Understanding the Best Prepaid Phone Plans Available in the Market Today

December 13, 2013

Cell phones have become so integrated into our everyday life that it is hard to imagine what life would be like without them.  From functionality that allows for games and videos for entertainment, to just keeping in touch with friend and relatives, the cell phone has revolutionized how we communicate, relax, and do business.

Like most technology that has become such an essential part of our everyday life, there are endless ways to manage the costs associated. You have found your way to this website because you are one of those people who want to get the best bang for your buck, so we are here to help! We will first walk you through the most important part, choosing the phone that meets yours needs then we discuss some of the most important details that impact your decision.

Deciding on a Phone

Deciding on a phone may be as simple as picking a favorite color if you are simply choosing a phone for your child, however it becomes much more difficult when choosing the best prepaid phone plans for yourself as there are many more factors that come into play.

We think it is important to determine which type of phone you desire before deciding on the plan itself. When categorizing phones, we like to split them into buckets based on what they have to offer. One of the most important thing to consider when selecting a prepaid phone plan is what phones do each prepaid carriers provide. The benefit of choosing a prepaid carrier that accepts SIM cards (Network Type is known as GSM) is that you can use unlocked phones. Here are what we consider the Top 5 reasonable priced unlocked smart phones. The following chart is the Top 10 Prepaid Carrier bundled phones. This interactive guide will allow you to sort by different device attributes so feel free to experiment to determine which device is best for you.

Top 5 Unlocked Phones

Phone
Carrier
Operating System
Screen Size
Processor
Battery Life
Rating
Motorola Moto G - Unlocked


UnlockedAndroid 4.34.5"1.2GHz Quad Core600 Minutes4.1
BLU Life Play - Unlocked



UnlockedAndroid 4.24.7"
1.2GHz Quad Core960 Minutes4.2
Samsung Galaxy S III Mini

Unlocked
Android 4.1
4.0"1GHz Dual Core440 Minutes4.2
Apple iPhone 5c, White 16GB (Unlocked)

UnlockediOS4.0"64-Bit A6560 minutes3.7
HTC One 32GB, Silver (Unlocked)

UnlockedAndroid 4.24.7"1.7GHz Quad Core840 Minutes4.3

 

 

Top 10 Prepaid Plan Phones

Phone
Carrier
Operating System
Screen Size
Processor
Battery Life
Rating
Nokia Lumia 521
T-MobileWindows 84"Dual Core 1GHz420 minutes4.1
Nokia Lumia 520 GoPhone (AT&T)
GoPhoneWindows 84"Dual Core 1GHz600 minutes4.2
Samsung Galaxy S III (Boost Mobile)
Boost MobileAndroid 4.14.8"1.5GHz Dual Core560 minutes4.7
Samsung Galaxy Centura Android (TracFone)
TracFoneAndroid 4.03.5"800MHz500 minutes3.8
Samsung Galaxy S III (Virgin Mobile)
Virgin MobileAndroid 4.14.8"1.5GHz Dual Core560 minutes4.5
ZTE Valet Android Prepaid Phone (TracFone)
TracFoneAndroid 4.03.5"1GHz400 minutes3.6
LG Venice (Boost Mobile)
Boost MobileAndroid 4.14.3"1GHz542 minutes4.2
LG F7 (Boost Mobile)
Boost MobileAndroid 4.14.7"1.5GHz Dual Core550 minutes4.2
Samsung Galaxy Prevail II (Boost Mobile)
Boost MobileAndroid 4.14.0"1.4GHz500 minutes3.5
Samsung Galaxy Express GoPhone (AT&T)
GoPhoneAndroid 4.14.5"1.2 GHz Dual Core742 minutes4.8

Important Details Included:

  • Device Name and Picture
  • Carrier
  • Operating System
  • Screen Size
  • Network Type
  • Processor Speed
  • Rating

What is a Prepaid Phone Plan?

With dozens of prepaid phone providers offering service in the US, it’s quite easy to become overwhelmed with the options. Throughout this site we will helping you to determine which plan best fits your needs.

Gone are the days of signing into 2 year contracts to get the newest phones and latest wireless technology. Prepaid Phone Carriers have been steadily improving their networks allowing for cutting edge technology such as 4G and LTE to reach consumers without breaking the bank. Most of the big name prepaid carriers piggy back off of well established and reputable networks to provide a premium experience. These types of carriers are also known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators or MVNO for short.

Benefits of Prepaid vs Contract Plans

Chances are, you are looking to avoid the 2 year contract but keep in mind there are some other benefits and drawbacks about doing so.

Benefits:

  1. Dropping your big name carrier allows you the benefit of using unlocked phones if you already own one, saving yourself the cost of buying a new phone just to switch carrier.
  2. Unique phone plans allow you to fine tune your plan to your usage style.
  3. No credit checks! You’re able to get a phone with a great plan regardless of no or bad credit.
  4. Great option for your children

Drawbacks:

  1. The need to monitor your usage to prevent overages, especially for teenagers (data, texting, minutes)
  2. Newly released devices may not be available until several months later
  3. The devices are often not discounted meaning you pay full device value upfront. (keep in mind that contract carriers do allow you to avoid some upfront costs but definitely work the price into your 2 year contract)

There are many advantages and disadvantages to prepaid cell phone plans. It is important to keep all of them in mind. Everyone’s situation is different and in some cases, the benefits may outweigh the drawbacks and vice versa.

What to look for when choosing a prepaid phone carrier

There are a lot of options to choose from when shopping around for a prepaid service provider. This section will help you to determine which factors are the most important when deciding.

When searching for a prepaid phone carrier there are a few important things to consider. The most important thing to understand is which prepaid carriers provide the best coverage in your area. There are a lot of carriers that a region specific so you must keep this in mind while researching.

