Tello Mobile cellular service - 2024 Review
* monthly plans starting at $5 *

Tello Mobile - a T-Mobile MVNO offering simple, cheap cellular service

Tello Mobile
Rating: 5/5 by
Last Updated: January 24, 2024

Summary (updated 2024): I started using Tello service seven years ago in 2017 for my backup phone with their pay-as-you-go credit to test their service and create this review. Their coverage and service has been fine, and their customer service (which frankly I almost never even needed) has been outstanding. Since 2017, Tello has cut their already low prices twice, making them the cheapest cellular service available that I know about. Because their monthly plan prices are so low and the service is good, in 2019 I ported my son's phone over from Republic Wireless. My son is on the Tello $5/month 500mb data plan and he uses a pay-as-you-go credit to pay for voice minutes. In 2020, I ported my daughter over to Tello. My daughter uses significantly more data than my son, so she is on the $10/month 2GB data plan and she also uses a pay-as-you-go credit for voice minutes. The service is great (as expected), and the pricing can not be beat. Finally, in 2020, my wife switched to Tello and I switched my main line to Tello as well, so my entire family now uses Tello. In 2021, Tello switched over from Sprint to T-Mobile, and now has all the combined coverage of TMobile and Sprint thanks to their merger in 2020. So Tello now has even better coverage, while at the same time Tello's pricing remains some of the best available. I continue to highly recommend Tello if you have good T-Mobile coverage in your area and you want to save money.

December 4, 2023 UPDATE: Another Tello Price Drop!
For the third time since I've been using Tello, Tello has cut their prices again! With everything else going up, up, up, it's a nice surprise to see something come down in price. Now for $5/mo you get 1GB of data instead of 500MB, and for $6/mo you get 2GB instead of 1 GB. All their other plans are also cheaper and/or you get more data for the same price. I don't know how Tello does it, but I like it! As my son messaged me after I told him about the price cut, "Bro Tello is goated. How is it cutting prices rn?!?! Everything so expensive. Tello is the Costco hot dog of the phone plan industry!" For those of you who aren't Costco members, Costco has been selling a 1/4lb hot dog and soda pop combo meal at their food court for $1.50 since they opened in 1984. In all that time, they have never raised the price. Personally, I prefer the $1.99 jumbo slice of pepperoni pizza, which has also never gone up in price. But anyway, let's get back to talking about Tello...

Since Tello Mobile is now a T-Mobile MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), you should make sure you have decent local T-Mobile coverage (you can use this Tello (T-Mobile) coverage checker). If you confirm you have good T-Mobile coverage, you should switch to Tello. Their monthly plan pricing is incredible. You can build a custom plan based on what you need, and you can change it as often as you like. If you manually renew, you get to roll over and keep any unused data and minutes. You can get a new number when you sign up if you want to test the service first, and then port your existing number over later, or you can port your number in when you sign up. Either way, porting your number in is free. In addition to their low pricing, one of the big advantages of using Tello is that their customer service really is amazing. Don't just take my word for it, read their latest Tello TrustPilot reviews here.

Tello Coupon Codes, Special Offers, & Deals
last updated: January 24, 2024

15% off first month on any new Tello monthly plan
click link above for a 15% off Tello coupon code

Get a $10 credit when you sign up!
(use my referral code link above and get a $10 credit when you sign up with Tello)

Helpful links:

 Tello coverage checker
(check your local Tello (T-Mobile) coverage)

 Tello BYOB (bring your own phone) checker
(check your phone's IMEI serial number to confirm it will work on Tello)

Tello started providing cellular service in the UK in 2014, and then began offering cellular service here in the US in 2016. The parent company of Tello is KeepCalling, which has been in the US since 2002. Tello used Sprint as their cellular service provider through 2020, but now uses TMobile as their cellular service provider, so you need to have a T-Mobile-compatible phone, or you can buy a phone from Tello. Tello usually has at least one traditional flip phone available, as well as multiple new and reconditioned smart phones, including iPhones, Samsung phones, and Motorola phones. So you can buy a phone from Tello, or you can use your own phone as long as it is T-Mobile compatible (they have a phone checker on their website so you can confirm your phone will work on their network). If you buy a phone from Tello it will come with a Tello sim already installed, but if you use your own phone then you will also need a new Tello sim card for your phone, which you can purchase from Tello for $10 with free shipping.

Tello has monthly plans starting at $5 per month. ALL monthly plans include a phone number with free unlimited texts. With Tello, you can customize, configure, and build your own monthly plan. You can also change your plan whenever you want, and as often as you want. If you want more data, you can just change to a higher data plan, or if you need less data, you can change to a lower data plan. If you change or renew your plan early, any unused data and/or minutes will be rolled over to your new plan. Some of Tello's best monthly plans are:

  * ALL plans include unlimited texts, and you decide how much data and/or minutes you want
  * $5 - 1GB of data plus unlimited texts for $5 per month
(and NO tax on data only plans!)
$6 - 2GB of data plus unlimited texts for $6 per month (and NO tax on data only plans!)
  * $5 - 100 minutes & unlimited texts for $5 per month (plus tax)
$6 - 1GB of data plus 100 minutes & unlimited texts for $6 per month (plus tax)
$8 - unlimited talk & text for $8 (plus tax)
$10 - unlimited talk & text plus 2GB of data for $10 (plus tax)
* $25 - unlimited talk & text plus unlimited data (35GB*) for $25 (plus tax) (* "unlimited" data is actually limited to 35GB of high speed and unlimited "low" speed)

    please note that the 2020 Tello monthly plan price chart table below is out of date. Tello has cut their prices so you now get even more data for the prices below. I'll replace the chart when I find or make a new one!

PAY AS YOU GO (policy updated Sept 2019):
In addition to having a monthly plan, or instead of having a monthly play, you can also purchase a "pay-as-you-go" or "paygo" credit (now the minimum first purchase is $20), and then use the paygo credit to pay for voice minutes, data, and/or texts. The rate within the US is 1 cent per text, 1 cents per voice minute, and 2 cents per MB of cellular data. You can also use your paygo credit for international calls (Tello has their international calling rates listed in their paygo section). The pay-as-you-go credit used to be a better deal. You could purchase a $10 credit, and then it would be good indefinitely as long as you sent a text or made a call at least once every three months. So for light users like me, a $10 credit could last a long, long time. However, in September 2019, Tello raised the initial paygo credit minimum purchase to $20 and updated their policy on how long a paygo credit lasts. Starting in September 2019, now you must place a new paygo order every three months or your existing credit will expire and your account will be closed (update: unless you maintain a monthly plan, in which case your paygo credit does not expire). Although this policy change upset some previous customers, I can understand why Tello did it (and Tello has also offered to refund any remaining credits to previous customers effected by this policy update). I'm sure Sprint charges Tello a minimum monthly charge for any active line, so Tello can't afford to have someone (like I was doing) pay $10 once, and then keep an active line going with that credit for year after year. In any event, I would now only recommend using a paygo credit for international calls if you make them, or for a "hybrid" plan like I have my son on (described in the tip above about no sales tax on data only plans).

November 2020 Pay-As-You-Go "paygo" update: Tello has now started enforcing their 2019 paygo terms. Paygo balances will expire after 90 days unless you either (1) make a new paygo order every 90 days, or (2) maintain a monthly plan. If your paygo balance expires and you don't have a monthly plan, your account will be closed. You should get a warning email before this happens. I still have paygo balances on all of our Tello lines to cover our voice minutes since my family has "data only" plans.  Our paygo balances are fine, and we are not affected by this new policy. Going forward, I would not recommend using paygo by itself since you will need to place a new $20 paygo order every 90 days. However, paygo still works great as an addition to a monthly plan. That is, like me, you can have a tax-free monthly data-only plan (with unlimited texts) and then use a paygo credit to covedr voice minutes. Your paygo credit will last forever as long as you maintain your monthly plan.

