Are There Advantages Of Switching To A Prepaid Cell Phone?



Prepaid cell phones aren’t only for drug dealers on the HBO show The Wire. Those who rarely talk or text and would rather not be tied to an electronic leash may want to look into prepaid plans. They could be cheaper than monthly plans, and could work for those who are on a tight budget.

In a post on Moolanomy, Miranda lays out the reasons prepaid service work best for her:

In my family, cell phones do not represent the primary communication. We have VoIP for our regular phone, and the cell phones are mainly for when we’re away. My cell phone is a pre-paid, per-minute deal. I rarely need to use my phone, so my per-month cost averages out to right around $4 month. And I like having the phone in case of emergency, or so my husband can reach me when I am not at home.

If you’ve ever used a prepaid cell phone plan, why did it work for you? If you came back to a monthly plan, what made you make the shift?

Is Prepaid Cell Phone Right For You? [Moolanomy]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Doubts42 says:

    I use a prepaid net 10 phone. 10 cents (not .10 cents) a minute and no fees.
    i spend between $15.00 and $20.00 a month for my phone that cost $30.00 to begin with.
    Of course I do not get any bells and whistles, but I don’t pay for bells and whistles i don’t want/need either.

    • NumberSix says:

      My wife has one of those for the same reasons. Works well for her, but I still think she is over paying. She has about 2000 minutes in her balance at any given time.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I have one too. I recently upgraded to the QWERTY phone, just because I text my bf so much that I can’t stand using the slow number keys any more.

      NO ETFs! No overages! As long as I add days before the service days end, I keep it going.

  2. PsychicPsycho says:

    Don’t think prepaid = bad device! You can get a prepaid SIM card for any phone at all. I have T-Mobile prepaid on my shiny Nexus One. I like gadgets and the usefulness of my smartphone, but don’t have a lot of money or talk on the phone very much. My minutes don’t expire for one year and I spend maybe $300-$400 each year on it which is a lot less than the $1,000 or so you could easily end up spending on a post-paid contract plan.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I don’t think you can go pre-paid with the iPhone, which is what I’d love to do. I don’t use many minutes. Most of my communication with my phone is through data and text.

      • Draxxlith says:

        You can if you unlock it (see people using them on T-Mobile).

        The problem is that neither T-mobile nor AT&T have good data rates on prepaid, and the iPhone can’t do T-Mo’s 3G frequency. If all you want is text and a little bit of data, it could work, but you’ll need wifi everywhere. But, if you do usually have wifi, in my area unlimited texting alone is only $15 on Tmo and $20 on AT&T, and could definitely save you money if you use wifi + google voice.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Yeah, T-Mobile has pretty good voice coverage in my area but I definitely rely on 3G in the subway tunnels and at work, so going to T-Mobile is not an option.

        • ryder02191 says:

          You don’t even have to unlock it for a majority of cases. I bought a new iPhone 3G on eBay and went the prepaid route with it (albeit unlocked on T-Mobile), but people always forget that there are literally countless resellers of network airtime, dubbed mobile virtual network operators ( is a good resource). This lets you use nearly any service, but (in most cases) for several times less. They’re not fly-by-night businesses, either; I used O2 prepaid (AT&T) on my iPhone before I switched to T-Mobile, which was a third of the cost of using AT&T directly (came out to ~$7/month for light to moderate use).

    • montusama says:

      I use mostly data and texting (well not as much as I use to but I’m sure that will climb again) should probably look into changing my service.

  3. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    “Cell phones do not represent my primary communication. We have VoIP for our regular phone, and the cell phones are mainly for when we’re away. My cell phone is a pre-paid, per-minute deal. I rarely need to use my phone, so my per-month cost averages out to right around $4 month. And I like having the phone in case of emergency, or so my husband can reach me when I am not at home”

    2 tracfones: $8 a month
    1 magic jack and internet IM: $1.70 a month.

    Not having to pay Qwest and no contracts? PRICELESS.

    • MrEvil says:

      Does MagicJack do Voicemail? If they don’t you can also get a Google Voice account and have Voicemail on your MagicJack, for FREE!

  4. Draxxlith says:

    While I agree that a lot of people could do well with prepaid- be very careful with coverage area, as pre-paid does NOT roam on other networks, so smaller pre-paids like T-Mobile’s may be fine in your area, but most prepaids fizzle out in the midwest or in more rural areas. Note that the contract or ‘postpaid’ coverage maps will show everywhere you get service, *including* roaming, and that’s the catch- double check maps exclusively for prepaid to make sure you aren’t going to be hung out to dry if you travel a lot.

    • Bob Lu says:

      Untrue, at least untrue for T-M.

