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Prepaid vs Postpaid

Compare the best cheap prepaid phone plans in September 2020

Best Plan
4GB LTE Data
$19 per month
Best Plan
8GB LTE Data
$20* per month
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* $60 for 3 Months Service

Best Plan
6GB LTE Data
$22.50* per month
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* 25% Off for 3 Months

Best Plan
5GB LTE Data
$30* per month
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* $15 Off for 3 Months

Postpaid vs Prepaid Plans

Sometime in the last few years, cell phones migrated from the list of discretionary wants to non-negotiable needs.

Not only that, but the list of basic requirements and essential functionality for the average cell phone user has also grown, making flip phones that were cutting edge just a decade ago about as obsolete as the payphone.

Find Cheap Cell Phone Plans in Your Area

To meet the growing demands of the consumers, cell phone carriers have tailored several plans to meet the needs and wants of nearly any kind of data user.

At the most basic level, these cell phone plans are broken down into prepaid cell phone plans and postpaid cell phone plans.

Below, I'll explain the differences and similarities between both types of plans, and suggest which kind I believe is better.

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Cheapest Sprint Prepaid Plans

UnlimitedminsUnlimitedtexts
4 GB4G data
$19per month
Powered by:Sprint
Tello SIM Card
  • Flexible plans up to 10 GB of high-speed data
  • Free texting with all plans
  • Change your plan any time
  • Unlimited 2G data
  • Monthly plans or pay-as-you-go
Average Customer Rating16 User Reviews

This Tello plan includes unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 4GB of 4G LTE data for $19 per month.

Tello is powered by the nationwide Sprint 4G LTE Network. Tello offers prepaid plans with no contract, fees or credit check. Choose a customized plan based on your usage and upgrade or downgrade anytime.

Tello allows you to turn your phone into a hotspot with free tethering. You can bring your own phone to Tello and keep your phone number. Tello is compatible with most CDMA unlocked phones. Check Phone Compatibility

Tello includes international calling, VoLTE and Wi-Fi Calling. Tello plans automatically renew every 30 days with monthly billing and can be canceled at any time. Tello offers 24/7 customer service.

Sprint vs Tello Price Comparison

Keep your Sprint phone, number & coverage: Save $492 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
SprintSprint 4G LTEUnltd*$60/mo$720/yr
TelloSprint 4G LTE4GB$19/mo$228/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$41/mo$492/yr

Cheapest T-Mobile Prepaid Plans

Mint Mobile - 8GB Data

* $60 for 3 Months Service
UnlimitedminsUnlimitedtexts
8 GB4G data
$20*per month
Powered by:T-Mobile
Mint Mobile SIM Card
  • Simple, affordable plans
  • Free text and talk with all plans
  • Unlimited 2G data
  • Free SIM card kit
Average Customer Rating57 User Reviews

This Mint Mobile plan includes unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 8GB of 4G LTE data for $20* per month.

Mint Mobile is powered by the nationwide T-Mobile 4G LTE Network. Mint Mobile offers prepaid plans with no contract, fees or credit check. Choose a customized plan based on your usage and upgrade or downgrade anytime.

Mint Mobile allows you to turn your phone into a hotspot with free tethering. You can bring your own phone to Mint Mobile and keep your phone number. Mint Mobile is compatible with most GSM unlocked phones. Check Phone Compatibility

Mint Mobile includes international calling, VoLTE and Wi-Fi Calling. Mint Mobile plans automatically renew every 30 days with monthly billing and can be canceled at any time. Mint Mobile offers 24/7 customer service.

T-Mobile vs Mint Mobile Price Comparison

Keep your T-Mobile phone, number & coverage: Save $600 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
T-MobileT-Mobile 4G LTEUnltd*$70/mo$840/yr
Mint MobileT-Mobile 4G LTE8GB$20/mo$240/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$50/mo$600/yr

Cheapest AT&T Prepaid Plans

PureTalk USA - 6GB Data

* 25% Off for 3 Months
UnlimitedminsUnlimitedtexts
6 GB4G data
$22.50*per month
Powered by:AT&T
PureTalk USA SIM Card
  • Good plan selection
  • Unlimited talk and text with all plans
  • Unlimited 2G data
  • Clean, user-friendly website
  • Competitive pricing
  • Multi-line discount
Average Customer Rating15 User Reviews

This PureTalk USA plan includes unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 6GB of 4G LTE data for $22.50* per month.

