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Pay As You Go Cell Phones For Kids

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Finally, my mc has a cell phone, but it's one of those where his mom has to pay to put the minutes on.
Yes, I've browsed these plans on line, but I'm looking for real stories about how these things work -- or don't

Do you or your kids have this kind of cell phone? Exactly how do these things work? Do your kids run out of minutes often? How much bother is it to get more minutes on it? I'm guessing that incoming calls also take up the minutes, right?

The whole running out of cell phone minutes thing is crucial to the climax.

 :thankyou
#1 - October 02, 2012, 03:09 AM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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I have an ATT Gophone with unlimited text, calls, and internet. It is $50 a month plus tax.  I have no problem with it. I pay monthly via credit card. My attraction to it was the 'no contract' aspect. I also have the ability to drop the rate (and the perks) at the end of the pay period.
My daughter also has a similar phone. When she was younger, we had a contract with ATT with limited minutes. She ran up an incredible bill and didn't have a phone for a year until she matured a bit.   
#2 - October 02, 2012, 04:27 AM

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Thanks. Are there any phones that simply "run out of minutes" and become unusable? What happens on a pre-paid phone if you go over your minutes ... is it an additional charge?

Hmmm ... maybe I should have him running out of battery charge instead of minutes.

#3 - October 02, 2012, 04:56 AM
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My daughters have them.  I don't know about the running out of minutes end of things because they only ever use them when they're staying after school for drama practice and need to call to be picked up, but the ones we have (Tracfone) can be renewed every one, three, six, or twelve months with any number of minutes you want to pre-buy...I would guess, though, that if you run out of minutes, your phone would stop working, because you don't need to have a credit card to own one of these to which an over-run could be charged--you can buy the prepaid time cards anywhere like Walmart and add them on.

But yeah--I agree that just running out of batteries is probably the easiest and most "identifiable" thing to do--who hasn't forgotten to recharge their phone at some point?
#4 - October 02, 2012, 05:09 AM
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Oooh... THANK YOU MARISSA .... that sounds exactly like what I need. Yeah, I'd prefer for it to be minutes over batteries ... it fits the plot better and adds more tension ... and ties in with my characters obsession with keeping up with the time of day.

#5 - October 02, 2012, 05:13 AM
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I suppose the other thing that could happen is that the credit card that is supposed to automatically be charged to add more minutes gets shut down. That would only work if you want the mother to have financial problems.
#6 - October 02, 2012, 05:19 AM
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Nope, I really need for it to be plausible for him to totally run out of minutes ... and for incoming calls to keep diminishing that .. I really need a beat the clock sort of scenario ... as this all figures in with the rescue of a kidnapped friend.

The mother does have financial problems -- she gets fired due to mc's actions --- but I'm not sure that would fit well ... he doesn't get the cell phone until near the end of the story. Situations are heating up, and he's given one for safety.

So yes, any type of cell phone that could run out of minutes and suddenly be unusable .. that's what I'm looking for ... and trying to determine the feasibility of this plot line.
#7 - October 02, 2012, 05:32 AM
« Last Edit: October 02, 2012, 06:24 AM by Lill »
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

I'm sure you know this, but incoming calls only use up your pre-paid minutes if you actually answer them. 

You can always buy more minutes via your phone (the call to the company to buy the minutes is free--or you might have a 'buy minutes' button), so make sure he doesn't have a credit card hooked up to the account (or access to another credit card in hand).

Also, I believe any of those phones that run out of minutes can still call 911, minutes or not.  Just thought I'd throw that out there.
#8 - October 02, 2012, 06:52 AM

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As someone whose only cell phone is a Tracfone, I agree with Marissa--they can definitely and finally run out! They can stop if you have no more minutes on the phone. They can stop if the battery runs out (my battery doesn't keep a charge very long--but I'm trying to use up my minutes first because while I can buy another physical phone and transfer the phone number, it won't transfer the minutes I've put on it). They can also stop if you have plenty of minutes but no more time on your phone term--so say you buy 90 minutes and three months' worth of phone use--you've used three minutes for calling your mom to pick you up, and you forget to renew your "contract"--then, even with 87 minutes remaining, you can wake up and find your phone doesn't work because you didn't renew it. (Well, I assume so--I've never actually done that, but I get warnings about it.)
#9 - October 02, 2012, 06:58 AM

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Thanks!  I'll do more research on the Tracfone -- and pattern his phone on something like it --- that's exactly the kind of thing I need to happen.

I was drafting this in the wee hours ... and realized a phone running out of minutes was EXACTLY what I needed to happen .. but wasn't sure how feasible it was.
#10 - October 02, 2012, 07:27 AM
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We bought our first cell phone because we were moving across the country last year and bought the prepaid minutes. It's easy to add minutes if you are running out, but now that we are settled, I pay $10 for 30 min for 3 months. It's basically an emergency phone to keep in the car ... I have yet to run out of minutes but the thing has been dead when I wanted to call. It's not a biggie for me, but now I check it at least once a week to make sure it's not going to be dead.

I think a teenager can very easily run out of min and not have enough money to charge it. However, if the thing is charged up, I believe you can still call 911 in an emergency.

Good luck plotting.
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#11 - October 02, 2012, 08:55 AM
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Just popping in to say that I personally had Verizon Pay as you Go for a long time because I used my phone so seldom. I ran out of minutes ALL the time, because I forgot to reload. I just switched so I wouldn't have to remember, but yes, you can run out of minutes. You can still dial 911 even when out of minutes, don't know if that makes a difference...
#12 - October 02, 2012, 09:01 AM
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Oooh ... this is good to know, how exactly minutes run out and what not. My character would not be inclined to call 911 because he thinks he can fix the situation himself and getting the law involved likely means more trouble for him. But it's good to know that option is there. Actually, at the time he isn't aware of the danger. His friend is being forced by the kidnappers to call him in order to lure him into a trap.

Excellent info. Thanks a kabillion!
#13 - October 02, 2012, 12:19 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

Another thing, Lill, is that if you bought the smallest amount of minutes per month - I think it was $15 for 30 minutes or something? They'd run out in one month, used or not. If I bought 90 minutes, they'd last for three. So even if I didn't use my minutes up, I'd often "run out" or be out of minutes, because I hadn't put more on. The phone will give you a warning text that you needed to refill, but I usually ignored it (at my own peril!) :)
#14 - October 02, 2012, 12:26 PM
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All good things to know. Thank you, all of you. This is immensely helpful.
#15 - October 02, 2012, 01:07 PM
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I have Tracfone, and they tell you right on the home screen how many minutes and how many service days you have left. They also email me when I get close to the end - I forget, maybe the last 10 days or so. They are sort of hard to actually run out of time on!

But I think they are one of the VERY few with the notification on the home screen; I thought there was one more (Net 10??) that did it.

When I lost my Tracfone, I went with TMobile prepaid for a bit. They did not have this info on the home screen. They sent me ONE text message that I was running out of time, but I don't fuss with texting much - I need an email! Never got one of those. Next thing I know, I'm totally out of time.

At any rate, I can totally see a teen - or ANYONE - losing their phone service on TMobile!
#16 - October 03, 2012, 06:23 PM

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