View Full Version : ok Hive Mind: Prepaid cell phones.. school me

July 22, 2010, 11:40
The wife and I are looking at prepaid cell phones to meet our very limited cell needs. We are looking for something to use for emergencies while travelling, the occassional "honey, pick up a gallon of milk on the way home", or a call from the kid's school, etc.

We don't burn up the airwaves, we don't text, we don't surf the 'net from a cell phone, and we don't need apps even if "there is an app for that".

Anyone have experience? Anything to look out for? Is coverage decent? Where's the best place to get them? I've noticed Wal-Mart even has them now. I assume you just go back to the store and "refill" them with minutes (cash) when you run out?



July 22, 2010, 12:03
I'm interested as well. Verizon reception at my house sucks. Can you keep your old number?

Magistrate PO
July 22, 2010, 16:02

I am in the same situation as you with only needing a cell phone for emergencys and occasional use. I purchased one of the Trac Phones from Wal Mart and bought the one year service with comes with 400 minuates of use. I have yet to use up the minuates before the end of the year and with the cost of the phone and the one years service packet comes out to less than $10 per month. Not bad for the cost. You can text on them but it seems like a pain in the rear to me. Reception has been good and I have traveled thru several states without any problems with reception. Good low cost option for cell phone service.
Good luck on your selection.:beer:

July 22, 2010, 16:09
Got this from the Walmart web page:

Tracfone is the cell phone that puts you in control. With TracFone there are no contracts, no bills and no surprises.
•Double Minutes for Life - (a $49.99 value) free: every paid Airtime Minute you buy and add to this phone will be doubled (with the exception of the One year + Double Minutes Airtime Card)
•Add a 60 minute Airtime Card and get 120 minutes
•Single Rate for every call: Call nationally, internationally or roam at local call rates
•Nationwide Network Coverage
•Downloadbale Rintones, Graphics, News, Weather, Sports and more using Airtime MInutes
•Features text messaging, voice mail, free caller ID, free call waiting
•Color display with screen savers and wallpaper
•Compact Flip Phone
•Includes Bluetooth Wireless Technology
•VGA Camera
•Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) Rating: M3
•Battery life with up to 6.5 hours of talk time and up to 13 days of standby time
•Handsfree speaker
•Vibration Alert
•Auto Redial
•32 polyphonic ringtones included
•Phonebook with up to 1000 entries
•Alarm Clock
•Calculater and stop watch
•Downloadable ringtones,graphics, news, weather, sports and more with Airtime Minutes
•TracFone Airtime Balance Display shows you how much airtime you've used and how much is left, so you control your costs
•Double Minutes for the life of this phone upon activation
•Includes up to 20 minutes of starter airtime upon activation

Here is the Trac Phone coverage map:


Looks like a good deal if you are not into a lot of cell phone usage.

July 22, 2010, 16:16
I have a buddy that does contract work for Verizon. He gave up his V phone for a trac of some sort. $9.99 mo, with a couple hundred (rollover) minutes available. As little as he's on the phone; it works for him.

Now I see V is gonna up my "promotional" package on the "one-bill" and starting next mo or so, I'm out even more $$. I might just go the TRac way and drop the features on the LL and go with magic jack ta save even more!

the Innanet portal is the bugaboo tho.. Can't get decent rates on hi-speed anyhow without going bonkers and big $$
Oh well! cain;t have it all :D

July 22, 2010, 16:45
I used a pre-paid Trac-Phone for awhile. It's very expensive per minute. Also, you have to keep buying minutes, even if you don't use them. If I recall, they round up fractions of a minute, so a call that's a minute & a half costs you two minutes. You also run out of minutes quickly.

I would find an inexpensive plan & phone that will cover you & the wife and unplug the landline permanently. I haven't had a landline for a couple of years and I don't miss it. Sprint has some good starter plans you can look into.

Month to month plans are also available and are much handier than pre-paid phones

July 22, 2010, 16:49
I've had a tracfone for years. Always got the $99 for a year of service and double minutes, which amounted to 800 or 1000 minutes. Never used them all, and they rolled forward onto the next years card. Per minute they are pretty expensive. Per month they cost next to nothing. If you don't run your yap, they are the way to go. If you're a talker, find something else.

July 22, 2010, 20:59
Well I and the wife are not big talkers and we just recently got a Tracfone for emergency calls and coordinating pickup and little errands.

For a home phone we have Phone Power which is a VOIP phone (internet phone) which cost us about $20 a month. We can make all the local calls and 500 long distance minutes which include Canada and 60 International minutes a month.

As my wife family is all over the world with a brother and sister in Canada and mother and father in India it has been great for her as she can now talk to her family with out spending a fortune.

July 22, 2010, 21:10
We used to spend $20 per month on wifey's phone which she rarely even turned on. We got tracphone and although I had been with TMoble for 5 yrs, I switched because it was so much cheaper. Now, instead of $40/month, it's maybe $50 for 4 months. I don't talk a lot and the coverage is good. We went from GA to CO in May and had service the whole way. And when I got my phone, I got a used, rebuilt phone that included 400 or 800 min, for $100. Still have it 3 yrs later and everything is peachy. I am considering getting one with a camera, but the telephone number will transfer if you do it right.

If you have your old number you have had for a while and want to keep, get your trac phone and call them with the telephone number you want in it and the serial number of the new phone and they will do the leg work. Just don't get the phone and start it since a number that is available will be assigned to your phone instead of the one you had. Let them do the transfer.

Good luck.

