Saving Money With Movistar Prepago

I had previously posted instructions about how to add credit to your Movistar pre-paid mobile phone via credit card, but I thought now would be a good time to talk about how to save some money on using your pre-paid cell phone plan.  While I am covering Movistar in particular, these tips also apply to the other carriers here as well (Claro, Personal, etc.) albeit with slightly different instructions.

First, let me give you some background… Pre-paid (“prepago”) cell phone service is pretty much the only option for foreigners in Argentina. To get a regular monthly mobile plan, one needs to have a DNI and residency which most expats do not.  I have been told that the residency also needs to be permanent and not temporary, which further complicates things.

The problem with pre-paid service is that it is relatively expensive. With Movistar pre-paid, calls to Movistar numbers are $0,99 (US $0.25) per minute, calls to non-Movistar numbers are $1,98 (US $0.51) per minute and SMS messages are $0,43 (US $0.11) each. These charges add up quickly, but luckily there are some options to help you save some money.

The best option for saving some money are the weekly promotions from Movistar. These promotions are sent via text message to your cell phone and usually offer to double (and sometimes triple) any credit that you add to your phone that day only. While I initially thought these promotional texts were annoying (mostly because they are in Spanish and I could not understand them), I now add credit every time they come.  When there is a triple credit day, I always add the maximum credit that is allowed because the promotion is so good.

The next way to save some money is to know about the “crédito de regalo” (gift credit) that Movistar gives you for adding certain amounts.  These gift credits currently are $15 if you charge $30, $20 if you charge $40, $25 if you charge $50 and $50 if you charge $100 or more. Also, if you charge $30 or more, you get a 50% discount off the price of calling other Movistar numbers, bringing it to $0,50 (US $0.13) per minute.

Another way to save money is to look at the services you use and to pre-buy packages for those services.  To do this, you send a text message to a particular number.  The current packages are:

  • Send “SMS” to 2345 to receive 3000 text messages to use over 3 days – $10
  • Send “Minutos” to 2345 to receive 40 minutes of calling to other Movistar numbers for 3 days – $10
  • Send “Free” to 2345 to place calls for free to one other Movistar number to use over 5 days – $10
    (you must register the number after you buy this by sending a text to 5000 with “ALTA ##########” where the #’s are the number you want to call)
  • Send “Fijos” to 6789 to receive 40 minutes of calling to “land line” phones in the same long distance code as your mobile to use over 3 days – $10
  • Send “MMS” to 2345 to receive 20 MMS messages to use over 7 days – $9
  • Send “LDI” to 6789 to receive 10 minutes of international calling plus 10 international texts (Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru only) to use over 3 days – $10
  • Send “Datos” to 2345 to receive 1 GB of data to use over 2 days – $10

You can buy as many packages as you want and use them in combination. You can also buy the same package and they will extend automatically.  You can get more information on these packages by going to the Movistar web site, selecting: Planes -> Movistar Prepago -> Paquetes.

Hopefully these tips help you save some money.  Let me know if you have any other tips or tricks.

UPDATE (2/16/11): Movistar has increased some prices and reduced the number of minutes, which I updated below.