Mobile & Cell Phone Information

Prepaid Cell Phones - Are They Right For You

In today's world of communication technology, there's a lot out there to consider before investing in a cell phone plan. With a multitude of carriers offering scores of options, it isn't always easy to isolate the one package out of the many that would best suit your needs. Sometimes, the mainstream choices aren't available to folks who are inhibited by particular circumstances, such as poor credit or other types of financial constraints. In cases such as those, prepaid cell phones can be the proverbial lifesaver. You don't have to be financially restricted to consider a prepaid wireless plan, however. Many people choose to purchase this type of service in order to avoid contracts which would lock them into services for a designated amount of time and money.

As with anything else in this world, there are positives and negatives that are attached to the option of a "pay as you go" cell phone. Depending upon your needs, priorities and preferences, you may just find that the option of prepaid time is the best cell phone plan for you.


  • Unlike cell phone packages that are more standardized, prepaid wireless plans don't require you to sign a contract.
  • Since you're required to pay for the minutes that you use up-front, there's no monthly bill to work into your budget.
  • For those who suffer from a poor credit history, there are a number of cell phone providers who offer a "no credit check" cell phone option.
  • Often, you'll be able to find cell phone offers that don't require a deposit to be put down in order to obtain a phone and purchase minutes.
  • If you have teens or younger children that will require a cell phone in order to stay in touch with you throughout the day, prepaid cell phones are a wonderful option, since there's no age requirement in order to purchase minutes. Parents simply buy the phone, and their kids can purchase the minutes that they need at most local convenience stores, department stores or pharmacies.
  • Unlike most cell phone deals, there are no hidden fees that are tacked on by cell phone carriers who offer the prepaid option. Since everything is paid in advance, you save on taxes, as well as activation fees and termination fees. Basically, it's one price to buy the minutes, without the extra charges hanging over your head.
  • When you purchase a specific amount of minutes for your phone, the device no longer works once the time has been used. In some cases, you'll have to apply for a new phone number if the minutes have been zeroed out or the time in which you have to use them has expired.
  • If you should opt for a prepaid cell phone, then you can say "good-bye" to the idea of cheap long distance calling. The fact is that prepaid minutes average about twice as much in price as mainstream calling plans.
  • While you may be able to find some cell phone specials for your prepaid unit, you're more inclined to find that you won't be entitled to many of the services that standard cell phone users enjoy. For instance, don't expect to have wireless web access or to be able to use your phone in analog areas. Even if you do have access to special services, you'll have to pay a lot more for them.
  • The actual phones are typically much more expensive, since cell phone companies aren't as inclined to offer as many deals for the prepaid variety.
  • If you have younger children that need to carry a cell phone, they'll need to learn how to activate a prepaid phone card, if the circumstances should call for that and an adult isn't present to assist them.
Prepaid Cell Phone Carriers

Depending upon your location, there are often several options for cell phone carriers that will provide prepaid phones and services. First, you'll need to decide which type of service that's best for you - purchasing a phone through a carrier and then committing yourself to buying minutes from them within a designated time-frame or purchasing the type of cell phone that allows you to simply buy cards with a specific number of minutes whenever you need to add time to your phone. Here are a few to consider:

  • Cingular Wireless - Offering two options for prepaid cellular customers (Pay as You Go or Pick Your Plan), Cingular doesn't require a credit check, deposit or annual contract. Depending upon the plan you choose, you may receive unlimited calling to other Cingular customers, free night and weekend minutes or the ability to roll over unused minutes to the next month.
  • TracFone - After purchasing the phone, which is relatively inexpensive and can be bought at most local department stores or online, consumers can buy cards which offer a designated number of minutes (typically 40, 100, 200, etc.) to be used within a certain amount of time. Time can be added whenever you desire, which will then extend the expiration date to match the newest purchase. If the minutes go lower than 10 and you're near the expiration date - or if the expiration date is met without purchasing extra minutes - then you should expect to lose your phone number and have to re-activate service and have a new number assigned.
  • Verizon - This carrier offers both prepaid calling cards and prepaid personal accounts, giving a bit more in the way of options than some of their competitors. Customers can enjoy no monthly fees, universal fees, weekly surcharges or short-minute penalties, and minutes can be purchased online. Verizon also gives you the benefit of viewing your calling history online.
Are Prepaid Cell Phones the Best Option?

Whether or not to commit to a prepaid cell phone really depends upon your personal needs and preferences. If you don't want to be locked into an iron-clad contract, have a credit check performed, provide a security deposit or pay a set monthly fee, then you may just want to stick with a prepaid cell phone. If, on the other hand, you want the security of no expiration dates, the ability to use as many minutes as you need without constantly purchasing new cards or specials such as free night/weekend minutes, then a standard cell phone plan is probably more in line with what you're looking for, after all.

About the Author

Samantha Goode is a freelance technology writer who loves to provide tips to consumers shopping for prepaid cellular phones, cell phone deals and cell phone carriers.

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