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Little-known cellphone deals

The companies don't widely publicize these no-contract ways to save money.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 15, 2011 9:09AM

This post by Laura Roeder originally appeared as a guest post at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


Secret phone plans? No contracts? Unadvertised payment plans with no interest? These are all available. But you'll never know until you ask.


I recently decided to switch carriers to T-Mobile, so I jumped on their website to start doing the math on the different plans they offered.


Just when I felt I couldn't possibly calculate the details of one more plan, I came across a section on the website that featured plans without contracts. This section was buried; in fact, I had to be logged on to the account of a friend who was already a customer to be able to see the plans at all.


I was confused by what I found. The plans without the contracts had a lower monthly cost than the plans with contracts. I had figured there would be a premium fee to not be locked in to a two-year contract, but I was seeing just the opposite.


I went into a T-Mobile store and asked about the plans. They didn't show me any plans without a long contract. So I asked about a no-contract plan, but the salesperson was dismissive, saying, "But you're going to have to pay full pay price for the phone."


I insisted that I wanted to see the plans anyway, and he went to the back of the store to dig up the brochure for me. Post continues after video.

The exact same plan without a contract was $110 a month instead of $140 a month, for a savings of $360 a year. I looked for the catch, but the only catch was that the no-contract plan didn't offer the usual discount on a new phone.


The phone I wanted to buy retailed at $500, but cost just $200 with a contract. (That's a savings of $300, in case your math muscles aren't working.) I quickly did the math: I could save $360 per year without a contract, but would have to pay $300 more for the phone. That still left me with $60 in my pocket for not having a contract, meaning no insane fees if I wanted to leave the contract or switch carriers. Plus, all the savings after the first year were pure "profit."


I soon learned from the sales associate that no one to his knowledge had ever bought a phone outright and taken them up on the no-contract plan. It's not advertised and therefore usually not asked about. They just assume that no one will want to pay more now in order to save later.


The sales associate couldn't believe that I was "baller" enough (his exact words) to pay $500 for a phone -- even though I was actually saving money within a year. He even asked me what I did for a living to be able to afford such an extravagance.


It gets better. When he went to ring up the phone, he asked me if I wanted a payment plan. I asked for the details and he told me that they offer no-interest payment plans so that people don't have to shell out the full cost outright. Meaning that if you didn't have the $500 for the phone, you could still save money by going with a no-contract plan.


Again, this isn't advertised. You just have to ask.


It made me wonder what other companies aren't telling me about ways that I can save because they assume that no one wants to pay more up front.


Call your cellphone company, cable company, or insurance company today and ask if they have any other options. They might have something without a contract, a AAA discount, or other ways to save. Many companies have plans they don't publish publicly.


Check out these past Get Rich Slowly articles for more ways to save:

Remember: Don't be afraid to ask.


More on Get Rich Slowly and MSN Money:

Aug 16, 2011 1:18AM
We have a tmobile no contract family plan & love it. Now that I know they have no interest payments plans on phones I love it even more! I'd prefer to pay cash for a phone but if someone kills a phone when I'm unprepared this is a great option.
Oct 2, 2011 12:06PM
WalMart now sells plans as Straight Talk.   $30 mo.  for 1000 min each of talk and web access and 1000 text messages.   $45 mo get you Unlimited.   You must buy the phone yourself, though they have a free one online but not in stores.  It's coded on the box so you can choose Verizon or AT&T as your actual carrier but you must know the codes.   A number ending in "C" is Verizon. 
Apr 9, 2012 7:46PM
I know people who like having the 'convenience' of having everything on one device.  They spend over $100 per month for iphone.  GPS, internet, smartphone.  I use 3 separate devices $180 ipod touch- because wifi is everywhere for free, $100 tomtom for gps, and $25month for a no-contract phone. I easily saved over $800 a year by not giving in to this 'convenience' mentality.  And the $25 no contract plan? 300 talk minutes, unlimited text, 3g internet use.  Most people text rather than talk anyway.
Sep 7, 2011 5:13AM
Me and my wife, we have Walmart Sim cards w/o contract, which they use T-mobile services for their own services, its called MYFAMILYMOBILE DOT COM, and we have everything unlimited for both of us, the bill monthly comes less than $90, and we have the same service as any T-mobile customer. For a year i been saving a lot on phone bill, so yeah i would recommend everybody to give a try
Oct 18, 2011 12:04AM

I have a Tracphone which costs me $19.82 at Wal-Mart  /every three months.(Less 1% credit card rebate. The Phone cost $9.99 & I get free double minutes for the life of the phone, which means 120 minutes every three months. That won't work for most people but for me it's a bottomless pit & what I don't use rolls over.

