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Prepaid Operator Profile: PTel Mobile

This is one of Prepaid Phone News' series of comprehensive US prepaid mobile operator profiles. I will be posting new profiles frequently, starting with the best known carriers. Eventually these posts will cover all the major US mobile operators that have prepaid plans as well as the MVNOs which offer a good value.

Overview: PTel Mobile is a T-Mobile MVNO. It was founded in 2001 and is the third oldest US prepaid operator of any kind.  The privately held company doesn't reveal subscriber numbers. Prior to December 2012, PTel was known as PlatinumTel and was a Sprint MVNO. The Sprint based service was shut down Aug 25, 2013.

Update 1/21/16: Ptel has announced that they will be ceasing operations effective 1/31/16.

Technology: GSM on the 1900 Mhz band with GPRS, Edge and HSPA+ data support. LTE data on the LTE bands 2, 4 and 12. Additional HSPA and HSPA+ service on the 1700 Mhz AWS band.

Plans: PTel's plan offerings include pay as you go and monthly prepaid plans.

Here's the full PTel plan lineup:
Plan Cost Voice Minutes Texts MMS Data
Real PayGo $10/60days 1 5¢/each 2¢/each 2¢/each 10¢/MB LTE available
Unlimited Talk & Text $20/30 days unlimited unlimited unlimited  250 MB HSPA+
Unlimited Everything $25/30 days unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited (throttled to 128 kbps) 
Unlimited Everything $30/30 days unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited (throttled to 128 kbps after 1 GB) LTE available 
Unlimited Everything $40/30 days unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited (throttled to 128 kbps after 2 GB) LTE available 
Unlimited Everything $50/30 days unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited (throttled to 128 kbps after 3 GB) LTE available
Unlimited Everything $60/30 days unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited (throttled to 128 kbps after 10 GB) LTE available
1 Other refill denominations are available; $20/90days, $30/120 days, $40/150 days, $50/180 days, $100/365 days.
2 $10 top up buys 6 days of service and 10 MB data, $20 13 days and 20 MB data, $30 buys 20 days and 30 MB data, $45 buys 30 days and 150 MB data.

International Rates: 

Ptel's $40 and $50 plans include unlimited calling to landline and mobile numbers in Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and Thailand.

All monthly plans also include an international calling credit. The credit is $1 on the $20 plan, $2.50 on the $25 plan, $5 on the $30, $40 and $50 plans and $10 on the $60 plan.

PTel supports international direct dialing.

There is no extra charge for international texts. International picture messaging is not supported.

Coverage: PTel uses the T-Mobile native network. There is no roaming. Coverage is available in most cities and larger towns and along most interstates, but is lacking in many rural and some resort areas. PTel's interactive coverage map lets you zoom in to see block by block coverage.

Devices: PTel offers a small selection of competitively priced Android and feature phones. You can also use any T-Mobile or unlocked GSM phone

SIMs: SIMs cost $4.99 with free shipping

BYOD: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is officially supported by PTel. You can use any T-Mobile USA or unlocked GSM device with support for the 1900 Mhz band and ideally (for maximum 3G  and LTE coverage) the 1700 Mhz AWS UMTS band and LTE bands 2, 4 and 12.

How to Buy: PTel phones and SIMs are available from PTel and online and brick and mortar PTel dealers (dealer locator).

How to Activate: Activate  by calling  866-CALL-ME-1 (866-225-5631) from another phone or go to www.ptel.com/activation. Activation is free.

Payment Options: You can top up a PTel account with a PIN or a credit or debit card by calling ADD (233) from your PTel phone or 866-2-REFILL (866-273-3455) from another phone. You can also add a PIN by sending a text to PT01 (7801) with the PIN number in the body of the message

If you create an account at ptel.com you can use the web site's My Account section to check your balance and plan expiration, view detailed online call records and top up with a PIN or credit or debit card.

PIN cards or codes are available from  online and local PTel dealers (dealer locator) and some convenience stores, supermarkets and chain drugstores. PINs can be purchased at a discount from callingmart.com and other online retailers. Refill cards and PINs are available in $10, $20, $30, $40, $50, and $100 denominations.

