Have you ever heard of a shell game? They used to be more popular than they are now, but they’re still around. The game goes like this: A ball is placed under one of three shells. Through sleight of hand, the game-runner moves the shells around so quickly your head will spin. Finally, he (sometimes she, but usually he) places the shells back in line and asks you to pick the one with the ball underneath. Once in a while, you’ll get it right. Mostly though, the money you paid is lost and the prize played for is un-won. The carnival barker was too quick. Either that or the game was crooked. So it is with cell phone calling plans. They change with mind-numbing speed. Sometimes, you’re sure the game is rigged against you. Truly inexpensive plans seem as hard to find as a ball under a shell.
That’s where your friends at Gildshire come in. We spent a day, working out a plan to find that elusive inexpensive cell plan. First, we shopped for individual plans. Every major carrier wants to sell you a half dozen lines for almost $200. That may be fine for the large family that wants to stream their lives away. However, that is still ALMOST $200. In our opinion, it is way more than anyone should have to shell (see what we did there) out for phone service. Second, we assumed that you will have a phone number to port to your new service. Sometimes, that helped us keep the price down. The amount companies want to charge for new numbers makes you think they carve them out of stone.
Overall, we discovered that the major carriers were not going to be our avenue to truly inexpensive cell service. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be found. Rural customers have fewer options than urban dwellers, but you chose Mayberry for a reason. Cheap phone service wasn’t high on your reasoning board. Here’s what we found.
Freedom Pop: Lowest price, free after the trial period. Due today, $29.99 plus tax. Huh, you say? That’s how they do it. Freedom Pop gives you a month of their upgraded service with more minutes, texts, and data than in their free plan. To get the free plan you have to request it in your account before your billing period ends.
Republic Wireless: Lowest price $15 for talk and text only. One GB of data a month will add $5 to your plan. Two gigs, another $5. Their “Movies on a Mountaintop” plan (4 GB a month) will set you back $40 a month. Due today: $5.00
Ting: The first of the pay-for-what-you-use plans, and still one of the best deals around. Lowest price for talk, text, and data is $15, but that is truly bare-bones usage. One line, 100 minutes a month, 100 texts a month and 100 MB of data. No worries about getting shut down. If you go over the limits you select, your bill goes up, accommodating the next tier of minutes, texts, or data. Ting claims their average user pays $23.00 a month. Due today: One month service.
Cricket Wireless: Cricket used to be a regional carrier in the intermountain west, but it has expanded to near nationwide. Lowest price is $25 for unlimited talk and text only. Add $5.00 for two gigs of data. Due today: One month service.
Google Fi: Fi Basics is $20 a month plus taxes, which includes unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texting in the U.S. and 120 other countries and the ability to use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Another $10 gets 1GB of data. Extra gigs are an extra $10 a month. Please note, though, Google Fi supports only Google Pixel, Moto X4, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X or Nexus 6 smartphones. Most of those are not inexpensive phones. If you have one, this is a good deal. If not, Fi may not be the answer to your low-price dreams. Due today: $0.00
H2O Wireless: Data hounds may like the looks of this one. The basic $20 buys unlimited talk, text and 1GB of high-speed data. However, for an extra $10 your data jumps to 4GB high-speed and 2G coverage thereafter. Your plan includes unlimited outbound international texts. Please note that incoming texts from a foreign land are costing the sender a lot of money! Due today: One month service.
Twigby: Bare bones truly inexpensive prices, thy name is Twigby. It is possible to have cell service for $9.00 a month if the ability to call is what you need. Need more? Unlimited calls and texts, along with 2GB of service are available for $30.oo a month. Due today: $9.00.
Those are the best truly inexpensive cell plans we found. Metro PCS offers low-priced service, but they weren’t eligible because they no longer offer port-in service. At any rate, everyone should find something with which they can live by choosing one of these. On the other hand, if an amount the size of a compact car loan sounds good to you, have at it.