      I have been using a T-M prepaid phone since 2006. At that time I was in Cleveland and the area was covered by T-M. Then I moved to Duluth, MN, where didn’t have T-M coverage at that moment. I roamed on AT&T and some smaller carrier’s network without problem. I can’t be 100% sure whether the per minute price was exactly the same, but even if there was a different it was small enough for me to ignore.

    • Aesteval says:

      It appears that AT&T has some hidden allowance for roaming on other networks on their prepaid plans. They don’t say how much it is, but apparently they’ll throw a hissy fit if you go over it. Still, could be perfectly usable.

    • Weekilter says:

      Actually, T-Mobile does roam onto other networks. The number of roaming agreements is not as great as their monthly billed service, but is more than what others give. TracFone roams on multiple networks.

  5. xspook says:

    You people obviously aren’t texting your friends 500,000 times a day. HOW WILL THEY KNOW WHEN YOU SCRATCHED YOUR ARSE?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      It used to be worse. Before people started texting, they would just have the same conversations out loud in public. At least texting is a relatively quiet task.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        I read my texts aloud while typing. ;)

  6. slim150 says:

    Get a time machine and go back to 2007 and sign up for Sprint’s SERO :D

    • lilyHaze says:

      I’m glad I stuck with my SERO plan, even when they stopped allowing us to get new phones. I love my $55/mo plan and having an Evo.

  7. DerangedKitsune says:

    I use prepaid, simply because I don’t use my cell a whole lot. I don’t live to text and it’s not glued to my ear for hours a day.

    So I get a good phone for less than the 1-month cost of a smart phone, and spend $10-15 a month on average to keep it active. The only aggravating thing is having to top up when it runs low/out. I could have it do it automatically, but dislike autopayment systems and avoid where I can.

    I’m in Canada and there aren’t many networks to deal with, so roaming is minimal to none. I can’t use it out of country, but I have an even cheaper prepaid phone if I visit the States for a couple days of vacation.

  8. alSeen says:

    I switched to Straight Talk 3 months ago and I love it. The cell network is provided by Verizon (which is great in my state).

    $45 a month for unlimited talk, text and data. No contract. After 6% sales tax, that comes to $48. When I was with Verizon I was paying $57 for 450 minutes anytime, unlimited nights, weekends, and mobile to mobile, and 250 texts with no data.

    I’m using the Samsung R355C which works fine. I can’t install apps or play games, but I can visit most websites. Really can’t beat the value.

    • alSeen says:

      They also have a $30 plan that has 1000 minutes, 1000 texts and 30 megs of data.

    • Bunnies Attack! says:

      I did the same thing except we figured out that with the limited web browsing we do, we never hit the cap for the $30 plan so switched to that. I mean, without streaming, 30mb of data is quite a bit unless you send TONS of pic messages.

    • wimom says:

      We have had the $30 plan for 7 months (on two phones). Neither of us have hit the cap. You might want to try the cheaper plan. We love it too.

  9. Hirayuki says:

    I got a prepaid phone for my husband some time ago (before he got one from work and was allowed to use it for the occasional non-work call). He only needed it for emergencies or to call home while shopping to double-check what we needed, that kind of thing.

    It worked great, except that the prepaid cards didn’t come in low enough denominations and we could never hope to dip into our rollover minutes, which meant we ended up throwing away tons of unused minutes every month. We eventually put him on my contract plan; that went well enough and was cheaper in the end.

    This was before pay-as-you-go plans, which would have been an even better fit for us at the time.

  10. Bsamm09 says:

    My old roommate used to buy those phones and put his sim card in them because he’d get so drunk and piss himself on a regular basis. He had one nice phone and then pissed about 25-40 of them. He’s now a doctor…well, dentist.

  11. nbs2 says:

    We thought about dropping the missus down to a prepaid, what with her telecommuting causing the house and work phones to render the cell minimally useful. But, when an additional line to the primary account is $10/m, it’s hard to justify going with prepaid. The few months where she has had some travel or just made a lot of calls has made our decision all the more worthwhile.

    If she wasn’t on a family plan though, we’d have her on prepaid in a heartbeat.

  12. Starfury says:

    I started out with a pre-paid phone but after doing hte math (.25 per min for the first 10 min of calls per day) it was cheaper to get my own line. Now we have a family plan and can call each other for “free” all the time plus the in-laws are also on Verizon so we can call long distance to them for free.

    If you are a very causal user of your phone then pre-paid is a good deal…until you start to rely on it/use it all the time.

  13. HalOfBorg says:

    I have Tracfone, since I just want emergency cell phone.

    • stormbird says:

      I have a tracphone myself and my parents have prepaid T-mobile cells- they pay about a hundred dollars a year for both their cell usage.

