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What is a Burner Phone and How is it Used?

Most people are aware of burner phones because they are often used by spies and criminals in movies and TV shows. You’ll often see someone on screen concluding a dark deal on a burner, and then promptly smashing it to pieces or throwing it away. While it’s true that these types of phones are prized for their heightened security and anonymity, in the real world, regular law-abiding citizens can make use of them in a variety of ways. If you have concerns about smartphone security, want to protect yourself online or need a second phone for business use, a burner phone might exactly what you’re looking for!

Wondering whether a burner phone is right for you? The phone experts at Recycell have put together this article to answer all of your questions and explain everything you need to know about burner phones.

What is a burner phone?

A burner phone is a cheap, disposable cell phone that provides you with a temporary, unidentifiable phone number that can’t easily be traced back to you. Burner phones are usually feature phones, which means that they bear more resemblance to the cell phones that were popular in the early 2000s. They are generally limited to calls and text messaging and won’t have smartphone features like cameras and internet browsing. This makes them cheaper and harder to trace.

Burner SIM cards and apps

There are a few other options that can provide you with a temporary phone number for security and anonymity without the need for a completely separate phone. There are cheap, prepaid SIM cards available that you can insert into your smartphone to give yourself a temporary, untraceable phone number. There are also apps you can download that offer one or more additional phone numbers for a small monthly fee.

How does a burner phone work?

Most burner phones are prepaid. That means that you can walk into a store that sells them, pay with cash and leave with a phone that has a certain number of minutes loaded onto it. When you use them up, you can load more minutes onto the phone or simply stop using it.

It also means that you aren’t tied to a contract the way you are with a regular phone. You don’t need to provide your name or credit card information or submit to a credit check to get the phone, and you can stop using it at any time.

What is a burner phone used for?

In addition to the illegal activities depicted in movies and TV shows (which we in no way recommend), there are plenty of perfectly legal uses for burner phones.

To protect yourself online

It can be tough to judge when it’s safe to give out your personal information to people you encounter online. The last thing you want to do is give your main phone number to someone who turns out to be a creep. With that number in hand, they can harass you or look up information about you online that you may not want them to have.

Whether you’re online dating or trying to buy or sell something on a virtual marketplace, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to communicate with a stranger but don’t feel comfortable giving them your main number. A burner phone provides anonymity while still allowing you to communicate.

To prevent spam

Many of the forms we are asked to fill out online require a phone number, which in some cases ends up getting used for spam calls and texts. A burner phone gives you a temporary phone number that you can use in these situations and then discard if need be.

For business

Burner phones can be used to separate your business from your personal life. If you need an additional phone number, particularly for contract work or a temporary job, a burner phone can be a useful tool to have.

Burner phones can also be used in business settings to protect against sensitive data breaches and corporate espionage. Employees with access to confidential information might swap their usual phone out for a burner phone when going on a business trip to a high-risk destination, for example.

For emergencies

Burner phones are great for use in emergencies. They are usually small and lightweight and have a very long battery life. They can be charged up, turned off and left in an emergency survival kit until they are needed.

Furthermore, the law requires all mobile phones to be able to call 911, even if they are deactivated. That means that even if your burner doesn’t have any paid minutes left, you can still call for help in an emergency.

What are the pros and cons of burner phones?

Burner phone benefits

Since burner phones don’t come with a contract, you can use the phone for as long as you need to and stop at any time, only paying for exactly what you need to use. With normal contracts, cell phone carriers are allowed to collect your data and use it, usually to analyze your habits and interests for the purpose of targeted advertising. With burner phones, your data is not collected. The phone number you use is disposable, so no one will be able to trace it back to you and it will disappear after you’re finished using it.

Burner phone drawbacks

Of course, the fact that the number is temporary and disposable means that it cannot be transferred to a new device. If you’re going for anonymity, this works to your advantage, but it can prove problematic if you use the number for business purposes.

It’s also important to note that prepaid minutes expire after a certain period of time—if you don’t use them, you lose them. Fortunately, minutes aren’t very expensive, but it can still be frustrating to pay money for no reason.

How much are burner phones, and where can I buy one?

In the U.S., burner phones are available for as little as US$10. Unfortunately, in Canada, prices tend to start quite a bit higher, around CA$45. Remember that you’ll also need to pay for the minutes you load onto the phone.

You can find prepaid SIM cards and burner phones at most convenience stores and electronics stores. Cheap phones are also available at big-box stores such as Walmart, although they may not be as inexpensive as you would hope. If anonymity is not your main concern, your best bet might be to shop for a phone online.

Recycell: your online destination for reasonably-priced phones

If you are looking for something that’s truly temporary and untraceable, there’s no doubt that a burner phone is your best bet. But if your goal is to have a second number for work or online use, you may want to consider buying a used or refurbished phone that has more features and will last longer while still being very reasonably priced.

Recycell is an online store that sells used and refurbished phones at unbeatable prices. Our phones are purchased from major companies, carefully inspected and refurbished by experts, and assigned a rating for transparency. Our wide selection includes phones associated with every major carrier as well as unlocked devices. Come pick out your phone today!


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