February 2017 Update. Well, looks like the party is officially over. As predicted, it ended quickly and messily. Ringplus sued Sprint. Sprint announced they were kicking R+ off the Sprint network on February 11th. Both announced that R+ users will be automatically migrated over to Ting if they don’t leave on their own. The timeline is yet unannounced. More details here and here. This is a soft landing as Ting has solid customer service has agreed to honor R+ balances. At the minimum, they’ll give you $35 in Ting credit. To activate service, you will need to put a credit card on file and agree to Ting’s terms of service online. My Ting Review here.
Ting will gladly honor the RingPlus Top Up balance that you had as of February 5, 2017. If you had $35.00 or less in RingPlus TopUp credit, you’ll receive $35 in Ting credit before your first bill. If you had $35.01 or more in RingPlus TopUp credit, you’ll receive $35.00 to start and then $5.00 each month until all of your remaining RingPlus TopUp credit balance has been honored.
I received over 1.5 years of free service on a secondary line for a one-time $10 fee and I’ll still end up with $35 in Ting credit, so it ended up bring a pretty good deal overall.
November 2016 Update. The most recent update:
Starting December 1, 2016, all Plans that are not Mad Plans will not renew at the end of their billing cycle. Members can change to any of the currently offered plans from our website. Phone Swaps will be free starting Wednesday (11/23/16) until further notice.
Realistically, this was always the type of deal that was not going to last forever, and hopefully if you participated you got good value out of it. I got over a year of Sprint-based cellular service with 1,000 minutes, 1,000 text, and 1 GB of data for an total cost of $10 (technically the $10 is still in my account). The party is winding down… in the meantime I recommend taking the following precautions:
Know that your plans can and will be discontinued with little or no notice. Don’t buy an expensive phone just to switch to R+. Don’t pay for their lifetime Member+ plan. To put it simply, commit as little money as possible. Have a plan to port your number elsewhere; Ting can use Sprint or there are many free or $1 SIM cards out there on GSM networks.
September 2016 update. Ringplus updated their Terms of Service effective 9/6/2016 that greatly expanded their ability to terminate your service at their discretion. In particular, please note the following new terms:
20. If your talk, text or data usage exceeds your total voice, text or data usage for any prior billing cycle in the immediately prior 6 months by 50%, RingPlus may, in its sole discretion and with notice, expire, suspend, terminate or downgrade your Service. You may appeal such decisions to the Ethical Committee in the RingPlus Social forum at https://social.ringplus.net. In cases involving expiration of accounts, you will be given 7 days to port-out to preserve your phone number.
22. If your talk, text or data usage exceeds the average use of talk, text or data by all RingPlus Members, RingPlus may, in its sole discretion and with notice, expire, suspend, terminate or downgrade your Service. You may appeal such decisions to the Ethical Committee in the RingPlus Social forum at https://social.ringplus.net. In cases involving expiration of accounts, you will be given 7 days to port-out to preserve your phone number.
I get it. Some RingPlus users are gobbling up many gigabytes of free data each month and are costing them big bucks. However, these news rules are like allowing the government a webcam in your house “to catch the bad guys”. Customers should not have to give R+ such wide-ranging powers in order to get rid of a few abusers. For example, T-Mobile simply throttles their unlimited data once you exceed the usage of 97% of users (~27 GB per month). The new terms are so broad that they constitute the ability to terminate their most unprofitable customers at any time, without notice, even after they may have already committed upfront deposits.
It may be unlikely they will enforce these rules to the extent allowable, but it is still scary and unnecessary that they have added the capability (and just promise not to use it). Let me repeat: I would not rely up RingPlus service for serious needs. Have a backup plan. Enjoy it while it lasts, but don’t commit big bucks upfront. It’s cheap, and it may go on for months or even another year. However, I do expect more restrictions to come over time, as their growth slows and they start needing to make a profit. If you are attached to your phone number, be ready to port out in 7 days.
March 2016 update. It has been six months and I have been enjoying my free cell phone service from RingPlus with no hassles or unexpected charges. I still don’t use it for my primary business/personal line, but at this point I’d be comfortable using it as a kids’ or grandparents’ low-usage line. It’s tough to beat $0 a month (not even taxes!). Some quick points for prospective new customers:
- They are still rolling out new plans all the time. As of today, a new member can still get 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 1000 mb of data for $0 a month ongoing with a one-time $25 upfront balance top-up. I still have my initial $10 top-up sitting in my account. Be sure to read the rules.
