Best Decisions: Simplifying My Cell Phone Service

MetroPCS should be paying me for promoting them, but they’re not. I’m paying them for my no-contract prepaid cell phone.

I’m not paying them very much, but I’m getting everything I need and more.

I really believe that the days of signing a cell phone contract are over — at least for people willing to seek out smart alternatives. Depending on your needs and where you live, the alternatives can be plentiful and very inexpensive.

This is the fourth post in a 10-part series explaining the best decisions I’ve made since seriously starting on the path toward a simpler, minimalist lifestyle a couple of years ago. And this post is all about my MetroPCS cell phone.

My Simple Cell Phone Solution

I’m constantly reassessing my obligations to the world’s big companies — the entities with which I don’t enjoy dealing — and I do everything I can to limit my obligations to them. That means never signing a contact when there’s an alternative, especially when that alternative comes at a better price than signing up for a long-term commitment.

When I switched to MetroPCS last year, I wrote about the change in a post on March 15, 2011 called A New Cell Phone Is More Than A Money-Saver, It’s An Obligation-Reducer. (I really need to work on making my headlines shorter.)

In that post, I told you how excited I was to find that MetroPCS offers all the services I need from a cell phone (voice service and simple Internet) for $40 a month. That was a big savings over what I had been paying with Nextel.

In a later update, however, I told you that I had discovered the MetroPCS By The Minute plan. With it, I get everything I need for just $20 a month. The only catch is that I have to buy refill cards, and those cards are only available at Walmart.

The plan includes 500 minutes per month. Calls are billed at four cents per minute against the $20, and leftover money rolls over if you renew at least one day before the due date. Text messages are free. Internet usage is supposed to be taken out of the $20 per month at a very tiny rate based on the amount of data transferred, but they don’t seem to bother with this. You can renew early if you run out of funds, something that has never happened to me.

I’ve stuck with my $20-per-month cell phone, and I have everything I need plus I can check the mobile version of Facebook and other simple sites when I’m away from home and have a few minutes to spare.

The refills cards have been so popular that they are often out of stock at local Walmart stores, so I’ve had to carefully choose where I stop to pick one up each month. The company says that the cards are now becoming available at other locations, but I haven’t seen any yet. There is also supposed to be a $10-per-month option now, but I haven’t seen those cards yet. With the leftover balance I have on my phone, a $10 card might be plenty for me some months.

The only drawback I’ve noticed with the service is that text message short codes aren’t allowed, so you can’t sign up for text-message coupons from your favorite restaurants or text Google for personalized search results, but those things aren’t worth paying double or more per month.

The Internet service on my phone is a bit slow and on a somewhat small screen, but that’s more because of my $25 phone than the plan itself. I’m still using the phone I chose when I started the MetroPCS service, and it still works fine for me.

MetroPCS is only available in the United States, I think, and there are still places in the U.S. that the company doesn’t serve or where coverage is spotty. If it’s available in your next of the woods, however, it could be the right choice for you.

Get What You Pay For

Long-term commitments are one of the ways that companies get by with offering poor customer service. Since you’ve sign up and can’t change to a more responsive company, you have no choice but to deal with their stalls, non-answers and long wait times.

Here’s one of my secrets to a happy life: I don’t care about customer service.

In fact, MetroPCS doesn’t have very good customer service, especially not with the By The Minute plan. Many of their store and telephone representatives don’t even know the plan exists. But I get service that appropriately equals the rate I pay, and I’m happy with that. It seems fair. I’m not paying a premium for helpfulness and friendliness that I never get.

Fairness in my transactions is all I want. And while some of you might think my MetroPCS cell phone is only a fair phone from a fair company, I think it fits my needs fairly well.

In fact, I think I’m getting a bargain.

Do you have the best possible deal on your cell phone? Or have you arranged your life in a way that makes one unnecessary?


  1. Love the topic, Gip. Glad to hear it’s working so well for you.

    I cancelled my contract phone about a year ago & have been pay-as-you-go ever since. It has been a great relief not to be chained to yet another corporation. It’s also been a key decision on my way to a more minimalist life.

    My behavior with the phone has changed for the better. Because I’m paying per minute now, I no longer talk as much on the phone, which I feel is a positive move that has further uncomplicated my life.

