Ditching Landline. What's the Cheapest Cell?

CassandraSeptember 20, 2009

I'm trying to figure out whether ditching my landline and buying a cell would lower my bill. I have never had a cell before. Right now, with the caller ID feature, I pay $36.00/month for my landline service. This includes a flat fee for long distancee of about $2.00/month; I pay the actual long distance calls per minute over the flat fee.

Since most of my work is done over e-mail, I rarely talk on the phone. I make perhaps 2-3 phone calls per week, tops, and they are in the 1-3 minute range, usually making appointments or such. I almost never use long distance although I want it to be there for an emergency (ie. illness or emergency at my parents, etc). I want a very basic cell phone. Given this information, is a prepaid, no contract cell phone what I should be looking for? If not, what? And can you please give me specific information on what phones to look for? Thanks.

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It sounds like a pre-paid phone would be perfect for you. Hubby and I each have a Tracfone. The first time we purchased the phone we got the Double Minutes (800 minutes) 1-year service, and we've never used all the minutes, which roll-over each year. There are many types of phones and plans available.

I've had a cell phone of one kind or another for 17 years and the Tracfone has the best service and least cost.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 6:14AM
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I have found that the pre paid such as Tracfone also get a real good signal .. We paid 100 dollars for the year to use our tracfone, got it for MIL . 100 bucks a year isn't bad.. they have diffrent packages you can choose from.. I also have considered ditching the land line but it was here when hubbs parents lived here so about 40 years the same number so all the family and friends know it.. We do not carry long distance on our landline (we have cells) our computer is dial up Pffft..

    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 10:53AM
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I've had tracfone and now have T-Mobile To Go and I prefer T-Mobile. I also buy $100. worth of minutes which last me a year and they roll over the minutes. There are no other charges and by doing this online, I got a $129. phone for $30. I will eventually cancel my land line.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 4:05PM
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I have a AT&T prepaid. I pay $25 every 90 days. Never use most of it so it rolls over. It cost 25 cents a minute.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 10:13PM
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I don't use this anymore since I switched over to a cell phone with contract, but STI mobile probably has the lowest cost of any pre-paid for limited use. They charge $.09/day and $.089/minute. The minutes do not rollover. So for 3 phone calls per week at 3 minutes per call, you are looking at $5.90/month in charges. This company uses the Sprint network and they also have very low direct dial international rates (to landlines) that adds $.02/minute and up to the $.089 rate.

You can buy the minutes online or at Staples. You can have STI Mobile turn off voicemail and texting, if you like.

The Sanyo 200 is a decent basic phone with large buttons, but it does have a retractable antenna. You only really need this extended in situations with poor coverage.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 10:21AM
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I have to correct what I posted above. With STI Mobile the minutes/balance does roll over each month, but it will eventually run out if you don't top up because your balance is being charged $.09 every day.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 10:32AM
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There is no charge at all on my T-Mobile. If I don't use my cell the minutes don't go down. I asked when I got into it. I am thinking more and more every day to drop the land line. Would save me approx. $38. a month. I rarely use a phone, the $38. seems like such a waste.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 10:40AM
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stargazzer, nothing against T-Mobile, that is who I now use and like, but you are paying $100/12 or $8.33/month.

STI Mobile is cheaper for those who have very limited use. You are only required to make/receive a call on STI once every 60 days. Your bill could be as low as $2.78/month over a year for the minimum usage.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 11:41AM
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Thanks jrdwyer, have not heard of that. I will stick with this one because I may cancel my land line and if I understand it right the STI plan may cost more because I use it more. My sister or a friend calls occasionally and we talk for an hour. With a land line that is free but with a cell it would not be.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 4:17PM
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One caution folks: Before you tell someone to get a particular cell phone, be careful that there will be service available in their area! LOL I had Virgin Mobile as my first (and prepaid) cell phone and was very happy with it, except for the coverage. Virgin and STI use the Sprint PCS network (note that this is not the entire Sprint network) and that's fine if you're in major metro areas or on major highways & freeways you're in pretty good shape. However, even in the metro area I found several spots that were dead. T-mobile is very iffy in many areas around here. TDMA and analog were fine but they're both gone now. I got a GSM phone on the T-mobile network, that was fair, on the Cingular/AT&T network was pretty good but still not the best. I now have a CDMA Tracfone and have far better coverage in the 5-state area I've traveled as it's on the Verizon network and around here, it's got better coverage. For a while I carried 3 cell phones when I traveled a longer distance and wanted to have best chance of coverage. Check the maps for coverage in YOUR area, AND in the areas you travel where you want coverage. Tracfone uses all different networks depending on the location, phone and how you set it up.

Cost will vary. But if you like to "ding around" so to speak you can get some great deals on Tracfone between special deals, promo codes (it's essentially a coupon) and more. Depending on how much effort I wish to put into it, I run about $2/mo to about $8/month for my Tracfone. I just added something like 7 months and about 250 minutes for $20 so that's a little under $3/mo. When I get to the end, I'll just buy a year of time since I'll have enough minutes carried over from previous purchases.

I don't use the available voicemail on it. Don't even have it set up. I use the caller ID to call people back when they call. If they block their number they don't get to me and don't get called back. Long distance and roaming are no extra charge on my particular setup however texting is .3 unit per text whether sent or received. There are some that have free text receiving.

There's other phones that have better text rates if you're big time into texting. I'm not. I have a nice LG flip phone that gets great reception, super battery life and I'm very pleased with this setup.

