Prepaid Phone Plans for 2015

Category: Mobile

The prepaid phone market has changed a lot in the past few years. Prepaid plans used to be all about talk-minutes and text messages; today, data is the central selling point. Emphasis has switched from pay-as-you-go to monthly or even daily plans. But one thing hasn’t changed: carriers still don’t know the meaning of “unlimited.” Read on for details of the various plans available now...

The Rankin File

Which Prepaid Phone Plan is Best?

The market shares of the Big Four wireless carriers are almost exactly reversed in the prepaid arena. T-mobile, the smallest of the majors overall, leads in number of prepaid customers (15.64 million in August, 2014). Sprint, long the prepaid leader, slipped to number two with about 15.19 million customers. AT&T had 11.34 million while Verizon claimed only 6.04 million prepaid customers.

I really don’t think Verizon wants prepaid customers. It offers two plans, both of which are horrible. Yes, there’s unlimited talk and text. But $45 a month buys only 1 GB of data; $60 gets you 2.5 GB at 4G speed; after that, it’s 2G speed for the rest of the month.

AT&T is almost as bad. Its cheapest “unlimited” voice, text, and data plan costs $45 and includes 1.5 GB at 4G speed before slowing to 2G speed for the rest of the month. $60 gets you a whopping 4 GB of data at 4G speed.
Prepaid Mobile Plans

T-mobile’s Simply Prepaid™ plan offers unlimited voice and text, and three tiers of 4G LTE data: 1, 3, or 5 GB for $40, $50, or $60 per month. The 4G speed is capped at 8 Mbps. Exceed your 4G data allowance and you’ll grind along at 128 kilobits per second (ouch!) for the rest of the month.

T-mobile boosted its prepaid base by buying MetroPCS in May, 2013. Since that acquisition, MetroPCS has grown from 6,500 retail locations in 15 markets to over 11,000 in 55 markets. MetroPCS’ simple, “$X unlimited voice, text, and data, period!” marketing message appeals to budget-conscious customers; the price even includes taxes and fees. MetroPCS actually offers what I would call true “unlimited” 4G LTE data, for $60 per month. Other plans offer 1, 2, or 4 GB of monthly data usage, for $30, $40, or $50, respectively.

Shrinkage, Love and Throttling

Boost Mobile is another prepaid brand that has recently risen in consumer awareness; the brand name is used by two widely separated companies. Boost Worldwide, Inc., is a U.S. subsidiary of Sprint, and is not to be confused with Australia’s Boost Tel Pty Ltd. (although Boost Worldwide was founded by the Aussies who founded Boost Tel.) In the U.S., Boost Mobile’s “unlimited everything” plan starts at $50 per month; under the Seinfeld-inspired “Shrinkage” program, one’s bill shrinks by $5 for every six months of on-time payments one makes, up to a maximum total savings of $15/month. So you can get your bill down to $35 after 18 months.

Virgin Mobile USA is also owned by Sprint. Its “unlimited” plans look a lot like Boost Mobile’s. Virgin also offers a $20/month “WiFi Lover’s Delight” that is even more disingenuous than its “unlimited” plans. It works only over WiFi. Even so, you cannot use the Internet; there is no data allotment. You get unlimited text messages but only 300 voice minutes per month. What is there to love, exactly?

Republic Wireless remains my favorite among prepaid carriers. A similar but better deal – WiFi-only, unlimited talk and text, no data – costs only $5 per month. Forty dollars a month buys unlimited everything at the fastest speed available, be it WiFi or 4G LTE. No caps, no throttling, no nonsense. The same deal at 3G speed is just $25, and $10/month gets you unlimited data on WiFi only, with unlimited talk/text on WiFi or cellular network.

PrePaid or Contract? Some Tips to Help You Decide

Prepaid cell phones are great if you don't use your cell phone that much. They simplify the process of owning and using a cell phone by allowing you to buy the phone that you want and prepay for minutes, text and data that you will be using during the upcoming weeks. You don't need to have a credit card, you don't have to sign a contract and you can cancel your relationship with the cell phone company at any time. Some prepaid plans allow you to bring your own phone. Others require you to purchase one from them, and the selections may be limited or dated.

