Reader Tip: Inexpensive Cell Phone Data Packages with

Lonni emailed in the following tip:

I work from home doing graphic design, with two young boys (3 and 1). My husband and I weren’t necessarily looking to cut our cell phone costs, but we wanted to switch to a plan where I could access email while I was away from home. We looked at the major carriers, but a data plan just simply was not an option on our current budget.

We searched around until we found a great low-cost cell phone carrier called They offer pay-as-you-go, no contract (and no fees to cancel), and “pay for what you use” cell phone plans. They also allow you to create an a la carte plan based on the amount of text, data, minutes you’d like to use.

So far, we’ve been able to use all the bells and whistles of a smartphone while paying LESS than we paid for a minutes-only plan with our other carrier. It’s truly amazing and so nice to know I can cancel my plan at any time if needed without penalty.

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  1. Joanne says

    How broad is the coverage from this company? Do you have dead cell areas or dropped calls? Do you live in a metropolitan area?

    • Lana says

      I just looked at their website and it is covered by the Sprint network. Sprint has no coverage in our area so I was glad they had this information available before I pursued it any further.

  2. Lorie says

    We use straighttalk which saved us a TON of money on our cell phone bills. No contracts, unlimited text, talk,data and 411 for $45 a month or there is a$30 a month plan as well.

  3. says

    I am guessing this doesn’t include iPhone? Does anyone know what cheaper carriers include iPhone? Now that I have one, I don’t think I could divorce it :'(

      • melissa says

        I don’t know for sure, but have you looked into StraightTalk? I thought they used the Verizon network. And I know there are smart phone options available.

        • jessica says

          also, i use H2O wireless for mine. i pay $25 a month and pay 2.5cents per text or minute of calling (works out to 1000 minutes OR texts -or a mixture- per month. you can also turn on cellular data for a per kilobyte rate, which is nice in a pinch.) they have monthly/unlimited plans as well.

    • Laura says

      Virgin Mobile has iPhones. I pay $30/month for mine! (300 min, unlimited text and data). Their phones cost more upfront but you save more in the long run!

      • Debbie says

        I like the a la carte features of this plan. Does anyone know how to calculate how many megabytes you would need or currently use?

        I have and love Virgin Mobile and have been on their 300 min/unlimited data plan for 2-1/2 years. I was grandfathered into their old pricing structure and am fortunate to still pay $25/mo. I had to pay upfront for my Android smartphone but I like that I’m not locked into a contract for a “free” phone.

        My husband uses Net10 which is $15/mo. He has a basic flip style phone because he didn’t want a smartphone, but they do have smartphones available. He had to buy his phone upfront also, but since it was just a basic phone it only cost $30.

        In total, including taxes, our 2 cell phones cost us $43.44/mo for a combined 500 minutes in talk time which works for us. In 2-1/2 years’ time, we’ve only had to add more minutes 3 times and at .10 cents a minute, it’s not going to break the bank.

    • Lonni says

      Ting doesn’t support the iPhone right now. Accordingly to their blog posts, they’re trying to get it and are in talks with Apple.

  4. says

    Wow! This is pretty neat. I wish I wasn’t locked into a contract … I definitely need to save money and my cell phone is costing me close to $100 a month. Thank you for sharing!

    • K says

      You could check to see what it would cost to break the contract. My neighbor’s had a $300 cell phone bill. They told me it would be $150 to break their contract. To me it would be worth it to pay an extra $150 if they were going to save several months at $300 a month.

      I was paying nearly $100 every month with my previous carrier. Now, I have Straight Talk (it’s a prepaid plan). I paid $100 for the smart phone & now do the unlimited $45 per month for unlimited everything. It’s $130 if you pay every 3 months, $255 if you pay every 6 months, or $495 if you pay once a year + taxes that you would pay with any phone carrier. However, I can’t do Jingit on the phone.

    • Lonni says

      I was the one who sent her the tip — I’m so glad she posted, because we truly love the service! I definitely recommend looking up the cost to break your contract, it might be worth it in the long run!

  5. says

    I recently switched to page plus cellular. They use the Verizon network. And, while 4G phones are not yet supported by this plan, I’m very happy using my 3G Droid on it for just $30 a month. (lots of other plan choices, too)

  6. Allison says

    It sounds nice, but now that I’ve looked into it, it wouldn’t be for us. If and when we leave our current plan, we want to take our iPhones with us. Ting requires you to buy one of their phones. Thanks for the post, though! I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that this would work for. The pricing is GREAT, no doubt!

  7. says

    These are always so hard for me. I live very rurally and travel around in my state and the neighboring ones a lot in the summer. I would love to save more on my voice and text only plan but US Cellular is the only one that has coverage for me. I refuse to pay for a phone because it is cheaper but can’t use it. :)

    • says

      You may want to check out some prepaid phones that have a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO); they do not have their own towers, but instead use multiple companies’ networks. With a little digging, you should be able to find what main companies contract with different prepaid MVNOs and see if it can work in your area. It can save you bookoo bucks. This coverage comparison map is a bit old, but may be helpful:

      I personally love (love LOVE) Tracfone. While using tracfone, I’ve done quite a bit of traveling and generally get a strong signal. The only place I couldn’t ever get a signal was camping in the mountains in Colorado, and no one in our group had one then.