Minute rollover expiration:
Unused pay as you go funds rollover provided you top up on time. However, unlike most pay as you go plans, pay as you go rollover funds expire a year after they were added.  To avoid losing the service you have paid for, do not maintain a high account balance.

Account expiration: 
Pay as you go plans, require a top up $10 every 60 days,  $30 every 120 days, $50 every 180 days or $100 every 365 days to keep your service active and keep your rollover balance. If you do not top up on time you will lose any credit in the account and your service will be suspended.  Pay as you go service will also be suspended if your balance drops below $1.

Monthly plans renew every 30 days. If you do not have sufficient funds in your account to renew your service will be suspended.

On both pay as you go and monthly plans, you will lose you phone number if you do not top up within 30 days after your account is suspended.

Account Management: You can check your cash balance or available minutes, view call logs, change plans, add PINs and make a payments using a credit or debit card using the My Account option at ptel.com (registration required)  or by calling ADD (233) from your PTel phone or 866-2-REFILL (866-273-3455) from another phone. You can also add a PIN to your account by sending a text to PT01 (7801) with the PIN number in the body of the message

You can also check your balance and expiration for free by dialing #225# or sending a text to PT01 (7801) with the word BAL in the body of the message.

Call Forwarding, Call Waiting and 3-Way Calling

To forward all calls to another number: Press **21*, the 10-digit number to which you wish to forward your calls, and # and SEND. For example: **21*1234567890# SEND, forwards your calls to the phone number 123-456-7890.  You will receive a confirmation message. Unless you are on an unlimited plan, you will be charged for forwarded calls.
To cancel call forwarding: Press #21# SEND. You will receive a confirmation message.

To forward unanswered calls only (conditional call forwarding): Press **004* followed by the number you want calls forwarded to and # and SEND (**004*1234567890# SEND) and wait for a confirmation tone or message. Unless you are on an unlimited plan, you will be charged for forwarded calls.
To cancel conditional call forwarding: Press #004# SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message.

Call waiting:  Call waiting is enabled by default. It lets you place one call on hold while you take another call. When you are on a call and have another incoming call, you will hear a short tone. You'll have approximately 30 seconds to answer before the second caller hears a standard message or is forwarded to voicemail. Unless you have an unlimited calling plan, you will be charged for both calls.

To answer Call Waiting: To put the first call on hold, press "SEND." You'll automatically be connected with the second call. To return to the first call, press "SEND" again. To switch between the two calls, press "SEND."

3-Way Calling:  Lets you create a conference call between yourself and two other people. You will be charged for both calls.
  • While on the first call, dial the 10-digit number of the second person and press "SEND." The first person is automatically put on hold while the call is made.
  • When the 2nd person answers, press "SEND" to create the conference call.
PTel "Secret" Codes:
*#06# displays the phone's IMEI (serial number)
#686# (#NUM#) displays your phone number
#225# (#BAL#) displays your balance and expiration date
#793# (#PWD#) reset voice mail password to the last four digits of your phone number
#796# (#PWO#) toggle voice mail password on and off
#31# followed by a phone number you want to call - block outbound caller ID for this call

Free information services calls
611 - PTel customer care
711 - Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) for the hearing and speech impaired
911 - Emergency services
Other 3 digit codes like 211, 311 and 511 are not free on PTel

PTel GSM data settings:
APN - wholesale (no user id, password or proxy needed.)

MMS settings:
APN - wholesale  (no user id, password or proxy needed.)
MMSC URL - http://wholesale.mmsmvno.com/mms/wapenc

Customer Service:
Phone support: US based, available  9am - 9pm Central Time M-Sat, 10am - 5pm Central Time Sun at 866-CALL-ME-1 (866-225-5631).

Online email support form: ptel.com/support/contact

Online Chat: Click the Chat link at the top right of any ptel.com page.

Social Media: GetSatisfaction Forum, Twitter, Facebook

Phone Sales and General Information Web Siteptel.com

PTel Pros: Lowest pay as you go rates of any carrier, good international rates, prompt and competent support, BYOD, smartphones available, online call records, call forwarding

PTel Cons: limited T-Mobile native coverage, rollover minutes expire

Updated: 21-Jan-2016: PTel to shut down 1/31/16.

