Another way FreedomPop gets revenue is by automatically enrolling new customers in "free" trials of a $19.99 paid plan and a $10.99 bundle of extra cost services. The trials are only free for the first month. FreedomPop doesn't make the trial nature of the extra cost plan and services very clear and downgrading to a free plan and cancelling the promotional services is not the most intuitive process. I've documented the plan downgrade and service canceling process in my FreedomPop Prepaid Operator profile. Savvy FreedomPop customers know how to downgrade and avoid the charges, but I suspect many new users don't and get hit with with them.
This week FreedomPop added a new wrinkle to the plan downgrade process. In order to downgrade to the free plan the customer must now have a $5 or greater account balance. New customers start out with a zero balance and when they try to downgrade they are prompted to authorize a $5 top up. The top up gets added to the account balance and can be used to pay for overages. Having a $5 balance was also already a requirement to be able to turn off automatic top-ups, which is something I recommend doing. If you add $5 to turn off automatic top ups you will not be asked to add a second $5 to downgrade your plan.
Beware that account balances expire approximately every 30 days. Expired balances can be restored using the reactivation link on the Credit Balance tab of your Billing Overview page.
The bottom line is that it now costs $5 more than before to get started with FreedomPop's free service. However, a year or so ago Freedom charged $20 for a CDMA activation or GSM SIM. Now activations and SIMs are 99¢. $5.99 plus 30 minutes of your time (to disable services and auto top ups, downgrade to the free plan and set up some Freedom Friends) is a pretty good deal for 700 to 1000 MB on free data every month.
On the other hand, this is the third revenue generating or cost cutting change from FreedomPop this month, First they started throttling free Sprint based accounts to 1 mbps, they came a requirement users of their AT&T based service use FreedomPop's VoIP app, which displays ads, to make a call at least every 60 days and now they are collecting an extra $5 from every new free plan user. While none of these changes are particularly onerous, they do suggest that FreedomPop is actively looking for more ways to monetize the service. I suspect will see more of these sort of changes.
Update 8/30/2017: according to a posts on the FreedomPop and Nth Circle forums, FreedomPop is now allowing users to downgrade to the free plan without a balance. You still get prompted with a recommendation to add a $5 top up but the site lets you skip that step and downgrade anyway.
Update 11/9/2017: It no longer appears to be possible to downgrade to the free plan without a $5 balance.
Source: FreedomPop via HowardForums