Cell Service for $20/Month? We Have Some Questions for This Discount Carrier

woman outdoors looking at phone
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder
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Like everyone else, I’m attached to my phone.

So you’d think I’d be fairly attached to my provider. You know: the entity that allows me to mindlessly scroll Instagram, listen to comedy podcasts and annoy my boyfriend via text 24/7.

But I’m not. In fact, I hate it. It’s expensive, the fees are ambiguous, and each time I leave the brick-and-mortar store, I’m filled with frustration.

I’ve looked into other service providers, but this process has lead to questions. Like: Is this really going to be better and cheaper than what I have going for me now?

Today, I’m going to put my skepticism (and sometimes cynicism) to good use to examine a discount cell phone plan I’ve heard chatter about lately: Pure TalkUSA.

Apparently, plans start at $20 a month and include unlimited talk and text. And there are zero overage fees. Plus, you can get 50% off your first month of service through The Penny Hoarder.

Too good to be true, I think. So I started asking all the questions to put together a comprehensive Pure TalkUSA review…

1. Service Will Be Shoddy, Right?

Coverage is my first concern.

Remember those AT&T and Verizon commercials with the maps? “See! Everything is red means you’re covered!” they’d say, the map of the U.S. painted red. With smaller discount carriers, I picture a red dot in all major cities. That’s all.

I start poking around to learn about the Pure TalkUSA coverage.

Its site says it operates on the largest 4G LTE GSM network. I Google “GSM,” because what the heck does that mean? It’s a carrier. Apparently Sprint and Verizon operate on the CDMA carrier while AT&T, T-Mobile and most of the rest of the world use GSM.

Pure TalkUSA also provides a map. I’m stoked for the visual. I check the data coverage, and most of the U.S. is covered in blue. That means you’ll get access to AT&T’s fastest network speeds.

Sounds good to me!

2. Will I Be Stuck With One Low-Data Plan Option?

Pure TalkUSA advertises plans starting at $20 a month.

These include unlimited talk and texting. The data is what gets you, though.

That sounds too affordable to be true. How much data am I getting for that? Well, you’ve got options.

The most affordable plan starts at $20 a month, and you get unlimited talk and text plus 2GB of data. At the other end of the spectrum, the most expensive plan is just $55 a month, and you get unlimited talk, text and data. Not bad, right?

But let’s say I opt into a mid-tier plan: The one that’s $30 a month for unlimited talk and text and 6GB of data. This leads to my next, perhaps most pressing question…

3. What If I Use All My Data?

This is perhaps the most important question of them all. I don’t want to be charged $15 each time I go over my data allowance.

So we’ve established Pure TalkUSA plans come with unlimited talk and text (including picture texts). But what about the data?

The carrier assures users it won’t simply turn off your data when you max out. Or even charge you overage fees. Instead, once you hit capacity in a month’s time, you’ll be throttled to 128 kbps (which is a kilobit per second).

I looked this one up. Apparently, 128 kbps isn’t the worst — it’s just slower.

Once your month resets, you’ll get all your data again!

4. Can I Keep Fam in My Plan?

This is a big yes! Actually, the more family you add to your plan, the bigger discount you can snag.

For example, when you add a second line, you’ll get 10% off your total bill. Add a third line and get 15% off. Add a fourth line — or more — and you’ll see 20% shaved off your bill.

For example, if three of you have the $30 plan, that would be about $90 a month. But you’ll get 15% off now, which leaves you paying $25.50 per line.

Hey, any little bit helps.

5. Will I Need to Buy a New Phone and Get a New Number?

Nope! This is a BYOP plan. (Bring Your Own Phone… I just made that up.) This means you can keep your existing phone number, too.

Of course, you can shop phones through Pure TalkUSA. But if you have a perfectly good iPhone or Android, check to see if it’s compatible (or unlocked).

6. How Do I Make the Switch?

Perhaps the most beautiful part of Pure TalkUSA is you don’t even have to go to a store to switch; it all happens online.

Pure TalkUSA talks you through the sign-up process:

  1. Pick your plan. (Take a look at all the ones I mentioned above.
  2. Choose a phone — or bring your own as long as it’s compatible and unlocked. If you opt for this, your SIM card will cost $3. This is a one-time fee.
  3. Choose to add another line. Or not. Then pay.
  4. Pure TalkUSA sends you a SIM card (and phone, if ordered).
  5. Once you get your new SIM card, insert it into your phone, and activate your phone online (or call customer service).

Now, you’re all signed up!

7. But What if I Hate Pure TalkUSA?

Don’t panic. Because you’re not tied to a contract, you can cancel your service any time. The company has a 30-day risk-free guarantee, meaning if you cancel within 30 days, you can get your money back

If you’re still impressed with this discount cell phone plan after my interrogation (I kind of am), you can read up on it a little more and sign up online.

And hey, don’t forget about that special 50% off offer!

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. This is the closest she’s been to jumping her carrier’s ship… She just might take the plunge.