      Alternatively, you could call US Cellular and see if they sub-contract with any other phone companies (though they may be reticent to give any business away…).

  8. Mary says

    Thanks for posting! This particular company may not be suitable for everyone, but it has stirred up some ideas from others. It is good to see what others are doing to save money. Thanks!

  9. says

    Wow, thanks! I have made the decision to use Ting based on your tip! Looking through the different options and comparing them to my current carrier, I found that I can also do more for less money per month as long as I watch my usage. I hope that it is as easy as it looks to check current usage so that I can keep on top of it. My husband and I had been wondering if we were among the last dumb-phone users…and now he will be the last one! I’d better share. 😉

    • T.B. says

      No, he won’t! I’ll be with him :). We’re only paying an extra$10 for my ‘dumb phone’. As a SAHM, I figure it’s not worth the expense when I can use my laptop or wait til i’m home to access internet.

      • Ann says

        Like!! We can’t justify a smart phone for my husband or myself. I need it for calls/texts and just when I’m away from home IF it’s needed. So you’re not alone!

      • says

        I hear you. One thing that made me nervous about this deal (with a smart phone) was – what world are we entering? Is it another thing I’ll feel I don’t want to live without in the future?

      • angel says

        Me too. I still have a dumb phone for emergencies only really. I use Net 10 and pay $15 a month for 150 months and still ended up with over 3000 roll over minutes!

    • Liz S. says

      That’s my exact situation too! My hubby and I both have “dumb-phones” and I don’t feel like we’re missing out. Plus it’s easier to teach my kids to live in the real world without having my phone alert me whenever something happens in the “online” world.

    • Lonni says


      You can really easily check your minutes whenever you want through their dashboard. You can even set up either an alert or an all out stop when you phone approaches and minutes/text/data threshold you don’t want to go over. You can also disable any of the data/texting capabilities via their website, if needed. I honestly sound like I work for them, but I don’t, I just like their service that much! After being in a contract with Spring for eons, Ting is a breath of fresh air and freedom.

      • says

        That is so good to know! Exactly what I want. I didn’t have any complaints about my current service except the customer service aspect being confusing and unhelpful. It just seemed like it was so much trouble to find out anything about my usage, and they didn’t alert me about going over until it was a certain amount over. And I wanted to save some money.

    • Sarah says

      I was embarrassed yesterday when the grocery cashier asked if I had a phone (meaninga smart phone) to get the store coupons loaded to my card. The kid had one, but I, who most likely out-earn him, do not.

  10. Sarah says

    I’ve also heard recently about Republic Wireless. You have to buy a phone from them as well but they only charge $19/mo. Their thing is that they’ll use wi-fi first when available (going on the assumption that most calls/texts/data are used when you’re around wi-fi) and then use Sprint towers and one other one, can’t remember now which one… Again, no contracts, so if it didn’t work, you’d be out the cost of the phone.

    • Lonni says

      I was on the beta wait list for Republic recently. I didn’t hear from them until we had already switched to Ting, but I was interested in the service. My question though, was what happens if your wi-fi cuts out mid-call, do you switch to the tower seamlessly or does it drop your call? It’s a very interesting concept. Republic also only had two phones to choose from :\

  11. says

    Hello everyone! My name is Sarah from the marketing department at Ting. We’d like to offer a $25 promo code for a Ting device for all readers. Follow the URL and the $25 will automatically be taken off at checkout!
    I’d be happy to give you a walk through of the service or provide you with a savings calculation showing how much you and your family can save with Ting. Feel free to send me an email at :)

  12. Ann says

    Yep – I was going to say Virgin. They have been fantastic for us. My hubby and I are on Boost because we just make a few phone calls and a few texts a month so we pay per, but my daughters who text a lot more have the VM plan (one is still grandfathered on the $25 plan, the other is on the $35 plan) and we still haven’t found a better deal than that. Going with this company, to get the comparable plan, it would cost more and their phones are significantly higher on TING than with VM.

  13. Brenda says

    I know the original post was about a data plan, but I would like to share that I have had a very basic talk and text plan with Tracfone for $112 a year. We’ve been with the company for several years.

  14. says

    We’ve also been using ting for a few months and REALLY love it. Since I’m home with the kids, I can often just use our wifi to access fun features and save on data usage.

  15. says

    For those using Ting, did you already have a sprint phone, purchase a phone from them or purchase from ebay?
    Alternatively, does anyone have experience with Straight Talk Wireless? TIA!

  16. joyce says

    some of my girls have used kajeet. it’s very inexpensive for a set plan. it was (is) designed for parents to set up their kids with a do-able monthly plan, but you can pick and choose the options. if the child is under 18, a parent needs to be the account holder.

  17. says

    Hi again everyone. Sarah here from Ting.
    We hear a lot from people wanting to come to Ting, but are stuck in a contract with a high ETF (Early Termination Fee) that makes it impossible for them to make the switch.
    We’ve taken that feedback into consideration and would like to announce that we are offering to pay off everyones ETF in the form of a Ting service credit. Rather than explaining all the details here, we’ve written a blog post that does just that. Have a look:
    Like I said before, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email! :)

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