Who is currently the best provider, using any national network, for a glove compartment "emergency phone" that'll remain unused most months, and even when used see very few minutes used and less to no text or data.
Considerations are a preference for no monthly recurring fees, paying only for minutes (or text/data) used. That the service not be turned off or disconnected due to extended non-usage. Texting and data abilities are optional and can be done without.
Right now the Tello terms state:
"Pay As You Go credit is available for a period of 3 months since customer's last order or call, text or data session, effective September 1, 2017. If none of the actions mentioned above was carried out in a period of 3 months, SIM and Pay As You Go credit will not be available for calls." Tello Mobile | Terms of service | Transparent Terms & Conditions
Possibly Tello PayGo, if you're comfortable with Sprint coverage. $10 top-up would last a long time, but you need to make one call or text every 90 days. No monthly fee, no SIM purchase needed if you have a Sprint device ready for use on MVNOs.
Lycamobile PayGo also seems to be a frequent suggestion, on the T-Mobile network, also with a $10 minimum non-expiring top-up. From reading, it seems like you have to know the 'secret handshake' to set this up, but I believe there are Lyca users here. I don't know about occasional use requirements..
AT&T or Verizon coverage is more complete in many areas. I see these frequently suggested for PayGo glovebox phones:
Page Plus PayGo, Verizon network. $10 per 120 days. (I believe most Tracfone devices can be used on Page Plus, as well as BYOP.) When I last set up a line a few years ago as a glovebox phone for a friend, there was no intermittent use requirement.
H20 PayGo, AT&T network, $10 per 90 days. I don't know about intermittent use requirement.
I've been happy with truphone. Solid customer service. Even Apple trust them to name them as an esim provider. They have a history of not enforcing any calling requirement and are generous at 6 months. I don't see the point of going with someone like pirahna who has iffy customer service and a history of fumbling around with needing to switch networks and replace sims. But some are happy with them.
Freeup requires too much work, tello has a tight calling policy of 90 days and I am not sure how much they enforce it, Lyca's paygo is also 90 days and a hidden plan so may be taken away at any time.
Also consider tmobile's $3 a month plan. It gives you 30 mins/text a month and will be reliable. H20 on ATT and Pageplus on verizon are also good choices as per KentE's suggestions. If you want sprint tello is probably the best option but I'd go with one of the others.
For pricing does it really matter if it is just a glove box phone? 9c a minute for calls out and if you hardly use it the $15 starter credit will last years ($30 to start for the sim and $15 credit). They are as lax as they get for non use - I have gone for over a year without any issue.
No freeup requires monthly intervention.
Tello has a 90 day usage policy and I suspect they are fairly strict on that since they already tightened it from 180 to 90. If 90 days is okay with you then sure they are a good choice since it is cheap and costs hardly anything to start. Grab a referral if you use these as the credit can be used to buy more paygo funds.
Don't know about H20 carry over. Other tracfone brands have greater annual costs.
I have a few Tello accounts. What happens if you don't use it for 90 days? No, Tello won't cancel or expire it. It just automatically sends text messages to your phone every so often to keep it active. It does it automatically if there was no activity over 90 days. This is from my personal experiences. Of course, terms are subject to change should businesses determine it to be necessary.
I was entirely unaware of this-- thanks! That is about as proactive as a company can get to benefit customers, since the line would stay live until eventually running out of PayGo credit to charge against. .(And it's not the first time I've seen Tello bend over backwards to be customer-friendly in their pricing structure.)
The Tello PayGo glovebox phones in our household are easy for me to access & I have a calendar reminder set to remind me to use them bi-monthly-- but if the phone was with someone not living in my house, this is a great feature.
My $10 Paygo credit could stretch out to a maximum of 250 years of 'standby' time. Probably be safe to assume changes to the policy, the company, or the network would make that time span unlikely. (In actuality, both of our Tello PayGo lines have intermittently been used as our main lines.....)
joseph asks: "How do TracFone brands other than Page Plus compare as far as cost?"
PagePlus is cheapest for ultra-low use.
Tracfone is cheaper if one uses somewhere around 50-100 minutes/month average. The startup cost is higher, since the most economical purchase is to buy a year of access. Standard cost for a year with 1200/1200/1200 (yearly total) is around $100-$130, although it's possible to get that down to around $65 or so (with far fewer minutes) by working the system carefully, and to around $40-50/year by working the system very, very, thoroughly carefully..
The other Tracfone brands (Simple Mobile, Total Wireless, Straight Talk, Net10) are all geared more towards standard users who need a fair amount of data (1gb/month & higher) & talk/text, and would not work for your description.
Yes, as long as you have a balance in your PayGo account, and Tello continues to provide the user accommodation of making the required every-90-day-use for you. Since it's not in their official policy that they will do so, that accommodation could go away at any point. Better to count on using Chelle's method of using the Tello app to make a call every 90 days via remote, and hope that SuccessOne''s experience works the same way for you if you forget to do it. (The cost is minimal-- $0.03/minute, or $0.01/text, regardless of whether you do it, or Tello kindly texts your phone to keep it alive.)
Interesting. I've never received one of those Tello texts. I have gone over 90 days on one account and nothing happened. I didn't want to push my luck though so sent a text a few days later. No idea if Tello actively cleans up old accounts.
From everything discussed thus far it appears that Tello is by far the last expensive, at 3 cents per minute. Thus if the Sprint network works for you and the 90 day usage policy is acceptable, Tello is the way to go.
When Tello does that to your inactive accounts, it'll deduct 1 cent for each text to keep it active. So eventually your account balance will be winding down until you add more. I forgot how many texts or how many times it does that when your account is over 90 days without activity. To be safe, if you were to keep it for emergency, I'd check my account every month or so to make sure have enough money in the account so that the phone is useable in event of an emergency. Bear in mind, at some point, your balance will go down as result of Tello texting an inactive account. And if your data is turned on, be aware that t'll burn data in background, thus using your balance even faster.