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HOW  DO  SNOWBIRDS 

CALL  CANADA???

 

Internet Access Too!!!

  


 

Technology is changing... 

Staying in Touch has become so much cheaper and easier.

 

      Recently I received several e-mail asking about the best ways to phone home to Canada while travelling in the United States. Pay phones are disappearing and using Canadian cell phones can be extremely expensive. Since we have used a U.S. Verizon cell phone with international calling at no extra cost for the past eight years, my information on phoning Canada from the U.S. was limited. I had very little personal knowledge about inexpensive calling cards and pay-as-you-go phones.

 

       So, before I tried to write a story, I emailed Snowbirds we communicate with from our Explorer RV Club Luncheons in Texas plus I added a plea to my P&Js weekly diary. To say I was impressed with the numerous responses is an understatement. This is a hot topic and many are waiting to hear the results. Several members use similar methods, but a variety of others have come up with creative ways to connect. We no longer pay or install a landline nor do we carry a Canadian cell phone.  

 

 

 

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 ______________________

CELL PHONES  

 

       The questions I asked included:

What type of phone do you use to call Canada from the U.S.?

Do you use a pay phone or a landline with a calling card? 

Do you use a Canadian cell phone? If so, at what cost?

Do you have a U.S. cell phone? If so, at what cost? Does it include a monthly or pay-as you-go plan?

Do you use a calling card to phone Canada? If so, what is the cost per minute and how much is the initial connect fee?

Is it difficult to find a public phone to make the call?

How do you connect to the Internet when a park does not offer WiFi?

       This column highlights what I received through the numerous e-mails. If your pricing is different for a specific product, I do apologize. I am only sharing thoughts of others. On a scale of one to 10, one user gave it a seven, but not everyone is happy with all systems. Some reported they used a U.S. address of a friend to acquire a phone.

       By far the most popular way respondents seem to connect is via Tracfone.com. Although several have also been dissatisfied with pay-as-you-go phones and moved on to Verizon, AT&T and other cell carriers. However, U.S. phone companies that connect to Bell towers appear to offer more coverage for those of us RVing and moving around on the Canadian side of the border, while phones that piggyback onto Rogers towers at times run into gaps in service.

__________________________________

 

TRACFONE

 

       Rates vary for different people. It pays to shop around - many find Wal*Mart 

prices are the most reasonable

For example:

80 minutes/three months: $30.

 

60 minutes/three months: $20. 

800 minutes/one year: $100.

1,000 min for $150. With "double bonus", this becomes 2,000 minutes and minutes left can be rolled over to another card. Long distance was included in this price.

  • easy to use.

 

 

EXTRA PLUSES

 

 

One user bought double minutes for the life of the phone and calls were 12 cents per minute. Actually many TracFone plans have double minutes and available phones may start as low as $10. You can also buy minutes online or buy a card. 

Last winter, another member purchased a new TracFone, a Motorola Flip, for $9.95 at Wal*Mart. This hands-free set with belt clip included a car and wall charger plus a book for double minutes for the life of the phone and a coupon book good for two years. This gave him extended time. His one-year/800-minute card (now 1,600 minutes) was $99.99. TracFone gives access to 10 toll-free numbers that can be assigned to favourite numbers in Canada. Wal*Mart even set it up.

One more user paid $20 for a similar phone from Wal*Mart. Prices cover a wide range depending on purchase time. Users love the 1-888 number to call Canada and individual toll-free numbers are available on the website for up to 10 individual numbers. 

Text messages sent to another cell phone are just three cents. 

Minute top-ups can be added via the phone or from the website and refill cards are available from Wal*Mart in amounts from 60 to 450 minutes for 90 days double minutes are available. Previous minutes are not lost. 

However with TracFone, during high user times such as mornings, it may be difficult to get through.

 _________________________  

 

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NET10 from Wal*Mart (TracFone and NET10 are the same 

company) Some feel Net10 offers more minutes per shorter time period. 

 

For example

200 minutes/one month: $20

 

300 minutes/one month: $30.

Net10 can be activated for 12 months with 1,000 base minutes and you must call a toll-free number to set up international calling.

___________________________________

 

 

Rates for NET10-To-Go

 

$30 to $40 for 300 minutes plus you can top off with $10 for 300 minutes.

Rates are 15 cents/minute to call Canada and 10 cents/minute for calls within the U.S. The total cost for one user during a 3.5-month period was $120. 

You must purchase phones for specific coverage areas.

