Prepaid wireless has come a long way over the past few years. When prepaid first came on the market, it filled a void for consumers that needed a cell phone but didn’t have a high good enough credit to get a contract with one of the big providers like AT&T or Verizon. One of the first providers of prepaid cellular service was Calltrack back in 1995. The downside was it charged double the postpaid (standard contract) rate. But since then, prepaid providers have come a long way. You’re no longer limited to a set number of minutes or a bulky basic phone that screams “prepaid.” If you’ve never considered prepaid wireless, here are five reasons you should think again.
#1 Limitless phone possibilities
Prepaid phones were once basic devices that could call and text, but with everyone else carrying an iPhone or Galaxy, who wanted to be seen with that? Now, nearly every type of smart phone is available for use with prepaid wireless service, so no one has to know what type of service contract you have (or don’t have). And there’s no label on most phones like there once was. You need not be embarrassed by a phone bearing a TracPhone sticker – prepaid iPhones like like all the others.
#2 You can BYOD
If you have a phone you like and your contract is ending, the good news is you can use that phone with a prepaid plan (although you may have to get it unlocked). You can also buy a new or pre-owned phone of your choice. To change over, you only need to purchase a new SIM card from your prepaid carrier. These run about $10-$20. To make sure your phone will work with a particular carrier, consult their website or contact customer service for phone transfer details.
#3 Cheaper than a contract
Prepaid plans are now more cost effective than contract plans. Here’s why. When you sign on with a major carrier under a contract, they offer you a “free” phone. When you choose a premier iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, you’re getting a $250-$700 phone. The cost of the phone is recouped by the carrier by charging hefty monthly fees. After the equipment cost is recovered, the rest is pure profit for the carrier. By opting for BYOD or buying a used phone and paying only for service, you’ll save big.
#4 Same carrier networks
The commercials for Verizon and AT&T show immense coverage areas, but these are the same networks that prepaid services use. There are only four cellular networks in the US: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon. Net10 and Straight Talk run on the AT&T network. Boost and Virgin Mobile operate under Sprint. Depending on where you live, Straight Talk and Trac Phone also operate under Verizon or T-Mobile. You get the exact same unlimited call, text and data service with prepaid, for less.
#5 Portable and flexible
Typical contract lengths are two to three years with major carriers and, after about 12 months, you’ve paid off your “free” phone and the rest of the contract is just profit. To get out of a contract, you face a steep cancellation fee and may have to pay back the price of the phone (even though you already paid for it). Premium carriers often keep you tied to them by offering phone upgrades every 12 months, then extending your contract. With prepaid, you can change your phone, service level or carrier at any time.
The bottom line is that a savvy consumer shouldn’t be paying more for their cellular service because they view contract service as a prestige item. Be smart with your money and consider changing to a cost-effective prepaid wireless plan when your contract expires. You’ll save hundreds a year with no loss of service quality or device options.