What is the cheapest ‘price per minute’ mobile phone plan that doesn’t charge a monthly fee?

Joseph Videtto December 16, 2012
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What is the cheapest ‘price per minute’ mobile phone plan that doesn’t charge a monthly fee? I would like to reuse one of my old retired cell phones as a backup (different number is OK), and pay the minimum possible per minute.

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  1. DalSan
    December 20, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I think Net10 allows you to order a special SIM card to use their service on carrier locked phones. There are a couple of prepaid service providers that charges $15 for the SIM card, then you pay for their service.

  2. Kannon Yamada
    December 20, 2012 at 6:28 am

    Hey Joe, great question! This is actually one of those subjects that I literally researched to death - six months ago there was substantially no one offering decent plans for ala carte plans. Nowadays there's about half a dozens MVNOs with great plans. It's in fact hard to keep up with all the awesome deals going on. Judging from what you described, you're going to want Ting's minimum plan OR PlatinumTel's. But there's a lot of choices in the prepaid market nowadays.

    Are your backup phones CDMA or GSM? Or are they Sprint (which is CDMA, but is also compatible with Ting)? If they're GSM or Sprint, you are in luck. If they're CDMA, there's probably some kind of option out there for you, but I haven't a clue as to what you might do with them.

    For GSM, the current undisputed master of the prepaid plan for major carriers, in my opinion, is the T-Mobile StraightTalk plan - however, again, that's just for major carriers. StraightTalk, by the way, has an unusually high throttle speed - people are reporting getting close to 1MB/sec download speeds, AFTER getting throttled. That's actually better than my current speeds.

    If you go to the MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), who rent spectrum from the major carriers, then you have PlatinumTel and Ting, who IMO, offer the best plans on the net.

    Ting has a bit more complexity to their plans than PlatinumTel, and they're basically using Sprint phones. You can actually walk onto their network with a Sprint phone, believe it or not. I can't think of any MVNO that allows that, aside from PlatinumTel (Ptel).

    P-Tel has the best all-around plan and also one of the best ala carte plans. I actually recommend them above all other plans for GSM as they let you walk onto their network with any GSM phone. And on top of that, they offer the best PayGo (cheapest monthlies) around.

    P-tel is having a sale right now, too, in case you're interested in that sort of thing.

    But basically it's like this - if you have CDMA, you're out of luck. If you have Sprint-CDMA, go Ting (their plans are complex, but solid). If you have GSM, go P-Tel Paygo. Anyway, I hope that helped. Good luck!

    • Kannon Yamada
      December 24, 2012 at 1:06 am

      A quick correction - off-contract Verizon phones supposedly can be used with PagePlus Wireless, but I don't have any experience with this, unfortunately.

      I also want to make another point abundantly clear:

      Ptel has the cheapest plan for per-minute use - it's $5 per month and you pay $10 per sixty days to keep the account active. ALL prepaid plans require that you spend money every 30 days (more or less) to keep the account active. There are no alternatives to at least some form of monthly payment. However, Ptel allows rollover. So whenever you don't use minutes, they "rollover" to the next month.

      The only way the minutes expire is when you stop paying. Most prepaid carriers allow you at least a 30 day grace period for lapses in payments, before they drop your minutes and take your cell number.

  3. Joseph Videtto
    December 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    oops - I'm in NYC in the US

  4. Rob Hindle
    December 16, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    depends what country you are in
    Among the cheaper PAYG in uk is GiffGaff.

    Beware of PAYG sims that exipre if you don't make some use of the phone, I had one that wiped out my credit because I'd not used it for 6 months.