Prepaid can be a good deal for singles, or if you want to give a cell phone to a child or senior who will only need it on an occasional basis. But if you have a family of 4 or 5 mobile phone users, a contract deal may be best for you. It all depends on how much you talk, text and the amount of data used.

Here's my advice... talk to friends or neighbors in your area, and find out which carrier has the best signal and coverage in the locations where you plan to use the mobile phone. It's not uncommon for phones from one carrier to work great in a certain location, while another carrier has a weak signal or none at all. Then use the information above to compare the pre-paid plans offered by the cellular companies that have good service in your area. Try a pre-paid cell phone for a month or two, and see if it makes sense for you.

Do you have something to say about prepaid wireless phone service? Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 7 May 2015


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Most recent comments on "Prepaid Phone Plans for 2015"

(See all 31 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Charles Thomas
07 May 2015

I am one of those " crazy" Straight Talk users. Today I received the following message: "You now get more data! As a Bring Your Own Phone costumer, you will receive 5GB of high speed data starting on your next refill.". (That's $45. monthly, plus state sales tax, for unlimited talk and text, and that promised 5GB of data, over AT&T towers.) Yes, my wife and I are quite satisfied with their service.


Posted by:

Doyal Burton
07 May 2015

I have Cricket PayGo and a basic,not smart,phone and don't have any complaints. What can you tell us about Cricket Wireless. They are strong here in the west but I never see anyone reviewing them. Everyone I know that uses them seems happy.


Posted by:

Darcetha Manning
07 May 2015

This is an informative article. I thought about getting a pre-paid plan, since I only use my smartphone to make the occasional phone call. However, my concern is, what happens if the major carriers, decide to deny access to their towers, if you are using a prepaid plan?


Posted by:

Linda Crawford
07 May 2015

WE have used Tracfone for several years and it works great for us. We prefer our land line home phone, but the Tracfone is great when we are on the road or need to use a phone away from home.


Posted by:

Frank Cizek
07 May 2015

Safelink Wireless has a federal program that provides free phones & minutes to senior citizens. Unused minutes roll over each month.
https://www.safelinkwireless.com/Enrollment/Safelink/en/NewPublic/terms_conditions.html


Posted by:

margaret gross
07 May 2015

I use tracfone too. Can call USA, Canada, etc.
cheap and reliable


Posted by:

margaret gross
07 May 2015

I use tracfone too. Can call USA, Canada, etc.
cheap and reliable


Posted by:

Glen
07 May 2015

To Herb: I agree. I am doing the same, an LG phone and minimum minutes per month. Works out fine and if I need more min. I just buy more.


Posted by:

CJ Smith
07 May 2015

I've been very happy with Virgin's $35 plan. Unlimited Data (2.5GB at 3G/4G), Unlimited Text, and 300 minutes of Talk. I don't talk much, so it's perfect for me.
My wife has the other $35 Virgin plan that includes Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data. But that plan's data throttles down to slow after 250MB. Perfect for her because she mostly just uses the talk and text.


Posted by:

HA
08 May 2015

Another vote for Republic Wireless's 10 per month plan.


Posted by:

Wayne Bennett
08 May 2015

What! Nobody likes Virgin USA? I do!Don't use my phone for much but it suits me just fine.Nothing fancy, just a phone to talk & text with. 25c/min/day for the 1st $2.50 worth then it's 10c/min.Text cost 15c/min. All that for $5.40/month (tax included). Coverage ain't perfect but as long as I don't stray too far into the "boonies", I have no problems what-so-ever!As long as I keep my account positive, unused bucks roll over. I'm happy!!


