How We Lowered Our Cell Phone Bill By Over $100/Month – Part 2

20140211-195200.jpgThis is part 2 in a little three part series that details how we lowered our cell phone bill by over $100/month. Feel free to catch up before reading on.

  • Part 1 – Breaking Up With Verizon
  • Part 2 – I’m In Love With Ting! (this post)
  • Part 3 – Glyde Smoothed The Way (tomorrow)

 

I’m In Love With Ting!

Some people say it’s not natural – that it goes against the natural order of things. But I can’t help it. I’m in love! And I don’t care that it’s with a telecom company!

What’s Ting?

Ting is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) that runs on the Sprint network.

The basics of it go like this: Ting buys bandwidth on the Sprint network and sells it to Ting customers. Not every phone that runs on the Sprint network is eligible to be used on Ting, but our beloved iPhone 4S became eligible late in 2013 and they are adding more (even quite new Android devices) all the time. You can either buy a phone from Ting, or BYOD (bring your own device) that you purchased elsewhere. As long as it’s Sprint compatible and on their list of approved devices, it should work!

Is There A Catch?

No catch. With the exception of the fact that the upper right hand corner of our phones now read “Sprint” instead of “Verizon”, we notice no difference at all. We don’t have to jump through any hoops like having people text us through apps, or use Google Voice, or worry about being in a a WiFi zone. It. Just. Works.

What About Sprint’s Coverage?

Even though this Sprint coverage map shows our area as having 4G LTE coverage, in our experience that hasn’t been a great indicator for service indoors with other networks. For example, back in 2007, I got a Blackberry from Sprint only to find that it did not work in my office or my apartment (both of which were centrally located in a major metro area), so this was the part about Ting that had me the most worried. Turns out, we had nothing to worry about.

Where 4 years ago, Verizon was the only network that didn’t drop calls in our house, we don’t drop any calls on the Sprint network today. We haven’t had a single problem. Our phones work inside, outside, at work, at home, on all of my runs and bike rides… And we have found the 3G Sprint speed comparable to the 3G Verizon coverage in our area.

How Much Is It?

Unlike the major operators in the cell phone space, you don’t need to buy a large plan to avoid worrying about overages or worry about contracts. With Ting, you just use your phone, and whatever usage “bucket” you are in for that month is how you get billed.

Here’s how your bill gets calculated:

The first part is a base charge per phone: $6/month.

Then for each usage type (call minutes, text messages, and MB of data), the combined usage across all the phones in your account will fall into one of the sizes in this table. (Notice if you don’t use any of a given category, there is no charge!)

ting rates

Add those up, and that’s your bill. In the chart above, I have it highlighted for the buckets we fell into in our first bill. (Though, because they have to play by the rules, there are a few of those pesky fees that the government mandates. Those fees added about $4 to our recent bill.)

But How Do You Know Which Billing Tier You’re In? Isn’t That Annoying?

20140212-193843.jpg

I erased our phone numbers from view…

It’s REALLY easy to keep track of your usage if you’re worried about the bill. Ting has both iPhone and Android apps that let you check in on your usage during that billing period and shows you exactly how much more you can use before hitting the next billing tier, and how many days are left in your billing cycle.

If you’re near the end of the billing cycle and don’t want to go into the next tier, you can limit your usage. For example, when we had 1 day left in the billing cycle, I checked the app for our usage before calling my best friend since I know those calls can sometimes be 60-90 minutes. This is what it looked like when I checked on the iPhone app.

Unless I was going to talk to her for over 6 hours, no additional charges would apply. And even if they did, in general the rates are cheap enough that moving up to the next tier would be a small cost.

And What About Customer Service?

I don’t usually gush about customer service. After all, I kindof expect that serving the customers is a part of the job for most businesses. But Ting really does an amazing job with customer service.

Ting’s help page answers a ton of questions – try searching for a keyword in the hundreds of posts! And if you can’t find your answer there, you can ask the forum, submit a new idea for a feature, or get in touch with them directly. I did this and received a response via email the same day.

They also are the only telecom company I know of that LOWERED their prices. When we signed up in January, prices were a little higher than the table you see above. But then midway through our billing cycle I got this email:

ting lowered pricesThis means instead of the $60 I was estimating our bill to be, it’s probably going to be closer to $50/month on average. For two fully functioning iPhones! Nice!

Also – right before I scheduled this post, I noticed in one of their recent emails they actually tell customers NOT to buy the new Nexus 5 from Ting since they can save $95 by buying it elsewhere. What company does that? Seriously!?!

