Paul checks the market and enjoys an afternoon glass

Paul’s happy ‘coz his phone bill is down!

Around 3 months ago we severed all ties with Verizon direct. We were tired of dishing out around $120/mo for limited phone service and figured there must be a cheaper option. Neither of us are the type to need/want the latest snazziest phone model, but we still wanted to be on the Verizon network just without the contracts and high fees. Is it too much for a frugal RV geek to ask? Thankfully there are many Mobile Virtual Network Operators (“MVNO”) operators who lease and re-sell phone and data from the major operators. We took advantage of just such a solution on the data side ~8 months ago, and we decided it was finally time to do the same for our cellphone.

Our Solution? We bought a Samsung Galaxy Proclaim and switched to Straight Talk unlimited talk/text/data for a mere $45/mo. We have no long-term contracts and we are still on the Verizon network. A “beastly” success!

Sound too good to be true? Well, honestly yes and no. We are perfectly happy with our solution and frankly our new phone is an upgrade from our old one, but it may not be the right solution for everyone. Here are some of the key things to consider if you’re looking at doing this for yourself:

1/ Buy The Right Phone For the Right Network

Operators like Straight Talk only carry certain phones, and only a small sub-set of these will run on the Verizon network. Straight Talk re-sells for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile. The important thing to understand is which phone you buy will determine which carrier you end up on. If you really want to be on Verizon you need to look for the following:

The red Verizon map is a sure sign this phones run on the Verizon network

The red Verizon map is a sure sign this phone runs on the Verizon network

You can get a reconditioned Galaxy Proclaim for only $60

If you don’t mind 2nd hand you can get a reconditioned Galaxy Proclaim for only $60

a) Phones Models Ending in C or with CMDA-V on the box: You can typically tell which network your phone will run off by looking at the phone model (for older phones) or the box (for newer phones). For older phones (non-Android, non-smartphone) model numbers ending in “C” are CDMA and will run on Verizon, whereas those ending in “G” are GSM and run on either T-Mobile or AT&T depending on the area. For the  newer phones (e.g. Androids) you’ll typically see CDMA-V (“V” for Verizon), CDMA-S (“S” for Sprint), GSM-T (T-Mobile) or GSM-A (AT&T) on the bottom left corner of the box. If you want to be doubly sure it’s Verizon you can “shop” online using a zip code that only offers Verizon (e.g. 54747 or 59801 work, at least for now).
b) Phone Models With The “Red” Verizon Map: Android Phones that run on the Verizon network will all have the classic red Verizon map on the box. Android phones that run on AT&T will have the blue map. The Android Sprint phones typically won’t have any map on the box at all.
 c) OR, Choose The Super-Easy Way: If you’re looking for an Android phone simply buy a Samsung Galaxy Proclaim, Samsung Galaxy Centura, LG Optimus DynamicLG Optimus Zip, or LG Optimus Showtime. These phones models are the main Android offerings that currently run on Verizon. They should ALL have the red Verizon map and CDMA-V on the box when you pick them up. Or you can buy an iPhone (see #8 below).

Also, do check this excellent Q&A from Howard Forums, especially since things change and they often update it.

2/ You’ll Need To Pay Full Price For The Phone

New PhonePart of the deal for getting cheaper prices on regular service is that you have to buy the phone outright. Since most of the phones are older models (there are exceptions -> see #8 below) this usually means you won’t be shelling out more than around $150 for a decent phone. Given the $$ we were throwing at Verizon, this little investment put us well ahead of the game in only a few months! We could have gone for a snazzier phone,  but the Galaxy Proclaim got good reviews and has all the “bells and whistles” we needed. A very good deal for the price.

3/ You’ll Only Have Access to 3G Data

At the current time Straight Talk only has access to 3G data which means you won’t be plugging into any of the 4G networks, even if you buy a 4G capable phone (e.g. iPhone 5). So, you have to be ready to live with the slower data speeds. We mainly use our phone for browsing, navigation, apps and 3G is perfectly fine for us.

4/ Unlimited Data Is *not exactly* Unlimited

MH910217455

You may well hit a data wall…

Although Straight Talk advertises “unlimited” data on their $45/mo plan, the word on the web is that there’s really around a 2Gb limit or around 100MB a day, after which you may be warned, start to see throttling on the phone or may possibly even be dropped. Also tethering (using your phone as a hot spot) is not allowed per the Straight Talk Terms Of Service. So, the question is can you actually live with around 2Gb of data? We monitored our data usage for several months before making the change and decided we were OK with that. So far our usage on the phone has supported this. We do everything we normally would on the phone and stay well within those limits.

5/ You’ll Be Limited to Verizon “Native” Network

The "native" Verizon network are the pink areas.

The “native” Verizon network are the darker pink areas.

When you buy a Verizon-operated phone on Straight Talk your phone coverage will be limited to their pre-paid “native” coverage map. This means no roaming and no extended network. To see this what this looks like go to the Verizon coverage map and click on the “prepaid” map -> you’ll get coverage in all the darker pink areas, but not the pale purple ones. In practice this will result in a somewhat smaller coverage map than what you would have with Verizon direct. The differences are not huge, and most of the non-covered areas are pretty remote, but if you’re regularly in one of those spots this service may not work for you.

6/ Customer Service Sucks

The one big complaint you’ll hear across the board is that customer service for Straight Talk sucks. I’m not going to deny it…it does and that comes with the territory. So far we’ve done everything on-line and have not had to deal with their phone support. If we ever do I’ll imbibe a strong beverage and suck it up. For me, it’s a price I’m willing to pay for cheap, reliable coverage and if it really pisses me off too much I’ll just leave. After all, that’s the beauty of not having a contract!

