Half Price Cell and Data Plans with Worldwide Coverage

For years now, we’ve been using the same two low cost alternatives to major carriers for our cell and data needs. Our plans still operate on major networks with excellent coverage, but cost us less than half of what the major carriers charge. Since switching, we’ve been saving over $100 a month. We only pay about $11/month for Republic Wireless plans with unlimited talk and text in the US, and about $25/month for Google Fi plans with unlimited talk and text coupled with worldwide data.

We get great coverage, better benefits, and still pay half.  (Photo taken with Nexus 5x)

Why are these plans so cheap?

With these services, calls, texts, and data are routed through WiFi anytime it’s available. This actually works out better for us because the cell tower reception at our house isn’t great. Special software in the phone seamlessly transitions to using cell towers when WiFi isn’t present. I’ve tested this by calling a friend from home then walking down the street until I was out of WiFi range. I never lost the call, and couldn’t even tell when it switched from WiFi to cell signal.

Basically they’ve created a hybrid VoIP and cell phone plan to send data as efficiently as possible. Instead of spending all their resources on marketing gimics, these companies are working out how to streamline services and cut costs.

The best part is that there is no compromise when it comes to quality and service. If anything, I think it’s been better than what I experienced with major carriers. I used to get bills with meltdown-inducing overage charges that I’d have to sit on the phone for hours to argue over. I’ve never had to call Republic Wireless or Google Fi to dispute charges.

I’m over disputing charges, there are better things to to. (Taken with Nexus 6)

These plans work anywhere in the world

A huge benefit of the Google Fi plan over other cell providers that I’ve seen is that they offer $10/gig data anywhere in the world. I’ve personally used my Google Fi data in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Canada, and Spain (Belize is the only place that did not have coverage.) You don’t have to do anything, it just works seamlessly. International calls are only a few cents a minute, and you can’t beat having data for $10/gig while in the back roads of a country where you don’t speak the language.

Of course you can use both of these services anywhere there is WiFi at no extra charge. While the Republic Wireless plan doesn’t support international calls, I have used my Republic phone in Canada and Costa Rica to make calls and send texts to US numbers via WiFi. It worked just as if I was sitting at home in the US.

Both of these options have been way cheaper and easier to travel with than trying to setup international coverage with my old cell provider.

Buy or bring your own phone

With both of these services, you buy your own phone and just pay for service on a monthly basis. You can hunt around for the best deal on your hardware, and even buy used. They do however offer deals when you buy a phone through them and activate it on their service. The only drawback is that because of their special call routing software, only certain phones are compatible.

Ditching the iPhone

Neither of these services support the iPhone. This was a bit of a hurdle for me since I’d always had one and didn’t think I could part with it. What turned me over was how much my iPhone was costing me.

Even though I had AppleCare on my phone, I lost one over the side of a kayak. This was followed by a mini melt down where I lunged out of the kayak tearing my favorite board shorts. After diving into the river muck I came up empty handed and whimpered “all the things I love…” to my unamused wife. I then shelled out $700 bucks for a new one. These are not my proudest moments.

Finally, after reading all the awesome reviews, and seeing the incredible prices for plans, I switched to Republic Wireless. I went from an iPhone 5 to a Moto X. It was not the downgrade that I had expected. In fact, the Android phones have a lot of cool features that the Apple phones don’t. And most importantly, I still had an excellent camera.

All of the photos in this post (which have been shrunk down for download speed) and half of all photos on this blog were taken using our Android phones.

Taken with Nexus 6. Shrank size using free pxlr editor.

My pick for US only – Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless (affiliate link) has a larger selection of phones to choose from. They also have a bunch of cheaper options including a $100 phone.

Both of our moms are grandfathered into the old $10/month for unlimited talk and text plans. With taxes, the bill is around $11/month, and it never goes over that. With unlimited talk and text, there is simply no way for them to accrue extra charges. These plans are now $15/month which I still consider a great deal.

They operate on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks, but you only get cell coverage in the US.  However, the phone also works for free anywhere in the world with WiFi.

You can check your coverage with Republic here.

My pick for frequent travelers – Google Fi

I used to be on Republic Wireless, but switched over to Google Fi since retirement because we travel a lot. Google Fi uses Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular networks when in the States, and I’ve noticed slightly better coverage over Republic Wireless. They also have deals with cell companies in 135 other countries to provide international coverage.

