Cheap Cell Phone Plans in Canada and Beyond

Hi there. Just little update between real articles:

I recently wrote about our new cheap iPhone plans with AirVoice wireless. That article caused quite a stir because it has allowed many people to cut their phone bills by 80% or more, and  I am wondering if I will start seeing black armored AT&T limousines idling in front of my house soon as a result. But it also led to more excellent findings, thanks to the collective wisdom of the MMM readership.

Many people wrote to me asking if I would do a similar article for Canadian cell phone plans. That’s a bit outside my area of expertise, but luckily another reader stepped up to the plate. The Mustachian known as I.P. Daley, who I think of as the Sports Anchorman of Mobile Phone Commentary, sent me this article on his own blog:

http://www.techmeshugana.com/2012/10/dial-c-for-canada-eh/

Challenge: Do YOU have a similar guide for your own country? If so, share it with us in the comments section, and I’ll add a link from the body of this article.

So far, the MMM household’s new plans have been working out just as expected. 18 days into my first month, I still have $7.00 of the $10 initial credit, so my phone use away from home is even lower than I thought. A few of the tricks that have kept the tally so low:

  • I use the Phone and Voice calling plugin for Gmail to make calls from my computer while at home. Quality and reliability is excellent – better than the sketchy nature of making long calls on a mobile phone.
  •  I installed the Talkatone application on the iPhone. This is a free download in Apple’s App store to route outgoing calls through Wi-fi if you’re too lazy to open a computer to make calls. Note that it doesn’t work for incoming calls unless you buy the $24/year premium service.
  • We forgot to even enable data access for our new Airvoice accounts. This is yet another silly feature of Airvoice – you have to specifically ask them to enable data service when you create a new account. But it shows just how little I need data coverage when I’m out of wi-fi coverage – I didn’t even notice the omission until two weeks into the new service.

But I have been leading a pretty homebodied lifestyle of late. This will change soon, as there are some trips coming up in the near future. At this point I’ll be glad to have real data access.

Finally, Republic Wireless got to my part of the lineup(“Beta wave M”) earlier than expected. I was invited to get a compatible phone and start evaluating their unlimited-everything-for-$19-a-month service. But they admitted that rural coverage is limited with the current phone offering, and a newer version of the LG Defy handset should come out at the end of this year. So I decided to wait – especially since unlimited voice and data access would be of no value to me until the next gigantic roadtrip.

 

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38 Responses to “Cheap Cell Phone Plans in Canada and Beyond”

  1. Travis October 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    “Note that it doesn’t work for incoming calls unless you buy the $24/year premium service.” I don’t think this is true. I’ve used the non-premium Talkatone and get/answer incoming calls just fine.

    I think one of the ultimate potential Mustachian hacks will be to use an iPod touch in a WiFi sled provided by FreedomPop that gives 500 MB/mo for free. Combine that with Talkatone/Google Voice- and maybe not pay anything monthly for data or voice if you are in a coverage zone. I should get one of their sleds soon for test, I’ll follow up and see if this works!

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

      Cool idea Travis. Regarding Talkatone – the app does seem to answer the incoming calls, but they get used as billable minutes.

      For others who are confused about how all this works:
      - you have your regular cell number which can make and receive calls as normal
      - then you also get a Google Voice number (free). I give out only my Google number, since it gets forwarded automatically to my secret cell number, as well as ringing my computer if it’s on.
      - If you use the talkatone app on your phone, it sneaks the voice packets out through Google Voice instead of regular cell phone minutes, so your call does not go through the cell network.

      - If you have premium Talkatone (if I understand correctly), it can be set to receive incoming G voice calls as well.

      • Chucks October 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

        I use groove IP for my Android phone- great for making free international calls, especially when abroad (when on Wifi). You have to pay once for the app (under $10) but that’s easily less than the cost of any SIM card service.

      • Art October 25, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

        I just switched to PagePlus for Verizon after your article (thanks!) and I have the free version of talkatone on my iphone; if you configure your Google Voice account properly to NOT forward any calls to your other number, talkatone will pick up the call and you will answer it using your wifi only and not any minutes. At least that’s how it’s been working for me so far. Maybe it is different for the carrier you have, but I doubt it. Took some fiddling in my google voice account to figure it out properly, but I think you should be able to make it work.

      • Travis October 26, 2012 at 12:20 am #

        If the incoming call is directly to your Google Voice number there are no minutes if it is answered through the Talkatone app/notification. In this scenario you actually turn *off* the regular GV forwarding functionality to your phone (as that’s what makes it a regular inbound phone call). Talkatone is then setup to do the “ringing” and answering via a notification from the app- and then you are handling incoming calls through the app as pure data as well. It does indeed work, I’ve used it this way.

