I have spent a lot of time researching the most inexpensive phone plans out there. It's become a bit of both an obsession and a hobby for me, since I travel so much. Getting cellular data and voice access in a somewhat remote place like my summer house in Washington State -- and saying adios to Comcast --- has been a big impetus.
For years, I got by with a voice-only plan from Verizon. I bought a Samsung Gusto 2 flip phone from Walmart, which was a Verizon phone. I paid $10 a month (paying $30 every three months) and I got Verizon's voice service, which is the best, widest cell phone network in the US. That worked out to be $120 per year. I am not sure if this plan is still available. I know that the phones are no longer readily available (seniors like these phones because they are simple). Puppy Wireless is selling this phone for $100. I have one that I can sell to anyone for $25.
My wife had an AT&T GoPhone for years, which was $25 per quarter. Calls cost 10 cents per minute, as did texts. This phone and AT&T service were OK, but the service did not work at my summer house in Olympia, and other places where Verizon's network came in strong. One great thing about the AT&T GoPhone was that it worked (most of the time, but inconsistently) in Mexico this past February.
About nine months ago, I stumbled onto a couple of tips on phone forums. One forum recommended Kitty Wireless, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) which provides Verizon service under its own plans. Kitty Wireless started a new branch of their service, called Puppy Wireless. They have an annual plan for Verizon 3G phones only that costs $80 per year.
I use the plan only for voice calls, but in a pinch, I can always use the data capability on the plan. $80 per year gives me 2000 minutes, or 166 minutes per month -- plenty for me. I use my FreedomPop phones for all applications where I need data -- Gmail, Waze, GasBuddy, Yelp, etc.
I discovered this tip: To see if a phone or hotspot uses Verizon towers: enter the zip code of 27016. This town only has Verizon towers so any other provider will not work there.
Moto E phones that are CDMA capable (eg, Verizon 3G capable) will work on Puppy Wireless' annual plan. I bought two Moto E phones from Straight Talk, and they work just great on this annual plan. They are great little phones. The voice quality is great, and the ability to use them on the Verizon network is awesome. The battery life is great also -- I carry these phones in my backpack and only have to charge them once a week or so.
The Moto E phones can be so inexpensive that I bought another two to use as music (mp3) players. I just bought another one from Page Plus. Page Plus is a Verizon MVNO, so their Moto E phones that they are selling now for $10 should work on the Puppy Wireless plan, above.
Check this deal out at: