TextNow’s free calling and texting plan almost sounds too good to be true. Money expert Clark Howard recently put TextNow to the test by ordering a SIM card and signing up for the free plan. Unfortunately, he quickly found that he wasn’t able to activate the SIM card, and customer service didn’t help.
In this article, I’ll share Clark’s experience with TextNow. I’ll also look TextNow’s phone plans and pricing, how to create an account and what to expect from TextNow’s service.
This article was updated in August 2023 and I review it every 12 months. Detailed notes on all updates can be found here.
TextNow: 5 Things To Know Before You Sign Up
It’s hard to imagine being able to text and call completely free. However, TextNow advertises a plan that offers exactly that: unlimited calling and texting for $0/month.
TextNow lets you port in your own phone number or choose a new local phone number. Then, you should be able to send and receive text messages and place and receive phone calls absolutely free. However, you’ll have to pay $4.99 for a SIM card if you want to call and text away from Wi-Fi. The free plan doesn’t include mobile data, and you’ll have to deal with a few ads in exchange for the free service.
I’ve signed up for TextNow’s web messaging myself in the past to check out the free service. More recently, Clark Howard ordered a SIM card to try the free wireless plan. He wasn’t able to activate the SIM card once it arrived, and customer service didn’t respond to his request for help. Unfortunately, several of our readers have had the same experience.
Before you sign up for TextNow, here’s what you need to know:
- What Is TextNow?
- How Does TextNow Work?
- TextNow Phone Plans: Pricing and Information
- How Does TextNow Compare?
- Clark’s Experience and Other TextNow Reviews
1. What Is TextNow?
TextNow is a phone service provider that was founded in 2009 by two college students looking to save money on their phone bills. Now, TextNow says it now offers free calling and texting to millions of users.
You can sign up for TextNow online or download the app to get a free phone number (or port your existing phone number) and access to free calling and texting over Wi-Fi. TextNow also claims to offer free voicemail, group texting and conference calling.
If you want to text or call away from Wi-Fi, you’ll need to purchase a SIM card for $4.99. The SIM card will give you access to T-Mobile’s GSM network via TextNow.
TextNow offers one free plan with unlimited talk and text. Unfortunately, this plan doesn’t include mobile data. There’s a paid upgrade option for $9.99 per month that allows you to get rid of advertisements.
There are four data options to choose from ranging from $8.99 per month for 1GB of mobile data to $27.99 per month for 5GB of mobile data.
2. How Does TextNow Work?
TextNow works by providing access to free calling and texting over Wi-Fi and T-Mobile’s GSM network. TextNow is able to provide free calling and texting to customers by including advertisements on its website and mobile app.
In the past, I’ve signed up for TextNow myself to see exactly how the phone service provider works. To get started, I visited TextNow’s website and created a new account. You could also download the TextNow app on The App Store or Google Play.
When I created an account a few years ago, I had to enter some basic information including my name, email address and a password. However, I didn’t have to include any payment information.
If you are able to create an account, you should be able to choose a new, free phone number with TextNow. To begin, you can search for phone numbers by area code. Then, you can choose from available eligible phone numbers.
Once you’ve signed up, you should be able to send and receive unlimited text messages as well as place and receive unlimited calls to the U.S. and Canada completely free with TextNow from your computer, tablet or phone (via the app).
While there’s a $4.99 SIM card available to access calling and texting on the go, you should also be able to get a free phone number, place calls and send text messages from TextNow’s website or app completely free as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi. Of course, you can expect to see a few advertisements on the screen in exchange for free calling and texting.
To learn more about how TextNow works, visit the company’s website.
How To Change Your TextNow Number
- Download the TextNow app on your Apple or Android device and log in.
- Click the menu icon in the upper-left corner and click “Settings.”
- Under “Account,” click “TextNow Number.”
- Click “Release Number” and confirm that you want to let go of the phone number you currently have with TextNow.
According to TextNow’s website, you can change your number for free once every 15 days.
Once you’ve released your TextNow phone number to get a new one, it cannot be undone and your former number cannot be returned to you.
For more information on how to change your TextNow number, visit the company’s FAQ page here.
How To Delete Your TextNow Account
If you are using TextNow’s free plan with no paid add-ons, you can simply stop using the phone number, log out of the account and/or delete the app to delete your account.
According to TextNow’s website, your phone number may be removed from your account within a few days of inactivity. You can reactivate it at any time by downloading the app again or logging back into your account online.
If you’re paying for an ad-free membership or a data add-on, you can cancel your subscription through TextNow’s website or app.
To cancel your paid TextNow account, log in on the website or app, visit your account page and click on “Cancel Your Subscription.”
If you need help canceling your TextNow account, you should be able to contact TextNow via live chat online Monday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. You can also check out this page on TextNow’s FAQ page for more information on how to cancel your account.
3. TextNow Phone Plans: Pricing and Information
TextNow offers only one free phone plan: unlimited calling and texting.
Here’s what the free TextNow plan includes:
- A phone number
- Calling and texting to U.S. and Canada
- Group texting
- Conference calling
While TextNow claims to provide phone service completely free, there are a few add-ons that you can pay for, including mobile data.
A SIM card costs $4.99. For this price, you can expand your unlimited free calling and texting from Wi-Fi to a nationwide GSM network. That means you’ll be able to call and text on the go for a one-time $4.99 cost.
To support the free service, TextNow relies on advertisements. For $9.99 per month, you can eliminate ads, add voicemail transcription and unlock unlimited photo & video text history.