        It’s an interesting potential reverse play if you have a provider (like FreedomPop in the US that I mentioned) which will give you free data but no free minutes/messaging. It doesn’t make sense with the more traditional providers/MVNOs since they put a premium on data but give cheap minutes/messaging…

        • Nephi October 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

          @Travis

          For that FreedomPop sleeve, does it have to be a 4th generation ipod touch or do earlier generations work as well?

          • Travis October 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

            Unfortunately I believe it is specifically made for the 4th gen iPod Touch. I’ll post back when they ship them and see if I can find some friends with other generations to try…

    • carolinakaren October 26, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      I have thought of doing that before…..Travis’ suggestion with the ipod touch. Wonder if it would work to use the iphone without a cellphone plan and GV/talkatone? I’m not very current on the latest tricks, but it seems like it might be possible.

  2. rhino October 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    I pay £5 / month in UK for a sim only deal with virgin mobile. 200 minutes, unlimited txts and 1GB data. I bought a Nokia phone from them for £7 – its awesome…

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 25, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      Wow, that’s surprising – way cheaper than even my Airvoice plan, since your minutes are similar but data is much larger. Any other UK people getting this deal?

      • Jamie October 31, 2012 at 6:38 am #

        I’ve looked at the Virgin Mobile website here in the UK and can’t find this deal. Best option for these minutes etc is £10/month. If you’re willing to go with 150 mins and 500mb you can get £7 a month. All have unlimited texts.

  3. Rob Young October 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    I’m in the UK, and got inspired by MMM earlier this year to address the mobile phone cash issue. The simplest thing I found was a a SIM only plan. I was on Vodafone, paying about £35/ month. All you need to do is call up and say you’re happy with your current phone, and don’t want to upgrade, but you’re happy to commit to another 12 months. by doing this I kept my old iPhone 3GS (which works fine) and I now pay £13/ month for everything I need. I think the latest equivalent is this plan is £15.50 for 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 500mb data. Always call though because they will often negotiate to keep you as a customer.

    There might be better plans out there, and Pay as you go may be cheaper but I liked this because it took me one 2 minute phone call to get more minutes, text and data for £20 less per month, just by committing to keeping an older phone for a year…

    • Tendo1001 October 25, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

      My phone plan is a little bit more expensive. Its the T-Mobile $30 a month plan. 100min, unlimited text, 5gb at hspa+ speeds then throttled to unlimited 2g after that. I normally don’t use all 100 minutes per month. I also use the paid grooveip app. $5 on the play store. I just use data when I use it to make calls. Sure I brought a Galaxy Nexus from the Google Play store for $350. But look at it this way. I could sign up for Verizon and pay $200 for a phone + get locked into a 2 year plan that would cost me at least $70 a month. For what? I barely use minutes as is. In the last 4 months I have averaged around 70 minutes. If I ever go over my 100 minute allowance with T-Mobile, its .10c a minute. Never will be a problem since I have paid Grooveip.

  4. Alex October 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Having moved from France to the US recently, the only thing i really miss is my cell phone plan.
    With Free mobile I was paying 16€ / month for unlimited talk & text and 3Gb of data.
    For people who don’t use their phone that much they have a 1hour talk, 60 texts, no data, for 2€ / month (it’s free if you use them as your Internet service provider).

  5. Rahul October 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Art is correct, you need to change the settings on Google Voice on the computer. Talkatone takes incoming calls through your Google Voice number. Have had no problems and it doesn’t eat Airvoice minutes.

  6. Rahul October 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Also, you have to call and “activate” text messages. I hadn’t received any text messages from friends and some people asked me about them. I called Airvoice and they had to activate. Annoying, but whateva, now it’s all good.

  7. tom October 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    Belgium: Mobile Viking

    https://mobilevikings.com/en/ GREAT DEAL!

    pre-paid, per month. free with refils, valid for one month: 2000 texts, 2 gigs internet.

    15 euros: 24c/min. so 62.5 mins*

    25 euros: 20c/min. so 125 mins*

    40 euros: 14c/min. so 286 mins*

    *In europe, only outgoing calls use minutes. Incoming are free, if not roaming.

    I love this service, i haven’t found anything comparable in the US.

    I use skype (2c/min) to make calls using data, so I only need the 15euro per month plan.

  8. Jack Olson October 25, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    Great tip. I’d like to use this service and save save money on my cell phone bill. I rarely use a cell phone at all but got sucked into a $150 per month plan with Verizon because my wife wants to talk on he phone all day. I hope they have good coverage out here in Kauai!

