RingPlus: Free Cellular Phone Service Ending 2/11

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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.

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Here’s a screenshot of my dashboard that tracks your usage:

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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.

Comments

  1. The Harmony plan looks like really good value if you are able to easily turn off data to avoid paying the overage costs. Seems like it is $5-$10 cheaper than comparable MVNO plans out there. The free plans look interesting but not enough usage allowed really, might be a good idea to have one for an emergency phone?

  2. What does MVNO stand for?

  3. Brad Ford says:

    How is the reception/Data speed compared to Sprint?

    • They are a Sprint MVNO and thus use Sprint towers, so it should be comparable. The same coverage as other Sprint MVNOs like Ting, Republic Wireless, Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, and Scratch Wireless amongst others. You may miss out on some roaming agreements that are included with plans bought directly from Sprint.

      • Brad Ford says:

        If I switch my wife (current plan ends in Dec) to a MVNO, I’ll save enough in the first year to buy her an iPhone 6. Unless you need unlimited data, why stick with Sprint?

  4. I tried my freedompop phone and got this message: “This device is currently registered as active on the cellular network. Please contact your previous carrier and ask them to release this device so that it may be activated.” I wonder if I have to stop my freedompop service first.

  5. Looks like they changed things up and called it Future Phase 6. Eligibility is improved. Details are in updated post.

  6. I’m not clear on the “Auto Top Up” requirement, does this means that I used less than the minimum amount of minutes/data/sms in a given month I will be charged the top up minimum every month? So that the Future Plan Phase 6 could end up costing $10/month?

    • It depends on the plan, but for the current 1000/1000/1000 plan the top up is $10 anytime your balance drops to zero or below. So to start, you’re at zero, so they’ll top up to $10. If you never use more than the limits, you’ll never be charged an overage against your balance, and you’ll never have to top-up again. Your balance could stay at $10 indefinitely.

  7. You jumped on board – nice!

    I’m a huge RP fan but hadn’t yet seen these new plans so thanks for the heads up. Somehow I just improved upon my free cell service!

  8. I’m trying to get on board. I’m on Ting now. But there’s problems.
    1) I want to port my phone AND number, which apparently requires a substitute phone to port the # to first. Huh?
    2) It’s the weekend, and customer support at RingPlus is non-existant
    3) On one of their pages the “Sign In” link is spelled “Sing In”. WTF?

  9. OK. It’s Monday and RingPlus is allegedly open today. Their live chat is available 9:30AM – 5PM PST (not even 8 hours per day!). Well, it’s 2:47PST and their live chat says “We’re sorry we’re not around, but we’d love to chat another time! You can reach RingPlus on live chat – 9:30am – 5pm PST, Monday through Friday”

    OK, I called their number. Robot lady on the other end said “For member support, or to become a new member of out community, press 1”. I press 1 and I hear “Okay, member support”.

    Uhhhh, no. I wanted to become a new member. What happened to the other half of that choice?

    Robot lady on the other end directed me to chat (which is closed) or to their email. Robot lady on the other end also said I could leave a message. Never got the tone, just hung up on me.

    I called back. This time, I selected “RingPlus Headquarters”, then “Operations”. Other end rang about 8 times, then hung up.

    Seriously, this combined with misspelling “Sign In” has turned me completely off. I shouldn’t have to fight this hard to give you my business. You lost a sale.

    • Oh, this is delicious! SO glad to hear that Ring Plus went under. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving company. Their customers made out like bandits. I’m a former Ting customer and their customer service is superb!

  10. Do the minutes start when calling or when you actually connect to the caller?

  11. I signed up for their best deal ever over the weekend. 1500 minutes, 1500 texts and 1500 MB of data. I am loving it. Switched my phone number for free as well. Took less than an hour to transfer my number from Verizon to RingPlus. Amazing! Thank you Jonathan for a great tip!