There's another company called PagePlus that some people really like but they're more expensive for me so I can't see switching. They too use the Verizon network so it should be comparable coverage for me.

Just noticed you're in Minnesota. Depending on where you're at and where you travel you might want to consider CDMA. Be warned, many will push you to GSM and I personally think CDMA is superior in MN. Just do a little research and a little planning and you can save some money.

One thing though, I highly recommend having an extra charger or two. I keep one in my vehicle, and have an extra AC charger to carry with me when I travel. And an out of town friend was here for a couple weeks and his charger died on him so he'd have been SOL if he didn't have an extra charger. I usually get them on the clearance aisles or on ebay. Oh, did you know that cell phone chargers are one of the most often forgotten items in hotels???

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 4:05AM
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You right about checking coverage first, and the maps available don't tell the whole story.

T-Mobile, for example shows our address as best for coverage. Yea right, I get 0-1 bars outside and am lucky to get any coverage inside. All carriers are the same here (at home), as I have checked friends and families other network phones. We live in a valley and I can walk several blocks towards the tower and up the hill and it goes to 5 bars pretty quickly. The nearest tower is also located in a valley beyond the hill.

Wi-Fi calling takes care of the signal issue for us. 3-5 bars everywhere in and around the house.

A person suggested on T-Mobile forums that an unlocked T-Mobile GSM Wi-Fi phone, like my Samsung T-339, can be used with a T-Mobile SIM card that comes with a $20 pre-paid phone. I'm not sure about this, but it seems like it should work. One could also get an Ipod touch or equivalent unlocked smart phone with Wi-FI and install the Skype application and use that to make calls at the Skype rates.

If it is just money and not the cell phone portability that is important, then Magic Jack or Skype from your computer are probably cheaper and easier options for calling from home.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 3:13PM
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I haven't found a place where I could not use my phone, except on a ship. I am sure I will learn more when I cancel my land line. I don't use a phone very often, so what works for me might not work for another person. I was not telling anyone what to buy. I was telling what my phone cost per month. In Wyoming and S. Dakota I did hear my companions talking about no service, but I would think that would be pretty common in mountain areas.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 5:06PM
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Here's a question for people who have given up their landline: what do you do about calling 911? In our area (San Francisco Bay Area), 911 on cellphones connects to the CHP, not your local emergency department.

If you program numbers in your cell phone for fire dept, police dept, and ambulance dispatch will you get the same service??? As far as I know, you will have to give them your address verbally - they don't have it automatically like they do when you call 911 from a landline. You might not always be in a position to give it verbally during an emergency. (and god forbid what if your cell phone is dead when you need to make an emergency call?)

I'm not opposed to ditching landlines, I just have concerns about the 911 response.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 11:37AM
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With regular cell phone coverage (GSM,CDMA), 911 first asks the person calling in for an address and this takes precedent. If the person does not know, then they either use GPS coordinates from the phone or cell tower triangulation. Sometimes the person calling in gives the wrong address/town and this can cause delays. Sometimes the triangulation gives the wrong town and this can cause delays. Consumer grade GPS is accurate from 10-30 feet and this generally does not cause delays, assuming it is working. 50% of 911 calls are now made from cellphones.

The technology is getting better (smaller, less power use) and phones in the future will use a higher accuracy triangulation method and GNSS (GPS + GLONASS + Galileo, etc.) data to solve for the caller's position.

As far as VOIP services, T-Mobile requires you to enter your address into their database for the wireless router used most often to make calls from the Wi-Fi phones. They do know when calls are made from the router because they keep track of such minutes for both their and the consumer's benefit.

Landlines are better for guaranteed 911 accuracy, but cellphones are also great devices for emergency response. Errors in address are only a small percentage of responses to cellphone initiated 911 calls.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 2:46AM
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I read your post and had an idea that might be helpful.

Why not get a MagicJack? It's a jack you plug into your computer and then you just plug in your phone. You get unlimited local and long distance all year for only $19.99 a year. No landline or cell can beat that! My parents are getting it, they just ordered one. I'm sure I'll be next. They do a lot of long distance calls and were using calling cards but this is MUCH MUCH MUCH less expensive! I think Kohls and Target also carries them, at least where we live. They give you a phone number and everything. You may even be able to transfer your number, I'm not sure.

Sure, you need an internet connection for it to work but in some cases folks are already paying for the internet connection already anyways.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 1:09PM
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DS lived in NYC when the electricity went out for many days--squirrel in Ohio got into the phone equipment and blew the power for a good 1/3 of the country. Eveyone's cell phone petered out and they had no way to charge them. Land lines still worked, however.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 8:22PM
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"Eveyone's cell phone petered out and they had no way to charge them."

If you own a car, it is quite easy to charge a cell phone from a car battery in a few hours. The cell phone towers generally have backup sources of electricity like portable diesel generators. For people who live in a large city and may not own a car, they make phone chargers that run off of AA batteries and they also make solar chargers for small electronics. Most people carry spare batteries in their home for flashlights when the power does goes out.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 9:36AM
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One other consideration is your email and Internet. Is that over the phone line, or through cable service?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2009 at 2:44PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I don't think this has been brought up yet, but cell phones can cause cancer. I learned of someone today who has jaw issues because of the radiation emitted from her cell phone- doctors diagnosis.
The radiation varies by brand so in addition to looking for the cheapest carrier, look for a low radiation phone.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2009 at 12:24PM
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