  9. Captain and Mrs Slow October 26, 2012 at 3:30 am #

    For Europeans and people traveling to Europe the big issue is roaming charges, even on voice it can add up quick. So you want to get a local SIM as soon as possible

    Spain: http://www.spainsim.com excellent deal for Americans (and Canadians) traveling here. Not the cheapest out there but pretty damm close.

    Germany: gotta love Amazon!!!!!

    How to order a German SIM

    1. Go to Amazon.de using IE and translate (90% will come up in English)

    2. Search for “pre paid sim” or “micro sim”

    3. Stick with Vodaphone or O2 (so you can top it up at a shop)

    4. Try to get one with a bit of free credit

    4. Send it your hotel.

    5. To activate the card insert the card and turn on the phone, for data you’ll need a wifi connection. No passport or bank account info needed.

    Note: cell phones are referred to as Handys in Germany.

    I got a micro sim card and dumb phone for under 10 euros, best part is I can call Canada/US for 5 cents a min. Which is nice when skype cuts out.

    USofA: quick check on amazon.com shows dozens of cheap prepaid phones and sim cards I’ll update as I get more info.

    Also EU law requires that all carriers unlock phones after 12-18 months and same with contracts. Not a lot of people are aware of this and are stuck in expensive contracts or won’t switch because the phone is locked.

    Amazon.de sells cheap unlocked phones and depending on the seller will ship EU wide.

    But the biggest way to save money is to simply ask around. A friend told me about a new deal with Telefonica, landline, internet and mobile with 300 mins calling time, 50 euros a month, less than I’m paying simply for our landline alone! When I get back I plan to switch.

    Rob

    • Juan Luis October 26, 2012 at 6:43 am #

      Hey, Captain and Mrs Slow, a Spaniard talking here. You should take a look at Jazztel when you come back to Spain. It has roughly the same offer as Telefonica but for 35 euros (plus taxes) per month. True that you only have 100 min and 100 mb in your cellphone, but it should be OK if you are not a heavy user. I have found that used sensibly regarding downloads, cellphones hardly consume any mb in any given month. Also, you always have your landline, Skype and so on for calling. The last time that I tried to use Googlevoice it was not yet available in Spain.

      • Juan Luis October 26, 2012 at 8:36 am #

        Sorry that I forgot to say that Vodafone also has that kind of offer in Spain for 40 euros (plus taxes) with a bit more minutes and mb for your cellphone than Jazztel. The Vodafone offer also has the advantage that it will allow you to use your landline to call cellphones during the weekends and Vodafone cellphones from Monday to Friday. Calls to other landlines are included. So it could be interesting too.

        • Captain and Mrs Slow October 27, 2012 at 3:17 am #

          Hey Juan

          Thanks, we live way up in Navacarrada so our only option was Telefonica for a land line but for my movil I got an iphone through Movistar, once the contract was up I switched to Pepephone, 2,9 cents a minute.

          The data plan is cheap and great but what they don’t tell you is that each call has a connection fee of 15 cents, so not as cheap, about 30 euros a month but still less than the 80 Euros or say I was paying before.

          • Juan Luis October 27, 2012 at 8:14 am #

            Yes, that´s a bad thing, that here they charge you the connection fee unless you buy packs of minutes or similar bundles. I´ve never been to Navacerrada, but it must be a nice place. Hope you are having fun around there!

  10. Captain and Mrs Slow October 26, 2012 at 3:37 am #

    EDIT: the link MMM gave has links to places to get that info thanks!

    Any thoughts on getting a SIM card or phone when traveling to Canada or the States, last year I ran up a massive $400 phone bill on my in laws cell phone trying to arrange my Dad funeral. Problem was the people where we were staying didn’t have a land line anymore, so either I had to drive to someones house or use the cell. Real pain in the butt.

    BTW I understand why people ditch there landlines but personally I find it a huge pain in the butt to have to rely only on a cell phone.

    So going back for Christmas I want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

  11. Cynthia October 26, 2012 at 4:34 am #

    For France: In december of last year, a company called FREE broke into the market. I pay 2 euros per month for two hours of talk time and 60 text message, which is much more than I need (I just use a phone for calling!) since we get unlimited free calls through our ISP which also handles our phone service.

    FREE has another offer for smart phone users: 19 euros a month for unlimited calls and texts, plus some data.

    ALSO: receiving cell phone calls in France is free, so many people such as myself just have them for clients to be able to reach us, but then dont use them to call out.

    Ive noticed that, since france (and much of Europe) was ‘behind’ the US in getting phone technology (most homes only got landlines in the late 70s early 80s), that they have actually leapfrogged ahead of the US. This is even more true in countries like India! who havent even bothered with landlines and went straight to cellular.

