April 21, 2022

What's the difference between TextNow and a pre-paid service?

Written by kevin-c

Saving Money

Cell phone plans are too expensive. Period. That was the entire impetus for starting TextNow in the first place — we were sick of paying cell phone companies just to send a text message or make a call. They were too expensive in 2009 when we founded TextNow and in the 13 years since then, cell phone plans are still too expensive.

In response, cell phone companies started offering prepaid phones and phone service, which in theory, is a more affordable way to get cell service. But even there, the phone companies cannot resist tacking on fees and extra charges. On Mint Mobile’s website, they list the extra fees included with your “affordable” plan deep within their FAQ pages, under a section called “Infrequently Asked Questions”. That’s right, a FAQ (or rather IAQ, I suppose) inside another FAQ. Those fees include: regulatory recovery fees, telecom taxes, shipping & handling fees, and something called the CA MTS surcharge. Unlike TextNow, the price you see on their ads is not the price you pay.

And this isn't to say Mint Mobile is the only one who does this. If you look closely, all cell phone companies will have fees, surcharges, and taxes added on that are mysteriously not mentioned in their ads.

I should say “almost” every cell phone company. You won’t find any buried FAQ page outlining the charges and fees we don’t talk about in our ads on TextNow’s website — because we don’t have any. No handling, no shipping, no taxes of any kind. What you see is the price you pay. No exceptions.

The hidden fees and surcharges are just one of the ways cell phone companies try to squeeze you even on their “affordable” plans. Sticking with Mint Mobile, currently their lowest plan (for new customers only, naturally) is $15/month, for three months — or $45 total (plus the added fees of course). You can't go month to month. It’s $45 even if you only need cell phone service for one month.

And after your three months are over, can you just restart another three months at the same rate? Of course you can’t, don’t be silly. No, if you want another three months that’ll run you $75 up front, not the $45 for three months you started with. Or you could pony up for six months ($120) or 12 months for ($180).

That’s their cheapest plan, for new customers only. Now let’s take a quick look at what we would charge you for our most affordable data add-on: $8.99/month.

That’s it. Unlimited 2G data for when you run out of your high speed data for a fraction of the cost of Mint’s plans. No “pay us three months in advance” nonsense. No “introductory” price that jumps up after your beginning months. No contract of any type, in fact.

And here’s the thing, if you decide to only use the data for one month, your phone is still usable for talking and texting for free over our Nationwide Talk & Text service, which comes bundled with every purchase of a TextNow SIM.

So what's the difference between TextNow and a pre-paid service? Nothing, except your monthly bill.