My wife has a Virgin Mobile phone which automatically bills her credit card $15 every three months but gives her far less minutes. That is still no problem since she also doesn't use them all & also rolls the unused over.

That means both phones cost us a total of $139.90/yr (adjusted for leap years) after the 1% credit card rebate & if we are together we have two systems to choose from.

Sep 7, 2011 6:18AM

They should advertise their plans if they care about their customer base.  The playing of more games in the name of profit.


Nov 10, 2011 9:17PM

T Mobile Pre paid Gold Plan...they never tell you about this plan at the store.

One Hundred bucks gives you Gold status and it's good for a year.    What it get you 10 cents a minute for calls and the deal is contract free.  I never use my phone that much I just carry it in the car when I travel.   But never need to put time on it like other pre paid plans in 90 days .   Since the Gold plan gives you service for year for $100.00.   All I do is drop twenty dollars on the plan at the end of the year and all the time rolls over so I end up with my bal + twenty $$


It a great plan for a Senior who has no large airtime use.   Maybe gray but am not old and dumb with my hard earned $$    Hope this helps someone at the T. Moblie store.  That need a phone just in case they are broken down on the road or to make that call if your late for a get together.     PS. I picked up a GSM phone to use at for $35.00 and it's a nice Samsung GSM that works on TM.

May 4, 2012 10:28PM
I couldn't afford both a landline and family cell phone plan any longer.  At my age I don't text and rarely use my cell.  I looked into many contract and prepaid plans with all the big carriers and lesser known phones and plans sold at WalMart. through AARP, etc.

I found out that you can buy an "unlocked" phone which will work with most carriers.  This allows you to pick a phone in your price range with the features you want and if you're unhappy with our plan or carrier you it is easy to switch as long as you're prepaid.   Just MAKE SURE you check the specs on the phone to see which carriers it will work with before you buy.  Having an unlocked phone means you can travel outside the U.S. and still use it, just buy a prepaid sim card from the country you're visiting.

If you've been with a provider for a long time like I was, you can ask them for a code to unlock your phone so you don't have to buy another one.  They're not happy about it but they'll tell you or there are places on the internet that will sell you the info for $10-$15 although I didn't try this.

For graduation I bought my daughter a brand new smartphone on Amazon (could have found it cheaper elsewhere afterwards) for less than $140.  Her monthly  AT&T plan is $25 for 250 minutes and unlimited texting.  If she uses the internet at home or someplace public like Starbucks it's free or you can add a data plan for extra.

I hope my experience helps others out there who are on a budget or just want to save some money on their cell phone.  
Sep 7, 2011 9:52AM
thats because no contract phones have crappier service they dont use all the towers  when verizon and att compare eachother there not lying when they show the m aps the problem is that you dont realize att grabs verizons prepaid map and vice versa with verizon. its all a scam stick with simple mobile get an unlocked phone and pay 60 dollars a month for unlimited everything calling texting and data
Sep 7, 2011 3:17AM
Better yet, get an unlocked phone online (like Ebay?) and your MILES AHEAD of the game! I just bought a nifty little white smartphone with the works (froyo, etc) new for $140.
 If your living in a metro area there are lots of phone companies that offer flat rate, un-contracted, all you can eat, deals that are monthly pre-pay (like Metropcs?) for around $50.
You have SO got to look around. Think of the handbag you can buy with what you've saved!
Feb 29, 2012 5:19PM
I have to say that my plan with MetroPCS is a good one. Back in December they offered up to 5 lines for which would drop the price to 25.00 per line. I had phones already, but I did have to but 2 new phones just to get them all on one line. I pay 125.00 per month for 5 phones. Unlimited texting and phone and internet.. I think its the best deal yet. No contract, and its for the life. Although metro is not the best for super fast internet, it still gets the job done. Not as many dropped calls as years past. Now all my kids and wife share the lines for a measly 25.00... It works for me. I have an Android phone and I pay 50. So really my cost is 175.00 per month for 6 phones. Still a great deal !
Sep 18, 2011 4:00AM
I usually get a new phone every couple of years so that wont work for me. nice for the people who love to keep the same phone for years. I will just ebay my old phone or turn it into an ipod touch when i upgrade next month.
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