Cheap Prepaid Cell Phone Service – STi Mobile

Many people want a cell phone for occasional use but most prepaid plans, although the per-minute charges are low, make you recharge every 30 or 60 days otherwise you lose your service and/or your phone number. In the end, this means you’re often paying at least $10/month even if you don’t use the phone.

I just ran across these guys – STi Mobile, who piggy-back onto Sprint PCS’s network, like Virgin Mobile. The offer a flat rate of 10-12 cents per minute, and you only need to make 1 call every 60 days to keep your service. That means you only need to spend 5 cents a month to have a cell phone around! My parent use Virgin Mobile right now and waste a lot of minutes, I’m definitely telling them about this. I mean, just keep one of these charged in the car, it’s that cheap.

Pros:
» Sprint PCS Nationwide Network, good in most metro areas.
» Only 10c/min Nights and Weekends
» Only 12c/min Peak
» Only need to make one call every 60 days.
» No credit check
» No monthly fees
» No roaming or long-distance charges
» Taxes included in the per-minute charge

Cons:
» Sprint PCS Nationwide Network, poor coverage in rural areas
» Looks like you only get to pick from 3 phones. At least they aren’t bricks.
» The phones are reasonably priced in my opinion, but the free one requires a rebate, which are a pain.
» The may raise rates or something, I’ve never really heard of them.

But, if they do raise rates, you can just eBay the phone or something and walk away. I’m seriously considering switching to this once my current contract runs out. We spend $80/month now, that’s about 700-800 minutes on this pre-paid plan, which we rarely reach. Anyone use these guys?

Comments

  1. This looks like a good plan. I think I am going to switch to this since I rarely use my phone and it’s a waste of money paying 30+ for service I don’t use.

    This is a great site and I learned a lot of very useful information. Keep up the good work.

    Thanks.

  2. You might have a look at this offer, before buying from stimobile.com. Seems legit.

    Thank you for your post. I am a Virgin Mobile user and was looking for a cheaper alternative. Since STi Mobile uses the same network, it seems to be a no brainer, once my VM minutes are gone. Please keep us posted on your STi Mobile adventure.

  3. That is a slightly better deal (you get a $10 card) and you don’t have to buy a $50 card with the phone to get the rebate. But 16 WEEKS for the rebate to come in? I just don’t like the idea of rebates with such unknown websites.

    Hey, they can port your number too. Nice. List of retailers. Funky list, hope I can find one nearby.

  4. You are right about the rebate, Jonathan. STi Mobile is almost unknown, too (seems to me the service is brand new, less than a month since it was released). Btw, you should keep an eye on HowardForums.com’s Prepaid area, for discussions about STi.

  5. This one seems to be the best discussion about STi on HF, to-date.

  6. I still like t-mobile prepaid service. It is best for low use (not virtually no use). You pay $100 and that gets you 1000 minutes to use over a 1 year period. This would suit 30-200 minute per month users.

  7. Good (long) link, thanks. Do you have this service? How do you like it?

    Things I picked by reading that loooong thread.
    - 10c/min for voicemail on TOP of airtime. So try to check voicemail from landline.
    - Text Msgs seems to be hit or miss right now.
    - $4.95 activation fee, I think.
    - Another reseller, they also have a car charger for $5.75.

    T-Mobile does seem like an ok solution too… hope both deals are still around in six months.

  8. What I like about VM is that you can set up auto top up for $15/month with a credit card every 90 days. No more having to remember to top up or make a call every 60 days or 45 days or whatever days. This not being able to auto top up via credit card is my main issue with all the other pre-paid plans. With VM I’m paying $60/year or ~$5/month.

    P.S. the $15 top up every 90 days is I believe new. Used to be $20 every 90 days.

  9. Actually, the minimal VM topup is $15 + sales tax. Even online.

  10. http://www.gobeyondwireless.com has a similar deal for the AT&T/Cingular network. You can activate an old TDMA phone. There is no activation fee and they give you 10 minutes free, so there is no risk. Then you can purchase minutes for approx. $.10/min. Minutes don’t expire as long as you use one minute every 60 days.

  11. Hey that would work for me, I have an old TDMA AT&T phone… they don’t have any local numbers for me though – not much of a presence on the west coast. Thanks for the tip.

  12. “Actually, the minimal VM topup is $15 + sales tax. Even online.”