7/ You Might Have A Few Extra “Fees”

Our auto-refill bill has a few extra charges

Our auto-refill bill has a few extra charges

A minor thing to be aware of with Straight Talk is there is usually a small fee ontop of your $45/mo* plan  depending on how you buy your monthly service. If you purchase your service online directly through Straight Talk (or sign up for auto-refill) you will be charged your state’s sales tax, and possibly some regulatory or 911 fees, depending on local laws. For our number this adds up to just over $4 extra per month. If, on the other hand, you buy refill cards directly at Walmart stores (or on the Walmart web site) you will only be charged whatever the sales tax is in the state where you buy it. No other fees. In a State like Oregon (no sales tax) this means you pay exactly $45/mo and no more. You can also get a little extra discount by buying 3- or 6-month refills.

*Straight Talk also offers an unlimited international plan for $60/mo. We use Skype (on the phone) for all my international calls, but for those looking for a separate plan, the $60/mo deal is a great (and still inexpensive) option.

8/ What About The iPhone?

The iPhone 5 starts at $650

The iPhone 5 starts at $650

A lot of folks went pretty gaga when Straight Talk started offering iPhones. You’ve got to pay full price for the phone (which means around $550-$750 depending on model), but even with that initial outlay the $45/mo deal can still save you significant $$ over a direct carrier for 2-year contract (see this comparison). If you buy the iPhones directly from Straight Talk it’ll run on CDMA, and word has it Verizon is the carrier. The catch? Exactly the same points I mentioned above. You’ll be limited to 3G data speeds (the phone comes programmed that way), the Verizon native network and the 2Gb “limit”.

We’ve been totally happy with our Straight Talk switch so far. Our new phone was an upgrade from our old one, has all the modern “smart” features (GPS navigation, Android apps, voice recognition, web service etc.) and has worked great all though Arizona and Utah, except in the most remote locations. The only ding? Our phone battery is pretty poor and doesn’t seem to last the day, but that’s about the only irritation. So far, we haven’t noticed any difference from our old Verizon service, just more $$ in our pockets.

Other Options For Low-Cost Phone Service

There are many other options out there for low-cost phone service. We carry a back-up phone from TracFone which only costs us ~$100 per year. We simply buy a “bucket” of ~1400 minutes once a year and that’s it. No monthly fees, no extra costs. Just like Straight Talk (they’re part of the same company), which phone you buy determines which carrier you end up on. It’s a great, ultra-cheap option if don’t need a lot of talk time and want to avoid regular monthly fees.  Also, other MVNO’s such as Page Plus offer various plans all running on the Verizon network and will allow you to bring over your own phone too. A fabulous option if you already own a Verizon phone and just want to port it over to a cheaper plan.

So, what about you? Do you use Straight Talk or have found a cheap cellphone plan that you love? DO share, ask and enjoy in the comments!

105 Responses to Cheap Cellphone Service With Straight Talk -> Saving $$ & Severing Verizon Ties!

  1. mary barton says:

    Great practical post :) I use Page Plus myself. I can own phones I bought on ebay and choose our plans. For just a little over $50 we are on plans that fit our needs. Obviously we don’t need the unlimited right now and use WiFi for data as much as possible. I really enjoy reading about your travels!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Page Plus really has some excellent plans, and I noticed they keep updating them and offering bigger data packages. I like what they’re doing! We looked very closely at them before we ended up on ST. In the end ST worked best for us, but Page Plus was a close runner up. They are probably the best option out there for folks who want more choice in their phone models and I love the fact that try run exclusively on the Verizon network.
      Nina

    • mary barton says:

      gee I put wife when I meant wifi and completely left out other words LOL

  2. Sue says:

    Nina, you know I love you….but I think you have too much time on your hands. When is Paul coming home?

    Joking aside, thanks for the in depth analysis. Sue (and Dave and Lewis and Sasha)

    • libertatemamo says:

      You know my biggest issue is I simply can’t do anything half-assed. This post started off with the intention of being short and sweet, and ended up as a mini dissertation LOL.
      Miss you guys!
      Nina

  3. Wendy says:

    I got an LG Optimus a year ago in April. It runs on Sprint through StraightTalk. I camped in the RV all over from AZ to CA up the coast, a couple of months in OR and then moved to SLC, UT. I have been pleasantly surprised at how many places had service. The Sprint map looked pathetic when I got the phone. I use only this phone for all my internet and calling.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Good to hear the Sprint-based version has worked for you. As far as I know all the CDMA-based LG Optimus phones at Straight Talk run on Sprint except for the 3 specific models I mentioned in #1.
      Nina

  4. Melissa says:

    We got the Straight Talk phone and International Plan (like yours only it allowed us to call unlimited International) Only ding we found, was certain numbers would not go through and we got a recording “We have to hang up now” Took forever for customer service to get it somewhat fixed but we would use it again when we head back down – only plan that isn’t a contract and unlimited long distance, talk, text & data and no contract. Good luck with yours.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Ah yes, the famous ST customer service. How many stories I’ve heard! The $60/mo unlimited international plan is another reason I got a ST phone. So far I’ve managed all my international calls using Skype, so I haven’t needed to activate it, but it’s nice to have the option.
      Nina

  5. Nina, we switched as well, since Verizon was killing me, especially if you travel to Canada and leave your phone turned on. I learned a valuable lesson, by not opting for a program that covers you in Canada. Had I known about it, I would have saved myself a fortune.