  14. Isabel says:

    Nothing would persuade me to go to a monthly plan again.

  15. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    um, rarely talk or text doesn’t apply to all prepaid plans anymore. i have a prepaid plan, set $46 a month after taxes with unlimited talk, text and data. my phone is locked in to their network and uses proprietary software, and it’s only semi smart. i can use mobile websites but most full websites are a pain in the ass to view on my phone.
    but i can check my email, my bank, comparison shop, get directions…. all the important things that i want to be able to do while mobile.
    i don’t have a contract, i don’t have to worry about bill fluctuations and it’s impossible for extra junk to be charged without my knowledge.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      What service do you use?

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        cricket. used to be with virgin mobile but they screwed up my billing three too many times and i got fed up

        • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

          If I needed a “unlimited” plan, I would go with Cricket. For $35 a month they give my daughter unlimited talk and text with no contract.

  16. Kingsley says:

    My experience with never having a real contract mobile phone: I used a minute-to-minute plan from virginmobile for years and years. I learned about it in Consumer Reports magazine; it was $90 a year!

    Then I upgraded to add $5 of data and a better phone but the monthly renewal (caused by the data plan) took a phone call and about an hour to get connected again every month for 16 months in a row.

    I’m super happy with their $25 a month plan now. 300 minutes plus unlimited data/texts. I use a dumb smart phone called LG Rumor Touch. They never upgrade their phones or fix anything, though. The camera takes about 2 seconds to snap after pressing either button to take the picture, for example.

    They put out an Android phone now but it’s an earlier release that the phone is locked to so I’m passing on it for now.

  17. jp says:

    Got a T-mobile pre-paid Nokia phone 5 years ago and keep it in the ‘glove’ compartment of my car. Every year (on the day before expiration) I spend $10 bucks to keep it active for another year and all other prior year minutes carry over, too. Works out to 10 cents per minute when I do use it. Well worth the $10 a year knowing its there when I need it.

    • Brie says:

      How do you charge it? Do you take it out every few days? I ask because my parents TRY to have emergency cell phones, but crap happens. They get the cheapest crappiest phones (I know they’ve had Tracfone at least once), and the phones eventually run out of battery, and since they don’t use the phones regularly, they don’t know the phone is dead until they try to use it.

      Or the phone takes sixty seconds to turn on and five minutes to find the network.

      Or the phone is in my mother’s purse under a bunch of junk, or my father left his phone in his glove compartment or briefcase or somewhere not on his person.

      And all of this is in service to the “in case of emergency” idea, when all of the above renders their phones useless in an emergency.

      • TooManyHobbies says:

        I have a cheap $20 phone (Virgin Mobile), and if I leave it turned off, it can sit in my bag for several months and still be charged. Yes, it takes about a minute to 90 seconds to boot up cold, and another 20 seconds to find the network. The same is true of most phones I’ve seen if you actually shut them completely off.

        I just set a reminder to myself to pull the phone out every 3 months and pop it on the charger for a few minutes. I also usually turn it on once a week for 5 minutes just to see if I missed any calls or texts. It’s always just spam.

      • jp says:

        The phone they gave me is a Nokia 6030. Way outdated and not made anymore, but I swear, I can keep it in the car for 3 months, never use it, and it starts right up. After maybe 30 minutes of being turn on (after 3 months of being off), the low battery signal comes on, I charge it for 15 minutes in the house, and back in the car it goes for the next 3 months (or until I use it).

      • nutbastard says:

        keep it in the glove box, and keep it on. wire a charger from the 12v circuit and keep it plugged in all the time. it’s not that complicated.

    • TooManyHobbies says:

      Is this a grandfathered plan? The only plans I see for them now need to be re-upped every 90 days.

      • jp says:

        Its been over 5 years and I forgot one little detail. In the beginning, I bought $100 of prepaid minutes to qualify for the ‘Gold’ status. Gold status remains in effect as long as you keep the phone activated. Once you get to this Gold status thing you get 15% bonus on all added minutes and they last for one year. Then you can add the minimum $10 year to year to keep the phone active. Those original minutes ($100 worth) are the ones that have been carrying over year over year. So basically, for $100 upfront (hopefully the phone is free like mine was) you can keep a prepaid phone around for $10 yearly thereafter with all minutes carrying forward.

  18. ohhhh says:

    I use a Moto Droid on Page Plus, $30/month for 1200 minutes 1200 texts. Most verizon phones are compatible with Page Plus and between this phone and my wife’s we save around $30/month over what we paid on AT&T.

  19. Hitchcock says:

    Got my wife’s iPhone on a prepaid plan with AT&T, no data. $25 credit lasts for 90 days before it expires, and she rarely uses it all.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      How did you do this?

