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Low Cost Cell Phone Carriers

An interesting thing about me, my current cell phone number has not changed in over 16 years. I’ve carried it with me through 5 carriers and 3 states. As the years have passed I’ve seen costs reduce significantly, and today I want to tell you about some options to lower your plan costs.
Two years ago when my contract was up with Verizon I decided to switch to one of the lower cost carriers. At the time there were really only 2 I considered, Cricket Wireless and Republic Wireless. Today there is actually a 3rd, Google Fi. Each one of these phone plans are significantly cheaper then one of the larger companies like Verizon or AT&T. Their basic premise for operation is that the phone uses a local wifi connection when around an open network, and seamlessly transitions to a cell phone network when you walk out of the range of the router. All of these lower cost carriers, offer unlimited talk and text, however they differentiate in cost due to their data offerings. In addition, I’ve found they have some positives beyond their lower price.

My Personal Choice for Cell Phone Coverage

Ultimately I chose Republic Wireless 2 years ago as the cheaper option as compared to Cricket (at the time).  Republic Wireless has made some changes in their network in recent years. Originally, Republic Wireless transitioned over to use the Sprint network when out of range of a wifi connection. There were two plan options, one that had talk and text only, and the other also included unlimited 3G data for an additional $5/month (for a grand total of $25/month).  If there was no Sprint signal available, it transitioned to Verizon, with the only limitation affecting data usage as you now only could use a mere 50GB of what it called roaming data. However, roaming phone and text messages were still free. Over the last year or so those still grandfathered in to this plan (like me) gave up the 50GB of roaming data, but still retain the unlimited 3G data on the Sprint network.

Plans

Newer plans for Republic Wireless now transition over to the T-Mobile network (though they will not come out and say this). The plans are priced to provide only a certain number of GB of data on T-Mobiles network with unlimited text and phone still intact as well as unlimited wifi data. We recently had to purchase a phone for my wife given her recent job transition. We again chose Republic Wireless over Google and Cricket. I can give you some perspective on both types of plans Republic Wireless offers, both old and new style. Republic sells phone types compatible with Sprint’s 4G network as well as T-Mobile’s 4G network. The phones compatible with Sprint’s 4G network are now offered only with a data purchase setup that is per GB, but allow the customer to receive a refund for unused data. I have read that Google Fi also refunds unused data.  Costs of Republic Wireless are also slightly  lower than the other 2 at $20/month for 1 GB of data versus $30/month for Cricket and $25/month for Google Fi.  This was our primary decision maker.    At our current data usage of under 1GB per month per phone Republic Wireless was the cheapest.

Reception

To date with either phone we have had no more reception issues than noticed with my wife’s former AT&T work phone or my previous Verizon phone. In fact, there was a certain road in which my wife routinely would have dropped calls on the AT&T network, that will maintain connection with Republic Wireless. I do wonder if we’d have reception issues if we lived in the middle of nowhere, but in the suburbs of a major city, the reception is at minimum the equal of the other major carriers. Transitions from wireless to cell are also seamless. Voice quality is clear and data is available at 4GLE speed, so no concerns here.

International Travel

We also found an added bonus to these plans. We like to travel a lot internationally. Because of the wifi features we can call people in the US while in a foreign country at no additional plan cost. In fact this was one of the big reasons we chose Republic Wireless a second time over the other options. Both me and my wife are a bit fat fingered with ensuring we don’t go over data limits or we don’t make calls accidentally while roaming in a foreign country. Republic Wireless literally cannot do either. If you use up your allotted minutes you can change your plan to a higher tier of data on the fly from the app, but you will not simply go over the limit. If you attempt to use the phone in another country where you don’t have wifi, it just won’t work. This is in contrast to some of the other discount carriers while they make it smoother to just continue using data beyond limits or roam on an international network, which are great features in theory but just do not fit our needs.

Little Risk to Trying

Previous to trying Republic Wireless, both my wife and I had always been wary about low cost cell phone carriers, thinking that there had to be some horrific catch in getting unlimited talk, text and reasonable data for the super-low advertised prices. I was a die-hard flip phone user. No smart phone with data for me because I wasn’t about to waste money on an expensive smartphone and another $20-$30/month so that I could utilize its features. Republic Wireless is a pay as you go system so you can cancel at anytime with no contractual obligations. You can also bring your own phones with SIM Card replacement or buy a slightly more expensive phone from the company with no issue as well. Because of this there is no real risk to giving it a try beyond the price of a SIM card should you change your mind. I would strongly suggest giving it a try if your contract is up.  I’m actually convinced you can’t go wrong with any of the 3: Cricket, Republic, or Google Fi.  Regardless of your choice I would strongly recommend you consider one of these alternative cell phone companies this is an easy way to cut costs while still meeting your mobile tech needs.

Have you ever tried a low cost cell phone carrier?

19 Comments

  1. Go Finance Yourself!
    Go Finance Yourself! January 20, 2017

    My best friend has had the same cell phone number since high school. So about 18-19 years. Outside of my wife’s number, his is the only one I actually have memorized.

