Don't forget about the prepaid options

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| May 25, 2014


Whether it’s your first time getting cell phone service or you’re simply looking to switch providers, making the big decision on who to choose can be a difficult one to make, especially if the plans don’t fit your budget or you’re limited on who you can go with. There are several factors as to why you may not exactly be thrilled on going with any of “The Big Four” carriers here in the U.S., but what a lot of people forget (or sometimes just don’t consider) is that prepaid carriers are out there, they’re better than ever, and they might actually be just what you’re looking for.


I’ve been in the position where I just couldn’t get on with any of the major carriers here. I was fresh-faced and 20 years old with absolutely no credit history, and unfortunately in this country it would seem that no credit is even worse than bad credit. I wasn’t getting approved for anybody. Not Verizon, not AT&T, not T-Mobile, and not Sprint. I was flustered, but not without options. There wasn’t a lot of good options around, but there were some. I ended up going with Virgin Mobile for a little while when I was on my own.


I was surprised with how well the plans actually suited my taste, and how the phones offered weren’t completely awful. Android was still blossoming at this point, but I managed to snag a deal with an LG Optimus V for $100 at Target. I was kind of surprised because if you looked at the full price of the phone from any other carrier you would be charged hundreds of dollars. Even now, if you go visit some of the prepaid phone websites you’ll find that even some of the latest phone models get a hefty discount. For example, the Apple iPhone 5c at Virgin Mobile is for sale at just $400; if you were to buy one from Apple’s website, the phone costs $549. Of course, the pricier model is also an unlocked phone and can be used between various GSM carriers and Virgin Mobile’s will only ever work with Virgin Mobile; however, if you don’t plan on leaving Virgin Mobile for a while, you can still save quite a bit of money this way.


Another thing that I really like about prepaid carriers is that the prices are usually up-front and solid. You can’t accrue any additional charges without paying first, which might seem like a hassle, but I’ve been in situations where surprise charges show up on my phone bill and it’s more of a hassle trying to get those removed than completely avoiding them in the first place.


I also like that these plans are usually very low. You can get unlimited everything with Virgin Mobile for $55/mo. Wal-Mart’s Straight Talk offers unlimited plans for just $45/mo. Ting gives you a ton of options to customize your own plan. T-Mobile has that crazy weird $30/mo. plan where you get unlimited data and texting with 100 minutes of talk time, which is great for people who just don’t make a lot of phone calls anymore. There are tons of prepaid options out there, and you never have to worry about signing a contract. Prepaid carriers are seriously underrated these days.


Maybe you’re having problems getting approved for a line on a major carrier, or maybe you’re so dismayed with the options that each carrier has that you just don’t feel like dealing with them at all. For whatever reasons you might have, it’s just good to remember that there are a lot of prepaid options out there that might surprise you with how well they’ll fit in to your budget without totally cramping your style. I know I was pleasantly surprised with what I had found when I went with prepaid.


What are your thoughts on prepaid carriers these days, readers? Do you prefer them over the major carriers? Let us know!

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