And you’re wondering why I’m a little gushy on these guys.

What About International Use?

This is the concern for one of the guys I work with that I’ve been gushing to about Ting. He texts his family in Europe all the time (Ting would include that in the charge for regular texts), and calls them occasionally from his cell for short calls. (That would be an additional charge.) While a Ting phone wouldn’t work in the country his family lives in (here are the countries it would work in, for a fee), for the savings, he could easily purchase a pay-as-you-go phone for use while visiting them and still come out ahead.

Why Didn’t We Do This Sooner?

  1. We are spoiled with our choice of device. We didn’t want to switch to an Android phone, and it wasn’t until November 2013 that the iPhone was available on Ting.
  2. We were also a little scared to do this at the end of last year when work was hectic. Losing access to Mr PoP’s cell phone and email during the end of Q4 would have been more than an inconvenience, it could have affected our bottom line income-wise, too. So we held off fearing the switch would be problem ridden. Turns out it wasn’t. Porting the numbers over took just a few hours and we easily loaded the backups of our old phones onto the new Sprint devices.

 

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about Ting. It’s been such an easy way for us to shave an extra $100-$110/month off our spending without feeling limited or like we’re sacrificing anything that I feel the need to proselytize a little.

If you’d like to give Ting a try, feel free to sign up using this referral link for Ting. While the blog will earn a small commission if you do, that has not influenced my comments on the service in the least.

Any questions/comments on Ting? Leave them in the comments!

43 comments to How We Lowered Our Cell Phone Bill By Over $100/Month – Part 2

  • Laura

    I’m still looking for a good Ting/republic wireless type service that runs on AT&T network – the others still don’t get good signal in my area, so I’m still getting pushed around by the big guy!

    • I haven’t heard much about AT&T MVNOs, except for the one that’s a subsidiary, Aio. I don’t know anyone that uses it, though.

      I was really nervous about the sprint coverage since I had been bit by it about 7 years ago, but it has come leaps and bounds since then in our area. Do you know anyone with sprint? Might be worth having then over for dinner to see if they have service in your house. =).

  • What a great service. I’ve seen a ton of Republic Wireless reviews but this is the first one I’ve seen about Ting. I’ll definitely keep this one in my back pocket for when my contract is up.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..cottage food laws: How to sell homemade foodMy Profile

  • Looks like a good deal! We may be switching up our phones soon because AT&T right now is costing us over $150 each month. AH!
    Michelle recently posted..Income Series: Stella & Dot Independent Stylist + GIVEAWAYMy Profile

  • Wow, that is super cheap!!!! Great job, and thanks for sharing. We don’t use smartphones but have lots of friends/family who do. I’ll definitely be sharing this.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..Credit Cards: Did You Know These Truths?My Profile

  • Cheryl

    That’s fantastic – thanks for the info! Did you get to keep your own phone numbers when you switched?

    • Yup! Our numbers ported over without any issue. It was actually even easier than my last switch to Verizon where try had to give me a temporary number since I was porting a number over from a different geographic region and their systems weren’t synced to do that nationwide.

  • Thanks for this explanation of Ting! I always recommend Republic Wireless to friends but if they balk about having to buy an Android phone I tell them to check Ting out. I have been surprised by how good the Sprint service is in our area, even inside. People who decided a few years ago that Sprint wouldn’t work for them should really re-evaluate to give the alternative carriers a chance. We’ve really been sold a bill of goods with these expensive plans from Verizon and ATT. I hope you get lots of referrals!
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted..Internships and Other ‘Experiences’My Profile

  • Wow, that customer service is pretty awesome! I’ll have to take a look at our usage and see where we’d fall. Did you compare this to something like Straight Talk?
    Matt Becker recently posted..Reflecting on 2 Months with 2 KidsMy Profile

  • Thanks Mrs. Pop – I am convinced!! What a great piece, so informative! Quick questions – were you able to keep your phone number?

    • Yup! We had no problem keeping our same numbers, and ours is a weird setup since we have two different area codes on our numbers. But no issues having them on the same account or keeping the numbers!

      • Oh, now that is appealing! I’ve put off moving companies for my phone because I am still on a family plan with my parents. I’ve had my number for 14 years and really don’t want to lose it. However, I’ve been told over and over that I can’t be on a family plan with my husband, since his number is from a different geographic region.

