RingPlus: Basic, Free Cellular Phone Service Plans (Now With a Catch)

rplus_logo

Updated September 2016. Ringplus has updated their Terms of Service, effective 9/6/2016, that greatly expands their ability to terminate your service at their sole discretion. In particular, please note the following new terms:

20. If your talk, text or data usage exceeds 50% of your total voice, text or data usage for any prior billing cycle in the immediately prior 6 months, RingPlus may, in its sole discretion and without notice, expire, suspend, terminate or downgrade your Service.

21. If more than 50% of your talk, text or data occurs while roaming, RingPlus may in its sole discretion and without notice, expire, suspend, terminate or downgrade your Service.

22. If your talk, text or data usage exceeds the average use of talk, text or data by all RingPlus Members, RingPlus may, in its sole discretion and without notice, expire, suspend, terminate or downgrade your Service.

What?!? So they’ll sell you a monthly bucket of 1000 minutes, but then add the option to cancel your service if you used 100 minutes one month, and then 200 minutes the next month? Heck, by definition, half of all RingPlus users will exceed the average usage of all RingPlus users! This means they retroactively added the ability to terminate their most unprofitable customers at any time, without notice, even after they may have already committed upfront deposits. Some people defend this action as a way to get rid of abusers, but in my opinion this is not the proper way to do so.

Let me repeat: I would not rely up RingPlus service for serious needs. It’s cheap, and it may go on for months or even another year. Enjoy it while it lasts, but don’t commit big bucks upfront. I expect more restrictions to come over time, as their growth slows and they start needing to make a profit. Have a backup plan!

March 2016 update. It has been six months and I have been enjoying my free cell phone service from RingPlus with no hassles or unexpected charges. I still don’t use it for my primary business/personal line, but at this point I’d be comfortable using it as a kids’ or grandparents’ low-usage line. It’s tough to beat $0 a month (not even taxes!). Some quick points for prospective new customers:

  • They are still rolling out new plans all the time. As of today, a new member can still get 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 1000 mb of data for $0 a month ongoing with a one-time $25 upfront balance top-up. I still have my initial $10 top-up sitting in my account. Be sure to read the rules.
  • Starting April 17th, you can no longer buy a new prepaid phone and activate it on RingPlus. Up until now, you could for example buy a $50 Moto E meant for Boost Mobile but activate it on RingPlus instead with no problems (assuming it was brand new and had never been activated on Boost Mobile). The Moto E is a very decent phone for fifty bucks. But starting April 17th, Sprint won’t allow this anymore. The good news is that if you activate before that date, Sprint has agreed not to retroactively kick phones out. If interested, get yours before the deadline! Details here.
  • You can still buy eligible used, off-contract Sprint phones. Be sure to verify eligibility with this BYOD checker. Right now, you can get a used Sprint Samsung S4 for about $100 or a used Sprint Apple iPhone 5 for about $130 on Swappa.com.
  • In general, the customer service is spread quite thin, so you should be willing to navigate their forums for some self-directed help.

Original post:

RingPlus is a Sprint MVNO that offers cheap cellular phone plans, starting at… $0. You can bring over an off-contract Sprint phone (check eligibility) or you can buy one from them (slightly more expensive that on secondary market). They make money partially from ads – ads play whenever you call someone instead of the normal ringing. When your friend picks up, the ad stops immediately. You also pay for any overages past your free allotment. There are no contracts and no activation fees.

Recently, Ringplus has been aggressively courting new customers with limited-time plans. RingPlus free plans are usually only open a for a limited window, and then it closes for a while. But recently, their plans have been getting more generous, with special super-generous plans available for a few hours only. These have very little notice, but it’s worth checking their site daily if you are very interested. For example, I was able to jump on a plan with 1000 min, 1000 text, and 1000 mb every month for free. The fine print states that I must keep a non-zero balance, otherwise I will be charged a $10 top-up that will apply to any future overages.

Here are all their current plans and details on promo plans. Be sure to read the whole page for the rules for each specific plan. If you miss one round, be on the lookout for future phases. The most important thing is to find an eligible phone and activate it during the window. It can be an ancient flip phone from Virgin Mobile (Sprint MVNO). Later, you can swap the phone out for 99 cents and keep the free plan.

You will need a credit card on file, although some of their plans don’t even require a credit card (but come with much fewer free minutes). No additional activation fee. Not even additional taxes are due on the zero plans (taxes are due on top-ups). Here’s a screenshot of their current plans, but again they change daily.

rplus_20151003

Here’s a screenshot of my dashboard that tracks your usage:

rplus_dash2

Are there any catches?

  • You have to sign up for their free plans during certain availability windows. That means you’ll need the ESN of an eligible off-contract Sprint phone waiting around, ready to go. If you’re like me, you have to resort to asking all your friends if they have any old Sprint phones you can have.
  • In the past, RingPlus has discontinued their free plans without much notice if they can’t line up enough advertisers in your calling area. That would be annoying, especially if you invested good money into a Sprint phone. Have a backup plan.
  • Honestly, I don’t know if giving away this much free talk and data is a viable business model. They are definitely trying to grow customer base and sacrifice short-term profitability. Again, know that they may cease operations with little or no notice. Plan ahead as to how you would quickly port your number to another cheap service.
  • If your phone is not eligible, then they may de-activate your plan in the future, even if you manage to activate it initially.
  • You must maintain activity on your plan. If you don’t make a call every 60 days (may differ by plan), they will de-activate your account and you’ll have to pay a fee to re-activate.
  • If you do sign up and decide to link your credit card, know that overages cost 2 cents per text, minute, or MB. MMS picture messages are at an additional cost (4 cents each). Roaming is available, but those overages are much more expensive. I would disable roaming completely on your phone to avoid such surcharges.
  • In case you were wondering, this is not a VoIP-only service like FreedomPop as normal calls use the Sprint voice network. However, free WiFi calling is an option so you can save your minutes.

Bottom line. You could save a lot of money on RingPlus free/cheap plans if you are willing to devote some sweat equity into figuring it all out. I currently use them for my non-critical, light-usage phone lines without issue. However, I would NOT be surprised if they discontinued or change the rules of their plans very quickly, maybe even without any notice. Enjoy it while it lasts, but have a backup plan.


<!–
BA
–>

RingPlus: Basic, Free Cellular Phone Service Plans (Now With a Catch) from My Money Blog.


© MyMoneyBlog.com, 2016.


Read More: RingPlus: Basic, Free Cellular Phone Service Plans (Now With a Catch)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *