pre-paid cell phone on the road? - Fiberglass RV

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Old 02-10-2007, 04:13 PM   #1
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My wife and I signed up for a Verizon cell phone a few years back, mostly for using in our egg travels. But we hardly use it the rest of the year, and it's costing us close to $500/annum for very limited use (almost none when the egg's in winter storage).

It finally dawned on us that we're wasting a lot of money on this gadget , and that a prepaid cell phone might make more sense. So:

- If you only used a cell phone once or twice a week, for short calls, and...

- if you wanted continent-wide coverage for your egg travels...

...what would you recommend?

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Old 02-10-2007, 06:03 PM   #2
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All I can add is that my daughter just had to have a cell phone (she's almost 13) so she bought a Virgin Atlantic phone with her own money and we agreed to put a small amount of money in her account as an allowance - if she wanted more, she could pay for it. Problem was, it didn't work well around our area, and to keep the account active you have to put in a minimum of $20 per 3 months. I ended up taking it with me on a business trip to use up some of the credit and it worked well for that.

So, keep in mind the places you think you're going to travel and how good the coverage is for the phone provider, and realize that even if you don't use it for long periods of time you'll still need to kick some money in periodically to keep it active.

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Old 02-10-2007, 06:04 PM   #3
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So far, I'm very pleased with T-Mobile. When you are out of network your calls roll over to Cngular at no additional charge. Bear in mind that I'm in the southeast where Cingular dominates.

I usually purchase minutes in $100 increments, for me thats $200 a year for about 2,100 minutes. They quote 1000 minutes for $100 but you get extra minutes when you buy in $100 increments. The minutes are good for one year when you buy in the larger increments. Plus unused minutes roll over whenever you add to unexpired minutes.

With some companies their prepaid services are on a completely different network than the network servicing their contract customers. So, the contract network usually has better offerings and service coverage.

When I had Cingular prepaid last year, I got 400 minutes for $100. With AT&T prepaid I got 600 minutes for $100. When I traveled AT&T's prepaid network was the pits. Missed calls, dropped calls, messages disappearing and so on. Cingular prepaid had good coverage but their calls would go to a MUCH higher rate when I was outside their network.

I also do not use my cell phone very often. It is very tiring having to deal with the sales pitch for a contract every time I come in contact with a phone rep. I've had prepaid since 1999. Since 1999 I've averaged 20 minutes of cell usage per month. That is not worth $30-$50 per month to me.

I can't comment on any prepaid services other than AT&T, Cingular and T-Mobile.
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Old 02-10-2007, 07:32 PM   #4
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I looked into the pre-paid approach, and found a variation of one of the problems which Lee mentioned: the pre-paid minutes expire. I found it was cheaper to get the most basic plan, which provided 50 minutes per month for $15/month, than to go pre-paid even if I used no time at all. Another benefit is I just get a regular bill, with no contract, and I don't have to remember to buy more minutes before some deadline.

The real trick was finding that really cheap plan, which the phone companies do not promote; it is usually called their "emergency use" plan. My service is with Telus in Canada, and that particular plan is no longer offered (we're still on it, but they don't let anyone new sign up).
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Old 02-10-2007, 07:47 PM   #5
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I use Consumer Cellular which buys time from Cinglular. I think their rates are very reasonable. I dont use mine awhole lot either.. just short calls.. I dont use long distance on my land line so if I have to call longdistance I use my cell..... So far I havent had a problem with their service..

check thier site out...
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Old 02-10-2007, 09:48 PM   #6
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We wanted a cell phone for my wife to have going to and from work and at work if she needed a phone quickly, instead of adding another phone to our verizon which we use to keep in touch with our son and daughter if different states and I take to work with me, we went with a pre-paid cell phone. We went with Tracfone which we got at Wal-Mart as well as the time cards. We go with a 12 month cards, I believe 100 minutes but normally get more than 100 with specials and signing on the web, etc. If you don't use all the time in the 12 month period, it rolls over to the next period if you buy a new card before the other one expires. There are many different amounts and months one can purchase. You buy a phone, which are not very costly. Here is their web site, but other phones and companies maybe as go or better, we went with them because their cell phone were less expensive at the time we wanted to get one. We have not use it on the road, but they have a fairly wide system, check out the areas before you go with whatever system you choose to go with to make sure the places you go to have coverage.

For around $80 a year, she has a cell when she needs one.

Happy Travels


PS: Jack, I just noticed your "home town" listing, my daughter spend 2 yrs in Eagan while doing some training; she has been up their in your neck of the woods for last couple of weeks visiting her sister-in-law while her husband is in training down here in NM for several months. We enjoyed our visits up there, the 3 summers we went up while she was there, extremely nice bike trails all over with very nice people. She not only got her training up there but left with a husband. Not sure if I would want to experience one of your winters, however, being a native of south Texas and 34 yrs in New Mexico and all, but she didn't mind them and my son is in Minot, ND which is even colder.
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~Previously ~ 2005 16' Scamp
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Old 02-11-2007, 08:41 AM   #7
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We switched to SimpleFreedom prepaid phones a couple of years ago after using Tracfone with mixed results for a couple of years. Similar to most people's use of prepaid phones, ours is for emergencies, for my occasional travel to one of my "projects" in the adjoining state and for our Casita travels.

SimpleFreedom <> is a joint venture of WalMart and Alltel. The phones are available at WalMart. Refill cards are generally available at WalMart and Sams Clubs. Phones used to be available at Kmart, but I don't think this is true today.