Tello PROS vs CONS

 * Low cost monthly plans starting at $5/month (i.e. unlimited texts plus 100 minutes for $5, or unlimited texts plus 500MB for $5, or unlimited texts plus 100 minutes plus 500MB for $6)
 * Unlimited talk and text (no cellular data) is $8/month
 * No contract
 * Extremely simple, straightforward, easy to understand pricing
 * No hidden fees (no overage, no administration, no activation fees, etc.)
 * Calls to Mexico, Canada, & China are included, and are treated the same as US calls
 * You can change your plan anytime
 * Highly rated customer service (online chat, phone, email & call back)
 * You don't need to have a smart phone, you can get service for an old fashioned flip phone
 * You get a "real" cellular phone number
 * Voicemail is included for free
 * Tethering is enabled and included for free
 * Unlimited 2G data - On monthly plans that include data, after you hit your data limit you still get unlimited but slow 2G data,. So for example, if you pick a monthly plan with 200MB of LTE data, after that gets used up, you still get unlimited 2G data, so you are never without data (thanks Dave1 for pointing this out in his comment below)
 * If you manually renew your monthly plan before it auto-renews, you can roll your unused minutes over to the next month (per a comment by Dave1 below)

Another PRO: Tello's new Referral Program
Get a $10 credit when you join Tello. If you use a current Tello member's referral link when you sign up for Tello, you'll get a $10 credit. After you sign up for Tello, you'll get your own referral link, and if you get family and friends to join Tello, you'll earn another $10 each time someone uses your referral link. If you need a referral link to sign up and get the $10 sign up credit, you can use my referral link.

 * About the only "con" that I can come up with is that Tello uses T-Mobile for cellular service and if your local area doesn't have good T-Mobile coverage, then Tello would not be a good option for you. Fortunately, you can check your local coverage with the Tello coverage checker. If you have good T-Mobile coverage, you will be fine, but if you have spotty or no T-Mobile coverage in your area, you should consider a different carrier.

Tello FAQs and Tips

If you want to sign up with Tello or switch to Tello, you can buy a phone from them or bring your own phone, as long as your phone is T-Mobile compatible. Most phones today should be (as long as they aren't locked to AT&T or Verizon). If you want to bring your own phone, use the Tello IMEI phone checker to check your phone. It will tell you if the phone will work on Tello. You will also need a Tello sim for the phone, which you can buy from Tello for $2. To sign up with Tello, first you'll be prompted to create a Tello account. Then you'll pick a plan (and a phone if you want) and check out. When you sign up, you can get a new number or port in your existing number. I recommend starting with a new number (which is free), and then port your existing number over after you've verified everything works and you are satisfied with Tello service. Whether you port your number in when you order, or wait until later, porting is always free. From my own experience, porting is also pretty quick, and usually takes about one business day. Switching phones is also free and easy. As long as the phone you want to switch to is T-Mobile compatible, all you have to do is more your Tello sim card to the new phone..

FAQ: Does Tello have roll-over?
Yes, Tello has rollover if you know what to do. Like with using Tello dollars, Tello makes getting rollover a bit of work, but it is worth it. If you let your monthly plan automatically renew, everything resets and you start over. However, if you manually renew your monthly plan early (i.e. the day before it expires), any remaining unused data and minutes will be added to the new plan.

FAQ: How do I get roll-over, and is it free?
Yes, rollover is free, but to get it you need to manually renew your monthly plan before it automatically auto-renews. It's a little bit of extra work, but I think it is well worth it. When you renew your plan, you can check a box to have Tello send you an email reminder 48 hours before the next time your plan is scheduled to automatically renew. As long as you continue to manually renew your plan before it auto-renews (i.e. a day early), all of your unused data or minutes will continue to roll over. There is one caveat though. To rollover unused data, your new monthly plan must have data, and to rollover unused minutes, your new monthly plan must have minutes. Also, "unlimited minutes" and "unlimited data" do not roll over. It must be a discrete number of unused minutes and/or unused amount of data. As far as I know, there is no limit on how much data (and minutes) you can accumulate with rollover. We have accumulated a lot of saved data because we don't use very much.
One word of caution... if you ever forget or are unable to manually renew, then your plan will auto-renew and all of your accumulated data and/or minutes will be lost, and you will start over with whatever amount of data and minutes is in your new monthly plan.

FAQ: Is the Tello billing cycle monthly or every 30 days?
The Tello monthly plan cycle is actually every 30 days. It is not the same day every month, instead it is every 30 days. If you are manually renewing your plan to get free rollover, this is important to understand. Here is my example of how it works (copied from my response in a comment below):
  Tello has a 30 day billing cycle, so unfortunately, it is not the same day each month. To get free rollover, you need to manually renew before your plan auto renews on day 30. For example, my son's line got an email reminder on January 30 (day 28) that his plan would be renewing. I checked his account and the renewal was scheduled for Feb 1 (day 30) anytime between 2am and 8am. So on January 31 (day 29) I manually renewed his plan. I could have waited until February 1 at 1am, but I am not *that* cheap! After renewing on January 31, his new renewal date is March 2 (day 30). When I renewed, I checked the box to get a new email reminder, which I will get on Feb 28 (day 28), and then I will manually renew the next day on March 1, the day before the auto-renewal would happen (on March 2)..

FAQ: What is happening with the Sprint/TMobile merger, and what will happen with Tello?
Tello is switching to T-Mobile for coverage, and T-Mobile coverage will be getting even better as the Sprint towers are converted into T-Mobile towers. As of January 18, 2021, new customers signing up will get a new Tello T-Mobile sim. Existing customers will soon be converted over from Sprint to T-Mobile, though Sprint support should continue until at least the middle of the year for those people who are slow to change over. Tello pricing is remaining unchanged.

FAQ: Can I use my own phone on Tello?
Yes, you can use your own existing phone on Tello as long as it is T-Mobile compatible and not locked to another carrier (like AT&T or Verizon). The easiest way to check if your phone will work on Tello is to use the Tello IMEI phone checker. You will also need a Tello sim, which you can buy from Tello for $10 when you order a Tello monthly plan.

TIP: Use a referral code when you sign up and get $10 in Tello dollars
When you first join Tello and place your first order, you will need to create a new account. You will see the option to either Log In (which you can't do because you don't have an account yet), or "New to Tello? Create a new account." You will click "create a new account." You will then enter your First Name, Last Name, Email Address, and make up a Password. Below the confirm password box, it will say "Referral Code (i)" Click on "Referral Code" and enter an existing Tello member's referral code, or use my referral code. If you enter a referral code, you will get a $10 credit ($10 in Tello Dollars) after you place your first order.

Feel free to use my Tello referral code when you sign up and we will both get a $10 credit.

FAQ: What are "Tello dollars" and how do I use them?
If you use a referral code when you sign up with Tello, you will get a $10 credit in "Tello dollars". If you get other people to sign up with your referral code, you will get $10 for each person who signs up (and they get $10 too). You can use your Tello dollars to pay for monthly plans, or a new phone if you have enough Tello dollars. However, Tello puts a few restrictions on using Tello dollars. You can't use them for automatic renewal payments. In order to pay for your monthly plan with your Tello dollars, you must manually renew your plan early (i.e. the day before it expires). When you are manually renewing, you can then switch the payment method to use your Tello dollars. The other restriction is that you must have enough Tello dollars to pay the entire charge. Tello does make it a bit of a pain to use the free Tello dollars, but because they are free, I think it is well worth it.

TIP: Data-only plans don't charge any tax!
  Taxes and fees can add several dollars or more to the cost of your monthly cell phone plan (typically $2 to $5 per month depending on where you live). But "data-only" cell phone plans are exempt from taxes and fees. Taxes and fees only apply to plans with voice service. If you get a Tello DATA ONLY monthly plan (i.e. 500mb for $5/mo, or 1gb for $6/mo), there are no monthly taxes or fees, even though you get unlimited texts (with a free Tello phone number) with any Tello plan, including the "data only" plans. Thus, if you pick the $5 500mb monthly plan, you only pay $5 per month total, with no additional taxes or fees. In addition, the data-only plans include a "real" phone number with unlimited texts, and you can use this number to verify services (like uber and certain banks) that require you to receive a verification text at a "real" phone number.
  So what do you do for voice service then if you have a data-only plan? Well, there are two options.
   (1) First, you can use a free Google Voice phone number with the Hangouts app (which is what I do). The Hangouts app allows you to talk and text with your Google Voice number, using wifi or cellular data. The only downside of this solution is that Google Voice phone numbers are voip (voice-over-internet) and you must use the Google Hangouts app or Google Voice app to make and receive calls (and send texts). You can't use your phone's native dialer for calling or answering calls if you are using a Google voice number.
   (2) If you want a "regular" phone number for calling, you can use a second "hybrid" option, which is to get a Tello data-only monthly plan but also buy a Tello PayAsYouGo credit, and then use the PayGo credit to pay for voice calls (voice calls are 1 cent per minute). With this hybrid approach, your data-only plan gives you data and unlimited texts, and you use your paygo credit for your voice minutes. With this "hybrid" option, your Tello number works for texts and talk, and you don't need a Google Voice number for talking.