    We crossed from Idaho into British Columbia and within a day we’d received a text message from Verizon that our roaming charges had exceeded $500. I immediately shut down our phone, but the damage had been done. When I got home my bill was slightly over a grand for about a day’s roaming connectivity. Worse thing was we couldn’t contact anyone because we were deathly afraid of more charges. Our solution? We bought a couple hours worth of WiFi time and then Skyped everyone to let them know that we would be out of phone contact until we returned to the States. Our only contact with all our friends and relatives for the remainder of the time in Canada was when we found a WiFi connection.

    I complained to Verizon, and they reduced the bill by $250….we had been their customers for 25 years! Needless to say that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We severed our relationship with Verizon (we were outside of our contract period) and began using a Tracfone which used the AT&T network, and a Virgin Mobile smartphone which used the Sprint network. You know about the Tracfone, but our Virgin Mobile Android phone gave us unlimited text and data and 300 voice minutes for $25/month plus those gotcha fees.

    Earlier this year I decided I really wanted an iPhone 5, and I went with Sprint on a two year contract. That’s now costing me $85/month, but I’m using it as a business expense, keeping my Virgin Mobile Android phone for personal use. Sure we pay too much, but we’ve learned our lesson!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Ouch for those roaming fees!! I don’t blame you for switching!
      Cheers for the info on Sprint. Looks like they’re offering some pretty compelling plans. Their coverage map is way too poor for our travels, but for those who regularly stay in Sprint areas it’s a viable solution.
      Nina

    • Davexxx says:

      This is a real scary story! Now, I’m a total novice regarding phones, but we hope soon to start a unique adventure for us, a 4-month RV trip (from CA) and hope to cross into Canada for a month. So PLEASE, could anyone advise me what to do… I want to get a cheap (<$20) Tracfone, and wondered: IF the above across-the-border overcharging is a danger, can I (a) get a tracfone phone here in USA, containing a SIM card, then (b) shut the phone down before entering Canada (!!) then (c) find the nearest Walmart there, and buy a new SIM card – which should, presumably, act as a 'Canadian' phone. Would this work? So, more dumb questions -1) would I then get a different phone number with the new SIM card? (I assume so, not that this bothers me at all). 2) Would the minutes I bought when in USA stay with the USA SIM, so then I'd need to buy new minutes for the new 'Canadian SIM card'?
      AND one extra question, for anyone who has experience of internet-from-the-(Verizon)-phone-network using the Millenicom 3G/4G MiFi 20Gb HotSpot plan with Novatel 4620L MiFi – which I think has a SIM card in it – can I do the same thing with this equipment: – change the SIM card when I 'cross the border' and get a Canadian one??

  6. Ray Burr says:

    Nice information. We have been using a cheap Tracfone and just pay as you go. It’s basically an emergency phone or for the convenience of calling a campground. Data is with our Verizon MiFi. The Tracefone is nice because its the same charge per min, to call back to Canada as locally. Also by buying some extra time we can hold onto the same number when not in the US for 6 months.

    • libertatemamo says:

      You know I didn’t know about the Canada calling on TracFone. That’s a great piece of data and very valuable for our Canadian readers. Good info!
      Nina

      • Barby says:

        Just some info….be really careful of the Tracfones. We purchased one and it had a few minutes to use on it. Then we bought more for $32 and the phone would not work. Tried to get a refund from Wallyworld and they took the phone back, no problem. The minutes purchased Tracfone would not refund. We had to get our charge card company involved and they refunded us the $$. We run from the Tracfones now…not reliable.

        • libertatemamo says:

          Hmmm…sorry you had a bad experience. We’ve had the Tracfone as our backup phone for 2 years now with absolutely no issues. It’s been super-cheap and reliable for us.

          Nina

  7. Sherry says:

    Wow this is a really thorough discussion of the cell phone situation. Great details and explanation. Interesting comments as well. thanks.

  8. Rob says:

    We had been with Virgin Mobile and my wife needed a new phone. I kept my Android with it’s $25/month for 300 min talk & “unlimited” data off the Sprint network. The rate today is $35/month.
    For her phone, we went with a Straightalk on the Verizon network for her.

    $45/ month for her phone (there was a 911 tax on the last card we bought her in Iowa) & $25 for mine works very well for us.
    Twice we have been at a place where only one of us had service since we went full time (that was one each for us). In Big Bend NP Texas neither of us had service, the MiFi didn’t work but the country was beautiful.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sounds like the winning combo you have there! Excellent to know it’s worked so well for you cross country.
      Nina

  9. Caroline says:

    My daughter uses Straight Talk and is happy enough with it. She bought a phone that was supposed to work in her area but she had to go outside to their fence line to use it. First time I have ever seen a coverage map be so accurate! Sure enough the map shows coverage right up to their property.
    You can save even more money buying refills at…
    http://www.refillmobi.net/

    • libertatemamo says:

      Cheers for the link. I’ll have to go check it out. Right now I’m being lazy and paying the extra $4/mo for auto-refill, but I may decide to buy individually, especially when we get up to OR.
      Nina

  10. Upriverdavid says:

    I have been happy with Tracfone for the past 7yrs..As you stated $100. a year. I left one on the hood of my truck..somewhere…They gave me a new one for $16. and added my 1500 minutes to the new phone. No problem at all. I live up in the mountains with no cell service so I certainly didn’t need to spend big $$$ for a cell phone.
    Thanks for your great information as usual.
    David