PureTalk USA is powered by the nationwide AT&T 4G LTE Network. PureTalk USA offers prepaid plans with no contract, fees or credit check. Choose a customized plan based on your usage and upgrade or downgrade anytime.

PureTalk USA allows you to turn your phone into a hotspot with free tethering. You can bring your own phone to PureTalk USA and keep your phone number. PureTalk USA is compatible with most GSM unlocked phones. Check Phone Compatibility

PureTalk USA includes international calling, VoLTE and Wi-Fi Calling. PureTalk USA plans automatically renew every 30 days with monthly billing and can be canceled at any time. PureTalk USA offers 24/7 customer service.

AT&T vs PureTalk USA Price Comparison

Keep your AT&T phone, number & coverage: Save $562 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
AT&TAT&T 4G LTEUnltd*$75/mo$900/yr
PureTalk USAAT&T 4G LTE6GB$30/mo$338/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$45/mo$562/yr

Cheapest Verizon Prepaid Plans

Reach Mobile - 5GB Data

* $15 Off for 3 Months
UnlimitedminsUnlimitedtexts
5 GB4G data
$30*per month
Powered by:Verizon
Reach Mobile SIM Card
  • Good pricing for lower data users
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Unlimited data plan available
  • User-friendly website and app
  • Mobile hotspot permitted
  • 24/7 customer support
  • No credit check
Average Customer Rating5 User Reviews

This Reach Mobile plan includes unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 5GB of 4G LTE data for $30* per month.

Reach Mobile is powered by the nationwide Verizon 4G LTE Network. Reach Mobile offers prepaid plans with no contract, fees or credit check. Choose a customized plan based on your usage and upgrade or downgrade anytime.

Reach Mobile allows you to turn your phone into a hotspot with free tethering. You can bring your own phone to Reach Mobile and keep your phone number. Reach Mobile is compatible with most unlocked phones. Check Phone Compatibility

Reach Mobile includes international calling, VoLTE and Wi-Fi Calling. Reach Mobile plans automatically renew every 30 days with monthly billing and can be canceled at any time. Reach Mobile offers 24/7 customer service.

Verizon vs Reach Mobile Price Comparison

Keep your Verizon phone, number & coverage: Save $465 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
VerizonVerizon 4G LTEUnltd*$80/mo$960/yr
Reach MobileVerizon 4G LTE5GB$45/mo$495/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$35/mo$465/yr

Prepaid Benefits

For those consumers looking for basic phone functionality that's a bit more budget-friendly; however, the prepaid cell phone can provide a solution that satisfies both communication and savvy spending needs.

  • No Contracts or Credit Checks. One great benefit is flexibility. Prepaid cell phone plans allow you to pay on a month-to-month basis, keeping you from getting locked into a contract you might not be able to afford or want later on down the line. Prepaid phone plans are also available without a credit check for customers with low or no credit scores who are unable to qualify for long-term plans.
  • Customized Plans. Many providers offer a flat monthly fee that gives you access to texting, talk time and data. In addition, you can also sign up for services where you only pay for the days you use the phone. This flexibility gives you more control over which services you pay for whereas, with a postpaid cell phone plan, you pay a specific amount per month for a blanket of services. This means you are paying for services you might not use.
  • Easy Sign-Up Process. With prepaid cell phones, there are no credit checks or deposits you must pay to use service. You simply buy the phone you want and the corresponding monthly service amount that best fits your needs. Conversely, with postpaid plans, the provider will check your credit to see if you have any outstanding balances with other cellular companies. If you have poor credit, they might allow you to obtain service but you must pay a deposit first. This makes prepaid cell plans a better alternative if you have limited credit or have had financial problems in the past.
  • No Termination Fees. With a postpaid cell phone, you can either buy a phone at a discounted rate with a two-year service commitment or finance the full price of the mobile device. In either instance, if you switch service providers before fulfilling your terms you owe a balance to the company you left, which can result in hundreds of dollars. This is why a prepaid cell phone is a great alternative because you have the freedom to switch providers any time you choose and you don't have to worry about paying costly fees to achieve this.While it's true you will need to make a higher initial investment to obtain a phone with a prepaid plan, a smart money rule is to only buy what you can afford now, which is what this forces you to do.
  • No-Risk. Because prepaid cell phones don't require a long-term commitment, there's no risk in simply trying the service to see if it's worth the savings. If you find that the coverage is too limiting or the service insufficient, you can always change your plan the following month.

Prepaid Drawbacks

  • Higher Phone Costs. Most traditional cell phone providers offer a "free" or seriously discounted phone every two years in conjunction with the long-term contract, whereas prepaid cell phone providers require you to purchase new phones in full upfront. In reality, though, the price of the phone is built into the monthly charges of the traditional contract, so if you can snag a deal on your prepaid phone, you might still be better off.
  • Changing Phone Number. If you miss a payment or fail to renew your contract each month, you could forfeit your phone number- though this is easily avoidable.
  • Limited Coverage. Before committing to a prepaid phone plan, check the carriers' coverage in your region. While prepaid cell phones are available nationwide, coverage maps differ, particularly in more remote areas. Do a coverage search to ensure any places you regularly frequent will have sufficient service for your needs. Some prepaid cell phone service providers share towers with wireless giants like Sprint and AT&T, so you get similar coverage at a much lower rate.

Postpaid Benefits

  • Get the newest phones: As your 24-month payment plan nears its end, you may be eligible to upgrade to the latest and greatest cell phones. If you love technology and enjoy staying on the cutting edge of cell phones, a postpaid cell phone plan is for you. Some cell phone carriers even offer early upgrading.
  • Never run out of data: No matter what postpaid cellphone plan you purchase, and no matter how many gigs of data allotted to you, you'll never truly run out of data anymore. As of the time of this writing, all the major cell phone carriers provide extra data to users who exceed their monthly limit. You can be sure that you'll never run out of minutes, texts, or data.
  • No manual refill required: One of the biggest gripes with prepaid cell phone plans is that you have to stay on top of refilling your minutes and data whenever you run out. With a postpaid cell phone plan, you'll have the convenience of auto-renewing every time. No need to worry.
  • Extras and Bonuses: Not many prepaid cell phone plans have gotten on the bandwagon and offered special bonuses and services for their consumers. On a postpaid cell phone plan, you can find carriers that offer unlimited video streaming, cloud photo storage, hotspot capabilities, and more.
  • Great for families: Postpaid cell phone plans are often perfect for families or large groups of people who want multiple lines tied to a single account and under one monthly bill. Many carriers offer specific family cell phone plans that you can see here.

Postpaid Drawbacks

  • Excess Charges: You may get charged extra if you exceed your monthly allotment of data provided by your plan. Excess charges can be hefty, such as $10 per extra GB, but this price varies among cell phone carriers.
  • Data Throttling: If you exceed your monthly allotment of data, or use a lot of data on an unlimited data plan, you may experience severely slowed data speeds. Cell phone carriers often throttle, or restrict, the speed of high-data consumers during peak activity hours.
  • Not as flexible: Canceling a prepaid cell phone plan is easy--simply don't refill your data and minutes and you won't be charged anymore (you won't service anymore, either). Canceling a postpaid cell phone plan is much more difficult. You'll have to cancel through your provider, and likely will have to speak to their dreaded customer service department.
  • Credit Checks: It's not common, but some cell phone carriers may require a credit check before you subscribe to a plan. Depending on how healthy your credit is, you may experience extra fees.

Prepaid Plans from Low-Cost Carriers Offer the Best Value

Now that I've discussed both kinds of cell phone plans, which one is better? Well, like most things in life: it depends.

Prepaid cell phones are a great fit if you are looking to control how much you pay for the services you use. While they do require an initial investment in buying the phone and service, over time you won't have to worry about termination fees if you want to switch providers.

Best of all, obtaining a prepaid cell phone is easy since you don't have to worry about credit checks and deposits. This makes them a great option to consider if you want all the benefits of cell phone use without the high costs.

On the flipside, a postpaid cell phone is perfect for those who want to stay up-to-date with the most advanced devices, families with multiple lines, and large data users. You won't have to worry about refilling your minutes and data every month, and you can experience plenty of neat perks.

Ultimately, the best cell phone plan is the one that fits your lifestyle, budget, and actually covers where you live.

Recap

Both prepaid and postpaid cell phone plans have their merits. If you plan on sticking to a budget, the cheaper prepaid cell phone plans are for you. If you want the best and newest devices, then you'll have to choose a postpaid plan.

For a list of the best prepaid cell phone plans, you can check out our review. After you've checked out which cell phone plan is right for you, we can tell you the easiest way to switch cell phone carriers.

Michelle McLean

Michelle McLean

The Best Prices on the Best NetworksAll low-cost carriers are powered by the major US networks
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