My son is on the 500 MB "data only" plan and pays only $5 per month TOTAL. There is NO tax on data-only plans. His data plan includes free unlimited texts, and he uses my old paygo credit for voice calls. The paygo credit has about $8.42 remaining, which is good for 842 minutes of calling or over 13 hours of talking. Since he almost never calls, this credit should  essentially last forever.


* * * * *

To my mind, one of the best things about Tello is their customer service, as they have some of the highest rated customer service in the industry. If you have any problems with your order, or your phone, or your service, they will respond quickly and efficiently, and will do everything they can to solve your problem. Tello uses TrustPilot to let their customers review their service. The nice thing about TrustPilot is that they have real reviews, and Tello can't delete the bad review. The reviews you see are the real unfiltered reviews. And the thing about real reviews is, when people are unhappy they'll often post a bad review, but when things work the way they should, people often don't take the time to write a review or say anything. So I am used to seeing negative comments (on companies that have poor products or service), but it's not very common to see that many positive reviews (because most people won't take the time to leave positive reviews) unless a company really is exceptional and really deserves all the positive reviews. The  cool (and amazing) thing about Tello is that not only do they not have many (or any?) negative reviews, but they have lots of positive reviews (which is uncommon). Check out the latest Tello TrustPilot reviews here. Based on all the happy customers (and reviews) that Tello has, they really do have great customer service.

"Have never experienced a large service company as responsive as this one and I have dealt with a LOT of them. Made the process clear and easy to follow. Everything worked as they described in a single email." - Robert Byers, August 24, 2017

"I am really amazingly happy with this amazing provider, amazing service, and great customer support!! Thanks!!" - I. Schipper, August 24, 2017

"Everything about tello is awesome. Thanks." - Steve C., August 24, 2017

"I've had the service for about 3 months. So far, it's been perfect and you can't beat the price." - Anthony Edwards, August 23, 2017

 read the latest Tello customer reviews (from TrustPilot)

Tello coverage checker

Tello IMEI phone checker
(enter your phone's ESN/IMEI/MEID to see if your phone will work on Tello)

learn more about Tello


Comments / Questions / Feedback:

note for readers: On January 18, 2021, Tello switched from Sprint to TMobile for coverage.
Comments below from before 2021 may be about Sprint coverage and/or Sprint or CDMA phone or sim requirements, which no longer apply since Tello now uses TMobile for coverage, which requires a TMobile GSM capable phone and a new Tello/TMobile GSM sim card.

Comment by Dave1 on Monday, June 05, 2017
Hello Steve, Good overall Tello overview, I have also used it for a few months. Just a slight observation about the calls to Canada/Mexico, the calls are not exactly free, they are simply charged the same rate as in-US calls, meaning the rate of the calls is taken from your remaining minutes/balance.
I have been satisfied with Tello using a monthly plan, and I put my mother on the Pay-as-you-go plan. The pay-as-you-go plan is very convenient and affordable for someone who does not talk/text or use data a lot. You can get a plan for $10, my mom got 2 months out of it using the service almost every day for a few short calls and texts. People who rarely call or texts, or want to have a backup phone can get way longer mileage out of the $10. You can even turn off your data in the website to prevent unintentional data use/expense. You also get an itemized list of calls and texts received/made and voice mail is included.
The monthly plans are great too, you can get the lowest possible 4G (high speed) data of 200 MBs, and after you run out of it, you get unlimited reduced speed data at 64k, which is good enough for GPS apps, and even Uber app, checking emails, and sending MMS, although as expected such activities will take longer to accomplish, but considering that it is unlimited AND included at no extra charge if you use a monthly plan, I can not complain about it.
Additionally, if you don't use all your call minutes, and you manually renew your plan (instead of letting it renew itself automatically at end of cycle) you can roll those unused minutes over to the next month, and you can continue accumulating unused calling minutes. I had been using a combo of 100 minutes, unlimited texts, and 200MB, and the price was only $10 plus taxes, which is very affordable I think for reliable cellular (not VOIP) phone service. Of course, being a Sprint MVNO, the coverage will not be as extensive as the other 3 major networks, but I have not had trouble at all with it. Customer service is also great, I had to contact them via email twice, and I got a response with 5 minutes both times. You can use almost any Sprint phone I believe even the FreedomPop Sprint devices with Tello, you can use the tool in their website to make sure your used phone is compatible with it before signing up. I have used it with a Moto G4 Play, just had to find the correct Sprint sim card for it, and got it for a fraction of the cost from eBay. The first month after I ran out of 4G data, I found out I had to go to the "Cellular Network Settings" on the phone to change from LTE to 3G, in order to access the 2G speed data. Definitely a reliable and affordable phone service.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Dave, Wow! Thanks for your detailed real-world report on using Tello, and for pointing out some additional benefits and tips. Best comment I've gotten in a long time. Thank you! I'll add your info into my review, and clarify that calls to Mexico and Canada aren't really "free" but they are included and treated the same as domestic US calls. Your experience with getting unlimited slow 2G data after you hit your data limit on a monthly plan is great to know. So your data never gets cut off, it just gets slowed down, but it still useable for checking email, etc. Thanks again!

Reply by Dave1 on Monday, June 05, 2017
Glad you found useful info in my experience with Tello, before I forget, if you ever need to port out, you would have to contact them to get your account number, as that information is not available in the website. Also, Tello does not use a pin number for the accounts, but most other companies require a pin number when porting in, the pin you would provide is 0000.
About the unlimited 2G data, it is indeed very useful to have, and at no additional cost it is a win for sure, but you might have to play around with the "Cellular Network Settings" depending on what phone you have as mentioned previously. I was able to even send picture messages, although it took sometime. I successfully used Waze and Google Maps, as well as WhatsApp, Uber, and Gmail app. Regular web surfing definitely is not an enjoyable experience at this speed, but if you need to do a quick Google search, it is better than not having data at all.
Be aware that with monthly plans, the renewal date does not fall on the same day every month, so if you want to renew manually to roll-over the used minutes, then you must keep track of the due date. The unused minutes from the ending month will not roll-over if you let the system renew your plan. I renewed my plan a day before just in case.
You can also download their app for more convenient access to your account.

Comment by Reuven on Monday, August 21, 2017
Most of the reviews I came across merely highlight the monetary aspects of the provider, neglecting the customer support / technical support aspects. I started my cellular adventures with RingPlus, (R.I.P.) - they NEVER answered an eMail or a telephone call. From there I wandered to FreedomPOP; The sold me a Galaxy S4 that did not have any signal strength, and failed to call many times. Their tech support was moronic and laughable. After divorced them, miracle of all miracles, signal strength jumped from 0 to -80 dbm!!!
Now I've landed in TELLO Mobile land. I had a caller-ID problem, called them and the guy picked up the phone on the 2nd. ring. (!!!) They followed-up with an eMail AND with few phone calls to make sure I'm satisfied. Where else can one expect such a service nowadays?!!! I would highly recommend TELLO!

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Reuven, Thanks for your comment and for sharing your own personal experience with Tello. I agree that Tello's superior customer service is one of their strengths. From my own experience, when I was placing my order with Tello, I had a question and clicked on the online chat button on their website. Someone responded in under a minute. The person was very knowledgeable and answered my question quickly and efficiently. I believe Tello has one of the highest customer service ratings of any cellular service provider based on their TrustPilot rating. That's also the impression I get from just about everything I've read about Tello. I think they truly go the extra mile on their customer service.