    • libertatemamo says:

      It really is one of the best, ultra cheap plans out there! Our TracFone is a super simple model and since we only use it for talk and occasional text it’s been the perfect backup. Awesome that they replaced your phone so inexensively!
      Nina

  11. acheapguy says:

    Thanks for the info. We have had a Straightalk (stupid phone) for years. it has been great; 30 dollars a month for all you can use. We are going to move up to the Galaxy Proclaim. We have grand kids who like to Skype, often when we are not home. Looks like we can Skype with this one, all for 45.00 a month.Our other phone is a Tracphone. It’s great for 120.00 a year.
    BTW, I have used cell phones for work for 25 years. The first car based unit cost 4 thousand dollars, and had a charge of 1.50 a minute ! 800 dollar a month bills were not unusual.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I remember those “brick” phones! Literally the size of a full brick, just about as heavy and outrageously expensive!
      The Proclaim should work out nicely for you. I use Skype on mine with no issues at all.
      Nina

  12. Beth says:

    Informative as usual! Thanks for the breakdown. We lucked into a Nationwide + Canada plan with Verizon with one HTC Thunderbolt with unlimited data & hotspot. I’m hoping this phone has a long life :-)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh lucky you. Those unlimited Verizon plans no longer exist, so you definitely want to milk that one as long as you can.
      Nina

  13. rexroats says:

    You rock! Thanks for the info…

  14. Gaelyn says:

    Great post. Does it have a removable SIM card?

    • libertatemamo says:

      The Verizon based (I.e. CDMA based) phones do not, but the GSM phones (e.g. AT&T) do. So, if you’re looking for a phone with a SIM slot that’s what you should try and buy. It’s a handy feature if you travel internationally like you do.
      Nina

  15. Great post! Unlike Europe North America is the part of the world where telephone users are victims of regular rip-offs.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Haha…yeah I remember fondly my days in Europe where I could buy any phone I wished and just activate it anywhere. What a great system! Of course Europe is way behind on the data curve most places…still very pricey to have data on your phone over there.
      Nina

  16. Tom says:

    T-Mobile’s prepaid can work for you. In my case I had an unlocked GSM phone, and purchased 1,000 minutes and a new number (sim card) totalling $120 (incl tax). The 1,000 minutes were good for 12 months. The sweet part, is that any purchase of additional minutes will cause all your minutes to roll over for another 12 months. So, I now put a date on my calendar and buy $10 worth of minutes. I’ve done this for almost two years, second anniversary approaching and have almost 1,000 minutes left, averaging $65 per year for a back up phone.

    • libertatemamo says:

      The program sounds very similar to TracFone. You buy minutes once a year, and if you remember to do it before the due date, all your old minutes roll over. It’s a great system for low users!
      Glad T-Mobile is working out for you. I like what they’re doing with the company, but just can’t live with their coverage map. They’re constantly improving though, so in the future I expect they may become an option for us.
      Nina

  17. Janna says:

    Loved your post Nina, we have been Straight Talk users for about 3 years. This past December we bit the bullet and both got smart phones, the Galaxy Proclaim–we’ve been very happy with them except for the poor battery. Mike’s was so poor, lasting less than six hours that I sent Straight Talk an email, they responded promptly with a request for me to call them, I did and was amazed at the promptness of their response–sent his phone in and we had a brand new one in less than a week. As we will be going home to Montana tomorrow we are discontinuing his phone–cells don’t work in our mountain home. We are considering buying an external battery charger off eBay–to keep batteries charged.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, the poor battery on that phone is my *one* annoyance factor. We have a car charger that we plug it into while driving, but I never thought about calling ST to complain. I think I’ll give it a try! According to amazon.com you can also find/buy a bigger battery for the phone, so I’m considering that too, but I’m going to give STa call first. Cheers for the idea!
      Nina

  18. LuAnn says:

    Thanks for all the wonderful information Nina. We are going to have to consider doing something different one of these days soon and this sounds like something we should check out.

  19. Brenda A. says:

    Love the information! Karin’s Verizon contract is up in August and we’re looking to save some bucks so this is great to know about. We’re not big data users so I imagine this will work great for us. And for me I just have a dummy phone for $20 a month with no contract.. The two plans together and we should be all set!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Excellent! If you really don’t use much data at all you can find some even cheaper plans (around $30/mo) on Page Plus. They were too low in data for us, but they might work for you. Something to look into before you make your final decision, anyway.
      Nina

  20. Erin says:

    We went with TracPhone before we got on the road, making sure we got one that would be on the Verizon network. Use it mostly for emergencies, so didn’t feel the need for a smart phone since we have the Millenicom Mi-Fi for our data. We can connect to the internet with these phones, if need be … so far so good. Have barely made a dent in the minutes; and just re-upped with another one year’s worth of minutes.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I think TracFone is heads down the best deal out there for folks who don’t use a lot of minutes. It’s worked out great as our backup phone on the road. Glad to hear it’s working for you too!
      Nina

  21. rvsueandcrew says:

    Hi Nina!

    I’ve had Straight Talk for ages. For a phone I walked into Wal-Mart and asked the clerk, “Please give me the cheapest phone you’ve got” and I’ve been happy ever since. But, then, I never use the dang thing.

    • libertatemamo says:

      They’re a great outfit! If you use the phone so rarely you may even want to consider TracFone. All you pay for is a package of minutes with no monthly fees. We’re down to around $100/year on our TracFone which translates into ~1400 minutes. Super cheap option!
      Nina

  22. jil mohr says:

    Very good detailed informative post As usual,you did your homework..

  23. jil mohr says:

    and P.S. thanks for the iphone info…

  24. In January we also switched from Verizon but I chose Ting.com over Straight Talk.
    Ting has an excellent reputation for customer service which I found to be true. Voice and data are on the Sprint network but it roams on Verizons prepaid coverage map. Straight Talk is also on VZs prepaid map not its voice map which is still good coverage in my view. So far we have been very pleased.
    The clincher is we now have two smart phones instead of one dumb phone and our bills since January have not been higher than $35 combined for both. You can bring certain phones to them and they list those. You can buy new phones up to the latest SIII or they offer some refurbs. We bought to refurbs.
    I learned of Ting on Howard Forums just as I was about to pull the trigger on ST.
    Here is a link to my post on this.
    http://littleadventures-jg.blogspot.com/2013/01/phone-service.html
    For anyone interested I would search the web for a discount when signing up. When we searched I found one for $50. They lowered that to $25 later on but they may have increased it again.
    They do things that I find amazing. In their help section of their website they will offer tips like how to text without having to pay them for texting.
    Jim

    • libertatemamo says:

      Very interesting service! I hadn’t heard of them before, but looks like they’re offering some decent plans. Reading thro’ forums and other info it looks like they run exclusively off the Sprint network (no connection to Verizon at all). At least, that’s what I can find on-line. Are you sure about the Verizon roaming?

      Other than that I certainly like their flexible plans and the fact they’ll bump you up to the next level (without penalty) if you go over. Very, very customer-friendly. Looks like they are a compelling solution as long as you’re able to live with the Sprint coverage map. Thanks for sharing!

      Nina

      • Jim says:

        It is difficult to get clear info from their website but here is how I conclude that Ting is using VZ prepaid to roam.

        See this link. The person answering, Andrew, is a Ting employee.

        https://help.ting.com/entries/21928032-roaming-question-Verizon-?page=1#post_23592377

        Second, take a look at the map. You may have to check the box for voice and put in an address or zip but you will see where they roam for voice and it appears to be VZ prepaid coverage.

        http://ting.com/coverage

        We are in Silver City, NM now and I can say that we have been on some remote trails with a friend who has VZ and we have both had coverage with the same signal strength although ours showed the roaming symbol.

        I should add that data does not roam but we use very little data on the phone. We have a millenicom 20gb plan that is on the VZ network.

        When we signed up for the plan I chose 0 on voice, text and data. The result is that they bill me at the end of the month for what I use. Of course, if you select an amount and go under that they will refund that amount to you.

        When you call customer service you don’t go through a variety of choices. The person who answers handles your issue and in my experience they have answered in less than a minute. Their customer service is located in Toronto.

        Jim

        • libertatemamo says:

          Interesting. There certainly seems to be some confusing info out there, but I’ve found a few other sites that also confirm Verizon roaming is permitted (voice only) on Ting. So, a definite player I’d say!
          Nina

  25. Douglas Hinman says:

    Nina, we went to Straight Talk a couple months ago, we really like it, we had used Verizon for years and we still have VZ air card, but we kept going over our Data Limit on air card so the ST smart phones save us a little that way.
    Thanks for all the great info on your blog, especially the campsite reviews, it has given us a lot of info on where to boondock when we are traveling.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Awesome! Glad it’s worked out for you too. Seems there are a lot of RVers who’ve gone the ST route!
      Nina

  26. Dan says:

    Hi Nina, good article, We use T-Mobile thought Walmart, I got a 30 dollar unlimited data, (5Gig) and 100 min talk month to month android phone and my wife has 50 dollar for unlimited talk and text with a little bit of data.

    Also buy minutes from Callingmart http://www.callingmart.com/products/wireless/wirelesscards.aspx to avoid fees.

    Note we did not get a signal in John Day, Oregon, but were ok most everywhere else. Also use Vonage on my phone for free where there is wifi, to make calls. Also another app called Talktone that works ok with a google number on my android. Ah, the fun of saving a few bucks:)

    Have a great trip!

    Dan

    • libertatemamo says:

      Nice. Thanks for sharing. The T-Mobile coverage map looks pretty good out East, but pretty poor out West. Good to know you’ve been happy with it and got coverage the places you needed. They’ve certainly got some compelling plans.

      And the Vontage phone is a good solution for folks who regularly have access to free WiFi. We tried something like that using MagicJack when we first started RVing, but it didn’t work out for us….we just never seemed to get a good enough WiFi signal, or (alternatively) never stayed at enough private parks. Still, I’ve heard RVers who’ve been happy with it.

      Nina

  27. Patrick A says:

    I wonder if I could port my current phone numbers off of my Verizon out of contract dumb phones to this phone the Galaxy Proclaim. I have two lines on Verizon and only pay about $85.00 a month for both but no text features or anything else. So If I got two of these our phones would only go up to about $93.00 give or take. A lot less than $160.00 a month like they quoted me @ Verizon Customer Service yesterday afternoon.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yes, you should be able to port over your number. That’s what we did. We still have the same phone number we carried on the Verizon network.
      Nina

  28. Linda Sand says:

    I already have a Verizon 3G iPhone. When my Verizon contract ends can I use it on the Smart Talk plan or do I have to buy a phone from them?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Nope, you won’t be able to use it on ST. ST does offer a “bring your own phone” plan, but it’s only for GSM-based phones. You might be able to activate your phone on Page Plus. I haven’t tried it, but word is you can bring over just about any Verizon phone.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says:

