Tello Try-Out Review: A Month With This No-Fee Cell Phone Provider

tello refurbished phone
tello refurbished phone
New(er) refurbished HTC One phone from Tello

This past month, our friends at Tello offered me the chance to test out their service for free along with one of their phones. After doing my initial overview of their offerings earlier this year – I thought it was a good idea to give it a fair shake.

My current service is with Republic Wireless (which I have written about previously) and have been pleased with the service – most notably due to the low-cost monthly bill that runs about $12-15/month.

Tello and Republic Wireless are both MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) players. This means they “lease” access from the bigger networks out there and in-turn offer it to customers at cheaper rates. While the service is not premium, it is close and allows us thrifty types to save more each month on our cell phone bills.

Plans starting at $5/mo at Tello

Get 15% off new monthly plans with code 15OFFAFF. Offer expires soon.

A rougher start, but…

I've heard stories from friends and acquaintances about their initial encounter with their significant others and how some didn't even “feel anything” (ie: had no spark). And even others, where their first date went horribly – and yet they somehow ended up together. Most call this “fate”.

I share that because this is how things started out with my Tello trial run.

Tello originally offered me a nice refurbished iPhone and their $29 plan to start (which in hindsight, I probably should have taken) – but I turned it down and opted for a package that was similar to the current plan and phone I have with Republic Wireless. In a way, I wanted to compare apples to apples.

I picked a refurbed HTC One M8 phone and used their build-your-own-plan to get $10 service (that included 100 minutes, unlimited text, 200 MB of data). I received the phone soon enough – but it didn't work. Turns out it was defective and I ended up sending it back for another.

I received the 2nd phone in good time and again, started to have some issues with it. This time, it was related to the SIM card – to which Tello immediately sent out a replacement.

Finally, the new card worked and I had the phone / service up and running. While all this was a bit frustrating at first – I have to say the customer service was pleasant to work with and were able to answer my questions / assist with getting the phone up and running in due time. I've heard this from some of our readers too – that Tello's service is second to none.

Check out my initial look at Tello from earlier this year that gives a better rundown of their offerings / service.


A month with Tello

After I got up and running – I was pleased with the service and it performed as expected. Although I did opt for the “thrifty” plan of $10 / month – it met my needs.

I do wish I was able to utilize roaming data while out and about. And, this is the one drawback of using Tello.

Since I live in the city, rarely use minutes on the cell phone – and have access to WiFi for much of the day, limited data and minutes are not a problem for me. What I appreciate about Tello is the ability to build-your-own plan that fits your life. If you need more data, you can get that; more minutes – you can add that as well. Everything is customizable.

I also liked the HTC phone (and wish I could keep it over my Motorolla). 

build your own cell phone plan
Tello's Build-Your-Own-Plan is great for those looking for flexibility

Other pros and cons

What I appreciated most about Tello is for what I needed from the cell phone – the plan provided it. And, even better than my current provider: Republic Wireless. The texts seems to go through faster than with RW (especially at work) and phone calls were clearer and more stable.

But Tello will not be for everyone. For those who travel a lot and need the roaming data – I would look elsewhere. Or, if you live in rural areas where Sprint coverage is spotty, try another provider. Though Tello has let me know they are planning to add national roaming in their plans (More details could be found on their coverage page.) It's also important to note that you can use Tello's My Tello app to call over WiFi where roaming is not available.

It's really hard to complain about the service when you are paying a fraction of what most pay for their cell phone plans and it meets your needs. It's definitely worth a try if you are looking for flexibility in plans,  no fees, and low-cost.

Plans starting at $5/mo at Tello

Update 8/18/17: Get 15% off any new plan with code 15OFFAFF. Offer ends soon.

Update 10/19/2017: Tello just announced they are lowering their rates on all of their plans effective today. Every plan will include unlimited texts, no matter the minutes/data combo customers chose.

Here are some examples of their new lower rates:
unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 500 MB –> $26 old, new $19
unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 1GB –> $29 old, new $22
unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 2GB –> $39 old, new $29
unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 3GB –> $49 old, new $35

Update 12/4/2017: Tello again announced they are dropping prices on their plans. Here are the updated changes:

unlimited text & talk, 1GB –> $22 old, new $19
unlimited text & talk, 2GB –> $29 old, new $25
unlimited text & talk, 3GB –> $35 old, new $29

Update 5/25/2018: Tello announced their referral program for existing customers. Users can find a unique link they can share to refer a friend to the service and both will receive $10 Tello dollars (good for use for phone or plan purchases). 

Update 3/4/2019: Get double the data for an entire year when you sign-up to a new Tello plan that includes 1GB data.