- Starting April 17th, you can no longer buy a new prepaid phone and activate it on RingPlus. Up until now, you could for example buy a $50 Moto E meant for Boost Mobile but activate it on RingPlus instead with no problems (assuming it was brand new and had never been activated on Boost Mobile). The Moto E is a very decent phone for fifty bucks. But starting April 17th, Sprint won’t allow this anymore. The good news is that if you activate before that date, Sprint has agreed not to retroactively kick phones out. If interested, get yours before the deadline! Details here.
- You can still buy eligible used, off-contract Sprint phones. Be sure to verify eligibility with this BYOD checker. Right now, you can get a used Sprint Samsung S4 for about $100 or a used Sprint Apple iPhone 5 for about $130 on Swappa.com.
- In general, the customer service is spread quite thin, so you should be willing to navigate their forums for some self-directed help.
July 2015 Original post:
RingPlus is a Sprint MVNO that offers cheap cellular phone plans, starting at… $0. You can bring over an off-contract Sprint phone (check eligibility) or you can buy one from them (slightly more expensive that on secondary market). They make money partially from ads – ads play whenever you call someone instead of the normal ringing. When your friend picks up, the ad stops immediately. You also pay for any overages past your free allotment. There are no contracts and no activation fees.
Recently, Ringplus has been aggressively courting new customers with limited-time plans. RingPlus free plans are usually only open a for a limited window, and then it closes for a while. But recently, their plans have been getting more generous, with special super-generous plans available for a few hours only. These have very little notice, but it’s worth checking their site daily if you are very interested. For example, I was able to jump on a plan with 1000 min, 1000 text, and 1000 mb every month for free. The fine print states that I must keep a non-zero balance, otherwise I will be charged a $10 top-up that will apply to any future overages.
Here are all their current plans and details on promo plans. Be sure to read the whole page for the rules for each specific plan. If you miss one round, be on the lookout for future phases. The most important thing is to find an eligible phone and activate it during the window. It can be an ancient flip phone from Virgin Mobile (Sprint MVNO). Later, you can swap the phone out for 99 cents and keep the free plan.
You will need a credit card on file, although some of their plans don’t even require a credit card (but come with much fewer free minutes). No additional activation fee. Not even additional taxes are due on the zero plans (taxes are due on top-ups). Here’s a screenshot of their current plans, but again they change daily.
Here’s a screenshot of my dashboard that tracks your usage:
Are there any catches?
- You have to sign up for their free plans during certain availability windows. That means you’ll need the ESN of an eligible off-contract Sprint phone waiting around, ready to go. If you’re like me, you have to resort to asking all your friends if they have any old Sprint phones you can have.
- In the past, RingPlus has discontinued their free plans without much notice if they can’t line up enough advertisers in your calling area. That would be annoying, especially if you invested good money into a Sprint phone. Have a backup plan.
- Honestly, I don’t know if giving away this much free talk and data is a viable business model. They are definitely trying to grow customer base and sacrifice short-term profitability. Again, know that they may cease operations with little or no notice. Plan ahead as to how you would quickly port your number to another cheap service.
- If your phone is not eligible, then they may de-activate your plan in the future, even if you manage to activate it initially.
- You must maintain activity on your plan. If you don’t make a call every 60 days (may differ by plan), they will de-activate your account and you’ll have to pay a fee to re-activate.
- If you do sign up and decide to link your credit card, know that overages cost 2 cents per text, minute, or MB. MMS picture messages are at an additional cost (4 cents each). Roaming is available, but those overages are much more expensive. I would disable roaming completely on your phone to avoid such surcharges.
- In case you were wondering, this is not a VoIP-only service like FreedomPop as normal calls use the Sprint voice network. However, free WiFi calling is an option so you can save your minutes.
Bottom line. You could save a lot of money on RingPlus free/cheap plans if you are willing to devote some sweat equity into figuring it all out. I currently use them for my non-critical, light-usage phone lines without issue. However, I would NOT be surprised if they discontinued or change the rules of their plans very quickly, maybe even without any notice. Enjoy it while it lasts, but have a backup plan.