        Maybe we’ll have to do some research.
        Leah recently posted..Seattle PrideMy Profile

        • I’m the same way – mine is the number I got in 2002 and my gram still thinks she’s not making a long distance call when she calls it.

          We had issues with this with Verizon initially, but somehow got a workaround. It always caused weirdness, though… but it hasn’t been a blip on Ting’s radar, pleasantly. I feel like area codes are moot anyhow, right? For cell phones they seem to be more an indication of where you lived when you got your first phone or~2005 when they started letting you port numbers.

    • Sorry – I just saw that you answered this above – thanks!
      Phoebe recently posted..Tough TimesMy Profile

  • Thanks for writing this review. This is great. I just dropped Verizon as well and opted for an MVNO. My question is did you bring your Verizon iPhone 4s or did you have to buy a Sprint iphone? Just wanted to clarify because I see the link you provided says only Sprint phones can be used but maybe that’s old info. Thanks!
    Raquel@Practical Cents recently posted..There’s Nothing Wrong with RentingMy Profile

    • Tomorrow’s post has more about this, but we used a company called glyde to buy new sprint iPhones and sell our verizon ones. We took a small loss on the switch, but we will make it up in less than 2 months of savings on Ting.

  • Great, Thanks. I’ll check it out tomorrow. I will be referring my sister to this as she is with sprint on an iphone right now. This would be perfect for her.
    Raquel@Practical Cents recently posted..There’s Nothing Wrong with RentingMy Profile

    • Your sister would probably not notice a difference except a lower bill! Definitely worth pulling out her recent billing statements to see what buckets she’d fall into usage-wise.

  • This post is inspiring (and your break-up letter with Verizon was HILARIOUS). We’re currently with Verizon – my husband has an Android smartphone and I still have a Nokia dumb phone (my workplaces spoils me with an iPhone 5). Yet, we pay $125 per month. My husband asks friends and family to text him through Google Voice and yet we still pay an exorbitant amount. We live outside the city and like you, Verizon is the only carrier that gives us great service BUT, we haven’t tried other carriers in several years. So, methinks it’s time to revisit this…I’ll be checking out TING for sure. Thanks for the info!
    Kendal recently posted..Consignment: Is It Worth It?My Profile

  • Donezo. I’m totally switching. Unfortunately, my boyfriend just bought a Tmobile iPhone, so I’m not sure if it’s a great idea for him to sell his this soon (maybe it is, though? Will crunch the numbers), but I can always jump in first. Thanks for sharing your review!
    Kristin Wong recently posted..Frugal tips from a money expertMy Profile

    • So the last post in this series is about a company called Glyde, which might help your boyfriend out. Basically we sold our Verizon iPhones and bought Sprint ones through it and only lost about $100/phone. Right now they are sold out of T-Mobile iPhones so he might be able to get an even better arbitrage than we did.

  • I switched to Republic from Verizon last month and it was SO hard to leave the reliable coverage that I knew for the unknown of Sprint but I made the leap and I haven’t had any problems. Of course, I haven’t left the city but I don’t travel that often. I looked at Ting but since I needed a new phone anyway and I hadn’t had a data plan before, I was able to go with the $10 Republic plan. Now I just have to make sure I don’t break my new expensive phone within a year so that I will come out ahead on the savings.

    • With your savings, pick up a nice sturdy case to help keep your phone nice! =)

      Also, just for reference – Republic is also on Sprint, but only on the CDMA bands. Ting has access to the 4G bands, though my iPhone 4S isn’t able to access those. So the coverage might differ depending what phone you have.

  • hmm, having a hard tine finding out if my device is eligible and how to switch over. Guess I’m going to have to hold off until I can research this more. But I’m definitely going to look into it. Funny because when I first moved into my current apt. I have a phone that used Verizon and I could NOT get reception in my apt. Then I got the iPhone with AT&T and had not had a problem. I guess my one fear would be switching and not having it work in my apt.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted..The Real LA WomanMy Profile

    • Well, you’d have to switch from an AT&T iPhone to a Sprint iPhone – we used a company called Glyde to make the switch (and tomorrow’s post will be about Glyde).
      If you want to switch from an iPhone, this is a list of everything Ting supports now. If you scroll down it’s organized by manufacturer:
      https://ting.zendesk.com/entries/22567167-BYOD-Whitelist-

      The reception was my big worry too, since I had problems with Sprint years ago when it came to indoor reception. But I took a leap and it’s totally fine. You might also ask around and see if any local friends have sprint. Might be worth having them over for dinner to see how many bars they get on their phones =)

  • Nice review, really thorough. I am currently using Walmart Family Mobile (which is essentially just T-Mobile) and I’ve been happy with it. It is no contract so I could always switch, though I don’t know if I want to go through with switching to a new phone at this time.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..Beating the 401k Retirement Age – Get Access to Your Money SoonerMy Profile

  • Nice and thorough explanation about Ting, I kind of like the idea that you “combine” your plan (For some it may even be a social deterrent- if I screw up we’re both screwed haha)!

