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Cheapskate news from Amazon and T-Mobile

Some good news and some less good news. Plus: the only car mount that makes sense -- for $8.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. And find more great buys on the CNET Deals page.

Most days I share deals. Today, I thought I'd put on the ol' news cap and talk about a couple interesting deal-related developments -- a good one and a bummer one.

Amazon lowers free-shipping threshold back to $25


Once upon a time, before Amazon Prime was a thing, you could bag free shipping as long as your Amazon shopping-cart total was at least $25.

But back in 2013, the company raised that threshold to $35, and in 2016 it jumped to $49. Fortunately, just a few months ago, Amazon dropped it back down to $35.

And as of last week, it's like pre-2013 all over again: The minimum requirement for free shipping (on "eligible items") is once again just $25.

That's obviously not a big deal if you're a Prime subscriber, as that nets you free two-day shipping on nearly everything -- no minimum purchase required. (If you're interested, here's a complete list of everything included with Amazon Prime.) For non-subscribers, though, it's definitely good news.

Your thoughts?

T-Mo puts an end to free tablet data

Well, poop.

Regular Cheapskate readers know that the best way to get a free data plan for your tablet is to grab a SIM card from T-Mobile. The carrier has long offered all comers 200MB of no-strings-attached data per month.

If you already signed up for that plan, you're good: For now, Free Data for Life still means free data for life. But, as spotted by unofficial T-Mobile news blog TmoNews, the program is no longer available for new activations. (Update: Here's more info straight from T-Mo.)

Granted, 200MB is not a lot of data. But, man, it can come in handy at times, like when you're on a road trip and want to use your tablet's big screen for navigation. Or you need to compose and send a lengthy email when there's no Wi-Fi available.

So what now? If you're a T-Mobile One subscriber, you can add an unlimited LTE data plan to your account for $20 per month. Still want a freebie option? You might be able to find one from Freedompop, assuming you're able to navigate the carrier's user-hostile site. (I spent 10 minutes poking around; still not sure what the options are.)

Guess all good things really do come to an end. It was nice while it lasted, T-Mo!

Enlarge Image

Believe it or not, this little piece of clear film is a big deal.


Bonus deal: I've come to a decision: The best car mount for your phone is a magnetic mount. It looks a lot nicer than a big, ugly dashboard or windshield mount, and it's way easier to use: Just plunk your phone on it and, presto, magnet magic. I have one in my car, and my wife and daughter have both abandoned their previous mounts in favor of magnetic ones -- and they love them.

If you don't mind sacrificing an air vent for the cause (in my Mustang, I'm lucky enough to have an open space for a stick-on mount), here's a Vantrue magnetic car mount for $7.99 when you apply promo code O2P8L3KD at checkout. Shipping is free for Prime subscribers.

There are cheaper ones out there, yes, but I like the Vantrue for two reasons. First, it's adjustable, with two thickness settings (not all air vents are created equal), and a ball-socket design that lets you pivot your phone. Second, and this may sound trivial, the round metal plate -- the one that goes on the back of your phone or case, if the case is too thick for the rectangular one -- comes with a matching piece of removable clear film. Translation: You can easily remove the plate without leaving behind any residue.

Before you order this (or any other mount), go sit in your car and visualize where it's going to go. Even better, hold your phone in that spot, just to make sure it's not going to block anything important.