PREPAID CELL PHONE PLANS
What You Should Know
Prepaid Cell Phone Plans
You can't get the phone without the phone plan. Here are our favorite prepaid carriers who should treat you well.
- TracFone: Can purchase phones and phone cards nationally at most local retailers such as Target and Walmart. Phones are inexpensive; phone cards are available in 60 minute to 250 minutes for prices ranging from $20 to $99. Most expire in 60 days unless you renew by buying another phone card. When you renew before the expiration date, your unused minutes roll over to the next 60 day calling period. The $99 card (250 minutes) is good for up to a year.
- Virgin Mobile Has three basic plans: Day2Day, Minute2Minute, and Month2Month. Day2Day charges are $.10 per minute with a $.35 per day access fee. Minute2Minute charges are $.25 per minute for the first 10 minutes, and $.10 per minute after that. Month2Month charges $30 for 300 minutes.
- Net10 Wireless is a simple plan and economical too, compared to some prepaid phone plans. Simply buy a phone and Net10 Phone card, available in increments of 300, 600, 1000, and 1500 minutes. Costs are $30, $60, $100, $150, so it's always $.10 a minute. The 300 minute card is good for 60 days, the 600 minute card for 90 days; the 1,000 minute card for 180 days, and the $150 card for a year. Simply remember to buy another card or purchase minutes online or through your phone before your time runs out and you're good to go without no penalty. Unused minutes roll over to the new time frame.
Some of the major cell phone carriers also offer prepaid cell phone plans.
- Cingular GoPhone: Offer several plans, including rates ranging from $.10 a minute plus access fees for days you use your phone; $.25 a minute with no access fees; and a rollover plan with rollover minutes, free nights & weekends.
- T-Mobile To Go offers minutes that expire anywhere from 30 days to a year. Price ranges from $.10 to $.25 a minute.
- Verizon Wireless offers two basic plans: $.10 per minute with a $.99 a day access fee, whether or not you use your phone; and monthly plans such as $50 for 350 minutes and no access fee, 700 minutes for $70. Both of the monthly plans allow unlimited night and weekend calls.
You'll be able to find more details about prepaid plans from each carrier's web site, or visit your local retail store for more information.
Choosing Your Cell Phone
When choosing your cell phone on a prepaid plan, your choices are going to be more limited than with the monthly contracted plans. You may not be able to get a camera phone or one with more sophisticated features on a prepaid plan, although those restrictions are being relaxed more. But if you don't plan on using your cell phone as an every-day phone, you may not be interested in the extra features anyway.
For example, Tracfone is currently offering seven different Nokia phones and eight Motorola models for their prepaid customers. There are a couple of flip phones available as well, from Motorola. All TracFone cell phones offer text messaging and free voice mail, caller ID and call waiting. Net10 also offers Nokia and Motorola phones, and even has a camera phone you can purchase and use with their prepaid plan.
The Final Word
Prepaid Cell Phone plans are great for people who don't plan on using their cell phone very often or for emergency purposes only; who don't want to tie themselves into a long term or expensive contract; or who have credit problems and aren't able to qualify for a regular cell phone plan. Check out the various plans from cell phone carriers to see which one will work the best for you. Phones are available from your prepaid cell phone carrier, too. Because there is a growing interest in the prepaid cell phone plans, you will undoubtedly see more sophisticated cell phones available for your use. And perhaps in the future you will even see the rates drop as well.
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