July 22, 2010, 21:22
I've been using pre paid phones for a couple of years now. For a couple of years it was all I used for home and business, but had a land line put in for faxes recently.

I got fed up with Verizon and their friggin' contracts and surprise! fees.

I buy TracFones at Wally World, usually paying $9.99 for the phone and charger, but last time I bought one that had alot of features I could give a shit about, but it came with "double minutes" already on it for $39.95

You buy cards with a given amount if minutes on them, such as 120, 200, or 450 minutes, and their activated when you buy them. Scratch off the back for a code you put in the phone and they're added. If the phone comes with "double minutes" or you buy a "double minutes" card it'll double what you put in it. 200 gets you 400 minutes instead. The more minutes you buy at a time, the cheaper they are.

Each card will give you 90 days to use the minutes in, but the time is accumulative. Each card you put in within that 90 days keeps extending it out. Right now, I have 1179 DAYS left on my phone.

Tracfone costs me about $.09 per minute.

Beware that our Congress Critters have been discussing mandatory REGISTRATION of pre paids, citing terrorism, crime and Hell, maybe even the Clap for all I know.

I would NEVER sign another contract with a cell phone company ever again.

July 22, 2010, 22:23
got the tracphone, little LG for $10.

works for what little i do on it.

July 22, 2010, 23:56
Tracfone customer service blows goats. The call center is in India. You have to have them repeat themselves multiple times to understand what they are saying.

You can't call CS from the tracfone, it has to be from another phone.

Sometimes adding minutes can be a pain in the ass.

I still have mine and wouldn't trade it for a contract phone, but they do have issues.

July 23, 2010, 00:08
This sounds like a viable option for me.. might have to hit Wally World this weekend!


July 23, 2010, 01:16
They work ok. They are not fancy. I just purchased one tonight for $9.98 plus a 60 minute card for about $19.98. Opened the package, plugged in the charger, got online and iniitiated the phone in about 5 minutes. I was using it in about 20 minutes (waiting on charger). Just pick up more minutes at Wal-Mart. Dopers do it all the time. Good for buyin' dope with, too. ;)


July 23, 2010, 06:44
i used the tracphone for years , i would always buy the 1 hour card and then they would offer more minutes for 5 dollars .
i could usally go 3 months with those minutes so it end up costing me about 30 bucks for 3 months service.

you can add min on line with tracphone pretty easy now

July 23, 2010, 07:12
With Tracphone you can go to their website and they offer promo codes that you can add to cards to get more time free. Last one I got had 240 mins doubled then another 90 on top of that. ended up with 570 mins for about $40. Also get your cards from Radio Shack. They have better deals.

July 23, 2010, 08:25
Good tip! :beer:


Old Sarge
July 25, 2010, 09:58
I Have been using a pre paid from Virgin Mobel for several years. Time is a little high but there are no contracts or time limits. I pay .25 a min for the first 10min in a given day. After that its .10 a min. Texts cost .05 in or out going. You can pickup top off cards or use a cc on there websight. The cards can be pickedup at Walmart and lots of differant gas stations. The websight is the easy way and you can top up right off the phone if need be. Nothing is worse then running out of time in the middle of a call.

In some cases the phone is a freebe or discounted. I got my flip phone for $7.11 on a Oh thank heven for 7-11 deal. Just go into a 7-11 and paid $7.11 for it. Topped it up and was off and running. The more options you want the more the phone is going to cost.

Now the bad part. To keep it up and running you must add $20. worth of mins each 90 days. The money addsup on your account and you don't lose it It just builds up. but if you let it pass the 90 day mark and don't add the $20.00 or use up all your time. Your account will not send or recive a call. You can stay in this locked status for up to like 150 days befor you lose your phone number. So when I went to Iraq, the wife would just add the $20.00 every 150 days to maintian my same number. If you keep with in the time windows you still don't loose your money or time on it. If you cancle out you can transfer it to another Vergin mobel phone (or get it refunded I think but am not sure on that). So it cost you $6.00 a month just to have a phone you can call out on in an emergancy.

As far as coverage goes I have taken it with me on all of varrious bases that I have had to go to state side during my deployments and never had an any total blank states (US Only, I don't think it can be setup for international calls, but I am not sure on this). You will hit some places that don't have coverage but thats going to happen with most cells. I have been in a few were I had better service them others (Ft Picket VA).

So if your not going to talk a lot, can manage to cluster your calls on that one day that you hit the majic 10min mark and find an way you like to keep it topped up? They work pretty good and are fairly cheap.

Its not for everyone but it works for me.
Old Sarge

July 26, 2010, 15:35
Jolly good! I found the Motorola W376G flip Tracfone for $20 at Dollar General (picked up two for a total of $42.80).. they were $29.99 each on Tracfone's website- and that was down from $49.99 ea.!! These have the lifetime double minutes and get pretty darn good reviews on line.

some specs:
Nationwide Network Coverage. Single Rate for every call: Call nationally, internationally or roam at local call rates. External Alert and Message Icons. Downloadable Ringtones, Graphics, News, Weather, Sports and more using Airtime Minutes. Bluetooth® Wireless Technology, VGA Camera, Vivid Color Display, Hands-free Speaker, Picture Messaging, Text Messaging, Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) rating M-3, FM Radio (requires headset, not included), Vibrating Alert, Voicemail, Call Waiting, Caller ID, Alarm Clock, Stop Watch, Calculator, Phonebook with up to 500 entries.

I haven't charged them up or activated them yet. I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to roll my old Verizon cell number over to the Tracfone. If so that would SO rock.... (to quote my daughter)...