Tag Archives | cell phone

Saving Money With Movistar Prepago

I had previously posted instructions about how to add credit to your Movistar pre-paid mobile phone via credit card, but I thought now would be a good time to talk about how to save some money on using your pre-paid cell phone plan.  While I am covering Movistar in particular, these tips also apply to the other carriers here as well (Claro, Personal, etc.) albeit with slightly different instructions.

First, let me give you some background… Pre-paid (“prepago”) cell phone service is pretty much the only option for foreigners in Argentina. To get a regular monthly mobile plan, one needs to have a DNI and residency which most expats do not.  I have been told that the residency also needs to be permanent and not temporary, which further complicates things.

The problem with pre-paid service is that it is relatively expensive. With Movistar pre-paid, calls to Movistar numbers are $0,99 (US $0.25) per minute, calls to non-Movistar numbers are $1,98 (US $0.51) per minute and SMS messages are $0,43 (US $0.11) each. These charges add up quickly, but luckily there are some options to help you save some money.

The best option for saving some money are the weekly promotions from Movistar. These promotions are sent via text message to your cell phone and usually offer to double (and sometimes triple) any credit that you add to your phone that day only. While I initially thought these promotional texts were annoying (mostly because they are in Spanish and I could not understand them), I now add credit every time they come.  When there is a triple credit day, I always add the maximum credit that is allowed because the promotion is so good.

The next way to save some money is to know about the “crédito de regalo” (gift credit) that Movistar gives you for adding certain amounts.  These gift credits currently are $15 if you charge $30, $20 if you charge $40, $25 if you charge $50 and $50 if you charge $100 or more. Also, if you charge $30 or more, you get a 50% discount off the price of calling other Movistar numbers, bringing it to $0,50 (US $0.13) per minute.

Another way to save money is to look at the services you use and to pre-buy packages for those services.  To do this, you send a text message to a particular number.  The current packages are:

  • Send “SMS” to 2345 to receive 3000 text messages to use over 3 days – $10
  • Send “Minutos” to 2345 to receive 40 minutes of calling to other Movistar numbers for 3 days – $10
  • Send “Free” to 2345 to place calls for free to one other Movistar number to use over 5 days – $10
    (you must register the number after you buy this by sending a text to 5000 with “ALTA ##########” where the #’s are the number you want to call)
  • Send “Fijos” to 6789 to receive 40 minutes of calling to “land line” phones in the same long distance code as your mobile to use over 3 days – $10
  • Send “MMS” to 2345 to receive 20 MMS messages to use over 7 days – $9
  • Send “LDI” to 6789 to receive 10 minutes of international calling plus 10 international texts (Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru only) to use over 3 days – $10
  • Send “Datos” to 2345 to receive 1 GB of data to use over 2 days – $10

You can buy as many packages as you want and use them in combination. You can also buy the same package and they will extend automatically.  You can get more information on these packages by going to the Movistar web site, selecting: Planes -> Movistar Prepago -> Paquetes.

Hopefully these tips help you save some money.  Let me know if you have any other tips or tricks.

UPDATE (2/16/11): Movistar has increased some prices and reduced the number of minutes, which I updated below.

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Buenos Aires Tips: How To Add Credit To Your Movistar Phone

Movistar Instructions in EnglishAfter being here a year, things become a lot easier (trust me), but I remember how difficult it was to figure out how to do so many simple things when I first got here.  One of those things was adding credit to my pre-paid Movistar phone. (As a foreigner, you cannot get a cell phone plan here, so you must use the “pre-pago” service.)  A big problem, of course, was my lack of being able to speak or understand Spanish.  So, hopefully this English guide to adding credit to your Movistar phone will help some of you out.

Let me start by saying, the easiest way for me personally to add credit has just been to charge it to my US credit card.  I know that it is possible to buy Movistar credits at the kioscos and charge it that way, but I like the convenience of being able to do it from wherever I am.  Hopefully we can get some people to comment on what works for them or how they do it with other mobile services.

Ok, so on to Movistar.  Here’s the steps:

  1. Dial *444 from your mobile phone. You will hear an automated voice announcing some promotions and then asking for input.
  2. Press 2 to begin the recharge process. (Press 1 to hear your current available credit.)
  3. Press 2 to charge to a credit card. (Press 1 to charge to a Movistar card.)
  4. Wait a second for it to connect and you’ll the be prompted to enter your credit card number followed by the # sign. Do that.
  5. They repeat the credit card number back to you.  Press 1 if correct, 2 if incorrect.
  6. You’re next asked for the security code (4 digit for American Express, 3 digit for Visa/MasterCard) followed by the # sign. Enter that.
  7. They repeat the security code back to you.  Press 1 if correct, 2 if incorrect.
  8. You’re then prompted to enter the 2-digit month and the 2-digit year for the credit card expiration. (No # sign at the end this time.) Enter it.
  9. They repeat the expiration date back to you.  Press 1 if correct, 2 if incorrect.
  10. You are now prompted to choose what you want to charge.  Press 2 to specify an amount to charge your credit card.
  11. Enter the amount to charge to your account followed by the number sign.
  12. They now repeat the amount, the credit card and expiration date information back to you.Press 1 if correct, 2 if incorrect.
  13. Wait a few seconds.  They will confirm the charge and disconnect the call. You should get a text message stating your new balance. Please note that this new balance may not include any double-credit promotions.  You may get that as an additional text.
  14. That’s it!  You did it.