For example: 
– $10/month: 100 minutes+unlimited text+2GB 
– $12/month: 300 minutes+unlimited text+2GB 
– $14/month: unlimited talk&text+2GB 

Customers are free to change the plan at any time, however, in this case, they will revert to regular plan rates. New customers only, no coupon needed. Limited time offer. 

MVNO Comparison Chart

MVNONetwork UsedPlan Price
(Min. available)
Calls to Mexico & Canada Included in PlanCustomer ServicePlan Friendliness
(Ability to uprade / downgrade at will)
Free Tethering
BoostSprint$35 (Unlimited / 3GB data)$5 extraFair1 month noticeNo
Consumer CellularAT&T, T-Mobile$15 (250 min / no data) AARP members can get 15% discount.International direct dialGoodAnytime-
CricketAT&T$25 (Unlimited Talk / Text Plan)Smart / Pro Plans onlyFair2x per billing cycleNo
Gen MobileSprint$5 (Unlimited text)Yes (over 101 countries)GoodYesYes
Republic WirelessSprint, T-Mobile$15 (Unlimited talk / text), + $5/GBNoFair (Most CS logged to community)2x per billing cycleYes
Straight Talk WirelessAT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon$35 (Unlimited text/talk + 2GB)Add-onGoodAnytimeNo
TelloSprint$5 (100 min / Unlimited text)Yes (texts and MMS only)GoodAnytimeYes
TingSprint, T-Mobile$15 (100 min / MB / text. Plans based on what you use). Offers $50 credit upon signupYesGoodOkayYes
TracFoneVerizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile US, Sprint Corporation, and U.S. Cellular$14.25 for auto-renew (200 min / 500 texts / 500mb)NoFairOkayNo
TwigbySprint, Verizon$9.00 (Text + 300min + WiFi only)Yes (and China)GoodYesYes
UNREALSprint$10 (Unlimited text + talk + data - up to 1GB)NoFairYesNo
VisibleVerizon (Visible is not considered a traditional MVNO)$40 (unlimited talk,text and data)NoGoodOnly one plan offeredYes

This article has been brought to you by our friends at Tello and we may receive compensation for any purchases made through the links – at no cost to you. All opinions expressed are our own.



Ease of use




Customer Support







  • Low cost
  • Unlimited text / data while on WiFi
  • 4G
  • App
  • Build-your-own-plan


  • No roaming
  • Initial setup can be confusing
  • No international service

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  1. THANK YOU Aaron for your great review! You’re REALLY so good and thorough! So glad I bumped into your site! It so happens I’ve been looking for the absolutely lowest cost of a smartphone because I’d be using it only once in a great while…As I’ve never had this kind of phone it’s taking me an awfully long time to read and to look up the terminology, etc. Finally I found Tello and am considering the “build your Own Plan” for 6 bucks (even this I won’t be using much), and also considering buying their Motorola Moto E4.

    I find it extremely confusing, especially for a newbie like me, but I’m hoping that perhaps you’ll be kind enough to let me know if the phone I chose is ok?

    Again, thank you so much for your very helpful review. I’ve marked your site to read all your other articles. :)

    P.S. Their Q&A are good but they didn’t answer the following questions and wonder if they are reachable by email, i.e.:
    *What does it mean: “Unlimited 2G data, after you’ve used your LTE data.”?
    *What happens if I don’t use the plan/phone for over 30 days?
    *Does your Motorola Moto E4 include the batteries?
    * What does this mean: hac rating: m3, t3″?

    • Glad you found it helpful Adela. As for the phone, it is on the lower end of their phones but should do the trick. It’s really all about what you want from a phone / what you need. I’ll try and add these Q&A questions to the post as well. Best.

  2. Can you port a number from another carrier to switch to a Trac phone and can you bring your own phone?

    • Hi Shirley. Yes, you can port your number to Tello and bring your own phone.

      The port in details you need to provide to their Customer Service team are the following (they can tell you if you can use a TracFone phone too):

        Current number
        Current provider
        Account number from current provider
        PIN/Password from current provider
        Your address as listed on the phone bill
        First name and last name as listed on the phone bill
  3. This was a helpful review! We are trying to figure out if data on a plan like this one is actually used while on wifi- meaning, does the 200 mb included in your plan get used up while on wifi too?

    • Hi Mel. Thanks. No, the data is not used up while on Wi-Fi. If you’re around Wi-Fi a lot, a plan like Tello is an excellent way to save $.

      • THANK YOU!!

  4. Coverage is spotty in my area no matter the network so wifi calling is a must. Do you know if I can receive calls via the Tello app? Everything I’ve read talks about making calls but not receiving them.
    Any help would be appreciated.

    • Hey Randy

      You’re right in what you’ve read. You can only make outgoing texts / calls through the app. It will not receive incoming. Hope this helps!

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