Sprint’s Virgin Mobile Custom offers to buy back unused minutes, texts and data (with video)

07/30/2014 2:30 AM

07/30/2014 5:43 PM

Got cellphone minutes left at the end of the month? Sprint’s Virgin Mobile stands ready to start buying them back.

Ditto for unused texts and data you’ve already paid for on your prepaid phone plan with Virgin.

The deal is a new offering called Virgin Mobile Custom, which will be available Aug. 9 at Wal-Mart stores on three new phones. Buy one of these devices and it will let you change how many voice minutes, texts and data your service plan provides.

“The customer can change it at any time. They can change it once an hour, once a day, once a week, once a month or once a year,” said Dow Draper, president of Sprint’s prepaid wireless service.

So if you bought way more minutes — or texts or data — than you’ve used, return them by reducing your service plan before your billing cycle ends and get credit on next month’s bill. The minimum changes in a plan are 250 minutes, 250 texts or 250 megabits of data.

For example, reducing your 1,250-minute service plan by 250 unused minutes before the month ends would create a $3 credit for next month. As you adjust your plan’s features, the phone shows the amount of credit you would receive before you pull the trigger to make the changes.

“In the middle of the month, they can dial the plan back down,” Draper said.

Buying more minutes, texts or data requires the customer to pay, for example through a credit card on file for the account.

Virgin also is offering Custom as a family plan, allowing up to five lines to share one batch of prepaid minutes, texts and data. One feature allows a parent to allot minutes, texts and data to each of the phones and set curfews on use, down to the specific app.

Don’t want the kid on Facebook during school hours? It can see to that.

Other features include specialized plans that allow unlimited Facebook use or streaming music for $5 a month.

Sprint takes its Virgin Custom plan to a wider audience on Sept. 1. The free Virgin Mobile Custom Control App will debut for Android and Apple smartphones. It will allow any smartphone user to control Virgin Custom phones, for the kids maybe, without having one themselves.

And that means any smartphone user, whether on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. It’s a stab at recruiting some of those other carriers’ family plan members over to Sprint.

Pricing on the Custom plans starts at $6.98 per month — only 20 texts and 20 minutes of calls. This is essentially the line charge to add additional phones to the plan. Then buy up to the minutes, texts and data you want.

Add unlimited texts for $10 or unlimited voice for $18. An unlimited supply of both prices out at $34.98, which equals the unlimited text and voice amounts plus the $6.98 line charge. Of course, these unlimited buys cannot be shared.

Sprint is licensing the technology for Virgin Custom from ItsOn Inc., a California company, in a deal announced earlier this month. In a pilot of the features, ItsOn’s Zact Mobile customers tended to adjust their service plans for a few months and then let it alone, Draper said.

But some were dialing down unused minutes, texts and data late in the month to pick up credits for the next month’s purchase.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mdkcstar.

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