Saving Money on Your Mobile Phone Bill with Ting
Getting Rid of Misconceptions
First, lets clear the air. Some people have a bad conception of no-contract phone providers. They feel that they are for lower income individuals or people with poor credit ratings. While that may have been true a few years ago, there are now several providers that offer no-contract phone service, some are pre-pay (pay before you use the service), some are post-pay (meaning you pay for the previous months use). Some of these providers are independent, some are spin-offs from a larger provider. For example, Boost Mobile is owned by Sprint. These various providers have different plans and pricing methods, each designed to fill a certain niche in the market, or provide service in a unique way.
It is important to note, that most of these providers do not have their own networks. Instead they lease the use of one or major carriers' networks. In the case of Ting, they use Sprint's mobile network. If you are looking at any alternate provider, it is important to know what network they use, as you can gauge how well the service will work. If, for instance, you know that Verizon service is bad at your office, you would probably not want to choose a carrier that uses Verizon's network. If you are considering Ting, ask people you know that use Sprint how their coverage is in the area, this is a key step in deciding if Ting is right for you.
Who is Ting?
In technical terms, Ting is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). This simply means that they are a mobile phone carrier. The virtual part means the use another companies network, in this case Sprint.
As to who Ting is, Ting is an offshoot of Tucows. If you have been around the internet as long as I have you will recognize that name. Tucows started in Michigan in 1993 as a shareware download company. Over the years they have expanded into one of the largest internet domain name registrars, a hosting provider, and are also huge advocates for a free and open internet.
So, Ting is part of a larger, twenty year old company, that has earned the trust of much of the tech community.
How Can Ting Save Me Money?
Now we get down to brass tacks. Let me start off by saying, that if you are a huge data user, Ting may not be for you. If you are using 1-2 Gigabytes a month or more of data, the price stops being nearly as competitive. However, if your data usage is below that, or you can change your habits to get your data below that (more on that later), Ting is a great choice.
The reason Ting is such a good option is that they sell services a la carte. Say you go to another carrier and opt for a $50 per month plan. This hypothetical plan includes 500MB of data, 500 minutes and 500 texts. What if you do not need 500 texts, maybe you only send about 50 a month, why should you pay for more? What if suddenly you need 600 minutes? Now you have to change to a bigger plan, or pay really expensive overages!
This is where Ting shines. You design your plan around your needs, and you only pay for what you use! There are three main services on any plan. Talk, text, and data. On Ting, you sign up for the level of each of these you want. Only need 100 minutes but 500 texts and 500MB of data, you can sign up for Small on the minutes, Medium on the messages, and Medium on the data.
So, what happens if you go under or over your plan? Perhaps you signed up for the 'Large' tier for texting. This gives you 1000-2000 texts per month. Maybe one month you only text 500 texts. Ting automatically drops you down to the next lower tier, and you only pay for the lower tier for that month! The reverse is also true, say you are on the 'Small' tier for voice minutes. This covers up to 100 minutes. Now say you use 500 minutes one month, you would be billed more for that tier of usage, but it would go down again the next month as long as your usage went down as well.
What if you do not want the ability to go over and accidentally run your bill up (or suddenly have your teenager use 18,000 texts)? Ting has that covered too. Once you are a customer, you go to the website, log into your account, and you can set warning levels and hard limits for talk, text, and data. This is great, because you can get warned well in advance of going over a limit, and if needed you can always go into the website and override it.
Current Rates (as of Jan-2014)
What about phones?
It goes without saying that you cannot use a mobile phone service without a phone. When you go to a contract carrier, part of the monthly price is paying for your phone. Say you go to the big box electronics store. You see the new super-nice whiz-bang smartphone of your dreams. It is probably $600, but if you sign up for a new contract it is much cheaper, or even free. You are still paying for the phone, it is just part of your monthly bill, they just do not list it as such. If twenty to twenty-five dollars of your bill goes to the phone, it would be paid off in 2 years. But guess what, even if you keep that phone, your monthly rate does not go down, they keep on charging you.