Google Fi has a smaller selection of supported phones, and they are a bit more expensive – starting around $250. Right now I have a Nexus 6 and Mrs CK has a Nexus 5X. The nice thing about the slightly higher-end phones is they do take better pictures.

We pay $20 a month for the first line with unlimited talk and text, $15 for an additional line, and $10/gig for data anywhere in the world.

Data is useful when traveling. (Taken with Nexus 6)

I used to be a data hog, but I’ve reformed my ways – both to save money and not to be “that guy” who can’t stop surfing reddit long enough to hold a conversation in public. Now we use about 1 GB of data a month. With all the taxes, our bill usually comes to around $50/month for both of us.

You can get a $20 credit when you sign up using our referral link (I’ll also get some credit on my bill.)

Just don’t pay for the hype

We used waste an extra $100 a month on big name carriers, and we got worse service and coverage (my calls over WiFi are way more reliable than it was from cell towers.) Now, I have less meltdowns, and have an extra $1200 a year to spend on vacations to places where I get excellent cell and data coverage at no extra charge.

19 thoughts on “Half Price Cell and Data Plans with Worldwide Coverage

  1. Pingback: Half Price Cell and Data Plans with Worldwide Coverage - FIRE Wanderer

  2. Thanks for this!! I really want to shift to Google FI with all the traveling we do.

    The Mrs has an iPhone that she can’t get rid of… but … https://ios.gadgethacks.com/how-to/set-up-googles-project-fi-your-iphone-0174991/

    So maybe I’ll get a Pixel, and she’ll keep her iPhone and we both move to FI, although I believe there are some limitations that would make it a deal breaker. Regardless, we travel together enough that it doesn’t really matter.

  3. nice write up. I just moved to Republic from Ting. Coverage was great with Ting but I always had to monitor my texts and minutes due to not wanting to bump up to the next plan, they really get you on the calls/texts. Data was never a problem because I used wifi mostly. Republic is great because I pay a little more but don’t have to worry about overages, and the 1 gig of data is plenty for me….haven’t even used half of it yet! No problems with coverage with either.

  4. I have a Republic Wireless phone plan. Right now, I’m in Costa Rica and I’m hooked up to the local WiFi. I just missed a call from my neighbor back in PA and I was able to call him back. My first experience receiving and calling to the USA and it connected without a hitch or dime.

  5. Nice write up! I switched from a major carrier to Mint and it has worked great. After I was a test guinea pig for 4 months, Mrs. SSC followed me over as well. I liked that I could bring my phone and she was able to get a new sim card for her 2 yr old iphone and not have to upgrade (her choice, not a financial necessity, lol). Mint has 2gb data per month, unlimited everything else for ~$16/month and runs on T-Mobile network. I’ve thought about doing a different plan when this one expires, but I’d have to check if I can keep my existing phone or if I’d ahve to swap to a new phone.

    Thanks for pointing out the options!

  6. Very useful post for people looking to switch from overpriced “big 3” carrier plans.

    I’m on an ultra frugal $10 *per year* plan that’s no longer offered, so it’s *super cheap*. I’m not looking to change, but if I was I might consider republic wireless.

  7. My Cellphone plan is free to me so the price verizon charges isn’t a issue but what is a pain is that they only allow their phones to switch to wifi calling if there is absolutely zero cell reception. My house has spotty reception like yours but because it is not zero the phone refuses to switch to wifi. For awhile you could trick it by going to Airplane mode. vzw shut that down with an OS update!

  8. Long time republic wireless user. It was like a revalation the first time I was able to use it to call home internationally on business. At the time it was one of the few on voip and it changed the dynamics of my trips somewhat as I was able to stay in touch. These days my wife is still on republic as we don’t travel desperately enough internationally to justify google. I have a work att international plan I call my digital leash. Frankly these days I prefer my wife’s plan and phones. I like not having the risk of making a mistake and racking up a big bill.

  9. I’m still on Republic Wireless. It’s been great so I’m reluctant to switch. Someday, we’ll probably move to Fi. We don’t travel that much currently.

  10. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Republic Wireless, and have seriously considered giving them a try. You really can’t beat the prices, and I like that you can bring your own phone if you’d like. I never really had any great experiences with Sprint, but if I decide I’m not happy, I’m only out $15 a month.

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