If you want to save money on your monthly cell phone bill, you should switch to one of these discount cell phone plans. By being able to pay by the month, you can often pay a much lower rate with these discount carriers and still have good reception and data speeds. This can be a good option for a student going to college or if you simply want to trim your spending.
Advantages of Prepaid Cell Phone Plans
The best discount cell phone plans are prepaid plans. Some of these plans are offered by the “Big Four” carriers like Verizon and AT&T. Other discount carriers are third-party groups that use the carrier networks.
Prepaid plans have become very competitive in recent years as traditional carriers have begun to move away from two-year contracts. Since prepaid plans do not have contracts, you can switch carriers at any time as you pay by the month just like you might pay apartment rent.
Here are some advantages of prepaid cell phone plans:
- No contracts
- Data is cheaper
- Monthly plans can be cheaper
- All monthly plans already include taxes and fees
To switch to a prepaid carrier, you will probably just have to buy a new Sim card ($10) if you bring your own device. You can often recoup the savings within the first month because your bill will be much lower.
Disadvantages of Prepaid Plans
Sometimes, it makes sense to stay with a traditional carrier:
- Prepaid require lump-sum payments for new phones
- Cannot automatically upgrade to the newest phone
- Not always the best porting process or network coverage
Not many prepaid plans offer monthly payments. Some prepaid carriers still sell phones that are several generations old like the iPhone 4 or 5c that haven’t been manufactured for several years.
And, if you like the phone plans that allow you to replace your phone on a yearly basis, you will also want to stick with a traditional carrier.
Choosing a Prepaid Carrier
When choosing a new phone carrier, you should do a little bit of research before signing up. While your old phone carrier will be happy to take you back if things don’t work out with your new carrier, the porting process can be a hassle.
Here are a few things to consider in the decision process:
- Coverage Maps and Reliability
- Price of New Plans
- Ease of Use for Website
- Can you bring your own phone?
- Other customer reviews
The first two items you should consider are cost and coverage. Sometimes, you get “what you pay for.” A cheap phone is no good if it doesn’t work when you need to use it.
You should take into consideration how easy it is to navigate the website. If a website is hard to navigate, it can be an indication that they can have “hidden fees” or bad customer service. Your suspicions can be confirmed or debunked by reading other online user reviews or asking your friends and co-workers for testimonials.
- Network Used: Verizon
- Pros: Full-access to high-speed and reliable Verizon network, all plans have mobile hotspot
- Cons: Other prepaid carriers are still cheaper
Verizon Prepaid is owned by Verizon. If you want to lower your bill, don’t want to mess with contracts, and still want access to one of the “Big Four” networks. You still get primary access to the Verizon voice and data network as some of the other discount networks are “throttled” during peak periods.
The prepaid plans can be cheaper than your current traditional Verizon plan with similar data allowances.
- Network Used: AT&T
- Pros: Data is cheaper than Verizon, Unlimited talk and text, cannot exceed monthly data allowance
- Cons: Mobile Hotspot not available for every plan
Cricket Wireless is owned by AT&T which is #2 in network reliability according to RootMetrics. You can get “group save” discounts by adding multiple lines to your account. If you still want primary access to a national network, Cricket is another good option.
Your new Cricket plan can be cheaper than your current AT&T phone, text, and data plan.
- Network Used: Wi-Fi and Sprint
- Pros: Cheap non-data plans and prior month’s unused data will roll over
- Cons: Must have access to wi-fi and Sprint network to get coverage
Republic Wireless is another national favorite because of their low-cost plans. If you only want to use wi-fi data (not 3G or 4G), their $15/month plan is a very good option.
Although Republic tries to place your calls and text messages on your local wi-fi network first, it will use Sprint if you do not have a reliable wi-fi connection. You will want to make sure you can receive Sprint coverage before switching to Republic.
- Network Used: Sprint CDMA and T-Mobile GSM
- Pros: Only pay for the data, text, and minutes you use, can use Sprint or T-Mobile network
- Cons: “Heavy users” might pay more than other carriers, Sprint and T-Mobile networks have many dead spots
Ting claims that the average monthly bill is $23. Your monthly bill is based on the number of minutes, text messages, and data you use. Ting’s a la carte pricing can be great if you rarely use your phone.
You can either use the Sprint or T-Mobile network. You will need to decide before you port. Some devices have the capability to use both networks and will switch to the stronger network.
- Network Used: Sprint
- Pros: Free service gives your minutes, text, and data free
- Cons: Often have to “opt out” of plan upgrades, reports of poor customer service
FreedomPop uses wi-fi hotspots and the Sprint network to give your 200 minutes, 500 texts, and 500 MB of free data every month. An additional 500 MB of data costs an extra $6 a month.
FreedomPop is easily the cheapest cell phone plan on this list. If you sign-up, you will have to keep an eye on your inbox as current users say they commonly have to “opt out” of automatic plan upgrades.
- Network Used: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile
- Pros: Free International calling to 72 countries and competitive phone plans
- Cons: Cannot always buy the newest phones
Red Pocket has relationships with all four networks. You can literally switch to Red Pocket and keep your same phone and network and pay a lower price.
This is a good alternative to the FreedomPop free plan, for those that want to use the Verizon or AT&T network. You can get a similar plan for only $10 a month. Their unlimited data plans are also very reasonable and provide 4G LTE speeds.
If you make international calls, you will like Red Pocket because you can call 72 countries for free!
There are many different prepaid phone carriers to choose from that weren’t mentioned in this article. These are some of the best discount cell phone plans that will save you money and provide you with the voice and data quality that you expect from the traditional wireless carriers. If you are ready to switch and start saving money, do it!