    Currently, my cell phone is provided by my work through AT&T. Prior to that, I was on a big family plan through Sprint with 4 others in my family. My wife is still on that plan, and her cost is about $50 a month for unlimited everything.

    Republic wireless sounds like a great option if you aren’t able to get on a family plan to share the cost or get subsidized through work.

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 20, 2017

      It really is rare to hold onto a number that long. I get some strange looks when I give it out as it originated in a state a thousand miles from here. Family plans sound like a great option. When the kids are older I might have to explore that route. Thanks for adding the idea.

  2. Wall Street Physician
    Wall Street Physician January 20, 2017

    I’m actually an AT&T person, but when my contract expires later this year, I will consider all cell phone options, including Republic Wireless. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 20, 2017

      I hope it helps you to find a good plan. I saved a lot over Verizon (exceeding 30 dollars a month and I didn’t have data or unlimited text prior.), but I’m not sure how expensive AT&T is.

  3. Smart Provisions
    Smart Provisions January 20, 2017

    Cool post, FTF. Another low cost carrier I’ve heard of is Ting, but I’ve never used them as I’m still on T-Mobile.

    The main reasons is because my parents are covering the bill and I don’t have to.

    Our bill comes out to $120 a month for unlimited text, data, and calling, which is about $30 per person in a four person household. When traveling internationally, they offer either 2G or 4G unlimited data, which is great for keeping in touch online.

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 20, 2017

      I’m not familiar with ting. A word of warning be careful which you choose. You really want one of the discount carriers that piggy back on a major carriers network, otherwise you’ll likely have coverage issues.

  4. FinanciaLibre
    FinanciaLibre January 21, 2017

    Nice overview, FTF!

    We run RW here and have been happy with the experience, especially in relation to cost. Saving around $100 to $150 a month on cell service is pretty nice!

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 21, 2017

      It’s saved us a lot of money. The real kicker for us surprisingly was wifi calling. I do a lot of work International travel. That free call to the US from wifi anywhere in the world comes in handy.

  5. Mustard Seed Money
    Mustard Seed Money January 21, 2017

    I have a friend that loves republic wireless. My dad is getting ready to pick up Google FI because he loves the Google Pixel. I honestly don’t have much experience with it but it definitely has me intrigued.

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 21, 2017

      You should give it a try. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three in the post. Also they’ve gotten to the point where you can switch networks with a simple change of a chip, so if you don’t like it your still good.

  6. Mr Defined Sight
    Mr Defined Sight January 21, 2017

    I’ve been a Verizon guy for years but boy is it tempting to try one of the low cost companies. The cell phone game is such a racket. It does help that I get a nice discount through work at least. I would be a little concerned about coverage in some of the rural areas in which I live though. I haven’t looked into them enough to see coverage maps.

  7. DivHut
    DivHut January 22, 2017

    The great thing these days is that low cost cel phone options exist. I put both of my parents on Republic not that long ago and they love it. The Mrs. and I both use Ting. We pay $30 a month for talk and text for two phones. We have been using Ting for almost 3 years and have no complaints. Thanks for sharing.

  8. The Green Swan
    The Green Swan January 22, 2017

    I’ve always been interested in trying out one of these alternatives. I don’t think RW is offered where I live though. I’ll have to research this more when my plan comes up for renewal again later this year. But right now my plan isn’t too expensive with Verizon as I share it with most of my family (6 or 7 people) and we all split it. It comes to around $40 a month. Some savings could be had there but not too bad I don’t think. To Mustard Seed’s point above, the Google Pixel might be worth checking out along with Fi.

    Thanks for the great overview, FTF.

  9. Chris Salamone
    Chris Salamone January 22, 2017

    Great Post, Republic wireless sounds like a amazing option if you aren’t able to find on a family plan to share the cost or get subsidized must work.

  10. Daniel Palmer
    Daniel Palmer January 22, 2017

    Lately we’ve been on Total Wireless and have been happy. We use more data on the go, so the 5 gig we get between the two of us for $60 is perfect.

  11. Royal blue
    Royal blue January 28, 2017

    Hello FTF,
    my wife and I switched to Google FI when we retired eight months ago. Reception and network availability have been very good, and we’ve saved a lot of money! The bill for both of us together runs around $45 per month. You only pay for the data you actually use – and only when you use it on the cellular network. The phone makes very good use of Wifi whenever possible and you don’t pay for that data. International calling is also very cheap. We don’t have the newer Pixel phones, but we’re happy with the Nexus.

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 28, 2017

      Google Fi seems like a good service as well. It seems to be gaining in popularity quickly. How much data do you typically receive for your 45 dollars?

      • Royal Blue
        Royal Blue January 29, 2017

        The individual plans are $20 for calls and texts, plus $10/GB for data. But we only use 50-100MB each, so we only pay $.50-$1.00 each for data. So each bill is usually less than $21 plus a couple of bucks for taxes and fees. Almost all of our data usage is on Wifi.

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