Confirmation: GrandCentral + TMobile = Cheap Incoming Phone Calls

You can get cheap calls on your T-mobile plan by hooking it up with Grand Central, reader Noah’s T-mobile bill confirms.

Grand Central is a free service that creates a new phone number that you can link to other phone numbers. When someone calls your Grand Central number, it forwards to the other numbers you have attached.

T-Mobile has a “My Fave 5” plan that gives you unlimited nationwide calling to those numbers you put in your Fave 5 network.


1) Be a T-Mobile customer with a My Fave 5 plan
2) Sign up for Grand Central
3) Set Grand Central so that Grand Central forwards to your T-mobile cellphone
4) Add the Grand Central number to your “Fave 5”
5) Give everyone your Grand Central number.

Noah’s testimonial and bill, inside…

Noah writes:

Unfortunately, I have not been distributing my GC# to many people, but attached is my first bill from T-mobile.

In the MyFaves Minutes section, it gives the totals of my calls for the “My faves.” Where it breaks it down, my GC# (aka colfax home), minutes are displayed, and is included in the total Myfaves minutes.



PREVIOUSLY: GrandCentral + TMobile = Cheap Incoming Phone Calls?


Edit Your Comment

  1. chipslave says:

    $100 for a phone bill is cheap? Maybe I am missing something. That does semm like a really inovative idea though…

  2. Ben Popken says:

    It’s not the total charge, it’s the individual charge for the calls that matters.

  3. not_seth_brundle says:

    $35 of that is an activation fee, and it looks like he also has data service.

  4. enroper says:

    Reading is fundamental chipslave. There is a $35 activation fee in that bill.

  5. kerry says:

    Weird, I could have sworn myfaves was a free outgoing only plan, and that you didn’t get free minutes for incoming myfaves callers. I decided not to get it for that reason, in fact.

  6. mopar_man says:

    Would this also work for Alltel since they have the same deal (My Circle)?

  7. bluegus32 says:

    Yeah, um, I don’t see it.

    Really creative. I’ll give him that. But I can’t make heads or tails of that bill.

  8. gamble says:

    that’s brilliant

  9. markymags says:


    This is from the MyFaves website:

    Am I charged for incoming calls from my Fave 5?
    Any domestic call to or from your Fave 5 won’t count against your WHENEVER Minutes.

    I guess it works both ways then although all the questions before it are regarding calls TO your Fave 5.

  10. chipslave says:


    So $75 for you cell each month is cheap? I guess I still don’t get it.

    “me fail english? Thats unpossible” :)

  11. Darren W. says:

    I like where this is going. Only a quick question. Grand Central has the option to have incoming calls show up as from Grand Central, or you can have the caller’s number displayed on your phone, so CallerID works correctly. Would you have to give up the CallerID functionality to take advantage of this trick?

  12. conigs says:


    I’m with you. Granted there’s $25 of add-ons in there, but with a shared plan between my wife and I with text messaging is still under $75 (typically $73).

    So no offense Noah, but I don’t find this cheap. Perhaps if you regularly go over your plan minutes, then yes it would be cheaper, but not just plain cheap.

  13. MeOhMy says:

    The voice service is $40/month.
    The rest of the bill is $35 activation, $5 text messaging and $20 data. It’s not complicated. If you can basically get an unlimited plan for $40/month elsewhere, go for it. If you had another line, it would be $10 extra as always.

    But don’t get too excited yet – a lot of people have known about this for awhile. T-Mobile has a weasel clause and you can rest assured that if they start to feel that people are abusing this, those people will be given the generous option to pound sand or accept a more restricted plan.

  14. not_seth_brundle says:

    @conigs: This guy has text messaging and Blackberry. $70 isn’t a lot for data and potentially unlimited voice.

  15. LouDobbs says:

    This is pretty neat. I was just researching Grandcentral yesterday to use with my unlocked GSM phone from Woot. Ebay has plenty of SIM cards for sale which come with airtime credits. For example, I could buy a T-Mobile SIM card with 300 minutes for under $20 shipped. That’s 6.6 cents a minute! I could just buy one of these every month. I would have no contract and an excellent rate. But each SIM card has its own unique phone number, it would be impractical to change phone numbers every month. But with Grandcentral, it becomes possible to just use one phone number. When I change my SIM card, I remove that number from the Grandcentral list. I could even eBay my used SIM cards. Too bad I still have a year left on my Verizon contract . . .

  16. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I would think that T-Mobile might not be happy about this. If I were him, I’d keep his little trick to himself…I doubt T-Mobile will be like, “Aw shucks, ya out smarted us! Good for you!” This probably will no longer work a month from now.

