My old tracfone from 3 years ago died. It's a nightmare to get Hong Kong or whoever it is that answers the phone to replace it (I had to do it 3 years ago, replacing the previous one that I owned for about 3 years as well - seems the tracfone has a life of about 3 years?) and decided to forfeit the time on it rather than deal with that again.
So on a day last week when I didn't have a toddler with me, I ran around town, looking for the best deal for the non-cell phone user who wants one for emergencies. I wanted the best deal for someone who will go months without using it, but doesn't want to buy minutes and lose them and get a new phone number if I let the time run out and would average 3 days use of the phone a month using only a handful of minutes.
I visited the cell phone shops but to have a contract cell phone from anywhere will cost no less than $30/m even if you never use it.
Then I sat down with a display of all the pay as you go cell phones. Tracfone, Go Phone, T-Mobile, Net 10, Alltel Prepaid. I wish I had the forethought to write all the stuff down, so I could put it here, but I didn't. I am doing this all by memory, so if I get a detail wrong, don't shoot! I sat myself in the aisle and did lots of math on the back of receipt paper to find the best deal.
The only ones that didn't charge a fee for daily use plus minutes for use was Tracfone and Net 10 and Go Phone (I think Go Phone had the option of a daily fee or a higher minute fee), so they were cheaper than the others.
Then between the three, Go Phones large minute fee ruled it out quickly, Net 10's smallest card expired in 60 days, whereas Tracfone's smallest refill card expired in 90 days. AND the new tracfones now all come with double minutes for the life of the phone.
So Tracfone ended up being the cheapest. A 60 minute card for 19.88 which is doubled to 120 minutes equals 17 cents a minute. I won't use 60 minutes in 3 months, so it will cost me $6.63/m to own the tracfone.
Then I had to decide between the $10 model and the $20 dollar model. The twenty dollar model came with case, cigarrette lighter plug in and hand free headphones. I can't tell you how many times I do end up taking my emergency phone with me to find out my battery is almost dead, so I looked how much it would cost to buy the cigarrette lighter adaptor separately - $13.66. So, I bought the package.
I think if I had a kiddo of cell phone age, I would buy this bare minimum and if they wanted extra minutes it would be from their pocket. You can wait til you get home to call your friends, honest.