Of course, the free option, the SIM card nor the ad-free upgrade will give you access to mobile data.
If you do want mobile data, here are your options:
- 1GB for $8.99 per month
- 2GB for $15.99 per month (no ads)
- 3GB for $19.99 per month (no ads)
- 5GB for $27.99 per month (no ads)
4. How Does TextNow Compare?
If you’re looking for a completely free calling and texting service, TextNow may be a good option. This plan could be perfect for someone who doesn’t need mobile data. However, we’ve recently had trouble signing up for TextNow and activating the free service with a SIM card.
When it comes to paid plans, TextNow’s $8.99 per month plan with 1GB of high-speed data followed by unlimited 2G speeds isn’t a bad deal. However, you can get 2GB of high-speed data followed by unlimited 2G speeds for $5 for the first three months with Twigby (Review). TextNow’s 2GB plan costs $15.99 per month. However, for $15, you can get 5GB with Mint Mobile (Review).
Instead of paying $19.99 per month for 3GB or $27.99 per month for 5GB, I recommend checking out Mint Mobile, Visible or Boost Mobile for a cheap monthly phone plan. Each of these plans costs between $15-$25 per month and includes a better deal for more mobile data than any of TextNow’s plans. Plus, I’ve had a better customer service experience with each of these providers:
|Mint 5GB||Visible||Boost Mobile Monthly Unlimited Data Plan|
|Price||$15/month (plus taxes & fees)||$25/month (taxes & fees included)||$25 (including taxes & fees)|
|Network||T-Mobile||Verizon||T-Mobile and AT&T|
|Talk and Text||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Data Cap Overage||None||None, but speeds may slow during congestion.||30GB|
If you need more from a phone plan than unlimited talk and text, be sure to check out our top picks for the best cell phone plans and deals available right now.
5. Clark’s Experience and Other TextNow Reviews
When I signed up for TextNow a few years ago, I was able to send and receive text messages as well as place and receive phone calls from the browser version of the free service. However, when I tried to log in August 2023, I wasn’t able to recover my account.
I hadn’t ordered a SIM card to test out TextNow’s GSM-network-based service, but Clark just recently tried to order one himself. Here’s what he said about his experience:
“I go online to TextNow, set up the account, order the SIM, the SIM card shows up, and then I try to activate it. It said my account was rejected for violation of terms of service. So then, I sent in an appeal… crickets, crickets, crickets. It’s been three weeks, and I’ve not heard a word from anyone at TextNow.”
“So I have to tell you, I had a customer NO-service experience. All I was trying to do was see what the service was like where they offer you unlimited talk and text for free. I was never able to find out.”
We reached out to our social media audience as well to hear about other users’ experiences. Here are a few of the comments we received:
- “TextNow has no 9-1-1 capabilities.” I checked into this claim, and it’s true that 911 is not guaranteed to work with your TextNow number. You can read TextNow’s 911 Disclosure here.
- “I wonder if TextNow has child restriction features. This might be good for kids if you could restrict the ads to be child friendly.” TextNow users must be 13 or older to have an account. TextNow also offers a few different ways that you can monitor your teen’s account and advice on how to stop receiving messages from a certain number, but the advertisements can’t be monitored nor restricted without paying for the $9.99/month ad-free service.
- “TextNow is garbage! Got their SIM and it’s impossible to make it work and impossible to reach customer NO service. I trashed it the same week.” This is the same issue that Clark Howard experienced, and one major reason to consider not ordering a SIM card from TextNow.
To see how TextNow has held up among regular users, I checked out the company’s rating across several platforms.
As of August 2023, TextNow had an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on The App Store from 626.1K customer reviews. On Google Play, 1.29M customer reviews leave the app with a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
After reading some reviews of the app, most customers seem happy with the free service. Other customers have experienced issues with invasive advertisements, undelivered text messages and lost phone numbers. Many of the negative reviews seemed to be about paid TextNow memberships.
On TrustPilot, TextNow had received 136 reviews as of August 2023 and had a score of 1.6 out of 5 stars. Finally, I checked out TextNow’s Better Business Bureau profile. There, the company had only four customer reviews as of August 2023 with 1 out of 5 stars and a “C” rating. There are recent customer complaints on the BBB website, including issues with activation and expired numbers.
TextNow claims to offer a free number and a free plan with unlimited text messages and phone calls. You can use TextNow on your computer, tablet or phone and connect to Wi-Fi for completely free service. To call and text on the go, you can purchase a SIM card from TextNow for $9.99.
Unfortunately, Clark Howard did not have a good experience when he tested TextNow. In fact, he was never able to get the SIM card activated, and customer service did not return his request for help.
When it comes to paid plans with mobile data, TextNow offers four monthly plans that include 1-5GB of high-speed data plus unlimited data at 2G speeds. However, I recommend checking out plans from Mint Mobile, Boost Mobile and Visible first for a cheaper, more reliable monthly data plan with more mobile data.
For more options, be sure to read our guide on the best cell phone plans and deals. Once you’ve decided on a new phone plan and you’re ready to make the switch, check out this guide that we put together to take you step-by-step through the process.
Have you tried to get a free number with TextNow? Tell us about your experience in our Clark.com Community or check out the latest conversations around cell phones.
- August 9, 2023: Updated article to include Clark Howard’s experience testing TextNow’s SIM card
- August 9, 2023: Updated current ratings and reviews
- August 9, 2023: Updated my own experience of using TextNow online