For folks who only need a basic wireless plan or don't like the idea of signing a two- or three-year contract, finding the best prepaid cell phone plans might suit your needs. They offer plans that are not only flexible (including family plans) but allow you to pay for the service on a month-to-month basis.
If you're concerned you might not be able to get the latest model phones on a prepay plan, don't worry - you won't be limited to the cheapest cell phones available. There are plenty of current devices to choose from, including the Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy series, as well as the latest Apple iPhone.
I've examined the top pre-paid phone plans in the industry to make your search a bit easier and evaluated them on their phone selections, types of plans, and these other characteristics. But first, let's look at the basics of cellular service.
Key Considerations When Choosing a Prepaid Phone Plan
These days having a cell phone is just another one of life's basic necessities. Knowing all-too-well about our reliance on these devices, mobile phone providers are able to charge high prices for monthly plans, data packages, and all the other extras.
When it comes to comparing the top prepaid phones, it's important to keep the following components in mind:
If you've opted for a prepaid cell phone it's most likely because you want to skim the excess off your monthly bill. You're not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly one in five Americans see their smartphone as a financial burden.
Before even browsing the plans available, determine the amount you can afford to spend based on your overall budget. Investigate all options - some might surprise you. For example, Verizon Wireless offers an unlimited no-contract cell phone plan for $70 per month - $10 cheaper than their postpaid unlimited option. Prepaid plans are just one way to lower your monthly cell phone bill. Head here for more tips and strategies.
On average, how much data do you use? Do you spend the majority of your time texting friends and family? Or do you use your mobile phone mostly to surf the web and check emails? Do you need a family plan? Determine exactly what portion of time you and your family spend talking, text messaging and using data. If you find that you lean heavily in one area over the other, a prepay cell phone plan might be your best bet.
As with any cell phone provider, coverage is crucial. First and foremost, make sure the provider's service is available in your area. You can take a look at our cell phone coverage maps to see which provider has the best coverage. You want great phone coverage, and fortunately, market growth in the industry has led to extremely competitive coverage levels.
4. Phone Selection
Traditional (non-prepaid) cell phone carriers generally run promotions which entitle you to the newest cell phones at a discounted or nominal rate. By charging higher monthly fees and enrolling you in a set term contract they're able to recoup the price of the phone. Since many prepaid cell providers operate without contract terms and do offer a lower monthly rate, you'll likely pay more up front for your device, whether that's an Apple iPhone, or an Android phone like the Samsung Galaxy. It is, however becoming increasingly common for providers like Straight Talk to offer cell phone financing (you must qualify, though).
You may also want to take into account user reviews on things like customer service and contact options like phone support and live chat.