Jonathan Pagan is a pretty awesome guy. When he’s not at work helping others as a Physician, he’s helping them out online! Jonathan enjoys talking about personal finance and is constantly lending his expertise to the great folks over at r/Frugal.
Recently, he decided he was fed up with paying a $160 monthly phone bill and researched many MVNO’s to determine the best option for his family’s usage patterns. In a reddit thread (and subsequent follow-up post), he outlined his findings and generated a healthy discussion on the best mobile rates available to Americans.
We had a chance to chat with Jonathan about his thoughts on Ting, the current mobile industry and more!
Q: How did you find out about Ting?
A: Over the last few months I’ve been doing my best to shore up our family’s finances, and the important first step was setting up a detailed budget. Once I had done that, there was no avoiding the glaring $160 a month that we were spending on two iPhones. We did our best to cut where we could, but no matter what we did that $160 line on our budget for cell phones kept staring at me. After I decided I’d had enough I began my quest to find something better! Thankfully, the internet has a lot of information. I spent many, many hours searching for alternatives, and couldn’t more thankful to have stumbled on Ting on the list of MVNO’s I found on Wikipedia.
Q: What first attracted you to Ting?
A: As I worked my way through the list of MVNO’s on Wikipedia, I finally came to Ting’s website. Having looked at many of the alternatives, I knew nearly right away that Ting was different. Clearly, the lack of contracts with Ting is a big plus, but I think the most important aspect for me was the unique way of paying for service. I had no idea that there was a company that allowed me to only pay for what I used without overcharging me! For us, the flexible way of purchasing service with Ting had two big benefits: First, no matter what we’d never pay for something we weren’t using and by doing this we would reduce waste in our budget. Secondly, it provided incentives for us to use our cell phones less and spend more time interacting with our children, friends and family. These two forces combined so that we get everything we need and want from our phone plans, while improving the quality of our lives.
Q: You first switched from an iPhone on Verizon to a feature phone on Ting. Is there anything specific you’re looking forward to doing with the HTC One that’s on its way to you?
A: I didn’t mention it yet, but one of my favorite things about Ting is the website and the alerts feature. Ting’s web interface is fluid, non-flash based (works on iphones/ipads) and very easy to understand. I was very easily able to set up alerts and limits for each feature (minutes, texts, and data) for each phone on our plan. With the HTC one, I look forward to using alerts to get a better grasp on my data usage as I modify my habits. Additionally, Android, from what I hear, is also extremely configurable and I think a wonderful addition to Ting. Between Ting’s online service, and the ability to modify notifications/wifi/cell data automatically on an Android phone, I think things will get even better.
Q: What would you say to someone who’s hesitant on switching to an MVNO from one of the big four?
A: From speaking with friends and family, I feel like the biggest barrier to entry to MVNO’s is our collective fear of change. The big four are known, and have been around since we all played “snake” on our Nokia handsets. Additionally, their business model has been steady since cell phones came out, which I find frustrating, but I admit is certainly reassuring in its consistency. However, there is a better way! As I read about Ting on their website it occurred to me, “Wait, why hasn’t everybody been doing it this way? This just makes sense.”
Additionally, I think its important to stress that MVNO’s are not their own network. A couple people have asked me, “How do I know how good the Ting network is?” Hopefully, as Ting grows people will learn more and see that the large Sprint* network, which many people feel comfortable with, is what drives Ting’s wonderful service.
Q: How have you found Ting coverage and how important is included (Verizon) voice roaming to you?
A: I work inside a hospital with thick walls, lead, MRI scanners, etc and have actually had better service since switching to Ting. I feel like the Sprint network, which Ting uses, is vast enough that any relatively well populated area will have good signal. That said, many MVNO’s don’t allow roaming, and anytime you lock yourself into only one network I feel like you run the risk of not being able to make a call when you need to. Ting is unique in its voice roaming to Verizon, and this was VERY important to me. This gives me peace of mind, knowing that between the Sprint and Verizon network I will be able to make a call nearly anywhere in the US.
Q: What’s your take on contracts?
A: Contracts make me nuts. From a technology perspective, I don’t like being locked into a phone for two years. What if a new phone comes out before I’m eligible for an upgrade? Too bad. From a financial perspective, they hide the extremely high costs of the big four. It is freeing to be on Ting now, and know exactly what I’m paying. I think it can be hard for people to stomach the thought of spending $600 on a phone, but I’d really encourage everyone to make a simple spreadsheet. Compare $600 plus 24 months of your expected Ting Service, to the alternative $200 plus 24 months on the big four. For nearly everyone, 98% of the US per Ting’s research, you’ll save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on Ting. For example, over 2 years we will be saving over $1000 dollars!
Q: Any great customer service experiences with Ting you’d be willing to share?
A: There was some confusion with an address discrepancy when I was signing up for service, and when I called customer service I reached a human nearly instantly, who was friendly, and resolved the issue in minutes. When I called Verizon to deal with the ending of our contract I didn’t reach a human for nearly 10 minutes. I’m sure I’d have more great Ting customer service stories, but the website is so all inclusive I find I can nearly always take care of any issue instantly online.
Q: Where would you like to see Ting improve?
A: The only thing I can possibly think of would be either further breakdown of the buckets (Although, I think where they are is pretty darn good).
Q: Outside of your obvious referral success on reddit, how easy has it been to encourage friends and family to switch?
A: So it has been semi-challenging, but not for the obvious reasons. When I finish telling people about Ting nearly everyone says the same thing, “That sounds amazing! But ugh, I just signed a new 2 year contract.” Our friends and family live in constant fear of the ETF, or early termination fee. However, I persist and am trying to convince people that it may actually be worth it to pay the ETF and switch to Ting. For example, we paid over $300 dollars in termination fees from Verizon, but because our cell phone bill decreased by over $130 we will break even in 2.5 months, and then be saving that much each month!! Multiply that by 24 months and you get some serious savings.
*If you’re interested in our ETF promotion, check out the Ting ETF Page!
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
A: Ting is an incredible value, but not for everyone. I have a great deal of respect for Ting, because with their savings calculator they are honest when your usage patterns may not benefit from their service model. However, for the 98% of us that can save money on Ting, I encourage you to give it a try. I know its a pain, and can be unsettling to leave the Big four, but rest assured that you will still have cell signal all the time, will still call your family, surf the web and text, and the only difference you will notice is having more money each month. My parting advice would be to make a spreadsheet. If you can save money by paying a termination fee, like we did, I’d highly suggest you do it because finances are a long term game, and the sooner you get onto Ting, the better off you’ll be in the long run!
Thanks again to Jonathan for helping spread the word about Ting and agreeing to speak with us!
* Although Sprint provides Ting subscribers access to
its wireless network and to its wireless services, Ting is responsible to the Ting subscribers for the service. Please call Ting with any questions or comments about services.
* Sprint is a trademark of Sprint Nextel.