Comment by al on Friday, August 23, 2019
Interesting and relevant post I found on reddit: [ ]
"I chose Tello 1GB data only for $6 but it came with unlimited texts so that's cool since Google Voice# isn't accepted for SMS verification from some companies (like Venmo). Since you're not using phone line, there is no tax and fees and only $6 was charged for one month."

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Al, Thanks for commenting. Great points about Tello. Even if you get the data only monthly plan, you still get a free Tello phone number with unlimited texting, and it is a real phone number (native, not voip). This comes in handy if you're like me and use a Google Voice number which is voip. I was unable to verify my Google Voice number for a new U.S. Bank checking account recently (required for online banking), but I used my Tello PayGo phone number and it worked like a charm to confirm the verification. Definitely nice to have a "real" phone number available for texts to verify accounts. Also, you're right that if you use a data only monthly plan, you also get to avoid paying all the taxes associated with voice service.

Comment by John on Monday, September 02, 2019
Hi Steve, I am looking into the Tello pay as you go plan as I intend to convert my old Sprint FP iPhone into a no frills backup cell phone for true cellular service, i.e., non-VOIP service to be able to use for banking, Uber, etc. My father is in the same situation as I am and wants to convert his old Sprint FP iPhone into a no frills cell phone with true cellular service. However, he doesn't want to go through the hassle of signing up and setting up his old phone with Tello service and has asked me if I could sign up and set up his service for him.
Do you know if Tello allows multiple lines to be registered and paid under one master account, just like FP allowed up to 5 numbers per account/email address? It would be great if multiple cellular lines could be registered and paid under one account/email address like FP so that I could sign up and set up my father's old Sprint FP iPhone with Tello service. Thanks.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi John, Good question. As far as I know, you can only set up one line per account at Tello (unless this has changed recently). But needing to set up two account would allow you to get more in referral credits. That is, it you use my referral code (link above) (or any other existing customer's referral code) when you set up your first account, you get a $10 credit. Then when you set up your second account, use your own referral link from your first account and get $10 each, or $20 total in account one and $10 in account two. You can also use one of my coupon links above to get an additional discount on your initial order (on both accounts).
I like the Tello pay as you go plan. That's what I have, and I'm currently using it on a Moto E2 that I got from FreedomPop a couple of years ago. When Ting took over the FP Sprint plans recently and the free FP (Sprint) service on that phone was ending, I cancelled the service and moved the phone to my Tello paygo plan (the process was super easy). It's great having the spare (backup) phone with a real (native) phone number with talk and text. The text service has come in handy several time for various things (like you mentioned in your comment, especially with certain banks that won't recognize voip numbers). With my minimal usage on the phone, the paygo credit is lasting a long time.

Comment by al on Monday, September 09, 2019
Hey Steve, You say "The only downside of this solution is that Google Voice phone numbers are voip (voice-over-internet), which some services like uber and some banks have a problem with. If you want a "regular" phone number, you can use a second "hybrid" option, which is to get a Tello data-only monthly plan but also buy a Tello PayAsYouGo credit, and then use the PayGo credit to pay for voice calls "
 Why need this "hybrid" option? The data only/unlimtd text plan comes with a real phone #. You can't make a phone call or receive calls... but you can text with that real [non VOIP] phone#  Does the Tello data only plan [unlimited texts] work for SMS verification for companies (like Venmo, etc...)?

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Al, Good catch! I was unclear, and/or wrong. The Tello data-only plans come with a real phone number and unlimited texts, which you can use to verify/confirm services like uber and banks that require a real number to receive texts. So you do not need the "hybrid" option if you are happy using a google voice (voip number) for talking (and also texts if you want). I should have said that the "hybrid" option is good for people who want a real number for both text and talk, and who don't want to deal with a second google voice number for talk. The "hybrid" option gives you data and a real number for text and talk. The data-only option requires a google voice number (with the hangouts app or google voice app) for talk, but it does give you a free "real" number with unlimited texts that can be used to verify services that need it. Hope this make sense now. I've edited my post above to fix this. Thanks for commenting and catching my mistake!

Comment by Dan on Tuesday, October 01, 2019
Thanks for the excellent, detailed review as always. In your UNREAL Mobile Review you demonstrated that the throttled 2G speed is about .26 Mbps down.
I've tested this on Tello, and the throttled 2G speed around 60-70 Kbps. This is reallllly slow; it's fast enough for most voice codecs, but too slow for most music streaming services (even on a low-quality settings). This may be a significant downside of Tello vs. UNREAL. I'm curious to know whether others have replicated these results for 2G speed on Tello and UNREAL.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Dan, Thanks for your comment and report on Tello's 2G speed. I think you are correct that it is about 64kbps, which is what Dan reported in his 2017 comment above, along with saying: "you get unlimited reduced speed data at 64k, which is good enough for GPS apps, and even Uber app, checking emails, and sending MMS." Based on this, you are probably correct that Tello 2G data isn't fast enough for streaming music. As for Unreal, their 2G data may be faster, but assuming Sprint coverage works for you, I'd still recommend Tello over Unreal (unless, as you point out, being able to stream music if you run out of high speed data is important) because Tello is less expensive and you get a "real" phone. I'm also not sure what is going to happen with Unreal now that Red Pocket bought it, and from some recent comments, it appears that Unreal may be starting to play some of the same games FreedomPop plays. I put up with the FreedomPop shenanigans because I get free service from them (and I've learned how to play the game), but I wouldn't put up with the same shenanigans (if the reports are accurate) if I was paying for the service (Unreal).

Reply by Dan on Wednesday, October 02, 2019
Ah, thank you! I'd missed that older comment. The major downside to Sprint-based MVNOs is that they work terribly with rooted Android phones. The Sprint baseband provisioning apps only work on stock ROMs. In order to have working phone+SMS+data when switching to Tello, I had to completely wipe my phone (Moto X4), reinstall stock ROM, redo the carrier provisioning, and then reinstall LineageOS... by contrast, to switch to FreedomPop or Unreal or any other carrier using the GSM/UMTS/LTE stack, I just swap the SIM card.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Dan, Thanks for the info on rooted phones not working very well on Sprint MVNO's like Tello. I've never rooted a phone, nor do I think have most people, but it's good to know for those that do. I also usually prefer GSM providers because I can easily switch a GSM sim from phone to phone (I have several phones), so in that regard, I don't like Sprint or Tello since the service is tied to the phone instead of the sim (you can still change phones, it's just a bit more work). However, for the price, one can get 500mb on Tello for $5 (1GB for $6) vs 1GB on Unreal for $10, plus the potential for games with Unreal. I don't really count the voip number with Unreal since it requires the Unreal app and one can use a Google Voice number with Hangouts instead (which I do). So I personally think Tello is better for the price vs Unreal, but then again, I'm currently using free FreedomPop service for my main phone, and a Tello phone with a paygo balance as a backup.
Thanks again for the info on Tello's 2G speed and the issue with rooted phones. Good to know! I'll try to add it to my review. Keeping these reviews up to date is a pain since so many things keep changing all the time.

Reply by Dan on Wednesday, October 02, 2019
Thank you! Your detailed reviews are really valuable, and I've passed them on to many friends.

Comment by Ileane on Monday, November 25, 2019
Hi Steve, so I am correct in understanding you are no longer recommending Unreal Mobile? Are you suggesting Tello is better?

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Yes, I am no longer recommending Unreal. From what I've heard, they are starting to play the same games as FreedomPop and are also adding extra fees. In addition, since they were taken over by Red Pocket, their future is completely uncertain. Tello is cheaper and their pricing is very simple to understand. As long as you have good Sprint coverage, I think Tello is the way to go.  PS. I'm working on updating my Tello review to make it easier to understand as well as more current. Stay tuned. :)

Comment by Mark on Friday, April 03, 2020
I switched from Sprint to Tello on April 1 and already I am very happy with the change!
It took less than one working day to port my number and my unlocked Motorola Moto E4 and SIM card worked without any problems. I did need assistance in resetting my phone, which took less than 5 minutes on the phone with a Tello CSR.
As it's still using Sprint's technology infrastructure, the call quality is unchanged.
I am on a $5/month data and text-only plan and I purchased a $20 PAYG credit for my calls. Being just data and text, the plan itself does not incur any surcharges or taxes, but the PAYGO credit is taxable, as it can be used for calls. My $20 PAYG credit totaled $20.71 with surcharges and taxes. (I rarely use data away from my wi-fi setup, so the 500MB minimum monthly allocation is plenty for me).
My monthly bill with Sprint was $37+ and I expect my monthly bill using Tello to be about $6. The reason is because I do most of my calls at home. As I have a Google Voice number, I just use wi-fi for my calls whenever I'm at home or near a free wi-fi access point.
You can indeed save some serious money by switching to Tello!