      • ryder02191 says:

        1) Buy iPhone
        2) Insert prepaid SIM card
        3) Done!

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I guess that works, but not if you want data or text (which would then raise the attention of AT&T).

          • ryder02191 says:

            I didn’t mean that as condescending — that’s literally all there is to it. As long as you have an iPhone, all you need to do is put an appropriate prepaid SIM in it (check out one of my responses earlier in the thread). Depending on your prepaid plan, you’d have all the voice, data, and text capabilities you want. My iPhone is on T-Mobile prepaid and has all three in perfect harmony.

  20. Lexasaurus says:

    Prepaid is great! I use prepaid phones when I travel. If I’m going to be in a country for 3-12 months, I need a phone but don’t want to get locked into a contract for a service I won’t be able to use when I leave.

    Also, I have had phones stolen, and with a pre-paid phone you don’t have to worry about someone running up a huge bill before you can report the theft.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      Overseas… where cell phones don’t get incoming call or text charges!

      When we went overseas (Philippines) for about $30 we bought a basic cell phone with minutes. We used most of the minutes before we left. We had a choice: we could give it to someone, or keep it for our next trip. We chose the latter, since everyone had a prepaid phone already. (contract phones are a rarity)

      BTW, You can also have your own phone unlocked and use a prepaid sim. There’s shops everywhere there that will unlock just about any phone for a few bucks.

  21. LM2003 says:

    I have T-Mobile prepaid and I like it a lot. I buy 1000 Minutes for $100 and they last for a year. I usually use them up in about 10 Months. I would love to have a iPhone or something and I could put it to great use, but I can not justify the monthly expense. I currently have the most basic phone of anyone that I know and I really don’t care, as I know that I am paying a fraction of the cost of anyone else.

    • econobiker says:

      I used 1200+ minutes in one month while looking for a job and no land line. That would never work for my use profile.

  22. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    We use prepaid cards with the T-Mobile Comet. It has wifi capability so we don’t even need to connect to T-mobile to access the internet or to use Skype. The prepaid card covers basic voice and text when wifi is not available.

  23. rdclark says:

    Been using Tracfone for years. What with the double minutes and bonuses when you buy a year’s worth, and existing minutes that roll over, when I re-upped in November I ended up with 1500 minutes and 2 years in which to use them, for $100. It’s unlikely I will use that many minutes; I often don’t even turn the damn thing on. My wife insists I carry it around because of my health conditions.

  24. spanky says:

    I hate talking on the phone, and I work almost exclusively from home, so I dropped down to a prepaid (Virgin Mobile) plan years ago. My minutes are really expensive, but I only need to top up every couple of months, so it costs me $7 a month to keep my phone active. And even then, I use it so infrequently that I roll over plenty of accumulated minutes for those times when I am away from the house for an extended time and need to use it a lot.

  25. Ocyrus says:

    I like mine… cheap as hell, as I buy minutes in massive bulk.
    But I’m also one of those people that doesn’t feel the need to be connected to everything that a smartphone can access, ie., I’m not a narcissist.
    My employer provides me a Blackberry for work purposes, and that’s all I ever use it for… mostly checking e-mails while I travel… but when I’m on my own time I’d just rather not be bothered by the interwebs, and prefer my SLR to any cam on any smartphone.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      So people are narcissists if they’d like to have access to news and weather? I mean, you can ream on social networking all you want, but smartphones do a heck of a lot more than connect to Facebook. Having one doesn’t mean using it to update your status is the only thing you do. I haven’t logged into Facebook in months, but I check the weather and get the latest updates for my commute. I also use it as a GPS. You seem to have some erroneous assumptions about smartphones and people who use them.

    • RayanneGraff says:

      Wow, I had no idea I was a narcissist for keeping in touch with people I care about & enjoying all the funny cat pictures the interweb has to offer.

  26. toberead says:

    If you have a home phone (including VoIP) and a prepaid cell, you can use Google Voice to use your minutes most efficiently. I give out my GV number to everyone and it rings my cell and my home phone. I only have to use my cell minutes if I’m not at home and someone needs to reach me. Before GV, I had to give out both numbers, and people would call me on my cell even when I was home – burning up my prepaid minutes.

  27. mike says:

    I’m thinking about moving to a pre-paid plan because I use a lot of internet and barely any minutes (15-20 minutes TOPS). I have something like 4000 roll over minutes.

    If I could have my iPhone without having to pay a contract, I’d do it.

  28. TooManyHobbies says:

    I’ve been on Virgin Mobile for several years. I used to have Verizon for about $30/month, but after a couple of years of that I realized that I average about 15 minutes of usage a month (out of 300 available), which equates to $2/min. No prepaid is that expensive.

