Cell phones have become a crutch that we lean on heavily.
They are becoming our primary method of socialization. Every day, every hour, we text, call or interact with others using our smartphones. It would be difficult to believe that someone doesn't have a cell phone.
Yet, if you consider the costs of owning a cell phone, it's more difficult to believe how many people DO have one. What many people don't realize, though, is that they may be able to get free cell phone service.
We’re sure many people are doing a double-take. If cell phone service is available for free, why is anyone paying for it?
It doesn't cost money, but it does require you to change your usage habits. If that doesn't intimidate you, keep reading.
We will walk you through the best options for free cell phone service and how to navigate the choices you have.
How to Score Fee Cell Phone Service
1. Mint Mobile
Mint mobile puts a twist on the free cell service option. If you buy three months of service for $20, you will receive three months of service free. So it's partly free. Plus, we like that the plan offers unlimited talk & text and 8GB of 4G LTE.
There are two catches to this offer. First, you must be a new user to capitalize on this deal. Second, this offer is ever-changing. While Mint mobile often has incentives like this, how they provide users with free cell phone service is apt to change regularly.
FreedomPop seems to be the most recommended free cell service option. We attribute the positive reviews to the straightforward plan.
FreedomPop offers users a Basic 500 Plan. With this plan, you must pay an activation fee of $49.99. After payment is complete, you're eligible to receive a refurbished smartphone. The Alcatel OneTouch Conquest is a pretty basic smartphone, and however, it IS a smartphone, and it's free.
The plan offers users the following limitations. First, users must stay within 500MB usage per month. If you're not familiar with data, the amount provided is a limitation that will affect a heavy phone user. Second, user limitations also include 200 minutes of calls, which comes out to roughly six and half minutes of calling capacity per day. Finally, users may send and receive only 500 texts per month.
If you're not a big talker and prefer texting, the FreedomPop may work out well for you. Before making the switch, monitor your current use of calls and texts. If you notice that you are the type of user who fits within these parameters, leaping is an innovative and easy choice.
3. FreeUP Mobile
FreeUP Mobile is another straightforward option for free cell service. Navigating to their homepage, the company immediately markets the free plan to visitors.
Users receive 250 minutes of talk or text, unlimited access to 4M hotspots, caller ID & voicemail as part of the free plan option. We wouldn't get too excited, though. It seems this option is free but will put incredible limitations on your cell phone use. If you divide the allocated use between talk and text, you’re given 125 for each. We don’t know about you, but there are days where we exchange 75 texts alone. Spreading 125 texts over 30 days would be a challenge. Not to mention that 125 minutes of call time equals roughly four minutes a day.
A better option, in our opinion, would be to look into their first-tier plan. This plan offers users 500 minutes of talk or 500 texts. While the first-tier option has a monthly payment of $10, it provides new users the first month free.
One benefit of this unique service is that they offer methods to earn free cell service. Through the FreeUP rewards program, users can complete basic tasks in exchange for points, and you can use these points toward monthly service use.
If you don't mind completing surveys, then you have an easy way to earn points. FreeUP also offers users referral points, so be sure to talk about your service with your friends and family. If they join and provide you with their referral, you earn points, too.
With the option to earn free service, this is a winning cell phone plan in our book.
Ting is what we categorize as the “self-control” method of cell phone plans.
If you want free (or almost free) service, the power is in your hands. You only pay for what you use with Ting, and this can be a great option if you are a cell user who only keeps one on hand for emergencies.
Ting is also a great budget control tool. For example, if you find your belt is tighter during a period, you can reduce your use and save money. Ting also offers users the ability to track the use of their phone and any phone on their plan. So you will always know where you are on your monthly usage and when you can talk less or more.
Important to note is that Ting plan pricing does change and does involve a set fee. Current fees are $6 for one line and $12 for two lines. There are options for up to 6+lines that still keep your expenses around $36/month. Keep in mind, though, that this price is not for actual use. It's only for the cost to have a plan with this service.
5. Unreal Mobile
Unreal Mobile is another “almost free” option, and unreal currently offers new users unlimited mobile for $10/month. Keep in mind, though, that this is an incentive. The price of your monthly plan may change after your initial sign-up.
