Swimming with sharks or How to best deal with Freedompop
Freedompop is a cellular service that offers free cellular phone service. They are masters of "small print" and a quick Google will expose you to the howls of anger from the multitudes who've found "surprise" charges of hundreds of dollars on their credit card bills. This blog post will cover how to get Freedompop's fine service without risking your financial stability.
Freedompop offers free phone service using the AT&T & Sprint networks. For the purposes of this article, we will be discussing the AT&T offering only. Sprint sucks & Sprint + Freedompop sucks even more.
Freedompop SIM cards can be obtained in a variety of ways, from ordering directly from Freedompop themselves or ordering via Amazon or Ebay to buying the SIM from Best Buy, Target or other local store.
The Freedompop SIM works in any AT&T cellular phone and some unlocked T-Mobile phones. This means that you can visit your local store and buy a brand new AT&T Prepaid phone right off the rack and use it with Freedompop ( as opposed to buying a second-hand ( or third-hand ) cell phone off Ebay or from your corner phone mart and hoping it works )
When you activate your Freedompop SIM, you'll be asked for a payment source, your preferred user name and other details. The signup process will not go out of its way to inform you that you're being signed up for a number of freedompop services ( not just the free plan ).
If you don't want to be charged hundreds of dollars after 30 days, you'll need to go into your freedompop account and downgrade all your paid services. At this time, you'll be left with the "free" service plan, which offers 200 minutes of talk time, 500 text messages & 200 megabytes of AT&T's 4G data ( the data allowance can be bumped up - we'll discuss this later ).
Freedompop offers "free" service, but they do try to nickel & dime you along the way to that goal, the most obvious of which is their requirement you put a deposit into your account when you downgrade from the paid services you were automatically signed up for. Currently, this "deposit" ( you will likely never get it back ) is $10.
Freedompop does this because "they can't keep up with real-time usage" and the "deposit" is to "cover any usage over your alloted data cap".
When you use your 200 minutes, your texts & data will still be available ( if you've not used those all up as well ). Same with the data usage - if you use your 200mb of data, any calls or SMS' will still be available until the end of your bulling period.
All the service allotments reset on the first day of your next billing period, regardless of the previous month's usage. There is no "rollover" of any kind.
Keep in mind that there are regular reports of "mystery charges" from Freedompop showing up on folk's credit card bills. If these aren't due to the customer not reading the small print, Freedompop usually claims it's a "glitch in the system" and Freedompop will credit your card if you call them on it ( if you don't, they get mo' money, right? )
Reducing your financial risk
There are a few ways to keep Freedompop out of your pocket:
• Go to Walmart or Walgreens or some other place that offers refillable debit cards. Put $2 or $3 on one of these and use it to sign up for Freedompop service.
• If your bank offers "virtual card numbers", set up a number that's just for Freedompop. Limit it to $3 and use that number to sign up for Freedompop service.
• Buy a pre-activated Freedompop SIM card from ebay.
Getting the most out of Freedompop
Freedompop offers a "Freedompop Friends' program. This allows you to throw ten of your "friends" under the bus by sending Freedompop their email addresses in return for 500mb extra data per month ( for a total of 700mb/mo if you have 10 "friends" on your Freedompop account )
You can find willing "friends" in this Slickdeals forum thread. These folks are willing to have their email addresses be chewed up by the marketing machine so you can get more data.
You can search ebay for a preactivated Freedompop SIM with preloaded "Freedompop friends" so you get your extra 500mb/mo right from the start.
There is no limit to the number of Freedompop SIM cards you can have ( although there is a limit of 5 per account ).
Think about that a minute; "no limit".
There are many Freedompop users who maintain a Google Voice number ( using Google Hangouts to make & receive calls with it ) and rotate through their collection of Freedompop SIMs throughout the month as each SIM's data allotment is "used up". FYI: Google Hangouts uses about a megabyte a minute for voice calls.
Yes, gentle reader, should you have a grasp of planning & organization, you can have unlimited AT&T 4G service.
• Freedompop will cancel your account if you exceed your service allotment and don't have a "security deposit" attached and have no other valid payment method ( such as the refillable debit card ) linked to the account.
• The "200 talk minutes" and "500 SMS" are only usable via the Freedompop app. If you use Google Voice/Hangouts, you can talk or send as many texts as your data allotment allows.
• Freedompop has a "minimum usage" policy, so if you don't use the app to make a call or send a text during your bulling period, you'll need to use at least 5mb of data.
• Freedompop isn't a "real" cellular service. They offer a data-only connection, with voice calls & texts being made using their app ( or other VoIP apps ).
If you are privacy-minded you will NOT want to install the Freedompop app. It has complete permissions for your phone and will likely scour it for all your contact information & whatever other information it's been programmed to transmit back to the mothership.
/r/freedompop/ at Reddit is a wonderful place for learning about Freedompop, their various services and how to avoid their small print.
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Tags: Freedompop, low-cost-cell-service