People have been asking me for a while now to write about how to get a better phone plan. How much are you paying per month now for your plan from AT&T or Verizon? $40 a month? $80? Maybe $120 after taxes and fees? I am currently traveling the world and am able to call and text my friends and family with my 5 dollar a month phone plan. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made in the personal finance space has been to cancel my relationship with the blue blood phone companies and switch over to this cool little startup called Republic Wireless. Here’s how you could save 60% or more off your phone plan, even if you are still using Mom and Dad’s family discount.
The Different Plans: Super Easy to Understand
I’ve used Republic Wireless as my cell phone provider for almost two years now, which seems like a long enough time to evaluate a company and its service. While there have been some hiccups along the way, I’ve been tremendously pleased overall and I’ve saved boatloads of money on one of the highest consumer expenditure categories. These savings were critical to helping me achieve a higher savings rate to get to early retirement and they are critical now to help keep me retired.
Republic offers 4 different kinds of phone plans: WiFi only, talk and text, 3G, and 4G. The cost of each is $5, $10, $25, and $40 a month. It’s pretty self explanatory. I’m using the WiFi only option right now where I can travel the globe and call home from my phone and talk as long as I want. Though Skype and Google have options to do this already for free, I’m using my cell phone number to do it the same way I would if I called someone back home, which is more than worth the $5. This makes the inevitable calls to my bank about why I used my debit card in Moldova then Bulgaria over a 12 hour time span much more believable when they see it coming from my cell number.
Since I’m traveling abroad and you don’t typically get signal unless you have a global data plan or you switch out SIM cards in every country, the $5 a month WiFi only option works great for me right now. You need strong WiFi for a call and you can always get that in a hostel or random restaurant. The service is more than enough to call home, which is invaluable when you have worried parents that don’t know how to find the country you’re in on a map.
The other three plans make the company great to use in the US. You can do the unlimited talk and text option for $10 a month. That allows you to make calls and text as much as you want. No limits on phone minutes or numbers of texts, you can go all day if you feel like it. I used this plan for a bit and it felt really freeing. No longer did I have to immediately respond to friends’ Facebook comments or Twitter posts, I could take my sweet time and do it once I had a WiFi connection.
Eventually though, American phone culture got the better of me and I decided to swap to their $25 a month option. This is the one that gives you unlimited 3G data, which is more than enough for Google Navigate or seeing emails and Facebook comments/messages. It’s been really useful when I was starting this blog. It also came in handy when my phone blew up after I announced that I was retiring at 25.
The final option, one I’ve never used actually, is the 4G plan. It’s $40 a month and the data speed is more than enough for Youtube watching and meme’ing away all night long. Like other “unlimited” plans out there with the big phone companies if you abuse the privilege and watch loads of Netflix on your cell data you just get hit with slower speeds, not $1000 surprise bills.
They Let You Switch Between Plans
One of the craziest benefits of Republic Wireless is that you can move between the four plans they offer when it benefits you. If you’re going to be traveling abroad, you can downgrade to the cheapo WiFi only plan. Need prime time connectivity because you have a big blog post coming out? Change to 4G. You get two changes per month between the different options. So if you were going to a family vacation in the middle of nowhere and have no service anyway, you could swap to a lower cost plan and swap back when you return and they will pro-rate your bill for what you actually used by the day.
This is incredibly generous and truly I don’t know why they allow this, but it’s another awesome way to save money on top of the already ridiculously lower monthly fees you’ll pay. I’ve definitely taken advantage of this quite a bit. When I didn’t want to use my work WiFi to send flirty Snapchats to my now girlfriend during lunch break, I was super grateful to have unlimited data to take advantage of. Then when I quit my job and didn’t have that problem of being bored during lunch, I didn’t need to call anyone to change to the $5 a month WiFi only option. I just went on the app on the phone and switched plans. It’s truly seamless.
What Does a 5 Dollar a Month Phone Plan Get You?
So in theory you could do everything with the WiFi only plan for free over already existing services, except getting to use your phone number while doing it. The big benefit is it’s a mindless way to use your cell phone number for all communication instead of Skype or Google Hangouts. If I was dealing with a business back home people could actually get ahold of me. Folks that text me don’t even know that I’m abroad unless they read my website or see pics on Facebook.
Like I hinted at above, when I’ve called my financial institutions man does it make the interaction easier when it’s coming from your registered cell phone number. Because debit card fraud is a major problem and they’re on the hook for it, I’ve experienced all kinds of issues with my bank believing that yes in fact I am in Serbia spending $5 on a hostel named Black Sheep and it’s not some random fraudster. A quick call from my cell phone and they unlock the card allowing me to continue to get money out. I actually don’t want to think what I would have to deal with without my phone here.
So when I’m out and about I don’t have signal but when I get back to my hostel for the evening I get WiFi again and I get all my texts and messages for the day. I use my phone for everything over here so it’s super nice to have it along. It’s basically a way to get phone service anywhere in the world where there’s WiFi. The app makes the call by routing your phone over the WiFi signal and hence you can get signal anywhere. This has made for some funny conversations when I’ve called my Grandma from Kosovo and she’s been like “Koso-What?” Go back 10 years and you’re calling from a garbage flip phone with shoddy signal and 50 cents a minute cost, not to mention buying a new SIM card in each country you go to. I’ve been to 16 countries so far on this trip, so thank goodness I haven’t had to deal with that. Now I get unlimited talking for $5 monthly. My how the world changes for the better.
That’s Cool it Works Abroad but How’s Service in the US I Need My Phone and I Need Cell Data!!