    I’m now paying $5/month, at 18 cents a minute. The phone cost $20 outright. I still use perhaps 10 minutes a month, so I slowly build up a balance. It got to $180 at one time, and Virgin allowed me to transfer the balance to my daughter’s account, which had run dry (very nice of them). It’s back up to about $60 now.

    Even their “plans” are good. My daughter now has unlimited talk and text for $55 also via VM, which is cheaper than any of the other carriers for single phones. When they say “plan” there’s still no commitment; it’s month to month, cancel any time, $55/month unlimited.

    The $20 phone is all I really want; something that makes calls and texts.

    They would actually give me an iPhone at work and pay for the service, but A) I don’t really want the leash, and B) AT&T doesn’t have any coverage at my house anyway.

  29. joe643 says:

    For those who don’t know about ‘The Wire’, it’s only the best show ever. No really.

  30. Walkindude says:

    They work great because you don’t get tied into the plan from hades after a big investment. If you spend thirty bucks and don’t like it you can go back to getting reamed by inane charges.

  31. lettucefactory says:

    We used pre-paid phones for a couple of years. They did the trick – endured we were never out of touch without having to fork over much money. Our phones themselves were kind of junky, but I don’t think they all are.

  32. Garbanzo says:

    My prepaid phone service has been running me $50/year, which is the minimum they let me get away with even though I don’t use all the minutes. It’s 15¢/minute, plus perhaps a $1-$2 a month for “911 access fee” or something. There was also the original cost of the phone, which might have been around $80-$100, though that included some initial pool of minutes. The SIM card can be moved to another phone, though.

    I only make a few calls per month, of a few minutes per call.

    I have 7-Eleven’s Speak Out America. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be accepting new US customers, though they still sell minutes to existing customers. They might be taking new customers in Canada, though, under the name Speak Out Canada.

  33. Riroon13 says:

    LOVE the pre-paid thing. My wife, daughter and I were on a centennial contract plan, running $225/ mo. Eventually purchased Virgin smartphones for wife and daughter, $150/phone and $25/mo all you can text and web, plus 300 minutes talk time. So far, they have not gone over talk allotment, as they are mostly texters/facebookers.

    Only worry was trying to get out of contract, but even that wasn’t a problem. Called Centennial to try and get out of contract (1yr left, $250 per line to disconnect). Operator was friendly and suggested to switch family’s centennial lines to ‘bare bones features’ ($5/per month, line) rather than take the $500 hit. Came out to right around $120 ($10 month for two lines for 12 months) to ride out contract rather than pay the usury fee of half a grand.

    My total bill now, MY centennial bill+their Virgin bill+their centennial ‘bare bones’ rate= $155/mo, $70 less than where we started from. Service has been great.

    Only problem is my letter to Santa got hijacked in the mail and I didn’t get the Virgin Android phone I asked for. If I did, I probably could’ve chopped off another $15 or so off my bill per month as I could’ve dropped some features from my remaining centennial line. Damn Santa.

  34. crashman2600 says:

    I had a virgin mobile phone that worked well for my needs, but I wanted an iPhone so I got on a plan.

  35. The Marionette says:

    Just depends on the person’s situation since some people need a pre-paid phone and some don’t. Example, I have no use for a pre-paid phone since I talk and text regularly. The web browsing and chat is useful since I’m not always at home. $55/mo for unlimited everything + no hidden fees seems just fine to me, so I’ll enjoy my “bells and whistles” ^ _ ^

  36. Riroon13 says:

    LOVE the pre-paid thing. My wife, daughter and I were on a centennial contract plan, running $225/ mo. Eventually purchased Virgin smartphones for wife and daughter, $150/phone and $25/mo all you can text and web, plus 300 minutes talk time. So far, they have not gone over talk allotment, as they are mostly texters/facebookers.

    Only worry was trying to get out of contract, but even that wasn’t a problem. Called Centennial to try and get out of contract (1yr left, $250 per line to disconnect). Operator was friendly and suggested to switch family’s centennial lines to ‘bare bones features’ ($5/per month, line) rather than take the $500 hit. Came out to right around $120 ($10 month for two lines for 12 months) to ride out contract rather than pay the usury fee of half a grand.

    My total bill now, MY centennial bill+their Virgin bill+their centennial ‘bare bones’ rate= $155/mo, $70 less than where we started from. Service has been great.

    Only problem is my letter to Santa got hijacked in the mail and I didn’t get the Virgin Android phone I asked for. If I did, I probably could’ve chopped off another $15 or so off my bill per month as I could’ve dropped some features from my remaining centennial line. Damn Santa.

