.

However! Your 4S will probably only work on the Rogers/Bell/Telus networks. Mobilicity/Public/Wind all work on a different part of the spectrum, for which the 4-series doesn't have the right antenna. You need 5 or above.

I am 99% certain that is also true for 7-11's plans (which if memory serves are just rebranded from someone else; Fido maybe?)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:29 PM on January 11, 2015

To expand after seeing Brockles' comment: Mobilicity is cost of phone + cost of SIM + cost of monthly plan to start. After that, it's straight-up only the monthly cost.

True PAYG, as in you have a phone number and basically a cash account that calls get charged to, doesn't really exist in Canada; PAYG means your service stops immediately when you stop paying your monthly bill, no credit check needed, etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:32 PM on January 11, 2015

7-11 has pay as you go plans with 1 year expiry for any amount of credit.

Telus has pay as you go with 1 year expiry too but the minimum is $100. This is what I use as my text plan is only $5 per month (with taxes and 911 fee a bit less than $7 all told). Over the course of a year the occasional voice call I end up making sucks up the the dollar a month excess. No credit check or credit card required and it stops working immediately if I don't maintain my balance. I have to put money on it so occasionally that it's happened a few times.
posted by Mitheral at 1:43 PM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I stand corrected!

(Also even if you haven't paid your bill, 911 calls are supposed to go through.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:51 PM on January 11, 2015

If you're planning to use your payment service over WiFi, rather than over cellular service, then your closest match on Rogers is their Pay as You Go "Talk Only" plan which have very small monthly fees, but don't seem to allow for data.

Unfortunately Rogers isn't really set up to accommodate this kind of low usage user -- they're more of a full-service, high cost provider.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:28 PM on January 11, 2015

Response by poster: In the link that jacquilynne posted above, Rogers gives the local rate as 25 cents per minute, but doesn't list a long distance rate. This leads me to suspect that it's exorbitant. Anybody know what it is, to save me searching some very small print on the Rogers website?
posted by crazylegs at 3:11 PM on January 11, 2015

7-11's Speakout plans are re-branded from Rogers. A Rogers-locked phone will work with a Speakout SIM. It's a good provider for voice and text, but less good if you'll be needing cellular data.

I manage to use a smartphone with PAYG data and minutes from Koodo. It works out to about $25/month, but I usually have Wifi access and I don't talk on the phone much.

OP, it looks like the PAYG LD rate is +40c/min, from here.
posted by invokeuse at 4:21 PM on January 11, 2015

If you put $100 bucks on your Rogers PAYG phone, it'll last for a year. Other amounts expire after a month.
posted by kate4914 at 5:39 PM on January 11, 2015

nthing 7-Eleven's Speakout PAYG service. As said above, a Rogers phone should work with a Speakout SIM. They're hands-down one of the cheapest PAYG for low frequency users. I did this with a dumbphone for a couple of years. Here's a consumer-run forum with lots of info about the ins and outs of going this route.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 6:18 PM on January 11, 2015

nthing-nthing 7-11 Speakout. I've run it on Android Nexus phones for years and love it.
posted by the dief at 7:10 PM on January 11, 2015

Look into PetroCanada. It cost me about $75/YEAR, as I use my cellphone infrequently. Running on an unlocked Android Samsung Galaxy S2.
posted by mbarryf at 6:02 AM on January 12, 2015

7-11 speakout pay-as-you-go is always the answer to this question. You can buy as little as $5 of airtime, and it will still be good for a year.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:00 AM on January 12, 2015

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