  17. unsunder says:

    @Darren W.:
    It lets you know the caller info from your address book through Grandcentral when you answer. It would say call from “Ben”. So you would have to answer to find out who was calling. If they’re not in your address book then they are asked to state their name and the info is stored. So yes you do lose your caller id. Although you get it back in a crippled way.

  18. Onouris says:

    Cheap ‘incoming’ phone calls? I never understood why Americans are charged for BEING called. If any phone company tried to charge for incoming calls in England they’d be laughed out of the country, it’s insane.

  19. heliostatic says:

    Onouris, I agree, but….coming from the country that did (still does?) charge for local calls on land lines?

  20. holocron says:

    @Darren W.: Yes, you would have to set the GC CallerID setting to always display your GC number for this to work.

    IF you received a lot of calls then sure this would be a good idea. What would be a better idea is to do this with a GC number that is local for a group of people, thereby multiplying you 5 favs.

    So get a local GC number, say, in your home town in another state and give that number to all your family there. Maybe do the same thing in another city where you used to live with a lot of friends. Suddenly your 5 My Favs becomes a whole lot of people.

    Of course, this is only an advantage if they call you. Doesn’t work the other direction.

  21. conedude13 says:

    I thought that the GC number is just a forwarding service? Well, actually it is. If you call your GC number it will say the number you are calling from, not your GC number.

    I set up my GC number to include my cell phone. Call the GC number from my home phone. The ID on the cell phone says “Home” not my GC number.

    Theres that, plus he is also paying extra money for the “MyFave” circle of friends thing.

  22. holocron says:

    @conedude13: GC also provides some form of VoIP, as you can call back a number thru GC. All incoming calling is free. Outgoing calling is where you will be charged after the beta…or so that’s what I understand.

  23. mikyrok says:

    @everyone getting caught up on the cost of the bill and not really caring about the post:

    Let’s boycott gas tomorrow!

  24. Onouris says:


    Why should a local call be free though, it’s still using the phone lines like any other call.

    Having said that, there is a company here where people can talk to anyone else signed up to the same company for free, at any time.

  25. jackstraw says:

    The way to make it work for all your minutes is to give EVERYBODY your GrandCentral number, and then change the setting in GrandCentral to display your GrandCentral number as your Caller ID on incoming calls. That way, EVERYBODY who calls you at your GC number will be under that ONE friend…unlimited FREE incoming calls. PERFECT!! Also, if you use your TMobile to call out to your GC number (to check messages, return calls, etc.), all those calls are FREE as well!!

  26. yg17 says:

    In this day and age, any long distance charges are bullcrap IMO. This isn’t the 1940s where a series of live operators had to connect your call from point A to point B halfway across the country. Everything’s automated and calls are sometimes sent over the same trunks that the internet goes over. You don’t pay long distance charges on your internet packets, do you? No. But, we’re so used to paying long distance charges that we just accept it.

  27. rictorgadget says:

    @ Onouris

    Americans are billed for receiving calls on their mobiles in lieu of the caller being billed a surcharge for calling them. Most land line plans in America are unlimited in local calling, and many are unlimited in domestic calling as well. Factoring in the availability number portability, there is no way to determine if a number being dialed in the US is to a landline or mobile phone. As a result, mobile carriers bill minutes for all calls, inbound or outbound.

    This trend is quickly receding though, as many cell phone plans are moving closer and closer to unlimited usage. Several carriers offer unlimited plans in the US already, though the prices for these plans typically exceed $100. Sprint & Nextel offer a near-unlimited plan that only bills outbound minutes for off network calls made between 7am and 7pm on weekedays, for instance. This plan starts at $50 depending on the amount of bundled minutes. It is only a matter of time for unlimited domestic calling plans to start appearing for a reasonable monthly rate.

  28. Onouris says:


    Interesting stuff. American phone systems sound a bit neither here nor there to me. I suppose having mobile numbers so similar to land line numbers makes them easier to remember, potentially, but can’t have been so difficult to implement.

    The other thing I never understood was plans where you get a normal rate while you’re basically in your home town / city and after a worryingly short drive away from your ‘home’ location you’re ‘roaming’ and calls get extremely expensive – as expensive as it is for us to go to another European country.

    Understandably, America is a big place, and it doesn’t take absolutely ages to cross England, but the distances are less than someone from London travelling to Scotland, for example, who can carry on using their mobile in exactly the same way (if they get a signal – given Scotland’s dubious availability).

    But you would have thought that mobile plans were stable across the country since it is essentially the same network (or company) from wherever you are. Just a money making scheme?

  29. macnewbie says:

    Okay, I just signed up and am testing this out. I am all for damning the man!! The concept is pretty simple… I like! Not sure why the confusion amongst all the techies?