  37. andrewe says:

    I love my pay as you go phone. I use the sim card in an iPhone I bought used and now pay about $15 a month for all my calls, texts and internet. I also get all the bells and whistles too. I can’t believe a local provider wants $8 a month just to add call display. I am able to use my phone as much as I need it, excluding the internet fee, for less than this.

    If I buy a $100 top-up card on sale I get $25 free and it lasts for a year.

  38. kmw2 says:

    I have a prepaid plan through T-Mobile – $15 a month prepaid for all I can text, calls $.10 a minute. I text people a million times a day and only call people for delivery and in emergencies, so it works great! Now I _could_ spend $40 a month or more in order to have people on the Internet not imply I’m a drug dealer, rather than someone who just doesn’t talk on her cellphone that much, but why?

  39. Willow16 says:

    As of January 1st we will be porting from a Verizon plan to prepaid. The kids will get Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk for $25 each a month (unlimited texting is a must for my teenagers) and my husband and I will both have Page Plus. I don’t use my phone much and my husband just got a Blackberry from work so he won’t be using his phone much either. Right now our VW plan costs $137/month and, in looking at our usage, we will probably be paying $70/month at the most. A job loss will definitely make you rethink spending so much on cell phones.

  40. tz says:

    First I should note there are “month-to-month” services like Cricket which I used for data and it worked very well. They aren’t really either prepaid or contract but might be better than either for some. Typically they are “unlimited” and less expensive.

    I have a prepaid SIM card in my Cliq. It is my “alternate” phone, e.g. when I’m approaching my minute limit or have a really long call outside the free group (though google voice + friends and family made this moot), or when I’m in a dead zone or otherwise want GSM. And I use it for texting (it is more expensive per text, but I have texting completely disabled on the main phone because of spam – my main phone is fairly plain, the only feature I use is bluetooth). This is an ancient VoiceStream I’ve had forever now through T-Mobile, which has all kinds of discounts – the minutes last for a year and rollover with a new card and I get some percent extra for each card since I’m over some limit. I also use it for international calls. And it does do some roaming.

    Best of all, I can only lose the amount of minutes on the phone, unlike my main one which apparently Verizon will extend me credit exceeding that of a mortgage on a McMansion and send me a 6 figure bill.

    I don’t have a land line, but have callcentric for VoIP if I ever need it though I use it mainly for voicemail (emailed mp3!) for an old number that our family had for years. – I can even receive faxes and I get an email and can download and do things with caller ID.

  41. Clyde Barrow says:

    I can answer this easily. I am not from Metro Detroit but I live here. All my family and friends are in Grand Rapids so I get mostly text messages not phone messages unless a call comes from a coworker from work or some new friends in the area. Because of this there is no need to buy a monthly plan. If I were back home, I’d buy the coolest new phone and have a monthly plan because I know my friends would interact with me every day. My razr works great and I’ve never gotten a dropped call from T-Mobile. Yeah that’s almost impossible today but I’ve had my phone three years next month and it works far better than Verizon. A $100.00 gets me a 1000 minutes. It takes me six months to use that up.

  42. Charmander says:

    Pay as you go is the only way to go.

    • Charmander says:

      I should elaborate. I have a Samsung cell phone (nothing fancy), and I signed up for Virgin mobile pay as you go service. My total cell phone bill for an entire year: $60. The phone cost $19.99 when I bought it.

      My husband has a much better Samsung phone, one with Droid technology, that has a built in GPS, bar code scanner, camera, etc. – all the bells and whistles. He uses it for work purposes. Unlimited phone usage including texting, internet, etc. costs him but $25 a month. That’s right – $25 per month.

      So, I don’t really understand why people would actually pay more than this to do everything they need to do on a cell phone. But they do.

  43. dangermike says:

    To the titular question, YES! The advantage is price, as many others have noted. Convenience, too. Buying a refill 2-3 times a year is far more convenient than having to pay a bill every month, and there is no surcharge if you let it run out.

    The typical entry level monthly plans cost about $40/month. The fees and taxes are an additional $15 or so per month. So for $55, you’ll get plans that allow between 300 and 700 minutes per month, above which you’ll get extra charges. You’ll also have to pay 20 cents per text, generally. Assuming that $55 is all you pay, using the price able from t-mobile’s to-go prepaid service, for instance, you can get 550 minutes of talk time. But suppose you only talk 100 minutes per month, and send and receive 50 text messages each month. On tha monthly plan, there’d be an additional $10 or so, so i would be up to around $65, which comes out to about 50-60 cents per minute, depending on how you weight the price of texting. Looking at usage, if you talk less than about 500 minutes, prepaid is cheaper. Any t-mobile or unlocked GSM phone works with their voice service. They’ve recently rolled out internet access for their prepaid plans, but I neither have a phone that can communicate on the correct bands nor a whole lot of interest in cell phone internet usage (sprint and samsung fouled me on that a few years ago with their combined crapulence).