    I’m old enough to have spent most of my years without a cell phone and realize that it’s not a necessity, but a luxury, really. So, if I’m going to continue to have one, it’s going to be on my terms, as easily and cheaply as possible.

    1. Perfectly put, Carol. You don’t include a link with your comments to a blog, but I hope you’re blogging. Your comments are nicely written.

      Fortunately, I don’t like talking on the phone, so I don’t do it unless I have a reason.

      I think breaking connections to corporations is important. MetroPCS is a corporation, of course, but I have no commitment to them. We can go our separate ways at any moment and neither of us will have to break a contract or do anything wrong for that to happen. I’m still committed to an electric company (no choice of companies where I live), but I think all my other obligations are voluntary.


  2. I’ll definitely have to check them out! I love that the texting is free! We switched to T-Mobile from Verizon almost a year ago. Worst decision ever! It is cheaper ($67 total/month for 2 phones with 1k minutes/mo), but the service is awful! We can’t wait to get out of our contract, so we can look into pay-as-you-go plans. Thanks for the info!

    1. If MetroPCS is available where you live — and they’re almost everywhere in the U.S. now — it would probably be a good choice for you. There are other companies that may be slightly cheaper, but I don’t know of any others that offer free texting and include Internet usage.

      Thanks, as always, for commenting, Megyn.

  3. Sounds great. Last year after I lost my Verizon because I could no longer pay it, I found Net 10. They have many options which I do not know in detail but the one I use is the prepaid for $25 or $50 per month. I bought the phone for $20. The service offers talking minutes, texts, email, internet and pics. The $50 deal is the best because it is Unlimited. I can talk and text my two grown kids and my family. I have to make a lot of business calls where I am put on hold many times and it helps. When I am low on money I get the $25 deal and it give you 750 minutes. Most people that know me by now know how much I hate talking on the phone so they text me. I use up hundreds or more texts per month. I usually will talk to my son who lives out of town at least 3 or 4 hours a month (about an hour a week). I buy my time online. My minutes are good for 30 days and they do not carry over. If you do not need as many minutes as I do they have many other deals that DO carry over. I don’t use them so check out to see what all is offered. I have never had trouble with signal. My son lives in LA and camps all over and the signal is fine. That type of coverage from Verizon cost me over $100 and I had to sign a 2-year contract. Never again.
    Take care,

    1. Good job, Joni. I know I considered Net 10, but I can’t remember why I didn’t choose it. Internet was likely the reason. Walmart even has their own brand of cell phone service now, so there are plenty of discount services available that don’t require signing a contract. Almost all are cheaper than contract service, just as dependable, and more importantly, when they become problematic or no longer fit your needs, you can adjust the plan or change companies whenever you want.

      So Joni votes for Net 10. I’m curious what everyone else is using.


      1. I didn’t see it mentioned but am I correct in “assuming” everyone uses a cell and no longer uses a land line? I had a choice back in 2003 (when I lost a job) and I chose the cell. I had two teenagers at the time and I bought them both a cell and I HATE talking anyway so I got rid of Ma Bell.

        I can understand if you are using a land line for your computer. I’m too impatient to use a phone connection for my internet….LOL

        1. Yes, Joni, lots of people have given up their land lines, and I think that’s a great idea. It may not be too many years before they stop running phone lines into new developments.

  4. You don’t care about customer service? Well, how freeing is that? Thanks for sharing your great happy life secret!

    As for the cell phone, thanks for the detailed explanation and food for thought. Mine only costs $10/mo beings it’s an add-on to another plan so I’m not likely to change any time soon but if I did, I’d sure be looking for the most affordable option. There’s really not much choice out here in the boonies, however…

    (Really enjoying your Best Decisions series, btw.)

    1. Thanks, Crystal. I’m enjoying writing the Best Decisions series too. It’s proving to me how much progress I’ve made.

      My mother bases how good a restaurant or store is on customer service, but I’m more concerned with the product or service. I’d rather get my own glass of tea or work out my own service issue than have someone who’s being paid slave-labor rates “serve” me. I know I can’t reboot a failed server at a web hosting company or go into the kitchen of a restaurant myself without permission from the health department, but I’ll serve myself when I can. I’m capable.

      I do plan to write a post about my dislike for the slave labor force in sit-down restaurants, but that will have to wait until another day. I don’t think most people realize how much those people get paid (just over $2 an hour in most cases) or what’s expected of them.