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Mark, Thanks for your great comment, and for taking the time to report on your experience so far with Tello. By the way, in case you didn't already know, if you manually renew your plan the day before it expires (as I explain in my review), you can rollover and bank any unused data. It's a great way to save up extra data if you ever need it. And I would agree, paying about $6 per month is a lot better than paying $37+ per month. Welcome to the "Tello Money Savers Club"! Thanks again for commenting.

Comment by Herb on Tuesday, July 07, 2020
Hi Steve, Appreciate all your helpful comments in the past for setting up FreedomPop for free. Now having to switch to another carrier. Looking at Tello but my current phone unfortunately does not support CDMA. With regard to your comment to John on Sept 19, 2019 about multiple lines on one account, could you not sign up for a Family account?

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Herb, You are correct. Since my 2019 reply to John, Tello has now added "family plans" and you can have multiple lines on a single account. The only benefit of a family plan in my opinion is that all the lines are on a single account and are under a single email address and password. Each line still has it's own plan and billing. Also, even though the lines are all on the same "family" account, they do not share any minutes or data. Each line has its own plan with it's own data/voice amounts. For super cheap people like myself, I still like the idea of setting up individual accounts for each new line because an existing account/line can refer the "new" account/line when it signs up, and both will get $10 bucks. So if I was switching a family to Tello, I would do it one line at a time on it's own account to maximize the Tello dollars earned. That said, I know some people will prefer having everything under one account and won't think the additional tello dollars are worth it. Thanks for commenting! I still have a few working FreedomPop sims, but now use Tello for myself, as well as the rest of my family.

Comment by Scott Wickham on Thursday, August 13, 2020
 I primarily followed you from FreedomPop to Tello from my main service. I just wanted to tell everyone about where you can get refurbished top-of-the-line phones and if you just search for Sprint compatibility you can often get like an iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy 7 for under $100 I think the lowest Sprint compatible smartphone I got was for about $40.
I'm currently Lee voice typing Miss on a Samsung Note 3 that I got for $60 from backmarket. It was unlocked so I put an old FreedomPop Sim in it. But for my dad and kids it Tello all the way.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Scott, Thanks for your comment. I just checked out and it looks like a good place to check for used phone deals. Thanks for mentioning it. I've bought (and sold) a couple of used phones on, and really like their website. I think swappa seems more trustworthy and low-risk than ebay, though I buy a lot of stuff on ebay (just not used phones). I also recently bought a used iPhone 7 for my daughter locally on craigslist, which can sometimes also be another good source for used phone deals. I still have my FreedomPop sims and they still work, but I'm using Tello for my main phone and all of my family is on Tello. Good to hear from you again!

Comment by pete on Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Ok, I have a paygo plan and read the notice that a purchase must be made every 90 days. With the objective of keeping this number on paygo, does this mean I can buy the $5 "data plan" (not really intending to use any data) with paypal and pay it every 90 days (not monthly) to satisfy their new requirement? And btw what are the taxes on a $7/mo talk and data plan if I switch to that later?

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Pete, Tello recently clarified their new paygo rules and now you must either (1) place a new paygo order every 90 days (or less) or (2) maintain a monthly plan. Otherwise, your paygo balance will expire and your account will be closed. Some people thought that maybe any "order" would count, but it needs to be a new paygo order. Or, as stated, if you maintain a monthly plan and don't let your monthly plan expire, your paygo balance will also not expire and you don't need to place any new paygo orders. This is what I do. All of our Tello lines are monthly "data only" plans (which are tax-free and also have unlimited free texts). All of our monthly plans also have a paygo balance which is used to pay for voice minutes. None of our paygo balances are affected by this new policy because we maintain montly plans.
As for your question on taxes, data plans don't have taxes, but monthly plans with minutes do. I logged into my Tello account and clicked "change to a new plan" to see what a $7 monthly plan with minutes would charge for taxes. By going to checkout, I saw the taxes were $0.38. I was surprised the tax was actually that low, but I think Tello adds less in tax than other service providers for some reason. Anyway, I am in California. You should be able to see what your taxes in your location would be by logging into your Tello account and adding a new plan and going to checkout. You should be able to see what the taxes would be, and you can then cancel the checkout and not place the order.
PS. As background for anyone reading this comment, a year ago (Sept 2019), Tello changed the terms on their paygo plan. Paygo balance previously were good forever and never expired, but Tello made a change on September 2019 (and made it retroactive) stating that from then on, one had to place a new order every 90 days or less, or the paygo balance would expire and the account would be closed. However, for the last year, Tello has never enforced this new policy (until now). Now, based on comments I have seen, Tello has finally begun enforcing this policy and has notified customers who don't have monthly plans and only have a paygo balance that their accounts will be closed (unless a new order is placed at least every 90 days). I think this is fair, since I'm sure Tello has to pay Sprint (now TMobile) a monthly fee for every open account, so they have decided they can't afford to have people pay once for a paygo balance and then keep an account open forever. More importantly, from what I have heard, Tello has issued refunds for unused paygo balances to anyone who has asked for one because their account is going to be closed. I use paygo for voice minutes along with my monthly (tax free) data plan, and it works great. I think using a paygo balance along with a monthly data plan makes sense, but attempting to use paygo only no longer makes any sense.

Comment by Rich C on Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Hi Steve. Love the site as usual. I was with Unreal mobile enjoying my $20 quarterly unlimited plan with Google Voice, but they killed it off and moved all their plans to "premium voice" (cellular not VoIP). I've always preferred having a real number over VoIP as the quality is better and more reliable and gives you more compatibility for verification with banks and services, but the price is considerably more expensive.
So, I canceled with Unreal, used your link and signed up with Tello. I went with their unlimited calls/text/500Mb data, but I figured that once I hit my data cap that throttle speeds would be ok as they were still pretty usable for my purposes with Unreal. I couldn't have been more wrong. I think Unreal must throttle down to 128Kbs, but with Tello, it's 64Kbs, if that. I'm a pretty patient person, but you basically cannot use it for anything at all except to fire off an email. Streaming even low-quality audio is out of the question and browsing the web is basically useless unless it's a web 1.0 site. For example, loading will take upwards of a couple of minutes after fighting a couple of timeout errors. I may be in the minority in terms of how I use my data, but it seems like with Tello you really need to know exactly how much you're going to use every month because if you run over, your data is basically off for all intents and purposes. If you want to pay to use a few gigs of data every month, other competitors with better network footprints (read: AT&T) and phone flexible (ie: non-CDMA) start to look a lot better by comparison. I may still end up sticking with Tello as they definitely are the cheapest around for technically unlimited everything (in the strictest sense) at $9/mo, but I'm definitely going to be hunting around some more.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Rich, Thanks for sharing your Tello experience so far. Others have also reported that the Tello throttled 2G unlimited data is only about 64Kbs and should be used for emergencies only. I agree it is a good idea to keep checking around for better deals and service is you need it, but I do think you might improve your Tello experience with a few tips. If you run out of your monthly high speed data, you can always renew your plan early and you'll get a new allotment of data. More importantly, if you always manually renew your monthly plan a day early, all of your unused data rolls forward. If you let it auto renew, you lose any unused data. I've been manually renewing my plan for a while, and have banked up a lot of unused data. It's a little extra work to get the free rollover by manually renewing, but you can check a box to have Tello emai you a reminder when your plan will be renewing and just manually renew when you get that email. That's what I do. You might want to also buy a $20 paygo credit to use for voice minutes (that would cover 2,000 minutes of talk) and switch to a data only plan. You could change to a 1GB data plan for $6 (twice as much data as the $5/500MB plan) and use paygo for voice and you'd be saving $3 and tax every month compared to your current $9 plan. Some people don't like the extra work of manually renewing each month to get the free rollover, which I understand, but for penny-pinchers like me it is worth it. Thanks again for commenting!

