*Update – Since this blog post I’ve gotten my bill even lower, down to $25 and then $10 and occasionally even $5 per month. Check out how I did it, here.
It is a myth that just won’t die. Most people are willing to cut and save in other places but assume the cell phone is just one of those things you have to pay for without any hope of lessening the hit on the wallet. I thought otherwise and decided I wanted to save on my cell phone bill. Previously I showed you how I cut nearly $40 a month from my cell phone bill, saw no change, and still kept my iphone 4. If you haven’t read Part I, check it out. Below you see two phone bills with AT&T.
So how did I cut this down even further? After a few months I began thinking that $90 was still way to much. Over $1,000 a year just for a cell phone? Ouch. And I’d made the change once, so why couldn’t I come up with something again? And that’s when I made it a point to seriously examine Straight Talk Wireless.
You’ve seen these little cards in Walmart back in the media and electronics section. I’d seen the internet ads and a few commercials but never taken it too seriously. Straight Talk offers a flat $45 for unlimited talk, text and data. It also has no contract. You buy a card, activate it and you’re on your way. Straight Talk says it uses the same towers than the big four use but does so at a fraction of the price because they don’t have anywhere near the overhead. Basically they bill themselves as the generic brand of cereal.
Same food, same taste, just no billion dollar company or colorful bird on the front. Sound great right? But there’s something about it that seems kind of, well, cheap. We tend to like established companies for some things and aren’t always fond of trying things out with upstarts. Buying generic is a fantastic way to save money on cereal, but on cell phones? We’re all a bit uneasy, as was I. But the price point, $45 a month with no contract… That was too good to not at least try, so again I took the plunge and went for it.
There are two options you have if you’re looking at switching to Straight Talk.
1) You can use the exact same phone you have. You just need to buy a sim card and switch it out. 2) You can buy a new phone. Let me save you a tremendous amount of hassle. Do not go with option #1. I wanted to keep my phone so I did. For $60 I had a new sim card and a month of service. But then I had to install it myself. Easy enough right? Nope. Because the iphone takes a “mini” sim card and the ones they sell are not mini. How do you fix this? You literally need to cut it.
As in with a knife or scissor. And unless you’re a surgeon, do you really want to have your phone’s future depend on how you accurately you can match a machine’s cutting precision?
It’s here that you realize how Straight Talk is able to offer their service for so little cost. Their customer service is just plain bad. Numerous calls to different departments yielded little hope. I have no problem with outsourcing call centers to other counties as I realize that’s the only way some businesses can stay in business, but there’s a level of English proficiency that a call center rep does need to have when dealing with clients who speak English.
With one rep I felt like she was trying to trick me. She told me I needed to make it mini, but having read some of the fine print of my package I realized that cutting it would void any return policy I have. Me: “So are you saying I need to cut it?” Her: “That is not the thing I am suggesting, you do need to have a mini sim card.” Me: “But you only sell regular sim cards. Do I need to cut it to make it mini.” Her: “I am not saying to do the cutting. That is a decision that is on your own.”
I finally ended up doing my best to cut it into a mini sim card. I even used a template from the internet and everything. Not the worst idea in the world, but up there. The sim card but, but not enough to make the phone work. And it “fit” only well enough that it got stuck. Knives and tweezers couldn’t dislodge it. What a disaster.
Thankfully the apple genius bar does have a couple of geniuses or two. I took a ride over, explained I needed their pity for being dumb, and they extracted it with a “mini” tweezer. Heading home I was dejected, that I hadn’t been able to save more off my bill, that I’d spent more on sim cards and service, (though I was able to return the sim card because it didn’t end up working,) and now I had to figure out if my AT&T service was still working. It was a hassle all right.
But then I considered option #2. And let me ruin the surprise for you. Option #2 works, and it works amazingly. It made me completely forget about the previous disaster and made me a Straight Talk believer. Check out Part III of how I ended up saving more than $80 a month on my cell phone bill.