 

          There is a downside to both these phones. NET10 consumes extra minutes for long distance and, if used in Canada, service will be terminated. You should buy enough minutes to keep phones active over the summer. Your phone number may have previously belonged to someone else and this could mean several calls come in for wrong numbers. If card minutes run out, you must start over with a new phone.

______________________________

 

Additional choices a few respondents use

 

ZOOM - My friend Robin passed on the savings available 

through Zoom cell  phone service. Its plans begin with reasonable rates, but those who want to  pursue a small business can sign up three friends and enjoys free talk,text, and  Internet For details, visit rboyer.zoommobile.net.

 

AT&T GO PHONE   400 minutes/one year: $100 and 25 

cents/minute is deducted while in use. This is a state-wide phone, meaning all calls are local.

 

 

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CANADIAN CELL PHONES

 

Cell phone plans offered by Bell and Rogers etc can be very costly for use south of the border. Some users paid an additional $2 to $4/minute roaming fee with monthly bills at $400 to $500, even while using a calling card that offered rates of two cents/minute. Fido was not much better. Canadian cell phone use does not seem to be the best choice for anything other than emergencies by the majority who have tried it.

Another minimum plan began at $20. designed for local calls only in Canada. LD rates apply for other Canadian calls and LD plus roaming for all calls in the USA. Even here, they saved it only for emergency calls.

OR a Bell NA 400 plan with 450 minutes for $115.00 extra minutes are $0.30 it includes long distance fees but no additional roaming fees.

One user pays a basic monthly rate of $35.00 plus $40 for roaming. She has had this plan for numerous years. Her usage is light for emergencies only, she doesnt use all of her minutes.

 

  Another RVer uses a Bell Plan for 250 minutes for $100 - their number is a local call for their daughter who looks after their mail.

  On a positive note, one Bell customer used a "10-4 code" to make free calls to his sons cell phone. This method uses no airtime minutes and a fee of $15/month is added to his regular bill. He subscribes to Bell NA plan w/250 minutes for $120.58 (Tx incl). 

Telus North American Plan is $75/month ($86.75 tax incl) for 300 minutes; this plan included an extra 50 min bonus on a two-year contract. Service seems to work well everywhere.

  One reader from Saskatchewan uses SaskTel, a super alternative for him. His U.S. package is an additional $38/month for 300 minutes. It includes a bundle within his home Internet that forwards a message to the SaskTel website where he can retrieve the email. It has great virus protection as well. He keeps his e-mail address to use in the U.S.

_______________________________

 

 

ADDITIONAL TECHNICAL WAYS TO CONNECT

if you have a good High Speed Internet connection

 

SKYPE with or without a video link works well. Recent updates have drastically improved quality. Prices vary here, too. Some companies now sell Skype Cell phones, but I know little about them and I did not receive any responses on Skype Cells.

 

Skype cards are available from Wal*Mart and most users are happy but not all are content with the service. 

Computer-to-computer calls are free while calls to U.S. and Canada phones cost two cents per minute. You can download a free program at Skype.com.

 

Skype cards are available from Wal*Mart and most users are happy but not all are content with the service. 

Computer-to-computer calls are free while calls to U.S. and Canada phones cost two cents per minute. You can download a free program at Skype.com

Skype has additional plans that enable calls worldwide.  One user makes numerous calls to land lines in United Kingdom and Canada at a cost of $138.00/year.

Another called his son in Germany and his mom in Ontario weekly for less than $20 last winter. 

One more called friends with landlines in many countries for $35/year while several paid $3/month to connect to land lines in North America. 

  If sound feedback seems less than perfect, it is suggested RVers use a USB Voice Over Internet Protocol  (VOIP) handset. A headset with microphone is available for minimal cost at Staples helped another user.

Some RVers connect with Skype at in-park computer rooms as well as with a USA Internet stick for their computer.

  Video allows grandparents and kids to feel as if they are in the same room.

  Visit ring2Skype.com to obtain a free local Skype phone number allowing anyone in a selected local area code to call you on Skype for free from a landline or cell phone. Callers can leave a message if the computer is not active.

One user returns calls that come in on their Canadian Solo cell phone with a call on Skype. At times, he uses a calling card when he can find a pay phone.

___________________________________

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MAGIC JACK...

 

 

        Is another option that costs $20/year if you have access to good WiFi. It plugs into your computer and a phone plugs into it. Several responders use Magic Jack. For info, visit magicjack.com where as 30-day free trial may be offered.