  5. I have been very happy with T-Mobile for many years. I discovered this past year that I could switch to their monthly prepaid/no-contract plan and get more for less money, and still enjoy the same excellent service. I had been paying $50/month for unlimited voice, plus another $5 for a text bundle. Another $5 of taxes made the total $60. Now I pay $50, with no hidden taxes, for unlimited talk, text, and data (I didn’t even have data on my old plan).

    I think you’re right, Gip: Prepaid is the new wave in cellphone service. Time was when prepaid customers were heavily gouged by the phone companies, charging as much as 50 cents per minute, and even as much as a dollar. Now the prepaid plans are the best deals out there!

    1. I’m surprised more customers haven’t caught on, Mike. Prepaid phones were indeed very expensive at one time and intended only for those with bad credit who couldn’t get a billed phone. Now, the prepaid deals are often better than the ones that require application, approval and contract. I suppose people will catch on eventually.

      I still can’t find many people to text, but I have free texting if I ever do.

      1. I think part of what keeps people doing the contract thing is that with that contract they often get a free or heavily discounted phone every two years, and apparently most people like to upgrade frequently. Of course, if you shop carefully and buy used or simple, a phone isn’t expensive. Last year I picked up a new phone because I have enough people who prefer texting and it was getting too tedious pecking them out on a numeric keypad. I found a nice basic slider with full qwerty for $50 brand new.

        1. A qwerty keyboard does make texting easier. I’m doing more of it in the last year since I got my $25 MetroPCS phone. It’s not fancy at all, but it will send texts and access basic stuff on the Internet — which is plenty for me. I like the idea of buying a new phone on my schedule rather than the company’s.

  6. Hey Gip…with a much larger market in the States than we have here in small town Canada I’d like to say I’m envious about your choice of selection.

    I’m not though. But only because as an introvert and minimalist I actually find the phone distracting. It causes me anxiety.

    Being frugal and mobile, I’ve worked out a great solution. This is fantastic for all the traditional people (like my parents) that need a phone to reach you.

    I’ve used SkypedOut for years. Skype is not just computer to computer. I can call computer to landline and mobile phone. The country option is about $3 a month. Since my daughter lives in England and I have many global friends I use the international one for $9 which let’s me call over 50 countries.

    I also have an account with Callture which gives me a North American 1-800 number that I can attach to my Skype. When people call it I get the call or a message on Skype (my computer) and can be anywhere in the world to recieve it. Awesome. Also $9 a month.

    I can screen my calls. Turn on my little netbook and video conference, text or talk with Skype and Callture. All for under $20 a month (about 300 incoming minutes for free on the 1-800). When someone calls, I simply call them back.

    It’s worked well for quite some time now. All communication for less than $240 a year.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Stephen. My Internet connection isn’t robust enough for that solution, but thanks for mentioning it. Maybe it will be right for someone else.

      I should have mentioned in the post that I don’t really like using a telephone either. I’d much rather have an email from someone or a text if it’s a short message. I think a telephone is an inefficient way to convey information, although it might be fine for a chat, something I almost never do!


  7. Hey Gip…no probs. Always like the conversation here.

    Yep, I feel awkward on the phone but use my SkypedOut to connect with my long distance family and friends. It’s the only way to spend time with them.

    For the record, good connection, high speed or not, VOIP technology has come a long way and usually my connection is fine. A good headset helps resolve this.

    It is not an efficient tool with email at our finger tips. Text has become too back and forth with no answers!

    1. Very few people I know text, but I really neglect my friends who don’t use email. I rarely call anyone. If I’m on the phone, someone called me.

  8. I am not crazy about text but if I want to communicate with my two grown kids I have learned to love it…


  9. Gip, I’ve been using a prepaid cell phone for years. I’m not much of a cell phone user so mine costs about $100 a year. I have a Verizon prepaid and purchase $100 talk units for the year and usually have ample time left over for the following year.

    No hassle, no contract and I’m able to talk and text on an as-needed basis. I purchased one for my daughter who is a textaholic. She has the $20 per month unlimited texting plan. So between the two of us we spend $340 a year on cell phone service.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Felicia. It sounds like you’ve found an economical solution for you too. We’re all proving that no matter how we use our phones, there is an inexpensive prepaid option. And I haven’t seen anyone complain about the quality of the service they get from prepaid phones. That was an issue for some the last time this topic came up.

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