OT - cell phone advice

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My parents are still able to drive, go shopping, eat out, and so on. But, there have been a couple moments when the car broke down. Or, one was out, and the other didn't know why it was taking so long. I suggested they get a cell phone. The reply was that we don't have the money to support another monthly bill.
I've heard of phones where you buy the minutes in advance. Has anyone used such a phone, and which brand, where bought, etc? If it was twenty bucks or so, I'd buy the phone outright, and give it to them as a gift.
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

I have little need for a cell phone but have a Tracfone. Wife had bought it for her emergency use but gave it to me when son put her on his family plan which probably costs him $20 month.
http://www.tracfone.com/index.jsp
You can get into a years plan for $99 which includes minutes. Cost per minute might be as much as a quarter but if you use as little as I do, it is a bargain and when you renew, they roll the minutes over. I keep the phone in the car or carry it when out in the woods. Never keep it on for incoming calls and now have 1,200 minutes I don't know what to do with and need to renew in Oct. Still a very cheap insurance option.
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On Tue, 11 Aug 2009 09:08:31 -0400, Frank wrote:

We have a Tracfone that my wife carries. I have seen them on sale for less than $15.oo and you can buy minutes in any increment of 30 minutes at a time that last for 90 days before you have to add minutes. I add the minutes on line with a credit card. All you need is the serial number of the phone. I keep this in a text file so when needed, I copy and paste it to the order form on the net. Unused minutes are rolled over every 90 days. They email me special offers to buy extra time and notify me by Email a week or more prior to the expiration date of the current minutes that are left on the phone. We don't give the number out so as to not be bothered with calls. We carry it because of health reasons and to call AAA if required. It doesn't take pictures or any thing else that I'm aware of, but don't have any use for any other services either.
My personal opinion is that this is as simple as you need and no more complicated than need be.
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RLM wrote:

If unused minutes are rolled over then why do you have to add minutes after 90 days?

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wrote:
[snip]

When you add a Tracfone card, you get (for example) 60 minutes and 90 days. These are treated as entirely different things. Minutes is airtime (deducted only when you use the phone). Days are the time period your service is active, regardless of use. When that (Days) expires, you have to renew. You keep the unused minutes.
Other companies are different. With my Alltel service, you just add money. Day and usage charges are both taken from a common pool (it's 75 cents/day and 10 cents/minute). [snip]
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Mark Lloyd wrote:

Combine that Alltel service with Google Voice and chose one of your free options as a "favorite number" that you set to your Google Voice number. You then have unlimited incoming and outgoing calls without using any minutes because incoming calls are routed through Google Voice and come from your "favorite number" and you call your Google Voice number to place all outgoing calls and all outgoing calls are to your "favorite number." Alltel has discontinued offering their own prepaid plans and the 75 cents/day plan is no longer available.
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wrote:
[snip]

Good idea. What would you expect to see on caller ID when you do this?

"No longer available" applies to NEW customers. My service continues to work as well as always. However, the options I chose are "text messages" and "nights & weekends", and changing one to "favorite number" might trigger that "no longer available" (requiring a Verizon plan).
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Mark Lloyd wrote:

It depends how you set up your Google Voice. You need to configure it so its the Google Voice number that is sent out by Google Voice, not the number that called the Google Voice number. Hence _all_ incoming calls made via Google Voice to the cell phone will show as the Google Voice phone number and your caller ID will be pretty worthless.
There may be some violation of the terms of service to do this---if they can catch you.

You might call them and ask. Couldn't hurt.
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If you buy a 90 days card, it expires in 90 days. There are also minutes that come with the card.

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We have phones with Virgin that run $5 a month each at $.18 a minute or about 27 minutes a month. Any un-used minutes carry over to the next month. We gave them a CC #'s and they "top up" the account for $15 every 90 days or before if you run out of minutes. We paid for our phones but received credit for the purchase price in minutes on the 1st month. The phones and service have been flawless for the last 2 years. Haven't checked lately so I'm not sure if this plan is still available.
https://www.virginmobileusa.com/myvirginmobile/home.do
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tom wrote:

Avoid Virgin Mobile at all costs. The problem is that you can only use Sprint's network. There is no roaming at all, even at extra cost. Sprint's network is very limited, especially outside urban areas.
See "http://prepaiduswireless.com " for details on the best prepaid services.
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Can only speak about the Chicago and New Orleans areas but I've never had any connection issues in either of those two areas.
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wrote:

Is there anything wrong with Virgin Mobile, other than limited coverage area?
I'm wanting to get a phone that works in Brownwood Texas. It's 49 miles off the interstate highway, and neither AT&T or Verizon provide coverage there. According to their map, it looks like Virgin does.
BTW, I don't live in Brownwood, but often visit someone there.
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Mark Lloyd wrote:

1. High per minute cost (recently increased) 2. High texting rates (they used to have the lowest texting rates) 3. Comparatively high monthly minimum (not really suitable for a glove compartment phone).

Yeah, there are a very few areas where Sprint is the only major carrier, and it looks like you found one!
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Guess it comes down to what you need. Per minute cost means little to me as seldom as I use my cell. I don't burn up the 27 minutes included with the $5 required monthly charge.

I seldom text\\email. When I do it's still cheaper than cell use.

Again I'm not up to speed on current\\new requirements, but with our plan we incur NO monthly minimums.
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wrote:
[snip]

That last one is important since I do want this for occasional use (glove compartment phone).

I found out that Virgin does NOT cover Brownwood (Sprint does, but it's roaming).
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tom wrote:

The big problem with Virgin is that it exclusively uses Sprints' network which is often not the best choice.
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On Tue, 11 Aug 2009 09:08:31 -0400, Frank
[snip]

You can get a Tracfone for $15, but it comes with only 10 minutes.
Tracfone uses the AT&T system, so your coverage area should be the same.
I use a prepaid phone from Alltel (now Verizon Wireless) because it works well here and AT&T doesn't. I got a phone with a camera. Sometimes it's nice to have a camera with you. With many Motorola phones you can get software to transfer the pictures directly to your computer, rather than having to email them (25 cents each).
BTW, my spell checker thinks "Tracfone" should be "Racoon".
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wrote:

It isn't always AT&T. It all depends on where you live and what company Tracfone can contract with. I never had any connection problems with Tracfone. It works just about everywhere, except at my friend's house who live in "the forest" on a mountain.

heh heh
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[snip]

When I had a tracfone, it would seldom get any signal at all at my house in town. It might get 1 bar at some spots in the yard, but that wouldn't last more than a minute or so.
Strangely, I could take it with me into the woods and get 5 bars there. Possibly because my land is close to a rural electric company facility.
[snip]
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