Posted by:

Ray Bobo
08 May 2015

I have used a $10 flip phone with TracFone for years. I pay $99/yr, which comes with 450 minutes, which are doubled because I bought a double-for-life card with the phone. I always wait until they offer me at least 200 bonus minutes, so I wind up with 1000+ minutes. I NEVER run out of minutes and what I do not use carries over, so I have more minutes that I will ever use. Rarely do I find myself without a signal. So I average 27 cents a day on my plan and talk and text all I care to.


Posted by:

Brian
08 May 2015

I used Tracfone for years. Pretty good but tech support for phone or billing was horrible. Bad connections and accents made it well, horrible. Found Consumer Cellular. Stateside tech support that is awesome, can bring your own phone (GSM) free activation and a superb rate plan you can change at will and 4G LTE to boot.


Posted by:

Tom
08 May 2015

I vote for TracFone. I have a Samsung Centura smartphone and like it. I see them on the market for $40, and have triple minutes, text, and data.


Posted by:

KABO
08 May 2015

I have a phone that serves me well for text and voice. However, I've been considering getting a tablet I can access the internet with as I am out and about or traveling, whether as an ebook reader, or watching video, or email or whatever. Straight talk sells a Data SIM card that would provide connectivity with a prepaid arrangement. Or there other options out there?


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
08 May 2015

Before, I started using AT&T Wireless service, I used Net10. I had a flip-phone and also, purchased a 1 year minute service. The 1 year minute service was $100 a year. Boy, is that much cheaper, than what I pay for now.

Yes, I did get some "dropped" calls, but, no more than what I got with AT&T, in the area that I lived, at the time. I could text, but, I honestly, hate texting. It takes me too long, to text and I get several responses, wondering where I am. It took much longer to text, on a flip-phone, too!!!

I was very pleased, with Net10 and found that I could easily, find out how many minutes I had left and when my 1 year pre-paid was up, all online! I could also, pay for any more minutes I may need, online. Plus, I renewed my 1 year minute service, about 3 times, also, online.

I made the decision, to go to monthly payments, with AT&T, when a good deal was offered. I think, that Net10 is part of Tracfone, now ... But, when I started using Net10's service, it was it's own company and the prices were cheaper, than they are today.


Posted by:

Gary
08 May 2015

I'm a Verizon Smartphone heavy user of data and text. I've researched all my options and Straight Talk (from Walmart) is who I'm switching to when my current contract expires. They allow you to bring your phone with you and they have contracts with all four major carriers. I'll be bringing my CDMA phone so Straight Talk will connect my phone to Verizon's towers. I'll have 4G LTE coverage but will NOT have roaming like I do now. Verizon has good primary coverage in the areas where I'm a regular user. Monthly cost for our two phones will be about $55 less per month.


Posted by:

oldgeek
08 May 2015

I got a msg yesterday from Straight Talk: We now get 5gb of 4g data each month. Straight Talk is still the best deal around for a smart phone. Also for $60 per month Cricket gives you 10gb of data. That's a great deal for heavy data users.


Posted by:

Kimber Olli
08 May 2015

I've used the AT&T Go Phone for about 4 years now. Last year I purchased a Samsung Galaxy 5 and added the Go Phone SIM card. Now I've got a smart phone that costs me $8.30 per month. I put $100 on the phone per year and any remaining money rolls over from the previous years. The cost is 10 cents per minute and 20 cents per text. I do not talk on the phone much. Most of my communications are by Facebook messenger, other messenger apps or email. I have to use WiFi to access the internet because AT&T will not let me access the data portion of the plan with a "smart phone". But I could put the SIM card back in the stupid-slow Pantech phone that came with the plan and wait all day for the internet to load.

My current search now is trying to find an inexpensive data-only SIM card plan that I could occasionally pop in my phone when I am away from WiFi, which is when I'm out in the woods and at that point, I usually don't even have phone service anyway. So what good would data do at that point?


Posted by:

Old_Crow
10 May 2015

The Boostmobile plan referred to in this article no longer exists for new customers(as of 1 Jul,2014). The new plans are very good but not the same as they have limited 3g/4g data though total data is indeed unlimited.


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