  12. I had used ring+ for a month, the overall experience is terrible.

    The onboard experience was very bad: My iphone went through their registration process without any trouble and they charged my credit card but I couldn’t use it for a whole week. I tried to call customer service number 10-20 times, nobody answered the phone, I submitted a service request, nobody replied. I tried to use their chat help many times, again nobody was there to help. I spent a lot of time browsing on web and after a week’s try, finally solve my issue and able to use the service. After 3-4 days of signing up the service, since it didn’t work and no help was available, I disputed the charge to my credit card company, intending to shift to a different provider. When it finally worked, I forgot to make a new pay. Rather than sending a notice about the amount due, it cancelled my service without any notice. Since I already hooked up all friends via the phone number, I tried to contact customer service again to restore my account. Again I went through same nightmare of phone, chat, service ticket:Nobody answered the phone at 10am after several tries; I waste one hour with their incompetent chat(when that person entered chat room after a long long wait, it took 15 minutes for him to respond to my message, he responded to every message very slowly, looks like a pattern of typing one line, then rest a few minutes), after that useless one hour, I was told the case was transfered to a “senior representative” and he would contact me by email on the case. On the same day after the chat, since my phone was already out of service for a few days, I was anxious to lose phone contact with everyone, so I also created a service ticket, in which I also complained the horrible customer service I experienced. Within two hours I received a prompt reply: follwing a quote of my complain is a picture of a disgusting clown, then a “Really? hahaha”. After I tried to check if there is any material help more than the rude reply, I found my service ticket got deleted and my login access got blocked.

    This is definitely the WORST customer service experience I have ever experienced. Basically the company is telling you: Because of your low fee status, we decide to treat you like a dirt.

  13. If you’re a current customer on one of their old free plans, what’s the best way to switch over to one of their better plan offers that they have now? You have to cancel altogether and join again? Do they even allow that?

    • It can be done, you’ll have to look at their current plans and see which ones are available to existing members, and then read the forums for directions on how.

    • Also try going to your Dashboard > Upgrade. Should be a few clicks and you can switch to the plans listed Right now it looks like the best free plan is called Michelangelo with 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 500 mb of data each month for $0 a month. ($10 topup required)

  14. 1) I already have an old Sprint Samsung S4 phone. I checked and it’s eligible for RingPlus. Do I have to purchase a new SIM card from RingPlus or can I use my existing Sprint one?
    2) What is Member+? Don’t I have to create an account and be a member if I sign up for the service anyway?

    • 1) Yes, you can use your Sprint SIM, so be sure to keep it. It is actually better to use your Sprint SIM so you won’t have to buy an R+ SIM.

      2) Member+ is a paid subscription program that is above a regular member. Cost and perks change regularly, see forums for latest info. Regular price is $99 for one year.

    • Sprint Sim cards vary by phone. Sim card in your S4 will not work in apple, nexus, or even s6.

  15. could someone provide me with a WORKING telephone number. I signed up for a plan; but it is impossible to get a response from the “service tickets”. Trying to port phone number from Verizon; has failed several times. Verizon “porting” department rep assured me it was successfully completed on 5/16; still sending me emails: failure to port. Also tried to to swap phones that has failed also. Followed ALL requirement to use iphone, i.e. new sims card, etc. To no avail.
    Everyone else I know has been signed in with no problems. The customer service is the biggest problem; Verizon even attempted to call them and the telephone number they had was a non working number.

  16. RingPlus has the worst customer service and you hardly hear from them if not at all. Just stay away from this company as there are other cheap hassle free alternatives available (just google).

  17. FrugalOne says:

    I’ve been a Ringplus customer since March 2016. In addition to the cost saving and decent network coverage in my area, my favorite feature is voice mail transcription and delivered on email. I didn’t have that with Verizon!

  18. Kinda funny on the latest update. The way I read it, it’s actually a ramp down of ALL customers. If you use 100 one month, then next month you can only use 50, then the next month you can use 25, and so on…at least that’s how it’s worded to me.

    • If they choose to enforce it, yes they could technically do that under the new terms.

      • But wouldn’t that be illegal for the people that signed under their original terms/program.
        Wouldn’t those be have to be honored ?

        • I believe that since Ringplus runs on a month-to-month basis (no contracts), they are allowed to change the terms. However, since they like to take money upfront via top-ups and prepaid balance loads and “lifetime” premium memberships, and people may invest big bucks in Sprint/RingPlus compatible phone, the possibility of future additional restrictions makes it rather disappointing.

  19. RingPlus is great for DIY. There is no support. No handholding, and NO COST! I had 4 lines for about a year. My backup is FreedomPop. Both free, but R+ is way better. Sucks on the new terms. Of course the gravy train would not last forever.

  20. Your update is now out-of-date:

    https://social.ringplus.net/discussion/7879

    • I just read that, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t really change anything. They’re just saying “We’ve decided to add the power to do X and Y and Z, but we promise that as of right now we just want to kick out THEM, the REALLY bad folks. Not YOU, of course not YOU.”

      Along those lines, why not give me your ATM card and PIN number? I promise I only want the power to you know, take money out when the situation is really dire like an end of the world scenario. I promise I won’t do it otherwise. I just want the ability to, you know, in case…

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