Unemployed, Homeless Needs a Prepaid Phone

I'm unemployed, living on someone's couch and NEVER had/used a cell phone before. I need a cell phone for job interviews.


I need the cheapest phone that is A) a phone
and B) has voicemail. I don't want texting, video, Internet, to have it make me a meal, etc.
A phone and voicemail - period.

Has to be prepaid since I have no credit cards left, and would like it to be unlimited time on the minutes. i.e. 200 minutes good any time from now until the end of the world (Isn't that supposed to happen 12/21/2012?).

I was mailed back my TracFone. The worst customer service I've ever seen for any product/any company. Their CS is located in India. They don't speak or understand English. The "instruction manual" was merely a couple of pages of pictures pointing out the buttons.

Never told me how to answer the phone, how to retrieve voicemails, how to know I had a voicemail, how to set the ringtone, how to set vibrate. I'd ask these questions in an email and all I get was "Call our customer support at 888-blah-blah" so I use up all my minutes on CS.

I had hope for Straight Talk at Walmart and/or Net10 but just found out they are TracFone subsidiaries.

Any ideas????

Comments for Unemployed, Homeless Needs a Prepaid Phone

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Jul 09, 2012
Safe-Link Phone
by: Johnnomads

The Safe-Link or Assurance, free government sponsored phone is a bare-bones cellphone. What you get is up to 250 minutes of talk time per month, and the ability to send and receive text messages, that generally cost you a minute for every text sent or received. Also you often get free 411 (and have to listen to a bunch of time wasting ads), and voice mail, as well.
What you don't get, is reliable service, good connections, or a decent phone. There's no camera,games, mp3 player, or any of the items that often come standard on pre-payed phones, but hey it's free to you.
To qualify, you need to be on some kind of public assistance, or have income below a certain point, and have a verifiable address, which can be a problem if your homeless. The Safe-link website will not take a mailbox store address, so unless you have a friend with a street address, your just chuck out of luck.
On the other hand, some ppl go thru phones like they change underware, i'm sure you know someone like that. Ask them if they'll give you one, then activate it as a pre-payed phone, with whatever carrier supports it. I use a pre-payed AT&T phone, and for $25 a month get 250 minutes of talk time, unlimited messaging (text, video, picture, e mail) and then i add $10 when i can and buy 100 Mb of data, so i can use the web.

Oct 31, 2009
SafeLink
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

Great point; I completely forgot about Lifeline's SafeLink Wireless program. Thank you for the reminder! I've added new content to help people better understand the SafeLink program, the benefits, included features, and how it works. You can find it at SafeLink Wireless.

Oct 26, 2009
SafeLink Wireless
by: Anonymous

It depends in what state you live, but Tracfone has SafeLink Wireless that provides a free cell phone with free minutes if you are receiving Federal assistace. Go to www.safelink.com or call 1-800-723-3546.

Oct 25, 2009
PAYG Recommendation
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. That's really too bad about your bad experience with TracFone. They're known for having some of the lowest prices around (once you take into consideration their double minutes program), and they offer a reload that keeps your minutes valid for 365 days. Others to provide the year expiry too though. Too bad they treated you so poorly that they completely turned you off; their loss!

Unfortunately, a lot of carriers are trying to save costs, and have outsourced their call centers to India, and other countries where there's sometimes a language barrier. I've seen some carriers even bring their care operations back to the U.S. because of problems.

Anyway, although other carriers offer 365 day expiration, they require you to add a large chunk of money (ex. $100) at one time, which I assume you wouldn't want to do(?). Unfortunately, no companies offer minutes that never expire; it's too costly for them to do that. Believe it or not, even when you're not using the phone, there's some costs for carriers to keep your phone and number active.

A lot of prepaid carriers are starting to only include very minimal user manuals to save costs, which allows them to keep prices as low as possible. They expect customers will download the information online, or somehow figure things out, which isn't always easy!

With all that said, based on what you shared, I think that Page Plus is an option that you should seriously consider. Of course, there are a lot of other good options, but if you're asking for one recommendation, I think Page Plus might meet your needs. I say this for the following reasons:

- You can put on as little as a $10 every 120 days, where most other carriers either don't offer a $10 option, or it only lasts 90 days. This means that your effective monthly cost is very reasonable ($3.33/month). Though note that they do charge a $0.50 per month service fee.

- The per minute rate is relatively competitive. Note that the more money you add on, the lower your cost per minute will be. Once you figure out how much you use your phone, you'll know how much to reload to optimize/minimize your per minute cost.

- They're an MVNO on the Verizon network, so you'll have access to a good solid network.

- They also offer daily, monthly, and monthly unlimited plans, which would make it easy for you to switch programs/plans as your usage changes over time. i.e. It gives you very good flexibility.

I want to note that I don't have any relationship with Page Plus in terms of receiving any compensation for selling their products. I'm making a genuine, unbiased recommendation based on what you've shared as your needs. Others may have other recommendations.

You can compare per minute plans (including Page Plus) by visiting PAYG Plans.

I hope this helps!

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