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  1. With all of these different MVNOs using Sprints network has caused a MAJOR strain on their network, and for the speeds, the data is not worth it. There's a reason why Sprint sticks with unlimited data...

  2. Pay as you go rollover minutes do eventually expire with most $PINs, but you have quite a few months to use them. Most users will not experience loss of minutes.

    PINs are now good to add for one year from date of purchase, vs 120 days.

    You now lose your pay as you go minutes if you wait 5 days beyond your service expiration date, vs 30 days.

    1. Are you sure there's a 5 day grace period before you lose your rollover funds if you don't top up on time?

      I don't see that anywhere on the PlatinumTel site. There's no grace period on any other operator that I know of either.

  3. You get 200MB with the $50 Android plan, not 250MB.
    $30 and $50 PINs give you six months of service vs three months for the $10 PIN.

  4. Hi Yeswap,
    Since PlatinumTel does support attaching a name to CNAM, what is the best way to get my name onto caller ID?

    1. It's news to me that PlatinumTel allows customers to change their CNAM (the name that's displayed to people receiving calls from you). Where did you see or hear that?

      With Sprint you have to call customer care to get your CNAM changed so it's likely the same with PTel.

    2. Hi Yeswap,
      I didn't say that PlatinumTel supported CNAM. My question was that since they didn't, what is the best way to get CNAM attached to my phone number (not through PTel).

    3. You said, "Since PlatinumTel does support attaching a name to CNAM...". Guess you meant "doesn't" rather than "does" :)

      I don't think it's possible to set or edit your CNAM except though your carrier.

  5. Has anyone tried moving a phone off Ptel CDMA to another operator?

    I took an Android off yesterday, but it fails the ESN check with Ting and Eco Mobile.
    Eco system says phone is in use, but it is fully shut down and not on a line.
    Ptel says they do not "hold" phones that are swapped off their lines, and that they should be available right away. I still have a bal on the Ptel line; it is not suspended.

    Any ideas? I suspect others moving from Ptel CDMA may experience this too.

    1. I've pretty sure I've seen reports of people successfully activating Ptel phones on Eco and PrepaYd. It sounds like PTel didn't switch your ESN off your number in the Sprint MVNO database.

      Call Ptel and ask them to verify that the ESN on your account is a "dummy ESN". If they say it is and you still can't activate on another MVNO see if you can get the MVNO you are switching to to set up a 3 way call with PTel tech support.

    2. Thanks, Yeswap.
      Yesterday I did an ESN change and put a different phone on my line, so the ESN should be available for reactivation. Unfortunately neither Ting nor Eco can bring it into their system for use.
      Thanks for the suggestion about the 3-way call.

    3. You can try Kajeet. They activated a Ptel Sanyo that was orginally designed for Boost. Ting could not do this.

  6. Hi Yeswap,
    I currently use PTel CDMA. If I port my number out to a different operator, what will happen to my account? Will I still be able to use my remaining balance with a different number?


    1. Your Ptel account will be closed and you will lose your balance.

      If you have Ptel port you to their new GSM service, you will have your old balance added to your new GSM account.

    2. That's correct. Porting out of any operator cancels the account and forfeits the balace. Use the balance up or donate it to charity with SMS before porting.

  7. Tip for porting OUT of Ptel: Your SIM serial number is your account number for GSM service. No PIN, no password required. Phone number and SIM serial number is all that is needed, per CS.

    1. Second Tip: Ptel does not do number port-out for GSM service like they did for CDMA. Ptel uses the Tmobile port department for this. If you call Ptel for status of a port out, they cannot tell you the status. They refer you to Tmobile at 877-789-3106. Those folks are very nice and polite, but they were not familiar yet with the agreement with Ptel. They confirmed that they had a request, but they could not tell me if they had all the info they needed, or perform an immediate port-out for me. They told me that the port out would be "automatic within 24 hours of the request." This answer took 20 minutes and three holds. Hopefully they will get faster with more experience handling ports for MVNOs.

  8. Dennis: Sorry, I missed your question earlier. From the revised Terms of Service that clarified that PINs must be added within one year: "If you fail to replenish your Real Paygo account within 5 days of the expiration of service, you will lose your account and you will also forfeit any remaining balance on your account." I was 2 days late once, and did not lose my PayGo $balance.

