Finally Switching to a Prepaid Cell Phone Plan

I have been with the same cell phone company, Sprint, for almost a decade at this point, but later this month I am finally taking the leap and moving to a different carrier.  For the first time in that decade history with Sprint I have made the 2 years without needing a new phone.  Although I have to admit I cracked the screen back in December making a mad dash to the car in a snow storm, but I knew it was my goal to get out of the endless hamster wheel so I dealt with the cracked screen.  It was just before that heroic dash which left me with a cracked phone that I decided I was just sick of the $147/mo after discount bill I received every month!  The Wife and I were stuck with paying an average of $75 a piece; I felt like there had to be a better way outside going to the other national carriers.

This left me with two things to research, a cell phone and a plan.

Finding a reasonably priced Unlocked Smart Phone

There are plenty of personal finance and early retirement bloggers that would scoff on “needing” a smart phone, but I am just not that extreme enough to go down to a dumb phone.  Naturally I started on the newer phones that just came out.  I was shocked to find that the sticker price on an unlocked phone of the upper caliber cost more than my laptop!  Those new subsidized phones that I have always paid $200 for, cost almost $700 when unlocked!

I was able to narrow down to two reasonably priced phones under $400:

  • Google Nexus 5 – Bought straight from the Google Play Store for $350.
  • Motorola Moto X – Priced at $400 but with a $60 discount with an .edu email address which I borrowed from a friend.  Total cost $340.

When I look back at this post in a year or two those prices are going to seem ridiculous when compared to the phones that are out there, but at this point it is what it is.  I decided on the Moto X, because reviews said the battery was better.  I also liked the fact that the Moto X is the same size as my current phone so I didn’t have to get used to a new sized, bigger phone.

When ordering my Moto X I chose the unlocked GSM version.  That means I can use bring it to ATT, T-Mobile or any MNVO that uses their towers.  An MNVO is a cell phone company that buys time on the 4 main carriers’ network at wholesale costs and then resells it to the public.   This is your H20 Wireless, Net10, StarightTalk, basically every company that isn’t worth in the billions.

So, since almost every phone is priced at a subsidized $200 I need to take that $140 difference and divide it by the amount I am going to save per month to determine my cross over point.

Deciding to Go With a Prepaid Plan

I originally felt like I was going to go with Republic Wireless due to Mr. Money Mustache’s Review, and the fact that it feels like they are the cusp of changing the industry.  If you aren’t familiar with Republic Wireless MMM has a great review, but basically the phone uses your WiFi connection to make calls, receive texts and obviously for data. As such they can bring down the amount you use on the main carrier they are piggy backing off of (Sprint). This leads to extremely low prices…unless you want 4G which brings you up to $40 a month.  When you compare it to the other MNVOs out there it is pretty standard.  Republic Wireless’ technology basically makes their phones worthless if you don’t want to stay.  So even though I am not in a contract…it basically is!

So it was time to do some research to figure out which MNVO I would use.  Reviewing my old Sprint Bills I use about a gig a month in data.  Something I could probably bring down if needed, but I knew that was where around the mark I had to be.  I don’t think going through each option would be useful as the plans will always be changing.  A great resource to check out is the MNVO section on HowardForums.

Basically I was looking at:

  • AIO Wireless for $35 a month with unlimited talk and text with 500MB Highspeed data
  • H20 Wireless for $40 a month with unlimited talk and text with 1gig of Highspeed data
  • StraightTalk for $45 a month with unlimited talk, text and data

I should mention that T-Mobile and ATT have their own prepaid but they were higher than the prices above.  From what I have read those plans provide a better ping rate (the time it takes for your page to start loading…not loading but that first millisecond before the data loads).  T-Mobile was starting at $50 but provided 2.5gigs worth of data.  I tried to call and see if they had a lower plan but they didn’t.  ATT started at $65 so they were out.

