As a very frugal person, I have a prepaid phone plan that costs $100 a year. For the past two years, I've spent roughly $50 of that each year. As long as I renew the plan with another $100 every year, I can carry over the unused balance.

But there's a hitch; if I only used half of the balance one year, I'm not likely to vary that dramatically. I was talking with a friend of mine who had a Virgin prepaid plan and lamented that he had accrued quite a balance this way over a few years and decided it was a ripoff. I understand the sunk costs fallacy, though maybe not why he decided it was enough to change providers.

I'm comfortable with writing off 50 dollars a year, but I'm wondering if there's any good way to cash my balance out, or at least put it to a better cause than T-Mobile's bottom line. I hear about some places using minutes as currency and I'm wondering: is there anything now or on the horizon in the US that might let me cash out the unused balance?

3 Answers 3


If you are using T-mobile you don't have to put $100 in each year to keep your minutes for a year. Once you spend $100 you get a year with any additional minutes you buy. Buying them $100 at a time is the cheapest way - but when you renew you can renew with only $50 or $30 and you have a year to use them from the last time you bought.

I did this this year - only put $50 on each phone because we don't use $100 worth in a year.

  • Of course, the marginal rate is less attractive at 50 dollars.
    – jldugger
    Commented Jan 9, 2011 at 2:44
  • harmanjd - Do you have a link to the T-mobile "plans" that offer the year expiry of credit (Can't seem to find this info on their website)? Also, does this/these "plan(s)" require the purchase of a new cellphone, or could an existing one be used?
    – user66001
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 5:09
  • 1
    T-Mobile has been juggling their prepaid plan definitions, so what's available today may be different from the legacy plans some of us are on.
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 7:53

I've found you can give the money to charity. If you text REDCROSS to 90999 for example you can give $10 to the redcross

  • +1, great suggestion. I had a prepaid phone with an excess balance, and this is what I did. Took a tax deduction for it as well. I found that I could only use a code a few times before it would quit working for me, so I had to choose several charities to get rid of the whole balance.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 12:49

I typically only purchase $10-$20 for each of our phones yearly as we do not use them very much. The first year, I purchased $100 for each, but after that, any amount will continue service for a year and you keep/roll over any unused minutes. Can't beat $$20-$60 per year for two phones...I just wish their coverage was much better in rural areas. I wish Verizon offered the same deal as their coverage is superior in Ohio.

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