      Linda,
      Wait, I take my answer back. Did some googling and looks like ST just (a week ago?) launched a new “bring your own phone” deal that will now accept some CDMA phones too. So, you may be able to do it! I suggest you go onto this site and check compatibility:
      http://www.straighttalkbyop.com/
      This is brand new and quite exciting stuff. Do let us know if it works for you!
      Nina

  29. Robert Nuttmann says:

    Some things you can economize on and some not. Verizon has been a very good provider for us for over 10 years. They charge fair rates considering their wide network and when you do need to talk to someone on the phone to get help they have it. This is just my humble opinion. The only way to get “even” is to own some of their stock and watch it go up and pay 4,8% dividends. As far as phones. I really like my Motorola Droid Razr which I have had for 18 months. It is still very very fast. Is very versatile, I have all kinds of extras for it like car holder, keyboard, desktop holder and so on. These are considered “old” models now and you can get them on ebay at a good price. I was just checking ebay and saw a Droid Razr Maxx which is the next model after mine for 250. If money is no object an Iphone 5 would be nice. My wife has one and it is likely the best phone out right now.

    • libertatemamo says:

      The Droid Razr Maxx is an awesome phone. No doubt you won’t get the latest phones or the latest tech (e.g. 4G) on the kind of plans I’m using, but it can be a big savings for those on a budget. I don’t feel I’m “getting even” in any way with Verizon. All the MVNO’s lease their time and pay their dues to the major carriers, so Verizon are getting a piece of my action no matter where I buy.
      Nina

  30. Your links in paragraph 1C no longer work. I just thought you should know. Thanks for your GREAT and informative blog!!!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      I just realized that yesterday. I updated them today with some Walmart links that (hopefully) should work now!
      Nina

  31. FYI, TracFone no longer offers 1400 minutes for $100. The closest plan to the old one is now 1500 minutes for $199.99 a year. Thanks again for all the GREAT information you provide!! https://www.tracfone.com/direct/Purchase?payGo=true&app=TRACFONE&lang=en

    • libertatemamo says:

      I have a triple-minutes-for-life phone, so what I do is buy 400 mins for just under $100 (automatically tripled to 1200). Ontop of that I can usually find some kind of promo code that adds an extra couple of hundred minutes extra for free. So, that’s how I end up with 1400 minutes or so for only $100. There’s a few “tricks” to using TracFone :)
      Nina

  32. Jo says:

    I’ve been using Straight Talk for about 3yrs. No complaints here. I use the cheap phones. I just wish they would come out with online service. Don’t know about their customer service have never needed it.
    You put some very good info here.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Hmmm…Jo I’ve been using their online services since we started? I don’t know if it’s because you have an older phone, but we activated our new phone online, ported the phone number online and and set-up auto-refill online. You can also buy other fills online. It’s not a real fancy service, but it does have the basics.
      You can activate an account here:
      https://www.straighttalk.com/wps/portal/home/h/MyAccount/login/
      Nina

    • Diane says:

      I also have used straight talk & so many Friends now use it for their Iphones they left their AT&T contracts behind & now only pay 45.00 a mo. With Straight talk!! I bet if more PPL knew they would change over to straight talk too. We/I have NEVER had ANY problems with straight talk. Their GREAT!!

  33. This is so smart I have a feeling it will help me a lot once I understand it. I’m on Tracfone. It’s good to know how to tell which phone models will be running on Verizon. Thanks!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Tracfone is awesome for folks who don’t need a lot of minutes. Do you take advantage of the triple-minutes-for-life (TMFL) plan? You can upgrade your phone to TPFL or buy a card that does it. This will automatically triple any minutes you buy (big savings!). Also, if you google “promo code for Tracfone” before you actually buy your minutes, you can usually find a code that will get you a few extra hundred minutes for free.
      Nina

  34. Pleinguy says:

    I use a combination of Millenicom for data and a dumb TracFone for voice (both on the Verizon network). I also have a Wilson Sleek booster which is rarely needed. Internet connection is essential and the phone is little used; mainly for emergencies. So far they work everywhere I’ve been.

  35. PatrickA says:

    I ordered two new Samsung Galaxy Proclaim Phones this afternoon thru Amazon. The price for two of them was less than a months service thru Verizon for the plan they want me to upgrade to and get two smartphones . Even paying $45.00 a month ea., is less than a share every thing plan by almost $75.00 a month. I should have them on Friday. I will port my phones I have now then activate them and then call Verizon and ask for a refund of the bill that I paid last week.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Outstanding! Hope it works well for you. We’ve certainly been very happy w/ the ST plans.
      Nina

      • patricka51 says:

        Nina
        I’m mad at you…..why didn’t you post this about cheap phones a year ago ! Also when I got these two smartphones before I activated I had a full head of Red Hair……now after pulling it out and trying to get these phones working not only am I totally white haired but there ain’t much left. LOL All kiddin aside these phones are a learning curve. the only thing I do not like about them is you need to recharge them every night. Not like my Amateur Radio Handhelds they last at least 3 days. I guess I will get a 2400mAh Extended battery from e-Bay or Amazon.
        Again thank you for posting about the Proclaim phone and the S/T plans.
        PatrickA

        • libertatemamo says:

          LOL…well, what can I say. I’m a mean gal :) glad you managed to get through the setup without completely expiring, and hope the phones work out for you. The battery IS the most annoying thing on these phones. I still haven’t forked out the $ for the extended battery, but we’ll probably end up doing so.
          Nina

          • PatrickA51 says:

            You aren’t just “Whistling Dixie” on that one the extended life Battery is almost half the cost of what I paid for my New Samsung Galaxy Proclaim Phones. And if you pay shipping it costs more than half the price for the phone. LOL

          • libertatemamo says:

            Make sure you check amazon.com. Can’t recall the last price I saw for the battery on there, but it seemed cheaper than that? Free shipping if you have Prime too.
            Nina

          • PatrickA51 says:

            I paid I think a little under $90.00 for ea phone. Amazon has the battery for less than 35.00 same on e-bay free shipping.