Another thing to realize is that Movistar will send a number of promotions throughout the week to your mobile phone.  This is usually the best time to recharge, as they often give double credit when you recharge and occasionally triple credit.  After you recharge, they will send a number of texts with additional promotions too, such as free SMS for a day, free calling to another Movistar number for 7 days, etc.

So, anyone else have any tips or instructions for other carriers?

UPDATE: I’ve added a new post about how to save money using Movistar pre-pago.  You may find that useful as well.

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UPDATE: Setting Up Telephone and Cell Phone Service

Since I wrote about setting up phone and cell phone service, I’ve had a few updates that I wanted to share. First of all, I was able to get T-Mobile to waive the early cancellation penalty on the one phone. All it took was a friendly customer service rep (CSR), a fax specifying the details of the move (which turned out to be an email thread back and forth with the landlord), and a week’s worth of calls to follow-up. Definitely worth it to save the $200 penalty.  Next week, just before I leave, I’ll switch the number over to pre-paid service.

As for the other phone, it turns out I’m not going to be giving up my Blackberry for a simpler life just yet.  I’ll be turning on international service for the Blackberry for an additional $19.99/month which includes unlimited email. However, to avoid charges for incoming calls, even if I forward them to voice mail, I’ll need to turn on “Unlimited Call Forwarding.” The CSR told me that they can turn it on and it will allow up to 500 minutes of call forwarding. Any minutes over that will incur the normal per minute charge. I’ll set that up to forward to my Vonage line to make sure I’m not missing anything.

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Setting Up Telephone and Cell Phone Service

Setting up phone service when you moved out of the country used to be a lot more complex. With the Internet and voice-over-ip services, everything is pretty simple.

Telephone: Vonage
I’ve had a Vonage phone number in the NYC (212) area code for almost four years now and it’s moved wherever I’ve gone. I’m keeping this number in Buenos Aires so that friends and family can contact me by dialing a US number, and I can make unlimited calls to the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. I signed up for a year of service in advance for $239.99 (about $20 per month). With Vonage, I can also add unlimited calling to a number of other countries including Argentina for $6/month. Unfortunately, this does not apply to cell phone numbers, which mostly operate on the calling party pays system. Calls to cell phones cost $.21/minute, so I won’t be forwarding my missed Vonage calls to my cell phone as I did in the US.

I’ve also read that a number of people have used Skype, so you may want to check that out. I’ve been a long time Vonage subscriber and have been happy with the service. If you decide to sign up for service, contact me for a referral and we’ll both get up to 2 months of free service.

Cell Phone: T-Mobile
I have read that electronics can be expensive and outdated in Argentina and the best thing to do is to bring your US cell phone with you (provided it is quad-band). Then, buy a pre-paid local SIM card to use in your existing phone. Since I have a Blackberry Pearl and have been pretty happy with it, that’s what I’m doing. The first thing I needed to do was call T-Mobile and get the unlock code for my phone. The unlock code is needed to allow your phone to work on a different network than the one where you purchased your phone.  They were surprisingly helpful and told me that I would have the unlock code and instructions in an email within 24 hours. Sure enough, by the next morning I had the code and instructions for unlocking my phone.

Luckily, my T-mobile phone was out of contract, so there were no termination fees for me to pay.  I was very attached to my (917) number though and wanted to keep it.  I had three options:

  1. Transfer it over to Vonage and tie it into my exisitng account as a virtual phone number for $4.99 per month
  2. Transfer it over to Vonage as a new account or a second line on my existing account for $14.99 – $24.99 per month
  3. Switch it with T-Mobile from a monthly account to a pre-paid account and only pay for what I used

I decided that Option 3 worked best for me. I could keep my number and also have a SIM card and phone to use when I take trips back to the US, plus there is no monthly fee to pay. I can also set my voicemail message to let people know what my Vonage number is if they want to reach me. Unfortunately, you cannot set up your pre-paid numbers to forward to your Vonage phone number as you can with a regular cell phone plan.

For some more reading, Wikipedia has a good article on telephone numbers in Argentina.

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