So I’ve used Republic Wireless for close to two years like I mentioned and they use Sprint towers for the cell data. I think Sprint bought too much spectrum or whatever the stuff is that allows you to carry phone signals. They wanted to make some money off their problem so they started auctioning spectrum off to startups needing smaller amounts. Republic Wireless realized they could send most of the calls and data over the internet with their custom app and use less spectrum, so they started a business based off the hope that customers will use WiFi more and cell data less. I think the technical term for is Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) if you want to read about this phenomenon.
The company is based off the idea that WiFi in public places will continue to grow and become widespread, especially in urban areas where most people live. When that happens guess what? You’ll be calling people and having conversations in the NYC subway system over WiFi when others are fumbling around with their overpriced AT&T phone plans without signal. I’ve made calls from some of the most random places in the world all thanks to having this ability to call over WiFi. I absolutely love it.
When you don’t have WiFi and are using the cell data part of the plan, it’s basically the same as Sprint service, but it’s better because I think they have some agreement with Verizon to serve as a backup carrier for when Sprint towers aren’t around. I lived in Philadelphia for three years and never had problems except in really strange pockets on top of mountains in far away suburbs. I think I would’ve had problems with other phone companies there as well.
When I traveled down to the Florida Panhandle I had a few issues in the beginning in Winter Break 2013, but these have all disappeared in the past year. In some strange situations, I’ve had signal and friends paying quadruple the monthly phone bill didn’t have squat. I think this is because when you have Republic Wireless you have the advantage of both Sprint and Verizon but I’m not sure. It was just really cool hiking in the middle of Georgia and having signal when others didn’t.
So What’s the Catch This Sounds Awesome
There is definitely one restriction preventing the entire world from using this phone company and causing all the big phone companies from collapsing. You have to use a limited set of phones because the company needs to pre-load their app in the phone to get it to work right. This will prevent you from using the phone with another network as far as I’m aware so that’s a downside but you can sell it on an online marketplace if you google it. Just make sure you list Republic Wireless enabled in the sell tagline so people know. This is also a way to find and buy cheaper used phones. This blog doesn’t make money off phones bought that way but I wanted to tell you about it because it’s always more important that readers know how to save more money.
Right now your two options from their online store are the Moto E and Moto X both 2nd generation. You can get the first for $129 and the second for $299, both without contracts. That’s right you straight up own them no annoying two year obligation around your neck. The Moto E is more than enough juice if you’re not into taking hundreds of photos a week like I’m doing overseas. I bought the Moto X first gen when it first came out and I’ve been very pleased with the picture quality, which I think is better than an iPhone5. The second gen has even better specs and faster processors. I think I’ll probably wait until the next version comes out to plop down a cool $300 for a phone because the one I have works just fine. One time I had an issue with my Moto that was a hardware malfunction but I got it replaced no problem since it comes with a 1 year warranty. The Republic Wireless Facebook page is super responsive to your concerns and they got everything fixed far quicker than if I’d been with a major phone company dealing with their customer service. Only downside is they don’t have the stores everywhere so that could be a true advantage for the blue blood phone companies if you need that service. However, unless you’re a corporate executive I don’t think that level of service is necessary. Vanguard is the equivalent to Republic Wireless in the financial world where they pass along savings from lack of branch offices directly to the consumer. Republic is headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina so you get the customer service charm of the South if you ever have problems.
The Moto Pure Edition (3rd gen) will be coming out very soon. If I was a betting man I think Republic Wireless might have it ready by Christmas and you could spend the same amount of money you would on the latest iPhone for the latest Moto instead and give yourself the gift of phone plan savings out the wazoo. Motorola is making this $399 phone available without a contract to all carriers so I’m interested to see how Republic Wireless will respond. I would bet at the very least the $299 price for the 2nd gen phone drops $100 in a few months. The latest specs for the 3rd gen hinted at a 21 Megapixel camera which is absurdly good for taking professional level photos with your little pocket phone that weighs a few ounces. I’m extremely grateful for my good photo quality and light weight that I have with my Moto 1st gen every time I see some poor tourist lug around a dinosaur camera weighing ten pounds that gets slightly better pics.
If I was a college student trying to make ends meet, there’s no question I’d buy the 2nd gen Moto E for $129 (that was the latest price I’ve seen) and use the $25 a month plan to get unlimited 3G. When I need faster connections I’ll probably be around WiFi anyway. The best part is no need to insure your phone, worry about if you drop it and crack the screen, or if someone steals it. For $129 no contract cost you can just buy another phone and not worry about it.
So to review, if you’re in the market for a new phone or have to go out on your own off Mom and Dad’s plan, I’d take a serious look at Republic Wireless. If you’re really on a budget, get their Moto E phone with the 3G plan. If you can afford a little more and you take tons of photos and like watching Youtube then the Moto X with 4G will still be 50% cheaper than your vanilla iPhone bill and it will do the same thing. It may even better with my anecdotal experiences taking phones with my Moto and a friend’s iPhone and having us use my photo for Facebook. If it doesn’t work out you can sell the phone online and take a minimal hit after taking a shot at saving as much as 90% compared to the more expensive phone bills out there. Verizon and AT&T are ripoffs, which you’ve known for a long time. Now you can finally do something about it. Check their plans out here if you’re in the market for a new phone and watch your bank account breath a sigh of relief from the weight you’ve lifted off it. Click Here to check out Republic Wireless plan options.
*Disclosure: I’ve decided to put affiliate links in this blog post, meaning that I can get compensation if you buy one of their plans. I’m never going to put something on the blog just for money because I want you to know you’re always getting my 100% honest opinion on things. I really glad I’m able to do this since I have a good amount of financial independence from working so I can be really selective. Clearly this is a phone company I love since I’ve used them for two years. When there are opportunities to help support this blogging habit and pay for the expenses of maintaining a website I think it’s fair to do it, but I just wanted to let you know.