  9. hi dennis,
    has ptel shut off cdma yet?

    1. No they aren't accepting new CDMA customers but the service still works for existing customers including me. PTel announced earlier this year on their Facebook page that CDMA service would end at the beginning of June but it didn't happen and I haven't heard of a new end date.

    2. it ended on August26, 2013 and my phone is useless, also I tried calling ptel twice and after waiting 40 minutes, I gave up, their customer service is also useless.

  10. HoFo Id: Grateful4adviceSeptember 8, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    You should be able to take your Ptel CDMA phone to most Sprint MVNOs. Check Dennis' excellent write up contrasting Sprint MVNOs on this website

  11. Does Ptel have Auto-refill? I couldn't find any mention of something like this on their website.

    1. Yes, PTel calls it autobill. It's in the My Account section of the PTel Website.

  12. I tried to set up call forwarding for all calls on Ptel using two different phones, but it fails. Conditional call forwarding works. Have the instructions changed from *21*10phonenumber# ?

    1. Try **21*10phonenumber# Let us know if it works so I can update the post.

    2. Ptel error message using **21* instead of *21* : "Error performing request. Unknown error. Setting Registration Failed

  13. HOFO ID Grateful4adviceFebruary 26, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    I can't get conditional call forwarding to work. Tabitha in customer service says Ptel has never offered any form of call forwarding. Since Tabitha lied to me I don't believe what she says about call forwarding.
    It took 12 days to get my new Ptel service working involving numerous calls and 11 emails. So much for US based customer service.

  14. On the Ptel webpage it says:
    "​Airtime Expiration: For the $10, $20, $30, $40 and $50 denominations, airtime carries over for a full year from the date it is loaded onto the account. For the $100 plan, airtime does not expire and carries over until depleted."

  15. Ptel now lets you change plans in the middle of the month, with an account dollar credit, or by paying the difference for a full month of the new, unlimited plan.
    For example, you can order the $35 plan, use the data over a few days, then switch to a lower-priced plan or PayGo. If you pick the latter, you get 90 days to use your Paygo credit balance.

  16. No more direct pin adding (this is TERRIBLE) u have to call Customer service very dumm...

    1. I don't know what you mean by direct PIN adding but I added a PIN to my PTel account a couple of days ago on the PTEL site. The option is still there.

      Go to My Account > Apply Purchased Airtime and enter your PIN

  17. Dennis
    Can you "stack" PINS on Ptel like you can with Page Plus? Or do you have to wait until your plan expires?

  18. Unlike with TracFone or H2O, there's no PIN stacking on Pay As You Go plans with either PTEL or PagePlus. When you add a PIN before the current expiration date it resets the expiration date to 60, 90, 120, 180 or 365 days from the date you added the PIN, not from the prior expiration date like it does on TracFone or H2O.

    With monthly plans on both PTel and Page Plus you can add a PIN before the expiration date and it will be used to the renew the plan on the expiration date. But that's not PIN stacking.

  19. Thank you Dennis. I was confused and used the term incorrectly. I was referring to entering pins before the monthly plan expires and having the system hold them until the new month began.

  20. HoFo members report PTEL and GIV are shutting down on January 30, 2016, with only ten days warning.

    What's up with T-Mobile MVNOs closing shop on short notice lately?

    The choices for inexpensive pay-as-you-go (less that 10 cents per minute) are getting quite slim with PTEL's demise.

  21. Prepaid Operator Profile: PTel Mobile has bitten the dust. I hope these Prepaid Operator Profile don"t just start disappearing. Dennis' quote: "I fear that PTel's demise is just the beginning and that we will see more MVNOs go down in the coming years. I hope I'm wrong as fewer MVNOs means fewer choices, less competition and likely higher prices eventually."

  22. Just went to go smart on their $35 plan. 30 after auto pay. Thought I was getting 2.5g but I am getting 4gb (3g) then 128k. With Ptel I was at 25 for 2g. Sad they are gone but I unfortunately ported out before requesting a refund because I wanted my number. If I had gotten my refund first, I am pretty sure I would have lost my #.

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