Choosing the Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plan

Prepaid cell phones are a great alternative to having a traditional cell phone plan. Most pre-paid phone plans provide the basic services and functions of normal cell phones. Depending on your budget or situation, a pre-paid cell phone may be right for your needs. With prepaid phones, you purchase a set amount of minutes that will last a predetermined amount of time. The actual cell phone, calling features, and plan cost of a prepaid phone will vary depending on your service provider.

Prepaid phones are great if:

  • You want a no contract cell phone
  • You will not use your cell phone often
  • You have less than ideal credit history
  • You are on a limited budget for a mobile phone
  • You do not want to worry about overage charges
  • You are traveling and would like  a temporary cell phone
  • You would like to keep an emergency mobile phone for backup
  • You lost your regular cell phone and need a temporary replacement
  • You want to try a cell phone carrier’s network before committing to a long-term contract 

How Prepaid Cell Phones Work

  1. Choose your prepaid cell phone provider
  2. Select the right cell phone for your needs
  3. Purchase the best prepaid cell phone plan that suits you
  4. Enjoy using your prepaid phone
  5. Purchase, recharge, or refill your prepaid minutes when needed 

Choosing a Prepaid Service Provider

Before choosing your cell phone, it is important to choose the right prepaid phone service provider for you. Various factors to take into consideration when choosing your cell phone carrier include location, service coverage, costs, calling features, cell phone, and data plan.

Location – Depending on where you live, you may be limited to certain providers because of their service coverage. The service coverage will be for both voice service and data access. The two services may cover different areas, so be sure to check the providers’ coverage maps if you plan to use both voice and data.

Service Coverage – This is similar to location, however you should take into consideration if you will be traveling frequently out of your currently serviced area. Roaming charges can be costly.

Costs – The on-going cost of your phone will usually vary among wireless providers. However, the costs will differ if you decide to purchase additional service options or minutes for your prepaid phone. Overall, the costs will include the price of the cell phone and the cost of purchasing minutes and/or data access.

Calling Features – Each cell phone carrier will have a basic set of features and additional options unique to its service. You will want to compare the features among the service providers to find the set that fits your needs.

Cell Phone – The cell phone you choose should reflect how you will use your phone. Since you are purchasing a prepaid phone, you may want to consider a phone that helps you save on minutes or data. Certain cell phones may run applications in the background that may quickly use your data allowance.

Data Plan – Determine how much data you plan on using when deciding on a prepaid phone. Certain phone features or apps may use a lot of data that will cause your phone to reach its data limit quickly. Popular smartphone apps like email, Facebook, Twitter, and some games exchange data in the background while your phone is idle or when you are using your phone for other tasks. Therefore, be aware of how much you plan to use applications on your cell phone. With basic phones, you may not need to worry about possible data overages since the phone will not access the internet as often as a smartphone.

Selecting a Prepaid Cell Phone

Each cell phone carrier will have its own set of prepaid phones. Since carriers may have different ways of implementing their wireless technology, your phone may be specific to a certain service provider’s network and you will not be able to use your phone on another wireless carrier’s network. However, if you decide to switch carriers, some prepaid phones will work on multiple networks. You will need to make sure your phone is compatible with the other networks you plan on using.

In most cases, prepaid phones are not the newest models of cell phones available compared to the phones of a regular cell phone plan. There are different types of cell phones available:

  • Basic Phones (Conventional)
    • Flip Phones
    • Candy Bar Phones
  • Smartphones
    • Touch Screen Phones
    • QWERTY Keyboard Phones

Choosing your cell phone should be based on how often you plan on using your phone or how you use your phone. If all you need is the ability to make phone calls and check voicemail, then a basic phone will be enough. However, if you will need to make calls and access the internet or check email, then a smartphone will handle your needs.

After deciding on purchasing a basic phone or smart phone, you will be able to choose the specific cell phone. Depending on how advanced the phone is will determine the price. Usually, the newer smartphones will cost more than basic phones.

You may want to consider whether or not the following phone features are important to you:

  • Camera
  • Speakerphone
  • Battery Life
  • Size
  • Memory Capacity
  • Operating System – Android, Apple iOS, Windows, etc.

Prepaid Cell Phone Plans

The prepaid phone plan you choose will include a certain amount of minutes and/or data access per month. The monthly cost for each allotment of minutes will vary among wireless providers. A big benefit with prepaid plans is that the plans are no contract and will allow you to switch carriers quickly. There are a few different ways that prepaid phone plans are set up:

Pay as You Go/Pay Per Minute – You purchase minutes upfront. When you run out of minutes, you can purchase more minutes. Hence, pay as you go.

Pay Per Day – You only pay for the days you use your cell phone.

Monthly – You buy a certain amount of minutes per month for a set monthly payment. However, since the agreement is prepaid monthly, you will not have to worry about being locked into a yearly contract.

Data Plans – Access to the internet may be included or separate from the prepaid phone plan. Be sure to review the details in regards to the provider’s data plan costs.

The costs for each type of plan may be different for each phone carrier. Keep in mind that minutes usually cost more per minute on shorter time periods.

Below are the main features that will be included in your on-going costs:

  • Prepaid Minutes
  • Text Messaging and/or Picture Messaging
  • Data Access (Internet)

Depending on the wireless provider and prepaid plan, some features may be unlimited or have a separate cost. Again, determine which features are most important to you and choose the best prepaid cell phone plan that fits you. 

Benefits and Drawbacks

There are a number of benefits and drawbacks with prepaid cell phones. Depending on your needs or situation, the problems with prepaid phones may not affect you as much.

The benefit of having a prepaid phone allows you to control how much you spend on your wireless phone plan. If you do not use your phone often, then having a prepaid phone allows you to save money that would have otherwise been spent on a yearly contract. Prepaid phones are a great choice if you are on a limited budget for wireless service. Also, if you already have a regular cell phone contract, your prepaid phone can be used as an emergency backup phone.

The drawbacks with prepaid cell phones mostly deal with the cost per minute and frequency of usage. Comparing prepaid phones to traditional cell phone contracts, will show that you are paying more per minute. This only begins to be a problem if you use your phone frequently enough that it costs more than having a monthly cell phone contract. Your prepaid minutes may expire within a certain amount of days from purchase (usually 30 or 90 days). You may or may not be able to transfer your phone number with your prepaid phone. Finally, if your prepaid phone deactivates from lack of use within a certain time period, you may be assigned a new number when you reactivate your phone.

Although, the drawbacks may be a bit of a hassle, they should not be a deal breaker for owning a prepaid cell phone.  As long as you use your phone  enough to keep it activated and do not overuse your minutes, then having a prepaid cell phone will be a great option for you. Ultimately, you will have the plan that fits your needs and lifestyle without breaking the bank. We hope you found this information useful and hope you enjoy your new prepaid phone!

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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