          • libertatemamo says:

            Ah, that sounds about right. You got a good deal on the phone too!
            Nina

  36. Blake Carey says:

    We currently travel exclusivly outside the US primarily in central america and Mexico and therefore are using gsm networks. Btw the plans tend to be very good for example 3g 3gig in Panama for 15 bucks per month, Costa Rica was around 22 bucks unlimited 3g and so far Mexico has been 2gigs for 35 a month but im planning to remedy that next fall. My phones have been modified (quad band, unlocked , rooted and re ROM’ed) which means i can use an at&t phone on anym3g network with all the features it was built with, for free like tethering. I was hoping to try the t mobile service once we get back but we plan to do alot of traveling in the northwest rockies cascades etc. My question is do you think the verizon coverage is really that much better than t mobile that you would reinvest in new equipment if you already used the gsm stuff. Also this business about tethering not being allowed is ridiculous when there is a finite amount of data that they’re willing to give you anyway. A scam only US phone companies have cooked up in my experience. Does verizon actually block tethering as at&t does?
    Great post and Blog by the way!!!
    Thx

    • libertatemamo says:

      Actually given your info I would probably suggest you stick with AT&T (GSM network). You can probably use your existing phone and activate it either on AT&T direct, or on one of the MVNO’s that run on the AT&T network. I don’t have specific details for you, but that’s what I’d recommend looking into. AT&T has a pretty decent coverage map in the west. Not as good as Verizon, but it’s not bad. The T-Mobile map is pretty poor out west.

      Regarding tethering I should specify that it’s only the “unlimited” ST plan that prevents tethering. If you get a phone with Verizon direct, or AT&T direct they all allow tethering (basically they have “limited” data plans so they don’t care if you tether or not). The reason ST limits tethering has more to do with their unlimited plan & the risk of using too much data (if they allowed tethering I imagine lots of folks try to use the phone as their only internet source). It’s a budget plan so the limits are there.

      Nina

  37. ehcrehcer says:

    Interesting information about the iPhone, I bought one last year when walmart started selling them although I don’t like V they said att wasn’t available but would be before long. After a lot of consideration of my situation, having recently bought my first Mac, a Macbook pro, I decided to get one. Got home and although my friend has ST using a nokia phone and it uses V towers with decent signal at my house, the iPhone with V didn’t have enough signal to make a call. being that I have no landline and need service at home I returned it. I use T-mobile that has good signal at home, I didn’t stop my t-noble while trying the Iphone and returned it within the 15 day limit for refund, only cost me $45.00 for the trial. I upgraded my HTC to W8, main reason for getting a new phone as my old one had W6.5 that was no longer supported. Monthly service charge is $58.00 for 500 m talk and unlimited web and text. I use Skype premium mostly for talk and I can use my HTC to connect to the intent when away from home and not near a free att site included in my DSL contract.
    I don’t like android is the main reason for staying with windows phone.
    The mac has it’s limits but allows windows installation so the dual OS works well and the Wphone is not a problem.
    Mickey

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sounds like you have marginal Verizon signal at your house. As far as I know the Nokia smartphones on Straight Talk all run on AT&T towers. None of them run on Verizon, at least to my knowledge. So, my guess is your friend was running on AT&T and that’s why they got good reception at your house?

      Glad to hear your T-Mobile phone has worked well for you. We prefer Verizon because it has the widest coverage-map (for frequent travelers like us), but for individuals in a fixed home it’s not always the best choice. Lots of other providers out there, and some spots you’ll have better coverage with others.

      Nina

      • ehcrehcer says:

        She has a nokia and it works on V towers, she went with ST only when they verified that it used V towers as that is the only one ,Verision. that works at her house. Her signal is limited at my house, unlike mine which is great.Another thought, Although the Iphone I tried was ST the local W-M store didn’t carry it and I gout it from a W-M in a different county, that is the only difference between the two, other then phone brands.
        Mickey

        • libertatemamo says:

          What model Nokia does she have? Just curious since none of the Nokia smartphones showed up in my research on Verizon-compatible phones at ST.
          Nina

      • ehcrehcer says:

        Im not sure of the model but it looks like the E-5 on the walmart page. The straighttalk page is down and she isn’t aound so I can look at it. the ones listed at the link are newer ones, hers is a couple years old.
        Mickey

        http://www.wirefly.com/ecommerce/phones/?FilterByBrand=1&referringdomain=wirefly&oflag=specialoffer

        • libertatemamo says:

          Ah, that may explain it then. Some of the older (non smartphone) models did run on Verizon. The newer Nokia smartphones currently all run on AT&T.
          Nina

  38. Maynard Correll says:

    Nina: When you go to Tracfone website they ask you what zip code will the fone be most used in? As full timers, as we are, does it make a difference in reception or being able to use it around the country if I say, put in Atlanta, GA (where we are currently)?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well, the biggest thing you’ll run into is that the website might give you a limited (shortened) list of phones depending on the zipcode. In a big city like Atlanta I expect you’ll get all the options, but in some other zipcodes (say, spots where AT&T works best) you may only get a limited choice of AT&T-compatible phones. Make sense? Also if you buy an older phone like a GSM-based non-smartphone (I.e. one of the older models with “G” in the model number) your phone could get activated on either AT&T or T-Mobile, depending which one is best for your zip code.