  30. MrFlashport says:

    Wonder how long T-Mobile will take to catch onto this and start canning customers who use “too many” MyFaves minutes. Has anyone read their terms and conditions of service? I am sure they have a clause that states if someone uses “too much” of the “unlimited” service by using a GC number, they will have their service modified or terminated. They’ve done it to people who used too many mobile-to-mobile calls on family plans, and in many cases refused to allow that customer to continue their contract plan when their contract was up. To add insult to injury, they were not allowed to accept a NEW promotional rate plan. Just a word of warning, abuse this and don’t come whining when T-Mobile shuts you off…

  31. macnewbie says:

    I used a whopping 28 minutes out of my 300… not a big red flag user!! :0)

  32. Slytherin says:

    @mikeyrock: A really bad case of ADHD. :)

  33. brettt says:

    in the beta for grandcentral, if you access the WAP site, there is a quick call option that lets you type a number or pick a contact and call them. when you select the option, grandcentral calls YOU with your number first, so it’s still free to call anyone that way.

    however, i cant imagine giving out a grandcentral number to people, seeeing as who knows what will happen to prices after the beta; i like to know i have legal rights to retain my number.

    oh, and t-mobile has crappy coverage, so i would never get it.

  34. @Onouris: “Why should a local call be free though, it’s still using the phone lines like any other call.”

    It has to do with the way local and trunk lines were originally laid, and with the fact that (as you noted) the US is a big place and not very densely packed. Y’all are much closer together. :)

    F’ex, I’m in Peoria, a fairly densely-packed little city, and laying the local lines here in the early 1900s would have cost something, but it was a fairly small, dense area, with short mileages of lines to lay and lots of folks to hook up to them.

    Now, getting to the nearest next urban area (Chicago or St. Louis at the time) is more than 150 miles. Laying 150 miles of phone line through farm fields costs and arm and a friggin’ leg and hardly anybody is along that stretch to hook up to the line and charge them for it. It’s also expensive to maintain (since it was above-ground) and you’ve got 150 miles of phone line just WAITING for the summer tornado season to take it out in the middle of nowhere.

    So small local areas were fairly cheap to run, but running the lines from city to city and maintaining them was QUITE expensive. So we ended up with a bifurcated system where the local calls were very inexpensive and the long distance calls paid to subsidize those very expensive, very long lines through the middle of nowhere. Plus all those live operators and manual switching and whatnot.

    (Incidentally, we all still pay a “universal service fee” to help subsidize phone service in rural or isolated areas.)

    Now, why our cell billing system is so byzantine and backwards compared to what’s normal in Europe, I have NO. IDEA.

  35. OrtizDupri says:


    You don’t pay roaming if you are away from your home town. Only if you are in an area out of the network. For example – I have Sprint. I purchased it in Northern Virginia (covered by the Sprint network). I have traveled all across the country, from New Orleans to Florida to Washington to Texas, and now reside in Hawaii. Anywhere covered by the Sprint network, I was not roaming. I still have a Virginia number at my house in Hawaii, and I pay no roamining surchage. The only time I have been roaming is in areas where there are no Sprint towers, thus forcing my phone to use another network – such as Alltel or Verizon’s towers in that area. CDMA cell phone towers have an average range of 7-15 miles (depending on strength), and thus populated areas tend to have them built by the bigger networks (Sprint, Verizon, etc) in more areas (more coverage). In open areas and rural places, local cell phone companies (such as Alltel and others) tend to put up their own towers – basically “leasing” the coverage to the big networks, forcing the roaming charge.

    I pay $5 a month and never pay roaming for voice or data so yeah.

  36. Nick says:

    This isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It may seem great on paper, but I see two serious flaws: First of all, texting. Grand Central doesn’t forward text messages. You would have to give people your real phone number so they could send/receive text messages from you, but then you would need to give them your Grand Central number so they could call you. Talk about annoying for the people who communicate with you! Second, what about those pesky things calls outgoing calls? Grand Central has free incoming, sure, but there is [or, maybe, will be once the service is out of “beta”] a charge from Grand Central to make outgoing calls using your Grand Central number. T-Mobile won’t charge (because you are making an outgoing call to a My Faves number), but Grand Central will. Plus, it is super annoying to have to use a dialing service to play outbound calls — it would be like using a calling card every time you wanted to make a call = sucks.

    Personally, I don’t think T-Mobile overly cares. The main reason is that this is not worth it for me — I use mostly outgoing minutes and texting, so it’s definitely not a solution for everyone or even the majority of people. That aside, T-Mobile would much rather have you as a happy customer on their cheapest My Faves plan than not have you at all, right? First of all, T-Mobile probably makes money for every incoming minute (albiet an insignificant amount of money, but still something because the originating carrier pays to connect to T-Mobile… same as those free conference calling numbers where the people running the service make money for every incoming minute). Since T-Mobile pays nothing for incoming calls (and perhaps even gets money for them), it surely doesn’t cost them $39.99 for your usage so they are still making plenty of profit.

