Like most expenses in my life I'm always looking at ways of reducing them and my cell phone bills are no different. Recently, I evaluated how much we were paying for our existing cell phone coverage, and wasn't really pleased. Here is a breakdown of our previous cell (QWERTY) costs:
- Monthly Access (450 minutes): $41.99
- Surcharges: $7.17
- 1000 texts per month package: $10
- Monthly Bill: $59.16
So in evaluating our cell costs and our contract coming to an end March 1 I decided to evaluate moving to a smart phone. Over the last two years I'd heard a lot of excellent things about the Virgin Mobile service in our area, and the monthly costs seemed cheaper than what I was paying with my QWERTY phone. I decided to evaluate with the Virgin Mobile iPhone 4s. Here is how I figured the phone could save our family money:
- Initial Phone Costs (iPhone 4s): $449.99
- Monthly Service Costs: $32.10
- Package: 300 minutes, Unlimited Texting, Unlimited Data
- Average Cost Per Month (over 2 years): $50.80
So with my facts on what I was getting with my existing coverage, and my new iPhone 4s in hand I evaluated the Virgin Mobile services over the last 30 days (free of charge).
One of the great features of the Virgin Mobile phone service is that they don't lock you into a 1 year or 2 year contract. Their contracts are built on month to month contracts in much the same way Tracfone's are offered. Nice thing to this is that on your monthly bill there is only the additional cost of tax (in my instance $30*7%tax= $32.10). Where in your normal AT&T or Verizon phones you have to pay the federal fees, taxes, etc. (Important Tip: make sure you sign up for the monthly automatic withdrawal, which will save you $5 on your monthly bill ($35-$5=$30/monthly).
Cost of Phone
Part of the flexibility you get in the contracts you end up paying for with the phone. In my case, for the the iPhone 4s, we paid full price on the Virgin Mobile website of $449. So in evaluating my existing costs vs Virgin Mobile I ammoritized the phone costs over 24 months ($18.70/month) to compare apples to apples. If you can get over the initial costs, and figure the costs over the normal life of a contract, then it ain't so bad.
When I was looking at Virgin Mobile's coverage I was really concerned about their coverage outside of large Metropolitan areas. Look at adjacent map to see for yourself. In looking at it prior to signing up I thought when you were outside these “coverage areas” that their cell service would roam. BIG MISTAKE!! Luckily half way through the month our family took a trip back home to rural NW Iowa. In traveling back we lost cell and data coverage once we left the interstate, and never had it for the two days we were at home. This included BOTH CELL and DATA!!! I couldn't have been more disappointed with their coverage! I couldn't believe I could not call anyone, and using a cell phone for emergencies is a given! As you can see from my puncuation usage this wasn't pleasing in my evaluation. :)
While signing up for the phone service customer service was great (a little wait – 5-10 minutes). However, in disconnecting our service it was a different story. The first time I called in I got transferred about 8 times before “accidentally” getting disconnected. I kept getting transferred from department to department, because each one said “that is handled by another department.” Second time I called in it took about 65 minutes to get my phone disconnected and RMA to return it. (Tip: if you call in to disconnect first request to disconnect the monthly contract. You'll lose any existing time or data though. Secondly, request to be transferred to the department to return the phone to get your RMA #.) On an additional note when I went into the local Virgin Mobile store there was five high school students having a picnic on the office floor!
Would I Recommend It?
Based on my overall experience I personally wouldn't recommend Virgin Mobile. The actual Apple iPhone worked great, but the cell coverage was the biggest deal breaker for me. Our family couldn't risk being out of the coverage area in case of emergencies, and that's part of the need in having a cell. Secondly, I wouldn't recommend them based on my customer service experience either. I constant felt like a burden to their reps, and was just handed off from one department to another. I felt like they were more concerned about the “call time stats”, then really resolving my issue. Do you know what I mean?
So that's just my evaluating of Virgin Mobile. Have you used Virgin's services before? I'd love to hear from some of our readers on their experiences. Also what alternatives would you recommend to reduce cell phone costs?