Update: added note about BYOP option. Tello, a MVNO using the Sprint network, is running a sale for new customers (if you are an existing Tello PAYGO customer, check to see if you qualify) that ends today. You can learn more about it at BestMVNO: https://bestmvno.com/tello/tellos-4th-of-july-sale-could-get-you-a-free-month-of-service/. It’s up to $17.76 credit for your first billing cycle; if you order a plan that’s less than $17.76, then you only get the first billing cycle free.
Tello gives you the option to BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone) – go to https://tello.com/bring_your_own_phone and see if your phone qualifies and if you need a SIM card. Alternatively, you can purchase a phone from Tello.
Tello offers two ways you can sign up: PAYGO (Pay As You Go) or monthly plans (actually 30-day plans, but that seems to be the norm for many cell companies these days). With the plans, you choose how many many minutes and data you want – ranges from 0 minutes or data to unlimited talk minutes and up to 10 GB data. If you go with data, once you run out of data for the billing cycle, you are restricted to 2G data for the rest of the cycle. With PAYGO, you purchase x amount of credit ($10 minimum) and the cost for using talk, text, or data is as follows: talk 3¢ /min; SMS text 1¢; SMS Data 2¢ /MB (U.S. customers; outside the U.S. the cost varies). You can set it to auto-renew ($10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 – you choose the amount) once you balance drops below $2.00. You can also set PAYGO data defaulted to off. This will save you from running up 2¢ /MB which can add up quickly. I have my Tello phone set up as a PAYGO to off as I generally use my Tello phone as a back-up and only use Wi-Fi access on it. With PAYGO, you need to use it at least once in a 6 month period for either talk, text, or data or you get shut off. I receive a text from a chain fast-food restaurant weekly and that keeps my phone active.
One thing Tello offers is a referral code; if somebody uses your referral code to successfully order with Tello, both the referrer and the person using the code get $10 credit with Tello. In my case, my referral code is P3GHPSR1 (DISCLOSURE: if you use it for a successful order, you and I both get $10 credit).
Tello lets you pay with credit/debit cards or using PayPal.
For regular plans, data ranges from no data, 200 MB $7 to 10 GB $34/billing cycle; once you exceed your LTE limit, it depends on if you have PAYGO data turned off. If turned off, you are restricted to 2G for the remainder of the billing cycle; otherwise you are charged at the 2¢ /MB PAYGO rate. Texts are free if you have a plan with talk minutes. In theory, you could go with no talk minutes (free), but I haven’t heard of anybody going this route. Otherwise, talk minutes are 100 minutes $5 to unlimited talk minutes for $11/billing cycle which is only $1 more than 500 minutes. I don’t remember what the minimum bill allowed for those on a plan, but it will default to the minimum if you try an amount below the minimum. In a quick check, it looks like they upped the minimums so you won’t go below what they set as minimums.
You can switch between PAYGO and plan at any time and any unused PAYGO credit will stay on your account. It will be used if you exceed whatever talk or data limits you set on your plan. With the plans, you can change the limits as needed.