Comment by William on Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Hello Steve, Thanks for this amazing information on the Tello service. I have used FreedomPop for 3 years as you recommended a quite a while ago. But after reading your Tello post, I decided to switch to Tello. The reasonable price and real number look really good. I really appreciate your post that may help other people who seek a phone service with cheaper prices.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi William, Thanks for your comment and feedback. I really appreciate it!

Comment by joe on Saturday, January 02, 2021
If you are on data plan only, how do you keep the paygo credit from applying to data when you go over 1GB? Says on their website under paygo- $20 = 2000 mins/2000 texts/1 GB data. Otherwise, I like the idea of getting the $20 paygo credit to cover voice calls.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Joe, Good question. Yes, you can turn off using your paygo credit for data and only use it for voice minutes. It's simple to do. Just log into your Tello account, then click on "My Information" on the left side. You will then see a setting for "Pay As You Go 4G LTE Data" with an on/off toggle switch. It's probably on by default, but you can turn it off, which is what I have done. The setting says, "Keep this feature ON if you want to enjoy 4G LTE speeds from your Pay As You Go balance at 2ยข/MB. If you have a plan, any included 4G LTE data is used first and you'll not get throttled down to 2G speeds as long as you have Pay As You Go balance." Of course if you turn it off, then after you use up your plan data, you get throttled down to 2G, but you can always turn it back on, or keep it off and use the credit for voice minutes only. Thanks for your comment!

* * * * *

note for readers: On January 18, 2021, Tello switched from Sprint to TMobile for coverage. Comments above (before 2021) may be about Sprint coverage and/or Sprint or CDMA phone or sim requirements, which no longer apply since Tello now uses TMobile for coverage which, requires a TMobile GSM capable phone and a new Tello/TMobile GSM sim card.

* * * * *

Comment by Larry on Friday, January 22, 2021
I received email from FreedomPop a week ago saying they're finally pulling the plug. They're "pleased to announce" that they're "upgrading" their free plan to 25 MB/month. It served me well for seven years and this site provided the most helpful info on the web.
So maybe it's time for Tello. Is it still possible to purchase the Sprint SIM for $0.99 and use it with a new Tello account, or is it now necessary to pay Tello $10 for a SIM due to the switch to T-Mobile?

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Larry, Thanks for your comment! I'm amazed you did FreedomPop for seven years! Wow. FreedomPop was "fun" while it lasted (if one knew how to play their game), but it appears the free ride is finally over. As I stated on my "FreedomPop for Dummies" guide, the free plan has ended, and I wouldn't touch their new "Freemium" plan with a 10 foot pole!
Tello isn't free like FreedomPop was, but it is about the cheapest alternative that I know about, and Tello is so much simpler (and honest). And since Tello is now using TMobile for coverage, I think it is a great way to go for anyone who has acceptable local T-Mobile coverage.
Regarding sims, one can't use a Sprint CDMA sim to sign up anymore. One needs a new Tello TMobile GSM sim. The only place to get them that I know of at this point is directly from Tello for $10 when you sign up. If I find a cheaper way to get them, I'll post it here.

Comment by Thang Ha on Sunday, January 31, 2021
Has anyone managed to swap the new Tello GSM sim and put it in a GSM-compatible phone without registering the phone to Tello in the first place, and confirm data is working (either 3G or 4G)? I'm asking because I'm using a phone that is not designed to work in the US, but I can confirm it's working with a T-mobile GSM sim card, and have LTE band 2 and 4. And since I cannot verify BYOD on Tello website, I can't purchase any of their plan or sim card. I'm currently thinking about using my wife's iphone IMEI and register it as a BYOD to be able to purchase a Tello plan and then use the shipped sim with my android phone instead. Thanks!

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Thang, I just received one of the new Tello GSM sims today and updated one of our existing Tello phone lines. The activation process was incredibly easy. After verifying everything worked, I then moved the sim to an older non-VoLTE GSM phone that doesn't pass the Tello byod checker, and the sim still worked for voice and data. So I think you can use the sim in any TMobile GSM capable phone after it is activated, but I think you still need a phone that passes the byod checker to order and activate the sim. Also, keep in mind that eventually (and maybe soon) one will need VoLTE to be able to use voice, which is probably why TMobile and Tello have started requiring it for new device sign ups.

Reply by Thang Ha on Sunday, January 31, 2021
Thanks Steve! I ordered a Tello sim using my wife's iphone as byod device. Will keep you in touch!

Reply by Thang Ha on Wednesday, February 03, 2021
Update: I received my Tello GSM Sim today (wow, the free USPS First Class shipping is almost just 2-day shipping!). I can confirm data and text is working with my phone. After activating the sim card, I plug it right away to my own phone and it works right off the bat. No APN set up needed.

Comment by Bill on Monday, February 01, 2021
Hi Steve, As I mentioned on your FreedomPop review, with the end of FP officially happening Tello is the best plan out there due to its price and, most importantly, for its flexibility to change or cancel plans anytime without any restrictions at all.
Now, as I focus my attention to Tello, I have a few questions:
1. Just to be clear, is monthly billing cycle for Tello "30 days" which means it doesn't renew on the same day each month, correct? For example, if my billing cycle started on Jan. 1 it would end on Jan. 30, not Jan. 31? If this is correct, then I would manually renew to roll over my unused data on Jan. 29? Or does the billing cycle renew on the same day each month if you choose to have your account automatically renewed?
2. Is there a limit or cap on how much unused data or minutes I can roll over each month? I didn't see or read anything on Tello's website stating there is a limit or cap for data or minutes roll over.
3. Does all unused data roll over each month when you manually renew? For example, if I have the 500 mb monthly data plan and I don't use any data during month 1, I would have 1 gb in month 2. If during month 2 I don't use any data, then I should have 1.5 gb in month 3, correct?
Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Thank you. Bill

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Bill, Thanks for your good questions. Here are the answers, and I will update my review as well when I have time.
1. Tello has a 30 day billing cycle, so unfortunately, it is not the same day each month. To get the free rollover, you need to manually renew before your plan auto renews on day 30. For example, my son's line got an email reminder on January 30 (day 28) that his plan would be renewing. I checked his account and the renewal was scheduled for Feb 1 (day 30) anytime between 2am and 8am. So on January 31 (day 29) I manually renewed his plan. I could have waited until February 1 at 1am, but I am not *that* cheap! After renewing on January 31, his new renewal date is March 2 (day 30). When I renewed, I checked the box to get a new email reminder, which I will get on Feb 28 (day 28), and then I will manually renew on March 1. It's a bit more work, but I think it's worth it for the rollover.
2. As far as I know, there is no limit to how much data you can bank. We have banked a lot on our lines, except for my daughter who usually uses up all of her data and then renews early to get a new cycle's worth. She is a higher data amount monthly plan too, because she uses much more data than us.
3. All of your unused data rolls over, even if it is the full amount because you haven't used any that cycle.
FYI - Unfortunately, if you forget to or are unable to manually review at the end of a cycle, I believe you will lose all your banked data and will need to start over. I haven't tested this for obvious reasons, but I think people should be aware of it so they don't get *too* upset if it happens to them.

