Prepaid Cell Phone Plan Reviews
By: Carl Laron on January 12, 2017
Best monthly prepaid cell phone plan
Google’s Project Fi has revolutionized what subscribers can expect from a prepaid cell phone plan — or any cell phone plan for that matter. Instead of using one wireless network, it uses three plus Wi-Fi. In addition, while the data rates aren’t particularly inexpensive, Project Fi only bills you for what you actually use. All of that and more has helped the service rocket to the top of the charts in large user satisfaction surveys. See our full review »
Best monthly prepaid cell phone plan for rural users
While nearly all prepaid carriers deliver good-to-great service in most cities, suburbs and major roadways, when you get further from the beaten path, signals can be hard to find. That’s where Cricket starts to shine. Owned by AT go over that and speeds are slowed to a crawl — good for checking email on occasion, but little else. With the MetroPCS unlimited plan, LTE speed are maintained for the entire billing cycle, no matter how much you use.
Cheap data plan
If you aren’t much for talk, but text and use data extensively, T-Mobile’s $30 per month plan could be ideal for you. You only get a paltry 100 minutes of talk time (but can add to that at a rate of 10 cents per minute), however, there’s unlimited texting and data, with the first 5GB at LTE speeds. User feedback indicates high satisfaction with this prepaid plan, but keep in mind that T-Mobile service works best in metropolitan areas and along major roads.
Best pay as you go plan
For emergency phones or other cell phones that are only used occasionally, H2O offers a simple, cost-effective plan. Minutes and texts are relatively cheap, 5 cents each, and can be bought in blocks for as little as $10, good for 90 days, and they roll over as long as the account is refilled before time is up. Service is over the AT T, T-Mobile and Sprint. Prepaid plans also don’t require a credit check to get service — a necessary plus for some and a convenience for all. If you are a light user and want a pay as you go rather than a monthly plan, a prepaid plan is your only cost-effective alternative.
That would seem to make a prepaid cell phone plan a no-brainer for many, but postpaid plans continue to offer some advantages that make them a better choice for lots of users. While prepaid plans use the same networks as postpaid plans, carriers reserve some features and benefits for their postpaid customers. For example, LTE speeds may be throttled (capped at lower limits or receive lower priority) for prepaid users compared to the same network’s postpaid customers. Some features, such as the ability to use your device as a mobile hot spot, may not be available, or cost extra, under a prepaid plan. Customer service might be a step below what postpaid carriers offer their subscribers — for example, while 24/7 access to support is the norm with a postpaid plan, contact hours might be shorter with a prepaid one.
The phone selection is often limited with prepaid carriers. While most prepaid carriers will also welcome almost any compatible phone that you supply yourself, some might not let you activate certain devices. As with most things, it pays to read the fine print before signing up. If a plan’s limitations aren’t an issue for how you use your phone, a prepaid plan can make a ton of sense. And if you decide a plan or carrier isn’t working out for you, the lack of a contract means that you aren’t stuck in that relationship.
Prepaid service is available from a variety of sources. All four of the nationwide carriers offer prepaid service under their own brands. Three of the carriers (Verizon is the exception) own separate brands, with their own customer service departments and retail operations. For example, Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile are owned by Sprint and use Sprint’s network, while Cricket is owned by AT T, and MetroPCS is owned by T-Mobile. Service is also available through MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) that cobble together service by buying access at wholesale from the major nationwide providers and reselling it. For example, Straight Talk buys access from AT T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint; the carrier you use will depend on the phone you select to use with the service.