questionswhat's the best deal on a no-contract phone plan?

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I bought a TracFone @ WalMart for $20. It costs about $20 every 90 days to renew the service and add some extra minutes, which I never use up and they roll over. Uses the Verizon network so coverage is decent, even way up here in rural MT. So now I am paying about $80/yr. as opposed to about $60/mo. w/Verizon contract.

This is not a smartphone. It is primarily to have w/me in the car or recreating and for emergency use.

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I have a Net10 phone, which I believe is just a slightly different plan from the same company as Tracfone.

I pay $30 every 60 days to keep the account active. This adds 300 minutes to my time bank, and unused minutes roll over as long as I don't let the account expire.

@zippy the pinhead:
I'm surprised to hear the price you quoted. The cheapest plan I see on Tracfone's website is $9.99 for 30 days, so you would get 60 days for your $20, not 90 days as you state. Can you confirm this?

At any rate, I'm paying 10¢ per minute with Net10, and Tracfone costs 20¢ per minute... so both plans are pretty good IMHO, just a little more of this and a little less of that.

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$80/year is a decent price but just so you know TracFone doesn't always use Verizon towers, they also use AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracphone
Another phone plan is Page plus(uses Verizon towers exclusively) where for also $80/year you get 2000 minutes to spread over the whole year(non data plan service).
If you want unlimited data/texts and are OK with 300 minutes/month of voice then I'd suggest Virgin Mobile(which uses the Sprint network) price is $30(with iPhone) or $35/month. They also have totally unlimited plans for more/month.
https://www.pagepluscellular.com/plans/
http://www.virginmobileusa.com/cell-phone-plans/beyond-talk-plans/overview/

For coverage I really like Verizon but if your not that dependent on having coverage everywhere then Sprint might be OK too.

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Another Tracfone fan here. We pay about $100 for a year and about 1200 minutes.

We use a Samsung S390G phone which has "Free Triple Minutes for Life, Full Qwerty Keyboard, Mobile Web, MP3 Player, Wi-Fi® Capability, 2 Megapixel Camera with Zoom/Video Recorder and Bluetooth". Under $30 at Amazon.

ATT&T is the carrier for our area. Because they use different carriers around the country you should check the Tracfone website before buying to see what phones are are usable for your area.

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I appreciate all the input so far.

@jjeff: He is currently using the Virgin plan you mentioned. It is great until something gets screwy and you need customer service. That's my reason for shopping around at this point.

I'm leaning toward Verizon at this point because I hear good things about their service and they've just introduced a $35/month unlimited text and data plan. Unfortunately, there really are no reviews on that particular plan as yet. I just want to be sure I'm getting the best possible deal which will meet his needs.

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@crowbite: $19.99 for 90 days of service & 60 additional minutes here: https://www.tracfone.com/direct/Purchase?payGo=true&app=TRACFONE&lang=en

Also, when I purchased my TracFone I got Double Minutes for the life of the phone every time I re-up. They also offer deals via text message and a coupon book good for a couple years with the initial purchase of the phone. Very competitive IMO.

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I have been on the Virgin Mobile plan that was $20 for three months plus .10 per minute. Obviously that was only for emergencies. They had also offered a bonus once-a-year top-up that would enable me to just pay one big fee that would keep the service enabled for a year which is much easier than renewing every two or three months. Unfortunately, right after I paid the renewal fee last fall, they informed me that they were changing the plan and they also disabled the check-your-balance menu option. Now I have no idea how much I am paying or what my balance is.

I am planning on changing providers when my year is up and am very interested in everyone's suggestions. Thanks!

cf cf
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@cf: There are so many plans out there to research, I find the process mindboggling! I know that Republic has a great deal at $19/month. However, that requires you buy a $250 phone upfront. And, them being a bit of a startup, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that high of a buy-in.

So, yeah, I am carefully reading each answer here and trying to make the right choice for my boy.

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@mamajamerson. Just to add another plan to the mix, I love my platinumtel (ptel) service. It breaks down to $ 3.33 monthly, useable at only 5 cents a minute, no daily fees And customer service has been great. Plus you can bring your own unlocked GSM phone and just get a sim card from them. I believe they are using t mobil towers now, used to be sprint.

Your decision should also include consideration of coverage in your area. Someone in one city may love a certain service, while it may not work as well elsewhere. This may help you decide:

http://www.cellreception.com/

Oh, BTW, welcome to D.Woot, you seem like a great new member! :-)

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@pickypickypicky: Thanks for all of that info. I didn't know that you could use your own phone with ptel. That may put them back in the running.

And I very much appreciate the link. I've bookmarked it for later research and it'll definitely be useful.

Also, thanks for the welcome. I'm still muddling through finding my way around here, but it's worth the muddle.

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I'm another Tracfone user. I end up paying about $80 every 15 months or so. I buy the 60 minute card for $20. That gets me 90 days of service. The site always offers me an additional 365 days of service for $50. So I buy that as well. I have "double minutes for life" on my phone (bought it a while back so I don't remember how much it was) and there's usually a promo code for at least another 20 or 40 minutes with the 60 minute card. So I end up with around 160 minutes and 15 months service. Due to very light use of the phone and tons of minutes rolled over that's enough for me.

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I'm using the $80/year page plus cards that @jjeff mentioned and have no complaints. I already had a verizon phone so switching over was free. I'm a pretty light user so I expect that when my current year is up I'll be able to keep it going for a while at $30/year using the $10 cards just to keep the account active.

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@crowbite: That's for a monthly plan, which doesn't seem to me to be a good deal. What zippy was talking about was the pay-as-you-go plan, where you pay a certain amount for account activation for a certain period, and then you buy as many minutes as you want. I activate my account for a year at a time and buy the big cards, my phone costs me about $125 a year, including replacing my phone once a year, and it is my only phone. I've been dissatisfied lately because the cell tower near my home appears to be having trouble and I have had to leave my home to have some conversations about serious personal issues that are exactly the type of thing you want to talk about in the privacy of your own home. But I understand that people with more expensive service are having the same problem in my area as the multi-service tower is glitching.

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@mamajamerson: Exactly my thoughts RE Republic. If they had a promised buy-back on that phone if you weren't satisfied after 30 days, I would be all over it. But that's a lot of money to lay out for a very specialized piece of tech that may not work for you.

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If you're prepared to go for a family plan (up to 5 lines on a single bill) with no contract, T-Mobile can't be beat. For a single line, you'll find the traditional pre-paid are cheaper but their 4G data tends to be slower. They've just last month gone to no contract & are better than the smaller prepaid carriers. You'd have to go to either a corporate store or the web because "authorized resellers" don't offer the no-contract plans.

No contract = you can dump them any time if they suck.

I have a 5 phone family plan. All 5 phones have unlimited talk, text & data. There are limits on the data (throttled to 2G) but you aren't charged for going over your allotment. 1 line has 2.5GB 4G data 4 have 0.5GB 4G for $120.

$80 for 1st 2 lines plus $10/additional line. Data is $10/additional 2GB (no overage charges). Out of 4G data? "Unthrottle" for $10/2GB pro-rated for the days remaining in the month.

Coverage is generally better than Sprint but inferior to AT&T/Verizon.