I figured since I have never gone above a gig I would be good with H20Wireless.  My office will be getting WiFi in the very near future so I’ll be using even less data than I am now (which may lead me to jump ship since I don’t have a contract!).  With a call into Sprint, I have found that I could probably get a deal at $55 a month on their terribly named Framily Plan.  This would provide me with that same unlimited text and talk with 1gig of data.  $15 is not a lot of money to save a month, and if I had known this I may not have gone through the effort but the first CSR I talked to didn’t let me know I was eligible!  Regardless, where I live it is widely believed that ATT has better service than Sprint, so to save money on what may be better service makes it still worthwhile.  This brings my cross over to a bit over 9 months.

 

I am not sure what is going to happen in the future, but it seems that the main carriers are in the midst of pushing people away from subsidized phones.  If that happens the industry will continue to change at a very rapid pace – and since I am no longer on a contract I can take advantage!

 

Who is your current provider? What do you pay?  

10 Responses to Finally Switching to a Prepaid Cell Phone Plan

  1. I went with Nexus 5 and StraightTalk. I buy 6 months at a time, so it is close to $42-43. For the extra couple of dollars, I don’t want to have to worry gigabyte limits. And while this is a little like a contract, the 6 months isn’t much and I have an unsubsidized phone anyway, so if anything happens, I’ll simply get another one.

    I rarely use that much data, but I was traveling a couple of weeks ago and the hotel wanted to charge me $10 a night for internet access. I tethered with my phone and that ate up some bandwidth. Usually once a year, there’s some event like that where it saves me $50.

    I like the idea of Republic Wireless, but I didn’t go there for the same reasons you did. Also, I read that they don’t support SMS short codes and my banks all like to SMS me with a code to secure my login. I’ve also heard the switch from wifi to cell doesn’t always go smoothly during a call. It seems like a lot of hoops for no real savings if you want 4G.

    • StraightTalk seemed liked an alright deal. Truth be told if bestbuy had the nano sim card I would have purchased it right then and there, but they didn’t have the Nano. Since I had to order one anyway I went with H20

    • tethering is a violation of straighttalk’s service contract. they can cancel you for that. also, they can change the host carrier on your plan without notifying you. i chose a phone that would automatically get me on at&t’s network at the start of my service; 6 months in, they switched me to t-mobile, and suddenly i couldn’t interact with anyone who had a canadian or usvi phone number. so the switch also changed who was “international,” requiring a $60/month plan, instead of $45–with no warning. just an f.y.i.

  2. I have been using Republic Wireless’ Moto X for a while now and it’s awesome. The 3G worked well for me and now I’m on the $10 plan. That works okay too. I’m in wifi range most of the time. I think SMS short code works now. You just need to use the underlying Sprint number (I think.) The switching is much better with the Moto X than the old phone.

    • Don’t have WIFI at the office yet, but I can see it working out for someone who is near it all day. I just don’t like the phone being worthless should you choose to leave Republic. It seems worse than a contract.

    • Wow they do hide that deal! I checked my minutes and while not a talking 100 would be much too low for me. I checked with adding minutes but the math doesn’t seem to be working. Do you have this deal?

      • I looked into that deal, I think it is famous for being paired with WalMart.

        I don’t talk on the phone a lot, so it could work, but I know I’d get put on hold for a customer service thing at some point and get really upset that they ate up half my month’s minutes in one call. Also T-mobile’s LTE coverage isn’t nearly as good as ATT’s. It’s a great price for a lot of data, but if you don’t use that much data it kind of goes to waste.

        • I have that plan, and yes it is easier to get at Wal-Mart, than from T-Mobile. There is a package you can buy for $40 that gives you a month of service, and a sim.

          I also agree on the service coverage. If you get off the beaten path, it’s not nearly as good as the competition, but in most cities it’s find. I get around that with T-Mobile’s wifi calling feature, so even if you don’t have a tower to connect to, if you can find wifi you can still make calls.

          Overall i am very happy with the service!

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