 

JITTERBUG

 

 

60 minutes is $20 plus minimal cost for set-up equipment.

200 anytime minutes plus 500 after-hour minutes is $30.00. 

There are no long distance charges and 200 minutes can be carried over month to month, but not the 500 extra minutes. 

Visit jitterbug.com for details  OR

 

A U.S. credit card and address is required, maybe that of a friend or family member.  

You could even use the address from your RV Park.

The telephone is not fancy but the keypad is big and easy to use.

The winter park campsite of this user includes a landline.

 

_____________________________________

easy to use.

 

 

PAY PHONES / CALLING CARDS

 

These can be found in gas stations and most campgrounds have either jacks in computer rooms or pay phones. Sometimes they may be in pool areas.

Time could be limited to 10-minutes so others can use the phone. Frequently they are in constant use.

Some parks provide public phones from which you can make toll-free calls.

_______________________________

 

 

ONESUITE...

 

 One member buys minutes from this service, which offers calls for an additional fee from a pay phone, but not from a land line.

Rates are about two cents/minute for calls to the U.S., Canada and England. These RVers keep the toll-free access on their phone memory and when it is dialed, a Recording reports users balance. Visit onesuite.com for details.

 

______________________________

 

AT&T 

 

Several users installed an AT&T landline with an extra cost of $5/month with long distance rates of five cents/minute to call Canada. 

Last year (2009), AT&T added another $5/month plan for calls within the U.S. at five cents per minute. This user was not happy about the $5 increase.

 

Landline rates are $45 to $50 p/month but phones can be put "on vacation" for $6/month.

Another respondent installs a new AT&T phone each year for $45. For them, if they dont return to their site, the phone is not committed.

 

____________________________

 

 

A YAK card offers a special number code. This is a Canadian home l

andline phone plan that offers many benefits while travelling. 

 

In the U.S., the card can be used at a pay phone at a rate of five cents/minute with no connection costs.

The LD rate to call within Canada is $0.035 to $0.085 cents/minute. Every call is billed at YAK Long Distance best rates and appears on your monthly Yak invoice. 

No need to refill your card. Visit yak.ca for details. 

Inexpensive Internet rates are also part of this plan. 

_____________________________

 

 

BELL CALLING CARD INFO Another has a plan with his 

Canadian  Bell home phone offering unlimited long distance. 

 

From any phone in the U.S., he simply dials 1-800-555-1111 and a voice asks which number he wishes to call from. He then inputs his home number and a password before dialing the number he wishes to reach. Calls are charged to his home-based unlimited long distance plan at no extra cost. 

In 2009 he call-forwarded his inexpensive local US cell phone to his home number and called home using the above method to retrieve messages. This saved him money. Others used this method as well.

 _____________________________

 

PRESIDENTS CHOICE Calling Card ...

 

 

      Offers rates of four cents/minute for calls anywhere in the U.S. and Canada with no connection fee. However, a prepaid Presidents Choice cell phone is costly to use in the U.S. For details visit pctelecom.ca

 _____________________________  

 

CALLING CARD PROS AND CONS

 

Using pay phones with low-cost calling cards stretch cell phone usage if you have limited minutes, however pay phones may be difficult to find in some places.

At times, cards charge costly connection fees, even if the per-minute rate is low. Calling cards work best if saved for a back-up and many respondents look for other options.

Some Snowbirds find long distance cards a bit of a costly pain, especially when they reach a voice message. Calls made at pay phones appeared to be only minimally successful.

 

 _____________________________

INTERNET

 

Mobile Internet "sticks" are offered by cell phone companies. You can buy outright without a contract. Monthly fees begin at $30 and go up from there. Plans allow monthly data transfer of 500 megabytes to five gigabytes. 

Be aware that when using Canadian sticks in the U.S. or vice versa, roaming rates are very costly.

Reasonably priced sticks are available in the U.S., although they too do not travel north across the border. Monthly rates may mean two contracts are required.  

Sticks from Cricket can be rented for $40/month with no contracts required. This company's cell towers are in many but not all areas of the U.S. 

A Canadian Bell Blackberry works well for e-mail in both the U.S. and Canada. If used in Canada, users enjoy phone features. Costs remain economical if data is its only use in the U.S. Be aware this, too, will be costly if used as a phone south of the border. 