Why did we switch from Tracfone to SimpleFreedom?
If you go to their web sites and compare their coverage maps, you will see our main reason. When we traveled more than about 10 miles from our home, with Tracfone we were immediately on "roaming" so were charged double minutes. When I spent a day in Farmington, NM, I really had to watch my use, because the double minutes added up fast. Our most frequent travel destination is southern California and we found lots of Tracfone "blind spots" on the way. Then when we get to our little cabin in the mountains in southern California, no coverage at all. SimpleFreedom resolved the worst of those problems. More universal coverage, fewer blind spots, rarely "roaming".

One anomaly that we discovered (spring of '06) in southern California was that some (perhaps all) WalMarts did not sell SimpleFreedom refill cards. (However we did find them at Sams Clubs.) We were told that local WalMarts were prohibited from selling there because of an exclusivity agreement with a cell phone provider other than Alltel. Of course refills are available via internet or by phone.

Rate structure is pretty straightforward and is basically 15 cents per minute.
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Old 02-11-2007, 09:13 AM   #8
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After investigating this about a year ago, we went with Tracfone at a cost of $100 a year for 250 "anytime, anywhere" minutes. Or 400 minutes (and double all future minutes) for $129 a year.
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Old 02-11-2007, 03:30 PM   #9
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Hi: Here...all this time I thought the whole idea of camping was to get away from the phone not take it with you!!! Alf S. North shore of Lake Erie
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Old 02-11-2007, 04:08 PM   #10
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How do you get pizza delivered without a phone?
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Old 02-11-2007, 08:18 PM   #11
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We bought into the Virgin $20 every 3 months plan, and have used the phone on three cross-country trips so far, phoning ahead for reservations when it looked necessary.

Coverage is not great, but we found ways to coax use out of it. 1) Most major routes have cell towers here and there. The ones with the round thingies seemed to be the ones Virgin liked. 2) High ground 3) Nearby cities

For as little as it costs, it seems to be ok.
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Old 12-03-2008, 08:56 PM   #12
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I remembered reading this thread from quite some time ago, and thought I'd update this thread to tell you about my TracFone experience these last few days.

All I can do to express my opinion right now is say I need to cool down a bit. If I expressed my feelings about the process right now it might sound like . . .

Run Away! Run Away!
Give them to your enemies!

Details to follow. Once I have working cell phones again.
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Old 12-03-2008, 09:31 PM   #13
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I had good luck with Simplefreedom phone until Verizon took them over in California. I then switched that phone to PagePlus celluar which is also prepaid using the Verizon network. The cards are $10.00 good for 90 days. As a backup I have Tracfone that seems to work fine and the cards are sold at any Walmart for 19.95 for 90 days. Having both phones means if one doesn't have good coverage the other sometimes does. Also I was able to drop long distance on my home phone and save $16.00 a month in charges.
Pageplus you can use your old Verizon phone and just have it converted over.
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Old 12-03-2008, 09:55 PM   #14
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We switched to Virgin Mobile last year and have no complaints. We pay by the minute so some months are more than others - however, call display / voice mail is free and I figure we are paying 1/2 what we paid for our old phones.

Mobile phones are great for connecting with people when planning to meet for camping or other activities - I just don't allow any work calls to get through =)
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Old 12-04-2008, 08:01 AM   #15
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Buy 1000 minutes for the year. If you don't use all the minutes by the end of the year they will roll over into the next year ---> only if you buy another 1000 minutes. I have had this phone for over 5 years, works perfect for us. You can buy 1000 minutes on Ebay for about $89.00.
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Old 12-04-2008, 09:41 AM   #16
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In Wyoming, only two carriers really work, Verizon and Alltel. Tracphone does have a program, but go 5-10 minutes drive out of town, and you are roaming. Both programs have free nights and weekends available, even on the prepaids. Both programs have free calls phone to phone, in the same carrier. Verizon appears to be more, but Alltel gets you on the little things...calls to email charge, even if there is no message. If you buy a $100 refill on Verizon, it lasts a year, and they have usage plans that you only pay on the days you use the phone. However, use 'em in the evening, after hours, and that day is a usage day, even if you didn't use it during the day.

We've used prepaids for monthly bills and you have to pay for your own phones, but dollar for dollar, no surprise costs. Can't beat them. Also Verizon won't roam in most places.


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Old 12-04-2008, 11:10 AM   #17
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I was told (years ago) that pre-paid (Canadian) card would NOT work in the U.S. because of the MANY assorted (American) carriers and their various rates AND roaming charges. We then looked into getting phones for use only in the U.S. (enexpected emergancy use only) but found that we needed to have an 'address' (American BILLING address) AND a S S #.... So we looked into which of our two (at that time) servers had the best coverage for our expected usage and went with them for coverage.
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Old 12-04-2008, 01:35 PM   #18
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Service really depends on where you will be -- Last I checked with Internet by Cell Phone group, Verizon and Sprint were the ones to have when away from the cities and interstates -- I believe Virgin works on the Sprint network -- Carriers like T-Mobile are great in cities but kinda sparse in the boondocks....

For you EhLanders, I believe one can buy a pre-paid cell phone at places like Wally without address, SSN, etc.
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Old 12-04-2008, 03:32 PM   #19
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Thanks fer that heads up Pete, I'll check that out at Wally World next trip down south!!!
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Old 12-04-2008, 03:34 PM   #20
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You make the pizza in the dutch oven.

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