Finding a low-budget cell plan is a tough call these days, especially with smart phones. With expensive plans, the monthly cell bill can add up quickly. I’ve looked at nearly 50 service offerings, and in my opinion, I’ve found the best plan to get the most bang for the buck that can hopefully work for you too.
$10 Per Month – 250 Minutes
AirVoice wireless service (an AT&T MVNO) has a no-contract $10 per month plan that lets you mix and match either $.04/min for voice OR .02 per text. So, for $10 per month you can talk for 250 minutes – which is plenty for most budget cell scenarios. You can mix and match the texts with voice calls at the rates above until the $10 is used up. There is data available with this plan, but at $.33 per MB, it will suck down $10 in a jiffy. However, it is available if you need it in a pinch. After all, with so much WiFi available, you may find that you don’t need 3G or 4G cell data service. With AirVoice, you can even set your plan to auto-renew every month using the credit/debit card used to purchase the initial service. Since AirVoice is essentially reheated AT&T service, it works wherever AT&T works.
Is Your Phone Capable?
Speaking of carriers, you will need a phone that works on AT&T, or is an unlocked GSM capable phone. Use Google to look up the make and model if you’re unsure if your phone is GSM capable. Personally, I recently picked up an awesome phone. It’s the unlocked AT&T Pantech Burst which can be had (in mint refurbished condition) on eBay for under $100. It is a GSM Android smartphone that has 3G/4G / WiFi capability and very impressive specs for the money. If you’re not into smartphones, you can pick up a manufacturer refurbished GSM clam shell style “dumb” phone on eBay for around $20, or a texting phone (with slide-out keyboard) for around $50.
SIMS And Moving Your Cell Number
You can port (move) your number from any other service to AirVoice. Make sure you get the account and pin numbers from your existing carrier. In some cases the account number is NOT your cell number, so call your carrier to get this information if you don’t already have it, or else the port will not work. Purchase your AirVoice SIM, but don’t activate it. You will need a non-activated SIM to port the number to. A word of caution is to make sure you get a micro (not mini) SIM card to use with smartphones (like the iPhone or Burst shown above). You can find the micro SIMs for AirVoice on Amazon.com. For some strange reason, they don’t sell them on their website. If you do order a mini SIM (like I unknowingly did) you can cut it down, but you must be careful not to cut into the circuit area of the SIM. You tube videos and online cutting templates can help you do this. The SIM card is normally located under the battery of the phone. On an iPhone it’s located on the side and must be accessed by pushing the end of a paper clip into the little hole.
Is It For You?
If you gotta have mobile data, and home WiFi/Hot spots won’t cut the mustard, then this plan probably isn’t for you. Equally, if you jibber-jabber on your cell ’til the cows come home, or spend all your free time texting your 250 BFF’s this might not work for you either. You may be better suited to a plan like Virgin Mobile has with unlimited 3G/4G for $35 per month with NO contract, or an unlimited voice/text plan. For those of you who feel forced to carry a cell phone because pay phones are extinct – this plan is for you!
Time investment: 2 hours
Money Investment Estimate: $55 (phone if you need one + SIM card – $5)
Savings per year: $600 ($50 per month – assumes $60 per month voice + text plan)
1 Year Hourly Return: $272/hour - ($600 – $55)/2hr
Payback Period From Investment: 1-2 months