    We will see. I have a top up coming in 5 days.
    On my son’s VM phone I had a $20 top up in October (before I knew about the new $15 top up)and they charged my credit card $20 exactly. NO sales tax.

  13. You can buy the STi Phones for 20% off at Cheapphonecards.com using the coupon code: paymecell

    http://cheapphonecards.com/cccart/customer/home.php?cat=77

  14. “Actually, the minimal VM topup is $15 + sales tax. Even online.”

    Follow-up to post above. $15.00 top-up posted to my credit card today. Credit card charged $15.00 to the penny. NO SALES TAX.

  15. In the 11/27 Staples Circular one can purchase an STi mobile Samsung A660 prepaid phone for free after Staples $100 Easy Rebate. Cost would be sales tax + $10 phone card (?). Don’t know if it comes with any minutes. STI has a $4.95 activation fee.

  16. STI Mobile is owned by SmartServ. OTC:BB symbol is SSRV.OB. Their most recent SEC filing says this company lost 4.3M for the first nine months of 2005, lost 10.6 M in 2004 and 17.5 M in 2003. They have an accumulated deficit of 107 M. Since all you’re risking is the cost of the phone plus the cost of airtime, which is pretty much nil, there’s not a lot of risk. There was some concern on a fatwallet thread if they would pay their rebate after the 90 days of activation that is required in order receive the rebate.

  17. The $4.95 activation fee is waived if you activate by using their website versus calling them directly. Per fatwallet.com thread. It also comes with $1.00 of minutes if you buy from Staples. Also per the fatwallet.com thread. If you call at night when the rate is 10 cents/minute and make one phone call every 60 days, you can keep this phone activated for 600 days and never buy a phone card. Don’t know if you have to use minutes when you activate voice mail using the phone.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Also I think you have 14 days to reload if you run dry. You can reload from your phone (*555) and you are ready to go! I wonder if you can load with a credit card from your cell phone?

  19. dave in iowa says:

    I think STI is the best deal out there. Bought one for my teenage son for Christmas. The LG5225 is nice phone, but the screen cracked 4 months later. I just received my rebate ($90). The other plans I looked at (VM, Tmobile) had a per day usage fee or a per call usage fee, which makes it much more expensive than STI. I hope they stick around and keep rates low. Coverage is good in Iowa, but not as good as my tracfone.

  20. Freegal says:

    How do you know that STI mobile is “owned” by Smartserv (which a google search shows changed its name to Uphonia (symbol UPHNE) and is in financial trouble). Posters on fatwallet forums are all over the place with rumors based in large part on this mymoneyblog posting. From what I see on google, there is no evidence that Smartserv in an incarnation ever owned STI mobile. Lemme know if I’m wrong, and give cites.

  21. How does this prepaid phone really does work? I mean does it included text mgs as minutes? If you are out of minutes and what if there is an emercany from your families members that they are in the hostipal and still trying to get ahold of you. I think it is still a waste of time to get new minutes card. I think you should able to get free calls if there is any emercanys calls from friends or families that wanted to tell you something is going on or what happened to their parents, kids, wife/husband, etc… How really does that work? Have you ever thought of that?

  22. I’ve been an STI mobile user for about 3 years now, meaning since I only keep my phone for emergencies (like family calling me to tell me Ann’s Dad had another heart attack :-o ) so I have saved about $450 compared to my “other” plan.
    They run on Sprint and have pretty good service.
    Ann – if you are worried, you can keep extra phone recharge numbers in your purse to add time at any time! I do.

  23. I’ve been using STI Mobile for about 5 years. They are reliable and work well. There are some areas in which I cannot get a signal while others can, and while the phone I have is capable of roaming, I am unable to make calls while in a roaming status. Other than that, I’ve never had a problem. This phone is a great deal; even when I use it quite a lot, we never spend anywhere near enough to make a regular cell phone plan seem more reasonable or cheap enough to consider.

  24. I have used STI Mobile (here on Cape Cod, MA) and have found connections very reliable. It is the least expensive no-contract plan that I know of. 9 cents per day even if the phone is not used ($2.70 / mo.) Plus 9 cents per minute of talk time; this is the “easy 8.9 cents plan”. This is great for people who don’t use the phone much but want something reliable for the occasional call. Sound quality is not great, but what the heck; can’t beat the price! If you want fancy phones and spend a lot of time on the phone, STI is not for you.

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