  12. mark October 26, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    Giffgaff in the UK is good. £10 a month for 200 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data. Think from November data is going to be limited to 1 gig for the £10 deal. It will be £12 for unlimited data.

  13. Mr. Everyday Dollar October 26, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    You got an earlier Wave! I signed up for Republic Wireless 3 months ago and got assigned Beta Wave O. I am really excited about their service and the insanely low monthly cost! It’s unprecedented.

    I will be looking forward to testing and reviewing their phone and service to see if it meets my needs. From reading their forums and other online reviews my feeling is that the technology can be a bit buggy (it is beta after all); however I think I can live with that for the low monthly price.

    I recently went from a smartphone to a circa 1996 phone (which I blogged about at http://mreverydaydollar.com/cheapest-iphone-plan/) and I actually enjoy the “disconnection”, which definitely sets me apart from my IT peers!

    Cheers to saving people money on exorbitant cell phone plans!

  14. Mandy - MoneyMasterMom October 26, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Thanks for sharing! My husband and I have been tempted to get a cell phone lately, but just can’t justify the $60 monthly fee for a data plan….. hmmm just might know what I’ll be asking for this Christmas.

  15. LB @ Finanical Black Sheep October 26, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    I use PagePlus for Verizon’s Network and only pay $50 every 4 months for 2 phones. I use Google Voice and Talkatone and I am rolling in the savings. I think more people should look outside the box and save hundreds on their cell phone bills. I touched on the subject when I compared my budget to your “Kick-ass” budget. In doing so I save a whopping 93.75% and use all of the money to go to school without loans! Just look at my budget on my website :)

  16. Jeff October 26, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    I’m also waiting for Republic Wireless’ dual band phone (Wave I). It’s not clear whether they’ll be releasing the new phones in order of wave or if everyone will be able to do it right away.

  17. Tanner October 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Setting up airvoice data is definitely a plus. I will turn the data on to send texts when not on wifi. I can send receive multiple texts on google voice for about $.01 cents worth of data (sometimes reads $.00 used ) rather than $.02 per text to send and receive. I do have my iPhone 3G jailbroken though and have the app to text through google voice with the native iPhone texting application ( I think it cost like $3 through Cydia but definitely worth it as I thought the google voice app always lagged and was tough to type ). I used the APN unlockit.co.nz which is super easy to use and install to activate my data for airvoice wirelss

  18. Derek - Freeat33 October 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    I was really jealous when I saw this American phone post. Now we have one of our own! GO CANADA!.
    I can assume anyone who commented on this is probably from the Great White North Eh?

  19. Brian October 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Thanks MMM!

    I always like it when you can help out us Canucks! Never forget your roots!

  20. Sustainable PF November 2, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    Interesting options MMM. We actually use Magic Jack Plus. It plugs into the router so you don’t have to have your PC on to take or make calls. I think it cost us about $80-$90 to get the device, pay for our first year and get a Canadian number. I just got the bill for year 2 and it is less than $33 for the year. We get voicemail service and caller ID. Call waiting too but folks know we dislike using the phone so it doesn’t ring a lot. Face to face or skype is how we prefer to chat with folks.

    I will look into these other resources over the next year (just renewed my MJ+ today, before catching up on your site. Whoops).

  21. Kamilla November 3, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Hi Mr. Money Mustache,
    Love your blog – it’s helped me, as a medical student with lots of debt, pay closer attention to my life style. I was wondering whether you had considered writing about Internet plans. The Washington DC area seems to be monopolized by Verizon and ComCast, and every apartment has their own internet installed. The cheapest service I’ve found is to just ask a neighbor to share the internet cost! However, I was curious whether other options are out there, similar to the phone services.
    Thanks!

  22. CYH November 15, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    I just got republic wireless last month (mid October). It is still in beta, so expect some bugs.

    It works well in general though, and it has been really useful for me to finally have data on the go (only had minutes on my old plan, not even texting).

  23. Maria February 20, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    So this is a bit late but I wanted to thank you for providing options for new cell phone plan. I was hating that I had to pay 75/month for a plan I hardly ever used. Thus far, I like republic wireless though it still has some kinks. Best part, I submitted a video and got six-month free, which helps reduce the cost of the initial phone I had to purchase :).

  24. Fabio Braga May 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    Fellow Mustachians,
    In the land down under, Australia, Kogan Mobile is the cheapest available. Once you order the SIM, you get 100 minutes, 100 Mb and 100 SMSs to try the service and if you are happy their unlimited plans goes from AU$ 0.81/day (AU$ 299 if you pre-pay for the whole year) up to AU$ 0.96 if you pay monthly (AU$29). Their website is: http://www.koganmobile.com.au

    Other providers will good deals are Boost Mobile and Amaysim.

    Cheers,
    Fabio

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