    All in all, if all you do is talk and text, and you’re not glued to constant usage, prepaid is the only sensible way to go. For the past two and a half years, including the retail purchase of wo smart phones (nokia e51 and later, e52), I have averaged about $30/month. Had I not bought the e52 (which I kind of regret now, anyway. Amazing how almost every aspect of it was worse than the e51), the cost basis would have been about $23/month. Access alone comes out to about $200/year, typically, with most months eating about $12-15 and holiday, vacation, or family emergency periods generally doubling that.

  44. CookiePuss says:

    I’ll be getting a prepaid when my contract is up with ATT. I really liked some of the new Android phones, mainly for the easy to see OLED screens in sunlight and the nice camera, but ever since wireless carries made it mandatory to get a text/data plan on pretty much all phones I want out.

    It’s not just smart phones anymore. I can understand when the Blackberry required a data plan, it was meant for business. Then they wanted a data plan for iphones. Now they want data plans for tons of phones AND they now want a required media plan for non-smart phones called “media phones”. My 1 1/2 year old LG Vu didn’t require any added plans. If you sign up now the LG Vu requires a 20/month media plan. BS.

    How a wireless carrier can require a data/media plan seems outrageous. They won’t even give the option to buy the phone without subsidies. If you have a smart/media phone on their network your getting the extra fee tacked on regardless. I hate texting and hardly ever use the internet on my phone, when I do there’s free wifi everywhere. Greedy bastages I tell ya.

    • Willow16 says:

      The added data charge for “feature phones” on Verizon Wireless is what got me looking at other options. They’re just trying to nickel and dime but they are losing customers because of it.

  45. olddog1213 says:

    PuretalkUSA. !0.00 per month for 101 minutes. They roll over too. Who needs more?

  46. JohnJ says:

    T-Mobile pay-as-you-go prepaid is dirt cheap. There are no daily or monthly access charges, and the minutes roll over.

    In our area, T-Mobile has a strong signal, and great coverage.

  47. parv says:

    I not on any monthly or yearly plan. Phone & service is prepaid in every sense of the word. I have been using Tracfone for more than 4 years. I initially got it for emergencies and for asking|giving one’s whereabouts. Currently I use the phone not more than 7 minutes a week (take out orders).

    I buy the minutes & service every year. Well, all I need to get is the service time for 900-1000 units rollover into the next purchase. As it is currently not possible to buy only the service time (I am not interested in the monthly plan), so minutes keep accumulating (currently 2028.x).

    My ~4 year old Nokia 1100 is still going strong; battery lasts for a week & charge it anywhere 7-9 days. OTOH a LG600g battery barely lasts more than 2 days completely in standby. Needless to say that was a waste of money.

    • parv says:

      Ah, costs also matter which I forgot to state. So yearly costs are around $90-130; it is variable due to given any deals, current amount of units (on the phone), service expiry date.

      As my old Nokia 1100 did not come with “double minutes for life” (DMFL), I had added to the phone once. Now most phone comes with DMFL and cost around $ 20-40 (refurbished, I would think).

  48. HogwartsProfessor says:

    If I traveled a lot, I’d get a smartphone but I don’t, so I don’t really need my Net10 phone for anything except talk and text. I did spring for the Samsung QWERTY phone though, because I wanted the keyboard and the camera. It has web but I don’t use it because I’m on the computer all day anyway.

  49. giax says:

    I haven’t had a mobile phone contract since the 1990s. Since then I’ve had mobile contracts in 7 different countries.
    No thanks to the contracts any more – they don’t appeal to me/
    I don’t use phone much for calling (or texting). When I’m online I’ve got other means from email to skype and IM. And for international calls I use skype. Every 3 months I add the minimum to keep the number so I guess I’m spending under $ 8 a month for the mobile phone services.

  50. BradenR says:

    Prepaid is the best choice for those of us who aren’t glued to their phones. We have three, none of which is on except when traveling or shopping. Alltel may have been a problem for others but their customer service has been the best for us. We have switched out telephones several times and our accounts were switched flawlessly and without charge. Not so if you deal with a local store though; they want to tell you it is impossible. The most spent on a cell phone with shipping 14.99 (EBAY)

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I agree, if your face is attached to your phone 24/7, that’s a problem but our phones are with us all the time because they’re our only phones. There’s a bad kind of “glued” and there’s the necessity of having a phone with you at all times because you don’t care to have a landline.

  51. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    Tracfone hacks:
    Always buy a phone with “Double minutes for life”

    Always search the internet for promo codes before buying new minutes

    Tracfone disables USB functions on their phones, so you have to send your pictures by Email if you want to see them outside the phone. Buy a Sim card reader and you can access your pictures – and phone book.