    Personally, we like to stick to the cheap MVNO prepaid plans. It keeps you from using too much data in cases when it isn’t necessary to use 4G, since, well, you pay as you go(it saves us a ton of money, I think we’re at <$10 per month between the two of us!). We use Ptel (dirt cheap, T-mobile MVNO) and H2o wireless (slightly more expensive but still dirt cheap AT&T MVNO). This way we have great coverage when we need it (with H2o). Quickly looking over the numbers, I think "our" method is cheaper when you're on the lower end of a "Ting Box", whereas Ting seems a bit cheaper at the upper end of the blocks. Either way, in my opinion there is absolutely ZERO reason for anyone to stick to AT&T/Verizon as their service provider!
    Mr. Southbound Savers recently posted..Depressing Statistics on Net Worth and Why You Shouldn’t CareMy Profile

    • “I kind of like the idea that you “combine” your plan”

      I figure if we trust one another to share bank accounts, we may as well trust each other with cell phone plans, right? =)

      Are there any restrictions on Ptel or H20? Wifi calling? or limited coverage areas? Those sound like a great deal for someone who just wants an emergency phone around.

      • Good thinking :)

        The only limitation I can think of that’s a bit annoying is that you can’t roam (found that out driving to Canada!), but that’s a fair trade-off for cheap rates in my opinion (and pretty much all MVNO’s have that problem). There’s free wifi pretty much anywhere nowadays anyway, so between that and Facetime, Viber, Pinger, Skype, Google voice, etc. I’m all set. Everyone knows that AT&T (H2o) has great coverage so that’s no problem whatsoever, but what really surprised me is T-mobile’s (Ptel’s) coverage. I have super fast 4G where I live, and the only place I can remember driving through without any coverage on Ptel… was ALL of West Virginia, seriously!
        Mr. Southbound Savers recently posted..The Problem With BudgetsMy Profile

  • Soo…. These things are available anywhere that has Sprint?

    This concept is really interesting. It would make it possible for me to afford a cell phone. I really hated T-Mobile and just quit using it. If one could get one’s own phone and so could choose one that was pretty simple to operate and then one didn’t have a stiff monthly gouge (already got enuf of those, thanks), it would be worth doing.
    Funny about Money recently posted..Please. Unnerve Me Some More!My Profile

  • You could definitely get your own phone – and it doesn’t have to be a smart phone if you don’t want one. The page on their site of refurbished phones that they sell gives an idea of types that are available, but if you find one on Craigslist or ebay, generally as long as it’s Sprint capable and on this list (https://ting.zendesk.com/entries/22567167-BYOD-Whitelist- ) it will work.

    After that, the cost would be $6/month + whatever usage you have. Months that it doesn’t get used at all, you get billed $6.

    Might want to check out the coverage map, too, as some of the more far flung desert locales might not be served, or might only have Voice, not Data coverage. (Aren’t you a frequenter of Yarnell?)
    Mrs PoP recently posted..How We Lowered Our Cell Phone Bill By Over $100/Month – Part 2My Profile

  • Nicely done. This one just might have pushed us over the edge into Ting-land. Mrs. 101 is right this very minute over at AT&T trying to sort out some issues. Fully expect for her to come back with hair standing on end, frazzled.
    Andrew recently posted..Standard Car Buying Advice: About As Useful As Rubber Lips on a Woodpecker….My Profile

  • Dave

    I am really late to this party! But nice series of articles. I have a phone with Ting and I can vouch for all the things you said about them. I wanted to share that I still have a family plan with verizon. I am in the process of switching. But what is so obnoxious about verizon is that when they lower their rates, they keep billing their customers at the old rate. Until they update their plan. Sweet!

  • I’m not sure what I’m missing. I bought my phone outright from amazon. I only pay $31/ mo for 6GB with at&t.
    Suze Wannabe recently posted..Why I don’t do videosMy Profile

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