Comment by TelloForTheSave on Thursday, February 04, 2021
Hi, Thank you for this blog post. I did not know that data only plans included unlimited texts and are tax free. This is because their website, the Tello "build-your-own-plan" only shows that you get free texting with the minute plans, and I never had an actual plan, since I only use PAYGO.
Speaking of PAYGO, you mentioned "Going forward, I would not recommend using paygo by itself since you will need to place a new $20 paygo order every 90 days." Now here is a trick... log into your Tello account on a web browser (as this does not work in the app). Yes, you will need to make the initial $20 PAYGO purchase, but before the 3 months end, go to "My Settings", turn on "Auto Recharge" for PAYGO, and SET IT TO $10, so when your balance goes below $2, it will automatically recharge your account with $10. This is how I only pay $10 ($10.73 after taxes, as it charges 7.3% tax for me) every 3 months, or $3.33 a month, as I use less than this allotted amount in 3 months. If I did use more it would simply recharge early, no big deal. Yes, I understand that I am paying a higher rate in proportion to their regular plans, but that is fine because it is the cheapest way for my use case. I use cellular service very lightly and I am usually on Wi-Fi, so I don't use too much data, and I use communication apps for messaging. I also set up my phone so that more things are offline in order to save data, (like offline maps, dictionary, etc.), and I restrict background data to unimportant apps. They are probably losing money over me lol. But if they increase the minimum recharge to $20, I would simply switch to the $6 plan of 500 MB, 100 minutes, and free text. :) Good day! TS

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi TS, I'm glad you learned here that EVERY monthly plan includes unlimited texts, which means that data-only plans include unlimited texting, which is a nice feature to know about. Data-only plans also don't have any monthly taxes on them. I'm curious about your PAYGO "trick". Have you actually done this, and can you explain what happened? Do you need to use up enough paygo credit to drop below $2 before your credit expires after 3 months, or will it auto-recharge after it expires?

Reply by TS
Hi, I was wondering this too my first time trying this out. You don't need to use up the credit until it is below $2. When the PAYGO expires, they send an email which says "We noticed that you currently don't have an active plan and your last Pay As You Go order was more than 90 days ago. Due to this, your Pay As You Go balance has expired. According to our Service Agreement your Tello number +1(xxx)xxx-xxxx will automatically expire too on xx/xx/2021. [in about 6-7 days] To keep this number and avoid service termination you can go ahead and subscribe to a Tello plan (starting at only $5/month) in the following days. Regardless of any account activity (call, SMS, data usage), your number will expire if no order is registered by xx/xx/2021. [in about 5-6 days] Please note that once deactivated, a Tello number can no longer be retrieved." Then after a little bit of time, since your PAYGO credit is below $2 because it has expired (meaning it is at $0), it auto-recharges another $10 to your PAYGO credit, and you get an email which says "Thank you for your order!" and shows the bill. I have had 3/4 of my balance expire since I was curious how long it actually lasts and was being cheap. The first time I tried this with $20, it lasted 5 1/2 months for some reason, then the second round, my $10 PAYGO auto-recharge lasted 3 months, and then I got another $10 auto-recharge credit, which is what I am on now. After another 3 months, I expect the process to repeat again. So there is nothing to worry about, it is all automatic and you can use however much of the credit that you want. Have a good one! Peace. TS

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi TS, Thanks for providing all the details! So using PAYGO credit only and turning on $10 auto-recharge, assuming one never uses all the credit, your method would cost $20+$10+$10+$10 or $50 (plus tax) the first year, and $40 (plus tax) per year after that. I still recommend the $5 per month ($60 per year) data-only plan plus a $20 paygo credit for voice minutes for most low-use users looking to save money, but extremely frugal / adventurous people could try your method. Thanks for sharing it.

Comment by Thao on Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Hi Steve, I just ordered my Tello SIM card for my BYOD gsm phone and I should get it in a few days. I logged into my Tello account and it showed my new phone number as: My number +1 (682) xxx xxxx - pending. I hid the actual number for privacy. I tried to port in my existing FreedomPop phone number but it is telling me that I cannot do the Port In just yet. I see the following message "Port in - You have no available line to proceed with the port in". Also, The following Tello Port In instruction applies to me: "1. if you purchased a phone or a SIM from us, once you receive the package and activate the service, you need to go to the Port In page in your online account and follow the steps;"
When I get my Tello SIM card, do I activate it using the new pending +1 (682) xxx xxxx phone number that is shown in my account? Then after I have activated the service I can then Port In my existing FreedomPop phone number. Is that correct? Thank you. Thao

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Thao, Yes, after you get your new sim from Tello, activate it and your new Tello number will start working. After that, you can port in your FreedomPop number to replace the Tello number. The port-in process is very simple based on my experience doing it several times, and generally takes 1 to 2 business days to complete.

Comment by Thao on Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Hi Steve, I got my Tello sim card today. It was simple to activate the sim card in my unlocked iphone. I decided to use the new Tello phone number and not to port in the old Freedompop phone number. I am really happy with the Tello service. It was your Tello blog that introduced me to Tello. Four years ago I used your Freedompop blog and friends list to setup my Freedompop service. Thank you, Thao

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Thao, Good to hear your Tello activation went smoothly and your Tello service is working. Thanks also for your feedback. I really appreciate it. It's always nice to hear that my blog posts have helped someone! Thanks again! Steve

Comment by Blake M on Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Hi, With tello data only plans, would WiFi calling work using my tello number? I know google voice will and believe texting via tello number will work over WiFi too, irrespective of what tello plan I have, but I am specifically curious if anyone tried WiFi calling using the tello number while being on a data only plan. Thanks in advance

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Blake, As far as I know, you have to have minutes on your plan (or have a pay-as-you-go balance to pay for minutes) to be able to use the wifi calling feature, and I'm pretty sure wifi calls count against your minutes just like cellular calls. As you said, you can make google voice calls with data only, but I don't think you can use your Tello number for calling (cellular or wifi) if you don't have minutes.

Comment by Chris Reniers on Tuesday, January 04, 2022
Hi Steve, A great review. As a current Tello user but only a light user at that, i liked your pay as you go suggestion of signing up for the monthly $5 data plan and using the $20 pay as you go credit for calls & texts. However, when reading Tello's terms & conditions, it is clear that a new order has to be placed every 90 days for that to work. I chatted with Tello as follows and this is their response:
* [Chris Reniers] I am considering the Pay As You Go option but concerned that it expires after 90 days unless a new order is made. What is considered a new order? For example, if I sign up for "data only" and use the pay as hou go option for my calls & texts, would the monthly data plan renewal be considered "an order" . Thanks for your time. Chris Reniers
* [Alejandro, Tello support] Thank you for contacting our Support Team. The regular plan is a separate thing from the Pay as you Go. You need to renew the Pay as you Go balance to renew it and prevent it to expire
So based on the Tello representative, it would appear by this response that you cannot carry forward the unused credit after 90 days even if you have a monthly plan. Is this a change by Tello?

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Chris, I think the customer service rep is misinformed, which unfortunately can happen. We have had the same paygo balances on several of our lines for over a year at least. None of our paygo balances have ever expired. They just slowly go down as we use them for voice minutes (which isn't very much). We have monthly data plans, so we make a payment every month, which I think is all that Tello is looking for. Based on our experience (and based on all of the real world experiences I have read about), as long as you maintain any kind of monthly plan, each monthly payment counts as a "new order", and your paygo balance will not expire. The only people who have had their paygo balances expire are people who do not maintain a monthly plan and thus have no regular order activity on their account.
By the way, texts are free with any monthly plan, so if you have a data plan, you get free texts. You only need the paygo balance to cover voice minutes.

Reply by Chris
Hi Steve, thanks for your quick response. I just made a referral for my wife to get her own Tello sim. So, when I get my $10. credit plus a previous credit, I am going to try the pay as you go idea. Wish me luck. Chris

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Chris, I'll gladly wish you luck on this, but I don't think you'll need it. I'm 99% certain that as long as you have a monthly plan, your paygo will never expire. I'm happy to hear you're bringing another person (your wife) into the Tello family! Steve

Comment by Dawn on Thursday, March 10, 2022
Thanks for the info. The taxes and fees are amazingly low, much lower than what I'm used to.
Everyone who has read to this point, I can't stress enough how much you can save switching to Tello EVEN IF YOU FIND ANOTHER COMPANY'S PLAN WITH THE SAME MONTHLY PRICE. I was paying $4+ just in taxes on a $12.50 plan at Republic Wireless. Speaking of taxes, it appears that in my state if you have a data plan and minutes, the taxes are less than if you have a data only plan. Maybe Tello categorizes part of the monthly rate as internet, which in my state has no sales tax below $25. I don't know. In comparison, the PayGo amount has the usual sales tax. This means that for people who use 100+ minutes a month, it may be cheaper to get a data + minutes plan than it is to get the data only plan and use PayGo. We're not talking a lot of money, but for those of us who are pushing the savings envelope, every penny counts.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Dawn, Thanks for commenting! It's interesting that you are reporting in your state, data only plans get taxed, and maybe even more that data plus minutes plans. In California, data only plans are tax free. I guess it's important to check for your state if data only plans get taxed and if adding minutes to your plan actually saves on taxes. That would be strange, but with the government and taxes, things don't always make sense. Fortunately, it's easy to check with Tello since you can pick a plan and add it to your cart to see what the taxes on it would be for your zip code, and then delete it and add a different plan to see what that plan would charge for taxes. In addition, as you point out, regardless, Tello charges significantly less for taxes and fees compared to other service providers. Good to hear you've joined Tello!