Several RVers use a Hughes.net Internet dish like we have. (See RVLiving.net for stories that reference this versatile system.) Galaxy Broadband is the Canadian provider. These Dishes work well in U.S. and Canada, especially in areas where park WiFi and cellular service is limited. Monthly rates are $80 equipment costs are extra. Visit techmcw.com for details. 

The new iCoach Internet System, available from same company provides Internet access within both countries. For details, visit icoach.net/NewiCoachPack.pdf 

No-cost WiFi hotspots are plentiful in the U.S., including at some welcome centres, all McDonalds, most libraries Internet cafs, coffee shops (even from many parking lots), and by driving through small towns searching for non-secured systems. A Hawk antenna or other directional external antenna and/or an amplifier magnifies signal considerably.

One RVer added a Cradlepoint CTR 500 wireless router to his RV from a 3G store. He plugged his stick into the router, which is plugged into a 12-volt socket in their trailer. This couple can now use both laptops, plus other electronic devices wirelessly, even while mobile.

You can buy slow Internet access for as little as $10/month through an AT&T landline.

Boingo is a separate system that promotes unlimited access for $10 per month at any of their 1000+ International access points no set bandwidth usage. It works with many hotspots across the U.S. and Canada, including some RV Parks serviced by TengoInternet (tengointernet.com), the largest supplier of WiFi at RV parks. Access and price of Tengo varies with each park approx $30.-$40. Per month.

 ______________________________  

RECAP

 

        I heard from more than 80 Snowbirds. What was surprising was the wide variety of systems RVers used to communicate with those at home. The most popular was the TracFone with Net10 close behind. Both are available from Wal*Mart. Numerous other RVers talk with Skype when they have access to a good Internet connection. The general consensus is Canadian cellular plans are too costly and almost useless for heavy use south of the border.

       Staying in touch with family by phone is of great importance to RVers on the move. However, connecting to the Internet has become almost as vital. I hope the input above is beneficial to you. Have a great winter and travel safe.

 ______________________________

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SIDEBAR  

 

   HOW JOHN & I CONNECT ON THE MOVE

                    IN THE USA 

 

 

Last March and April, I tethered my Verizon cell phone to my computer. Sticks  and tethering work everywhere you have cell phone coverage but it is only reasonable in the country of purchase. I had more than enough usage and was most impressed to say the least. 

The cost for 5GB was $49.95 per month, but with Verizon, the rate can be prorated to "on demand" at about $1.66 per day stop and start as needed. This was a good rate for travel in the U.S., but our data roaming with Verizon in Canada was a very costly extra $2/megabyte and MBs add up fast. For details, visit http://www.verizonwireless.com

 

____________________________________

 

VERIZON CELLULAR PHONES 

 

      Rates for Verizon's North American Canada Plan begin at $59 for 450 anytime minutes plus 1,000 after-hours minutes. All features such as call forwarding, message service, plus numerous more are included texting costs extra. No annual licence is required but a two-year contract is a must. 

     The phone works in Canada and U.S. for the same price. Verizon phones piggy-back on Bell towers in Canada. Purchase of your first phone must be from a U.S. store. After your account is set up, you can then shop online for additional items, costs for which can be added to your monthly invoice. Canadian customers are accepted, but to qualify, you must provide a U.S. address for contact issues, although the majority of invoices and billing come through e-mail. 

 

____________________________________

 

CELL PHONE REPAIR

 

 

        There are no repair options for any phone purchased in another country. A Bell phone belonging to our friend died while they were in Texas last winter. She could not obtain a replacement in the U.S. This twosome needed a phone so they subscribed to Verizon. What she was not aware of was that Bell charged her full rate for three months until she returned to Ontario to sort it out. Supposedly the payments were for her phone number, even though she could not use the service plan. She also had to pay a penalty to break her contract.

 

        A few months ago, my Verizon phone died while we were in Woodstock, ON. We made several 90-minute trips to Port Huron, MI for tech service as all repairs must be completed in the U.S.

 

        The bottom line is we have a U.S. phone and parts can not easily be mailed into Canada. Verizon techs did whatever they could to sort this out, but the phone still required service in the U.S. Our friends had a Canadian phone and that replacement too could not be mailed to Texas. In a word, repairs/replacements do not travel across the border.

        Those who would like more info on Verizon or my Internet Satellite Dish, feel free to send me an e-mail at info@rvliving.net

 

 

 

 

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RV WebLinks  Updated May 2014: Meet Your Hosts;   Getting Started;  Articles Destinations-(Canada, Mexico, USA);   Forum NOW SPAM_FREE  

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