  52. Jimmy37 says:

    Tracphone just had a great deal. $10 for a flip phone and $100 for a whole year with 1000 minutes. This is great for your forgetful parent who wants a phone but doesn’t really do tech. Sure, the phones aren’t anything to write home about, but if you want communications, you got it.

  53. kittenfoo says:

    I’ve always used prepaid because I hate talking on the phone. My kids prefer text, and they’re the only ones I communicate with for the most part. It’s cheap, I’ve had the same phone number for close to a decade, and I can cancel whenever I want, so I can’t see any reason not to use prepaid.

  54. sgmax2 says:

    I have used Tracfone for years – BRILLIANT service. $99/year, with rollover minutes (and always a great extra minutes deal at renewal). Cheap, good no-frills phones with single-rate roaming (same rate as local). My phone has worked in remote places where friends with super-expensive plans could not connect. I have roamed up and down, coast to coast in the US, with no connection problems. I would recommend this without hesitation.

  55. mmcnary says:

    I used to have a Verizon smart phone, but after my boss got me a Blackberry, I never used it. So as soon as the contract was up, I bought a $15 T-Mobile dumb phone and ported my number over to it. I’ve had that number for over 10 years and wanted to keep it. $10/month autopay (I’m forgetful) and I don’t have to worry about not having a phone close to hand.
    For a bonus, I can let my son use it, and don’t have to worry about overages. When it runs out, he’s out of luck until the 4th.

  56. Indyken says:

    Went to a pre-paid phone so I could avoid all of the extra taxes and fees that come with the “Customer No-Service” Contracts you have to be married to for two or more years. I also basically got sick of how I was treated as a second class citizen after the big carriers locked you into a long term contract. After all, what incentive do they have to help you with ANYTHING once you signed the two year paper? Pre-paid has afforded me to pay as I need to and very few dropped calls unlike my iPhone friends who are locked into crappy contracts with AT&T and their extraordinarily crappy network. I’ve had the prepaid phone for a year and have saved over $1200 by switching.

  57. TTFK says:

    Being that I don’t use my phone a lot, I’ve been on Virgin Mobile for years. My plan is a per-minute one that is not longer available, and I usually have to put $15 in every 3 months just to keep it active, I use it so little!

  58. chaosnoise says:

    I have a T-Mobile pre-pay phone that I’ve had for about 5 years now. I only use my phone to call and occasionally text. The minutes last a full year and if you buy more ($100 worth at a crack) you get 10% more minutes. I don’t need to be in constant contact with all of my friends. I have Facebook updates to ignore for that already. :P

    It’s awesome I use my phone so little that a plan would be horribly expensive. Besides I don’t sign contracts that removes the companies desire to remain competative with the competition. Can any phone company match my cost of $10-15 per month for a call and text plan?

  59. HollzStars says:

    I had a really basic pay as you go phone back in ’05. Never again. 40 cents a minute (and they counted every second used, including the pre recorded “you have 3 dollars remaining on your account” message they played at the begining of every call once you went under a certain amount), 15 cents a text (in and out.) I had it for about 3 months and spent about 250 dollars. No thanks.

  60. Night Owl says:

    There are several advantages to switching to a prepaid phone. I personally use the Net10 service with it’s unlimited plan and I pay only $50 for all the talking, texting, web and emailing that I want. The coverage works wonderfully – it’s nationwide to be more precise. This works out especially to my advantage since I travel quite frequently for business. I keep in touch with my kids and friends throughout the day for a fabulous price. The phone I use is actually the new LG900 Smartphone and I got it last week at Radioshack for just $30! Yes a smartphone for that price – definitely a great deal I wouldn’t recommend passing up!!

  61. kathy says:

    i am super happy with my tracfone prepaid family plan. for my husband myself and my two kids i pay less than $30 a month, have great nationwide coverage, for the kids very cheap phones for only $9.99, that way if they should break them i don’t worry too much, it is cheap to replace them, and they work well for the kids so far. my reasons for going prepaid are surely obvious to most by now. savings. with prepaid i save a lot of money in comparisn to what i used to have to pay on contract, in addition i allways know where i am with my budget, and most important the kids are on a budget too and will have to learn to deal with it. no more cellphone bill shock. prepaid with tracfone’s family plan suits my needs perfectly.

  62. Freddy345 says:

    I switched to prepaid a long time ago because I realised that the contract companies are ripping their clients off in all sorts of ways. With prepaid they have no hold over you, so they can’t rip you off. I have actually saved a lot of money by using my Net10 phone, and I have had no coverage hassles at all. I would definately not go back to a contract phone.