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Wireless Phones for Emergency Use

One of the most frequent questions we get is from people who want a cell phone for emergencies, security or other very infrequent use. It is hard for many people to justify the $39.99 or more per month that regular cell phone plans cost when the phone might only be used for one or two calls.

The Solution: A refill card prepaid plan with low monthly usage requirements.

Almost every carrier now offers some sort of prepaid program where you buy the phone, and then buy additional airtime as you need it. However, there is a huge catch - these airtime cards expire after a certain period of time (see box, below). If more airtime is not purchased before the expiration date, you will lose your account balance and your phone will not work.

How to Minimize your Spending

The trick to spending as little as possible with prepaid is to find the lowest value refill cards that offer the longest expiration periods. That in mind, we offer the following recommendations. Please note that these solutions only make sense for light usage - the assumption is that you won't fully use the airtime of the recommended card before it expires.

Carrier Program Recommended
Airtime Card
Cost per Month More Information
AT&T GoPhone $100.00 12 $8.33 Buy »
TracFone $19.99 Refill Card $19.99 3 $6.67 Buy »
T-Mobile Pay as you Go 100.00 12 $8.33 Buy »
T-Mobile Pay as You Go $25.00 3 $8.33 Buy »


Why do the Airtime Cards Expire?

For those of use who rarely use our phone, it would be nice to be able to buy $25 of airtime and just use it up as we need it, over months or even years. Unfortunately, having active phones that aren't generating revenue is not a profitable scenario for a wireless company. Having an expiration date associated with airtime solves that problem by forcing the subscriber to periodically cough up some cash.