Choosing a Cell Phone Plan

When deciding on a new cell phone plan, there are various considerations to take into account. You will need to decide the type of plan for your phone, which cell phone company to use, and how much to budget for your wireless bill.

The main types of cell phone plans available are:

  • Contract Plans
    • 2-Year Contracts
  • Prepaid Plans
    • Pay as You Go
    • Pay Per Day
    • Monthly No Contract
  • Data Plans
    • Monthly Data
    • Unlimited Data
    • Shared Data

When choosing a cell phone plan, determine how you will use your phone. If you plan on using your phone often, then consider a contract plan. If you do not plan on using your phone often then consider a prepaid phone plan. If you plan on texting, uploading pictures, or accessing the internet, then you will want to add an appropriate data plan. Ultimately, the phone plan should provide you with the right amount of service you need while costing as little as possible.

Contract Plans

A contract cell phone plan may work well if you plan on using your phone frequently. The billing cycle for these plans is on a monthly basis. Usually, contract plans have a 2-year agreement and the cost per minute is less than prepaid plans. With a contract, some carriers have family plans that may save money per activated phone line. Before a contract plan expires, cell phone companies may offer free or discounted phone upgrades or other incentives to renew your contract.

Prepaid Plans

If you limit your phone usage, prepaid cell phone plans provide flexibility and cost savings. With prepaid phones, you purchase minutes in advance and purchase additional minutes when needed. There are multiple types of prepaid plans that include pay as you go, pay per day, and monthly no contract. Each option is designed to fit the unique way you manage your phone calls. By limiting the usage of minutes, your monthly service costs may be less than a contract plan.  Also, prepaid phones are a good alternative for temporary use, travel, or emergency backup. Since prepaid plans are no contract, you have the flexibility to switch cell phone companies without incurring early termination fees found with most contract plans.

Data Plans

Newer cell phones, such as smart phones, may require data plans and it is important to select the right plan. The main reason for having an adequate amount of data is because data access can add up quickly with the plethora of phone apps, streaming music and video, and constant web surfing. Cell phone data plans have tiered options with varying prices. Calculating your data consumption may be difficult when first deciding on a data plan. If you are unsure of how much data you will use, you may want to try the most inexpensive data plan first and, if needed, adjust the data limit after the first month. Depending on the plan, some may offer unlimited data or the ability to share data among devices while using your cell phone as a wireless hotspot. Also, some cell phones have settings that allow you to limit your data usage, so that you will not go over your allowed data limit and incur additional charges.

Another consideration for data plans is speed. Data plan speeds currently vary between 3G and 4G. 4G is the newer technology and about ten times faster than 3G. Therefore, if a 3G data plan receives 1 Mbps then 4G would receive about 10 Mbps. If you plan on sending pictures, watching videos, or streaming music, then a wireless phone company that has wide 4G coverage is worth considering.

Location Coverage

For calling service, be sure to take into account each cell phone company’s service coverage in your area. Not all phone carriers have the same coverage. Simply checking a cell phone company’s service coverage can help you narrow your choice of providers. Usually, you will want to choose a provider based on having a strong cell phone signal and/or data signal in your location. Wireless service providers have coverage maps available on their websites so that it is easy for you to check if your area has available service.

Promotions and Deals

Finally, a simple way to save on your new cell phone plan is to compare which cell phone companies have promotions currently running. Some companies may offer great deals on a new phone, introductory deals, savings on phone accessories, or bundled deals. Each company is unique in what types of promotional offers they provide when joining their networks. When you decide on a cell phone plan, remember to find the right service that fits your cell phone needs and budget.

If you are ready to select a prepaid cell phone, you can see our list of prepaid phone service providers or full list of wireless carriers.

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