To our knowledge, there doesn't seem to be any 100% free option with Unreal. If this changes, we'll update you.
How to Navigate the Free Cell Phone Services
If you take a few minutes to search “free cell phone service,” you'll find that your options are abundant. New companies pop up daily, with new (and sometimes unbelievable) incentives to use their service. We could easily rattle off every company that offers free cell phone use.
However, what will be more valuable to you is to give you the tools to navigate the many choices you have. Below, we outline the different factors you should be aware of when changing to a free or low-cost cell phone service plan.
The first aspect you should investigate is the contract status of the company you're considering. This should be a parameter you consider with any cell phone service plan you're interested in. Make sure you understand exactly what you're signing up for. Look for simple information that should be clear and upfront. For example, must you commit to a time frame, and will you face an obligation to pay them for this duration?
We want to emphasize the importance of understanding your contract. With the many new companies popping up, you're taking a risk by trusting that they're going to be able to deliver on the promises they make. You can do the best thing for yourself to make sure you read and understand the user agreement. If there is an area that is unclear to you, don't be afraid to ask questions. Most importantly, if there is a section of the contract that either seems too good to be true or doesn't sit right with you, don't sign.
Remember that you have options and choices. If you're in a position where you need free or low-cost cell service, don't make the mistake of signing an agreement blindly. This is a mistake that may end up costing you more in the long run and set you back further than where you already are.
Several of the companies that we listed above allow you to bring your phone into the contract. This is ideal for anyone on a budget, and it will enable you to save on the upfront costs that often add up when changing cell phone service plans.
If you cannot bring your phone, investigate the cost of the phones that the new company is offering with your plan. Often, companies will try to make up their profit margin by requiring you to purchase an expensive phone. Free service is incredible, but if you have to buy a phone that costs several hundred dollars, you may end up spending more over the long run.
A final detail to consider is cell phone repair and replacement. Cell phones break, and what happens if yours does?
If you bring your phone into a contract, there's little chance that the provider will offer you free repair or a replacement phone if yours breaks. Consider this when you're signing up for a free plan.
Do your homework and complete a projected budget to see how much you will lose if you replace your phone. Then, weigh this option against what it would cost to pay for a plan with this type of insurance available.
You may be willing to take the risk with your phone, and you may not even have a choice in the matter. However, be sure you review your preferences. Don't let a lack of funds push you into a decision that will give you a headache and more debt.
Every site we investigated mentioned that their plan is only available in certain areas. Some sites made this information clear. With others, we had to do a little digging to find this important fact. Ensure you check out if the service is available in your area before giving a company your payment information.
While we would like to think that most organizations reside on a foundation of honesty, you can't trust this to be true. If you sign a contract, you are entering a legal agreement that binds you to the terms. Don't sign first, and find out later that the service plan you agreed to isn't even available in the area you live in. You could lose out on a little or a lot and have to pay for a plan you cannot use.
Talk To Your Service Provider
If you're considering leaving your current service provider, reach out to them. Many companies are receptive to negotiation, whether you're facing financial hardship or looking for a better deal. While we doubt your company will reduce your fees to zero, they may be willing to offer you a more competitive rate.
Your service provider may also provide insight into areas you can cut back on with your current plan. For example, if you're paying for more services than you use, there may be a plan you can move to that will eliminate these fees. Your service company may also be able to advise you on areas that you're overusing and techniques to reduce this use.
Your current company will be eager to maintain you as a customer. So give them a call and discuss your options. We're willing to bet you'll be able to save at least a little on your monthly bill, and this may make all the difference in your budget.
The Bottom Line
Free cell phone service is something that seems too good to be true. In a lot of cases, it is.
Instead of focusing only on 100% free service, consider taking some time to research the options available to you.
We encourage you always to exercise your freedom of choice. Knowledge is power, and if you stay on top of the options available to you, you may be able to capitalize on free cell phone service. However, don't sacrifice quality for quantity. It may be prudent for you to consider reducing your use with a quality service company. If you sign on for unlimited, free cell phone service but never have reception, it's not a winning situation.
With cell phone service or any user agreement plan in general, always take the extra time to understand what you're signing. Saving money is fantastic — but make sure you're doing it the smart way!
Michael launched Wealth of Geeks to make personal finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.