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How to Get a Smartphone Without Paying for an Expensive Data Plan

How to Get a Smartphone Without Paying for an Expensive Data Plan


    The phone carriers have figured out many ways to lock people into monthly plans that they don’t really need. The most basic example of this is the requirement on all the large carriers to pay at least $30 / month for a data plan for the right to use a smartphone on their network. This isn’t connected with their subsidy of your phone since they won’t even let you buy your own smartphone on eBay and then use it without a data plan. They justify this by saying people will need to use up large amounts of data anyways on their phone, so it is for the customers own good that they’re forced onto a data plan. Is there any reason to think otherwise?

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    There are some possible reasons why someone might want a smartphone without a data plan. For one, a smartphone is a powerful mini-computer, and people might want to have access to one, even without a constant Internet connection. One can take notes and set reminders, take pictures, and read books, listen to music and play games on a smartphone. Since the phone can sync when in a WiFi area, one can see recent news articles, emails and driving directions even when outside of a wireless area. In fact, since WiFi is so widespread, people often have little need for the data plan since the WiFi access is almost always better. Is it really necessary to have a constant internet connection even during the short amount of time one is away from WiFi? I think there are many people who would be willing to slightly disconnect for short moments during a day, even if it means the phone carriers would be earning $30 less a month. But are there any ways to avoid these fees and still get a smartphone when the carriers are in control?

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    There are a few possibilities. One option would be to forgo having only one pocket device and get a “dumb” phone for phone calls and a separate “mini-computing” device for everything else. This other device could be an iPod touch, a Galaxy player or a used smartphone. (See this post for an older possibility). If one doesn’t need the very latest technology, there many cheap used smartphones available on eBay. However, it becomes somewhat annoying to have to always juggle two devices. There’s fair amount of overlap between them, so it just seems very inefficient to have to carry two of them. If one is on a GSM plan such as AT&T and T-Mobile, one can buy an unlocked smartphone separate from the carrier and try to use it on the regular plan simply by putting in the SIM card from the dumb phone. However, this may go against the terms of the carrier. In addition, if AT&T can detect it is being used in a smartphone, it will automatically add a data plan to the person’s account. Currently one can avoid detection by making sure the smartphone wasn’t made for AT&T, but even that option might not last forever.

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    The final possibility is to get a prepaid plan. If you don’t need that many voice minutes, this can be much cheaper than standard monthly plans. The big four carriers all offer some form of prepaid plans, but to get bigger savings you will need to look elsewhere. Some of the biggest prepaid providers are TracFone, MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless. The most important factor is that the provider has good cellular coverage in your area, so make sure to check their coverage map. The next thing to check will be the cost of the plan, of using limited data, and whether they charge more for smartphone usage. If you are on a GSM carrier, you will often be able to put the SIM card in any smartphone that you buy. If you are on a CMDA carrier (like Sprint and Verizon), you will need to buy a phone that is compatible with them and activate it with them. Depending on your needs, you may want to try some very cheap prepaid options. For example, PagePlus, which runs on the Verizon network (and is owned by them), offers a $12 /month plan. Another super-cheap option is PlatinumTel, which runs on the Sprint network.

    To save on your paid usage, you could use free or cheap services for calls and texts when in a WiFi area. For example, Google Voice provides free texting from within WiFi and there are many different VOIP providers you could try. By picking a good prepaid provider, you should be able to save a significant amount every month on cell phone bills.

    (Photo credit: Hands on Smartphone via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on March 4, 2019

    How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

    How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

    Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

    I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

    Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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    Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

    Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

    Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

    I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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    I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

    If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

    Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

    The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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    Using Credit Cards with Rewards

    Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

    You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

    I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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    So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

    What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

    Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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