      If you just want a smartphone that runs on Verizon, then you can buy one of the 5 models I listed above. Or, buy an iPhone. Those should work on Verizon no matter where you order.

      All very complicated I know, but hope that makes it clear.

      Nina

  39. Mister Ed says:

    Have you looked in to Airvoice . 250 min 500 tex 10$$ 12 $$ over the phone payment your min,s roll over if you pay before the next due date (I’m up to 725 mins now)(I have an I phone Att 3G and a LG 4G )
    Or 35$ unlimited talk tex Or. 45$ unlimited talk tex web pay as you go and you can debit it out as well
    Now the best part it,s AT&T network 3G or 4G Whatever your phone is ( need a sims card)
    It,s Western union using AT&T network and you can buy a phone from Tham if you like
    At the same time I use AT&T at AT&T for my Internet at 30$$ for 3Gigs they email you when your close to your max,
    Pay as I go however my tablet is 3G and there are APP,s out there to mounter your usage but I never have gone over
    if your a heavy user the phone cost can off sets the Internet cost Q

    • libertatemamo says:

      Nope, haven’t looked at it. We wanted to be specifically on the Verizon network so we only looked at Verizon-based options. AT&T coverage just doesn’t provide as wide coverage and so didn’t make the cut for us. Also we need more than 250 mins/mo. If you’re travelling mostly in AT&T areas and 250 mins is enough though, it’s an intriguing plan.
      Nina

  40. Venetian says:

    Interesting article. I went to the ST site and was further intrigued until I noticed up in the left-hand corner a blurb that said “Exclusively at Walmart”. So is ST a Walmart subsidiary? I couldn’t tell.
    I am proud to say that we have never shopped at Walmart, nor will we ever until such time as they start treating their employees respectfully. But we do want to get away from Verizon because they don’t treat their customers respectfully, at least in our experience. Not sure which is worse, but in this day and age we should be able to find someone that treats both their employees and their customers well.

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s not a Walmart subsidiary, but it is only sold at Walmart. Straight Talk is actually owned by TracFone Wireless group, which is owned by America Movil, which is a Mexican based company owned by Carlos Slim. The “Straight Talk” brand is the brand sold specifically at Walmart.
      Nina

  41. jkramer48 says:

    We sold our home and will be fulltime RVers living in our motorhome as of July 22nd. Bought a Straight Talk iPhone 4, and the $45 a month service about 3 months ago, as we have had Straight Talk for over a couple of years using a flip phone and were happy with the coverage whenever we traveled in our motorhome. The iPhone uses the Verizon network, and so far, even in some of the more remote areas we camp in; we get service. I agree with the author of this article that their customer service leaves much to be desired. We have been dealing with them mostly online, which is much easier.
    We figure that we will recover the original cost of buying the iPhone in no time, as it will be our primary way of connecting to the internet. Although many campgrounds do have free WiFi, many don’t. We do all our banking and bill paying online, connect to family and friends with a personal family website or using Facebook. We love the many features of the iPhone, and there are multiple apps available for fulltime RVers-many of which are free or very low cost.

  42. Don Robinson says:

    I am considering switching to Straight Talk. We use the internet a lot (laptops) do you use a Verizon data card for this purpose?

  43. Barbara says:

    Hi Nina – I believe this is my first time writing to you. You and Paul are on my ‘short-list’ of favorite blogs for SO many reasons!! Since you originally posted this entry about Straight talk I have, here and there, looked into switching. I read conflicting info. as to whether Verizon (and AT&T) have stopped letting ST bounce off their towers and what phones work in which network So here’s my question:
    1) Have you had any real trouble connecting to Verizon’s network (and I assume given your phone that Verizon is the only network you could connect to?)?

    2) Do you think I could use the ST phone (which would probably be a Samsung like yours) as a hotspot to connect my laptop to the internet for temp. use?

    I guess that is it and thank you for your thoughts!
    Barbara

    • libertatemamo says:

      So far we’ve had zero issues with our ST phone. The phone gets reception wherever we have a Verizon signal (we’re even getting reception out here in Cape Blanco) and has performed pretty much identically to the old phone we had w/ Verizon direct. We’re very happy with it. So, to answer your questions:

      1/ No issues connecting. With the Samsung Galaxy Proclaim we are on the Verizon network and it works perfectly.

      2/ NO. You cannot use the phone as a hotspot. This is against the T&Cs of Straight Talk. None of the ST phones can be used that way. The data plan you get is just for the phone, not to share w/ your other devices.

      Nina

  44. Kathryn says:

    I use straight talk and have gone over the data cap a few times on my *cough cough* unlimited plan. Not fun when that happens, especially when trying to use the phone for directions for a meeting and then realizing I must’ve hit the limit.

  45. MacTalent says:

    I have an iPhone 4S that I had hoped to port from Verizon to T-Mobile. It would not work so I ended up buying a 5S from T-mobile. I’d like to use this 4S as a second line, and was encouraged by the posts here to look at PagePlus. However when I called their Customer Service they said I could not bring my phone to Pageplus. Is there a trick to making this happen? Their $29.95/month plan would be great.

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