    Easier solution: For long calls, tell the other people to call you on a landline. Make use of that stupid “local calls only” phone in your apartment or office by using it for incoming calls instead. :-)

  37. Eric Crist says:


    I don’t know what sort of data you’re basing your comments on, but we have states here bigger than many countries in Europe. Most newer plans for mobile phones here do now include nation-wide coverage (on-network), and there are plans that include call to/from Canada & Mexico at no additional, or a much lower, cost.

    In regards to roaming, you don’t usually get charged if you stay on your provider’s network. In my case T-Mobile. Because I’ve got the nationwide option, I can roam to other networks and not pay any additional fees for using my phone. There are many rural areas that have locked out the large cellular providers to help the smaller local companies build a business. In those areas, you can’t really stay on-network, thus roaming.

    Many phone companies are ambiguous about their terminology regarding this. I’ve found that local can often mean anywhere, on-network, and nationwide is anywhere, on or off-network.

    In the end, it’s an option on most plans to include roaming or not. So yeah, another way to make a little more money by the phone companies (or maybe a way to save money by the consumers?)

  38. kerry says:

    Many moons ago it used to be true that you were roaming when you were outside your home cell (a notion that doesn’t even exist anymore), but that disappeared in the 90’s. Now most companies have regional and national plans, where you’re either roaming when you’re outside your region, or you’re never roaming unless you’re on an entirely different network. Since most carriers have free parter network roaming, most people never pay a dime extra for calls inside or outside their network. Back when my dad got his first cell phone, a car phone back in about 1986, we had to worry about leaving our home cell (which covered most of Chicagoland), but that stopped a long time ago.

  39. jonathan19 says:

    Hmmm…I’m trying to think how this could be a hack to use with Verizon. If there could be a grand central number that was a verizon one, the it would work as “in calling”, which is free.
    Actually, my wife and I never even come close to using our minutes each month, so I’m not really concerned.
    Nice hack though!

  40. katana says:

    Nice, but not for me.


    1) No Caller ID/Phone book label or custom ringtones:

    If you set your GrandCentral incoming calls to show up with your GrandCentral number, obviously your phone won’t show who exactly is calling on the caller ID/phonebook. And, you can’t customize rings if there’s only ‘one’ phonebook contact coming in.

    2) Text Messaging:
    As others have mentioned, it’s kinda a pain in the ass for your friends to have to call one number and remember to text another. Ok, so it’s not that diffucult, but it’s just annoying since it requires, what, an extra click and few seconds?

  41. Kyoko says:

    just a couple of things.

    1. You could MAKE a FAVE 5 call IF you have an internet connection. (keep all your minutes) Just use their “” and make your calls from there. It will ring your cellphone without being on your computer. (of course, you need an internet plan or some sort and that means extra money)

    2. Grandcentral is Still Beta.
    Sometimes, a friend calls me and grandcentral does not give out their called ID, instead, it will come out as “Blocked Caller” or “Unknown” in (my experience) 1 out of 5 calls.

    thats all

  42. chilicomm says:

    T-Mobile Fav 5 – $39.99
    @home Router $50 – $50 Rebate
    @Home monthly Service -$9.99 (Promo special)
    Nokia 6086 WIFI Phone – $49.99 2 year contract
    400 Text Msgs. – $4.99

    Monthly = $54.97

    * Unlimited inbound calls to my grandcentral # (1 of my fav5)
    * Unlimited outbound calls always to Fav5 * Unlimited inbound/outbound calls while connected via IP to any t-mobile HotSpot or any UMA (unknown mobile access) aka my home and work. Note: If outbound call originates from UMA then the call is free even when the call switches to a mobile tower.

    Experimenting with:

    *Skype-in # as 1 of my fav 5 gives me outbound worldwide calling for approx 8 cents a minute (skype charg only) (If I set the Skype forwarding # to the phone number I want to dial ex. I call my local skype in # – I reach Pakistan) – convoluted – but its working.

    * QT-Technology ML-200 box to forward to 8 additional numbers. It works as a voice router from your home phone (1 of your fav5) and bridges calls through your 3 way calling feature. (I think I can route my Skype-in to my mobile by forwarding to my mobile from home using this device. Anybody could then use skype to call me on my mobile for “no charge”.)

  43. Anonymous says:

    Ironic that Google has acquired GrandCentral. I wonder how this will affect this little scheme now that Google has partnered with t T-mobile with the G1 phone.