There are several ways to get price breaks on your home phone. Here are some of your options.
Traditional Phone Plans
Thrifty home phone service doesn't necessarily begin when you get rid of your carrier. Before you give up, see what options they may have for restricted telephone use -- AT&T, for example, offer phone plans as low as $25 a month in Texas as of June 2015.
Lifeline, a federal program, gives each qualifying household a discount; in 2015 that discount was $9.25 per month on either one cell phone or one landline. You must be on some form of public assistance or have an income of 135 percent of the federal poverty line or less. The discount is greater for customers living on tribal lands. Apply through a local carrier that participates; you can contact your current company or find one on the Companies in My State page of lifelinesupport.org. Some states offer additional discounts.
Prepaid Cell Phones
Home phones can be cell phones if your local signal strength allows. A pay-in-advance plan works a bit like a checking account, except that you must add money to the account periodically -- every month, every three months or every year.
AT&T's GoPhone offers a basic, no-Internet plan for $7 a month to $100 a year, which pays for calls at 10 cents a minute and text messages at 20 cents each. Smartphones run from $35 a month to $60. GoPhones are only a start. You can check out several other options in this article in PC Magazine.
Voice-over-Internet protocol has been around a long time, and its original iffy quality reportedly is no longer the issue it once was.
MagicJack offers full landline replacement for $60 a year for the first year and $35 a year to $100 for five years thereafter. Its magicJackgo device connects your existing high-speed Internet connection to a landline telephone. The magicJackexpress works the same way, but it costs $40 for the first month before you begin a subscription.
You'll need the (free) magicJack app to use a cellphone, but you'll want to add a phone number and mobile-to-mobile texting for $15 a year. As of this writing, magicJack app only works with iPhones and Google Play.
The downside: magicJack is notorious for abysmal customer service, and you'll get nuisance calls from salespeople.
Skype's claim to fame is that you can see your callers' faces from other Skype-enabled devices. You can use Skype on your computer at home or elsewhere, or on a mobile device.
U.S. rates are 2.3 cents a minute plus 4.9 cents per call if you use a prepaid plan, which is called "Skype Credit" even though no credit is involved. But then, Skype's birthplace was Luxembourg, and its website retains some oddities for American users. For example, it has no corporate address, nor is key information on any one service in any one place.
A subscription for unlimited calls within English-speaking North America and Guam costs $3 a month to $30.50 a year. Add Mexican cities and it's $9 a month to $81.50 a year. Worldwide subscriptions are $14 a month to $143 a year.
Subscriptions only handle outbound calls. To get inbound calls, you need a Skype telephone number. Skype won't tell you how much it costs unless you're logged in, but Skype did spill the beans in 2013 in response to a customer's question: It cost $18 a quarter or $60 a year.
- Federal Communications Commission: Lifeline: Affordable Telephone Service for Income-Eligible Subscribers
- Lifeline Support: Universal Service Administrative Company -- Lifeline Support -- Companies in My State
- PC Magazine: The Best Cheap Prepaid Phone Plans You've Never Heard Of; Sascha Segan
- Magic Jack: Magic Jack
- SevOne.com: Resources -- White Paper -- A Guide to Ensuring Perfect VoIP Calls -- 1st graf
- PC Magazine: Encyclopedia -- VoIP
- CorporateOfficeHeadquarters.com: Skype Corporate Headquarters
- Fortune: Skype's long history of owners and also-rans: At an end?; Dan Mitchell
- Skype.com: U.S. and Canada Subscription Rates
- Skype.com: Rates to United States
- Skype Community: Cost for Skype Number
- ATT: GoPhone® Plans - No Credit Check, Prepaid Phone Plans