The next most important thing to consider is pricing. As we discussed above, one of the most appealing reasons for going prepaid is the fact that you can have big carrier service without being trapped into a 2 year contract. Before price matching various prepaid carriers, it is important to consider the type of service you are looking for. If you are looking for voice only, you will be able to find the cheapest plans. If you are looking for voice with data and texting capabilities, it will cost a little extra.

One of the most overlooked thoughts when comparing carriers is the phone selection. If you are looking for the latest gadgets but don’t want to be drawn into a 2 year contract, there are plenty of good options available. Whether you are looking for an iOS or Android devices, prepaid carriers have been becoming increasingly able to provide the most current and premium devices.

What to do before you switch

So you’ve finally decided on a prepaid phone and carrier and you want to prepare for making the switch. Don’t worry, we are here to help you through it!

Ditching your old contract!

You may be lucky if you’re contract is ending and are looking to switch to a prepaid phone plan. As most of you currently in a 2 year contract know, there is something called an Early Termination Fee if you want to get out of the contract early. This archaic way of customer retention should be the primary deterrent from even signing a 2 year contract with any major carrier.
Escaping the Early Termination Fee

What do I do with my old phone?

If you have an unlocked device and switch to a provider that also supports SIM cards (GSM) then you can keep your old phone! If you’re device is locked to your old carrier there are multiple ways to get money for your old phone. One of the best ways is to sell your device is on CraigsList. Craigslist allows for the maximum amount of money when selling devices. Using CraigsList, you can sell your device for top dollar and get to avoid any type of fees.

Another great option to sell your old device is through eBay. eBay does charge some fees and you do have to pay for shipping but you can sell the phone from the convenience of your own home. eBay has made the process of selling online very simple.

The last option is to trade in your device for cash or gift cards. Retails location such as Best Buy and Radioshack offer trade in programs for most cell phones. You can also trade in your phone to online websites such as Gazelle and Nextworth.

Can I keep my old number?

As long as you haven’t cancelled or let your previous account run past due yet you can port your number over. I’ll be providing a post discussing how to get your previous number in the near future.

Monitoring your usage

For smart phones, there are plenty of apps that allow the functionality of monitoring usage. Android, BlackBerry, and iOS provide apps for monitoring the amount of data used and many of them will give you warnings in the data notification bar to alert you when you hit a desired percentage of your data limit. Monitoring usage is important because often, carriers will not simply cut off your data once you hit the cap. Instead, they will start charging a premium rate for that is up to 10 times higher than your normal plan.

It is also important that, if you have a smart phone, you monitor apps that may be using data in the background. Many of these apps use push notifications which are constantly receiving data from the network. It is also important to understand what the difference is between playing music that is stored locally on the phone and playing music that is being streamed from the web. Streaming music can use quite a bit of data if not throttled and streaming videos can be even more.

If you are not on a smart phone, most carriers provide number codes that you enter into the dailer which will provide you with usage updates. For example, if you dail #DATA (#3282) on a Verizon phone, it will give you how much data you have used for that billing cycle. Usage is also available by logging into your account on most carrier’s website.

Review of Top 5 Best Prepaid Phone Plans

Verizon Pay As You Go

” No annual contracts, no credit checks, no strings attached.”

Verizon Pay As You Go plan allows for different types of plans

Smartphone Plans:

This plan comes in two different sizes:

  • $60 Monthly – Unlimited minutes, Unlimited Mobile to Mobile (to other Verizon phones), Unlimited Text/Picture Messaging and 2GB of Data
  • $70 Monthly – Unlimited minutes, Unlimited Mobile to Mobile (to other Verizon phones), Unlimited Text/Picture Messaging and 4GB of Data

T-Mobile

Essentially, all phones plans that T-Mobile offers are now contract free because of their “un-carrier” campaign. This allows you to BYOP (bring your own phone) or purchase a phone directly from T-Mobile paying the full amount upfront. T-Mobile currently offers some of the best pre-paid plans for 2014.

Smartphone Plans:

  • $50 Monthly – Unlimited minutes, Unlimited Text, Unlimited Web, 500MB of Data
  • $60 Monthly – Unlimited minutes, Unlimited Text, Unlimited Web, 2.5GB of Data
  • $70 Monthly –  Unlimited minutes, Unlimited Text, Unlimited Web, Unlimited Data

AT&T GoPhone

AT&T offers great customer service with excellent coverage. AT&T calls their prepaid phone plans GoPhone. They offer 4 different packages with 4 different monthly rates:

  • $25 Monthly – 250 Minutes, unlimited text, and 50MB of data for $5
  • $40 Monthly – 500 minutes, unlimited text, and 200MB of data
  • $50 Monthly – Unlimited minutes, unlimited text, and no data (data can be obtained through wifi only)
  • $60 – Unlimited minutes, unlimited text, and 2GB of data

 

Sprint

Sprint is another major carrier that offers prepaid phone service on top of their normal contract service plans. Not only does Sprint offer prepaid services through it’s Sprint name, they also own the MVNO’s known as Boost and Virgin.

Sprint Smartphone Prepaid

  • $70 Monthly – Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Text, Unlimited Text

Sprint Basic Prepaid – Excludes Smart Phones

  • $50 Monthly – Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Text, Unlimited Text

Boost Mobile

Boost makes it very simple. They only offers one plan for $50 a month that has unlimited minutes, unlimited text, and 2.5GB of data. Boost reward loyal customers by reducing your bill to $35 a month if you stay with them for 18 months or more. This is excellent value!

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile comes in 3 flavors. These are all smart phone plans that are very competitive.

  • $35 – 300 minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data
  • $45 – 1200 minutes, unlimited messaging, and unlimited data
  • $55 – unlimited minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data