Reply by Dawn
Gah, I said it wrong: Data + Minutes plans are taxed less than Minutes-only plans (and also PayGo payments). Can't tell you how many times I rewrote that, and then I still got it wrong.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Dawn, Well, that makes a bit more sense, that a minutes only plan would be fully taxed, and adding data could actually reduce the taxes because the data portion of the plan is not supposed to be taxed (since it qualifies as "internet" which is not supposed to be taxed). In any event, the great thing about Tello is that you can create a new monthly plan and add it to your cart to see what the taxes and fees on it would be, and then if you don't like it, you can just delete that plan (and never actually place the order). This allows you to check all sorts of combinations of plans to see what works best. I still think the best way to go long term is to get a data only plan (which is tax free) and then also manually renew it each month so your unused data gets saved and rolled forward. Then buy a $20 paygo credit (and pay the tax on it) and then use that paygo balance to cover any minutes you need for talking on your phone. Of course, in the beginning, a new customer may want to just get a monthly plan with data and minutes to see what they think of Tello service, and then if they're are happy with it, when it's time for their monthly renewal, they can buy a paygo credit and then switch to a tax-free data only plan. Tello offers a lot of flexibility, which is great. And even when you are paying taxes and fees, as you noted, they are very low compared to other service providers. Thanks again for commenting! 

Comment by Sam Fodler on Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Hello. I bought a Tello sim card from Amazon ($2 vs. $10 from the Tello website). Can I still use your referral code to get the $10 credit? Or does that only work when ordering a new sim from Tello? Thanks!

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Sam, Yes, you can still use my referral code when you sign up for Tello and you'll get a $10 credit. You can use this link (Get a $10 credit when you sign up) when you're ready to sign up and it will autofill my referral code. You can also use the link at the top of my post to get 15% off on your first month of service.
Buying the sim in advance from Amazon just means that when you sign up with Tello and order a monthly plan, you'll be asked if you need a sim, and instead of saying yes and waiting for one in the mail from Tello, you can indicate you already have a Tello sim and then you'll enter the sim serial number and be able to start your service right away.
Also, I think Tello may have charged more for the sim card on their website in the past, but I just checked and the sim card is only $2 if you get it from Tello when you order your service (and when they runs specials it's often included for free). So you can order a sim in advance from Amazon, or order it from Tello when you sign up and order your service, but either way it should be the same price ($2). Thanks for your comment and question! Steve

Comment by HD on Saturday, April 15, 2023
Hi Steve, I've been looking for a cheap way to get a legit mobile phone number I can use to set up PayPal and Venmo for a small nonprofit group that's really frugal (see: "small" and "nonprofit"!) and your post gave me the confidence to try Tello. Tello's pay-as-you-go option caught my eye initially, but thanks to all the details you provided, I opted for the 500MB/no voice monthly service plus the Tello SIM and a new Tello number to go on a Samsung Galaxy that was donated to the group for this purpose. I'll keep you posted on whether it works or not - seems like lots of people have trouble with Venmo/PayPal and their MVNO or VOIP phone numbers, so this little experiment could be of interest to others. Meanwhile, I thought I'd drop a note to thank you for the great post and back-and-forth in the comments. I appreciate it! -HD

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi HD, Thanks for your comment. Tello's cheapest $5/month plan is an easy way to have a real (non-VOIP) phone number. I'm glad you read my section on Tello's PayGo so you knew that wouldn't work (without also having a monthly plan). Great to hear that you are trying Tello and hope it works out for you and your nonprofit group. Thanks for commenting!

Comment by Jonna on Thursday, April 27, 2023
Thank you for all the helpful information about Tello. I'm still confused on one issue: the expiration date of the SIM card. I understand that 1) you must activate your SIM card within 30 days of receiving it and 2) if you don't add to your pay as you go or have a monthly plan, your number will be deactivated after a period of time and the SIM card will expire. But I also read that the SIM card will expire in two years, but don't understand why that would happen on an active account. Have I misunderstood this? Or can you provide additional context for this? Thank you!

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Jonna, When you order service directly from Tello (which is what I recommend), they will issue you a phone number (unless you want to use your existing number) and then send you a sim card, which you must start using (activate) within 30 days. Once you start using it, as long as you keep your account active by maintaining a monthly plan (or adding to your paygo balance), the sim will never expire (as long as the account is active). If you order a sim card from Amazon though, I have heard the sim card may expire after two years if you never order service and never activate it, but once you start using a sim card with Tello service, it is good for as long as you have their service. Hope this helps explain things! Thanks for commenting.

Comment by Dawn on Thursday, December 07, 2023
Good news, Tello just dropped the price/upped the data on its plans. Unlimited everything is now $25. Only down side I see is that the hotspot limit on that plan is down to 5GB. However, there's an unlimited talk/text with 15GB of data for $24, and it looks like you can use the whole amount for a hotspot; if confirmed, that's a nice alternative.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Dawn, Thanks for commenting. I agree the new Telllo price drop is great news! As my son texted me, "Bro Tello is goated. How is it cutting prices rn?!?! Everything so expensive. Tello is the Costco hot dog of the phone plan industry!" Per your comment, I wasn't aware of any hotspots limits. I'll have to look into it. I sometimes use my Tello account as a hotspot and have never had any issues, but probably don't use that much data that way. Thanks again for commenting!

Comment by Danno on Friday, December 22, 2023
I did not find the reliable "RENEW NOW" hot button on the website for mobile dashboard page for my account when I did my manual renewal today. However, the "CHANGE PLAN" hotbutton does do the same thing and my unused data did roll over. From experience, I know that the 'warning' about my current plan being 'canceled' only means that if I have a day or days left on the current plan I would lose them. I also know that if I hit that sweet spot between midnight and 4 am Eastern time on my renewal date I will lose nothing. Thank you Samsung alarm clock app with selectable dates and 30 day repeat.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Danno, Thanks for your comment. I checked my two different plans. One had the "renew now" button but one did not. Interesting. But both had "change plan" which, as you point out, does the same thing. Thanks for the Samsung alarm clock app suggestion to prompt manual renewal every 30 days so one can keep their rollover data. I always check "send me a reminder email" when I renew but it's good to have the alarm clock app reminder as a back up.

Comment by Dawn on Tuesday, December 26, 2023
Regarding the hotspot limit, all of the plans except for the unlimited data plan would let you use all of your data as a hotspot, and it looks like that is continuing. The only other change I've found has to do with throttling. Throttling is now gone on the 1-15GB data plans (it's a hard cap now, darn it!), and the throttle speed on the unlimited data plan is a little faster.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Dawn, Thanks for the updated information!

Comment by Kim on Wednesday, January 03, 2024
Steve, As the New Year rolls around, it's good to see you're still here. Some changes to Tello worth noting: Yes, they've doubled the data allotments for the lesser plans. But at the same time, except for the unlimited plan, they no longer offer a throttling down to 2G when you max out. Instead, your data will just STOP! You might want to update this under your TELLO Pros and Cons/Unlimited Data. Also, rollover with manual renewal is no longer a hidden policy. I don't know when Tello added it, but I just noticed that they DO now spell it out in their help section. It's nice to finally see it in print. Happy New Year!

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Kim, Good to hear from you again, and to hear you're still with Tello too. I can't believe I've been using Tello for seven years now! That's the longest I've ever been with any cellular service provider. I've had Cingular, AT&T, TMobile, Republic Wireless, and FreedomPop in the past (that I remember) and always eventually found a reason to change, but I've never found a better overall cellular plan than Tello (especially the low cost). Thanks again for stopping by, and Happy New Year to you too!


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