With Ting, your phone is not subsidized in this way. You have to pay for your phone up-front. Depending on the phone you want, this can be a big expense. However, Ting has some things that can save you money! First, they sell new and refurbished phones. Second, in their forums you will find Ting users selling old phones. Third, they also resell used phones from Glyde. Fourth, and possibly the most important, you can bring in many Sprint phones (not every model), if you already have one or can find one. For me and my girlfriend, I recently bought two used Sprint LG Optimus G phones from eBay. This is tricky, but since I knew what I was looking for, I got great, nearly new $500 phones for about $200 each. I then activated them on Ting and all has been good.
Rate Ting Phone Service
Here is another area where Ting excels. No phone trees, no overseas call centers, and almost never any wait.
Yes that is right. You call Ting with a problem, you get a real, native English speaking human and not a menu. Not only that, my experience has been good to excellent with them. They know the business, are not following scripts, and truly help get things done. One or two times when I have called, the support person sounded bored or tired, but they were not rude, and my problem was still easily resolved.
Email support is just as good, and there are lots of friendly people in the forums waiting to help you, from other customers to Ting employees. You can post a question that is not really a Ting issue (like how to configure Google Voice on your phone), and people will help you and a Ting employee may well jump in and open a support ticket for you, even though it is not technically a Ting problem.
Have I said enough about their support yet? It is excellent! If you have ever spent hours on hold with a billing or technical problem, just to go through three people who say the problem is fixed, only to find out a month later it is not, Ting support is a breath of fresh air.
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If Your Data Usage is High
As I mentioned before, if you have high data usage, Ting may not be for you. However, take a look at your usage, and see what you can do to reduce it. If you have data heavy tasks you perform, can you move them to a time when you are normally on WiFi? I use WiFi at home and work, and my girlfriend uses it at home. When we travel, we always join the hotel WiFi first thing.
As an anecdotal story, my girlfriend was on a different carrier paying $80 a month and grandfathered into their unlimited data plan. We knew when she switched phones eventually, she was going to lose the unlimited and have a 1GB cap.She was regularly using 2-3 GB of data a month. A little research found that 90% or more of her data was videos. She was part of a rewards program that paid for watching videos on her phone (she still is too). She was running the videos on her phone while at work (not really watching them), on her data connection. Simply switching that to run while at home on WiFi dropped her usage to 200-300 MB a month.
The point is, do a little digging and see if you can change your data consumption habits. If you can do that successfully for a few months, then you have succeeded and should give yourself a pat on the back, and perhaps give Ting a call!
In addition, as mentioned before, you can also set yourself hard limits for your account to prevent running your bill up too high. You can also turn off features (voice, incoming text, outgoing text, and data), individually for each phone on your account. So if Junior is texting too much, you can cut it off for his phone. Be advised that while it won't affect the bill if you turn off data (say you grounded a certain someone), they could still get to the internet on WiFi, so it is not a good punishment tool!
Other Ting Perks
Like most other providers, Ting provides free voice mail, caller ID, call waiting, etc. In addition one service they provide that I like is free WiFi tethering! Most other providers charge an extra $20-$30 a month for this. There may be a little work getting it unlocked in your phone (since it would likely be a Sprint phone and locked out), but it can be done. Ting does not care how many devices you tether to your phone. You pay for the data you use, period.
I use this in the car, so that we can tether our tablets when travelling. One tablet is used as a large screen GPS with Google Maps, the other tablet can be used by passengers for email, browsing, etc.
Links and Referral Program
If you want to know more, here are some links for you. First, Ting does have a referral program. If you use my referral link, you get $25 off a new device, or $25 of credit if you bring a device or buy used. I get a $25 credit as well. If you like my article, save yourself a few bucks and use my link, if you don't want to, that is fine too!
Referral link: https://zee9d31h2t.ting.com/
Rate calculator: https://ting.com/rates
Please remember to come back and use my link after looking at the rate calculator! It will save you money too!