How do you figure out what cellular phone plan would be best? I've held out as long as I can without a cell phone, but with three active teenagers, I need to be in contact with them. So far, I've found a plan for $70 a month for two phones. The "frugalness" in me says that this is way too much money. Does anyone have feedback on the "pay-as-you-go" phones? Any ideas would be appreciated.
Check with your local phone company to see if they have any bundling options. We have our home phone with all of the extras, long distance service, DSL Internet service, home security service, and two cell phones with unlimited nights and weekends plus 750 peak minutes all on one bill. They gave us a good deal by bundling them together. They have different packages and plans according to what your needs are. We pay about $150 per month for all of those services, which is a fraction of what we used to pay to have them separate.
Sarah in Ohio
I used to manage a corporate cell phone plan with hundreds of users, all with special needs. There's a lot to consider to get the right plan. With regards to prepaid cell phone plans, the questions you need to ask yourself are:
Unfortunately, there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. Generally, the less you plan to use the phone, the more a pay-as-you-go plan makes sense because you pay more per minute and you have no free times. My best friend and her husband have this because they planned to treat their phones as strictly emergency tools (for cars breaking down and so forth), but you have to be disciplined. If your intent is that your children can have easy access to you, it may not be the best choice because you'll constantly be adding up the cost, but that's a personal decision.
T-mobile has the best plan as your minutes don't expire for 365 days. No plan right now has minutes that don't expire. I would check with T-mobile and ask them what plans they have for teenagers. I only needed a phone for a road trip and they had a plan for me.
I just finished researching the pay-as-you-go cell phone option myself. I went to Target where they had a whole aisle full of these phones on display and spoke with a knowledgeable salesperson there. She said generally the plans that give you the best rate per minute have phones that are a little more expensive up front. I chose T-Mobile, and for $40, I got a nice basic phone with great coverage, and it also comes with 60 minutes of air time, expiring in 60 days. Minutes roll over if you recharge your minutes before the expiration date. If you don't recharge before then, you have 90 days to buy more time before your account becomes "inactive." If you decide pay-as-you-go isn't enough for you, you can convert the phone to a regular contract account later and not have to buy anything new.
Kristi in Portland
I got my daughter a "pay as you go" cell phone for her birthday. It became very clear very quickly that it was a lot cheaper to go with the plan. She was using up a $20 card in about 2 weeks. My husband and I shopped around and got a cell phone plan. We now have three phones and pay about $70 a month. We get a total of 800 regular minutes and a 1000 night and weekend minutes. Also the "pay as you go" phone did not have as great of service as the new phone.
Beckie in Northern CA
I have one caution about prepaid service. Several of the prepaid cell phone providers use TDMA coverage (which was originally used by AT&T and is resold by CallPlus and several other plans). This type of service is gradually being phased out, and this may affect several of the prepaid providers. CallPlus service is already unavailable in some states. Prepaid plans usually don't require a long-term contract, but some of the current providers may be dropping out or changing their offerings in the next year or two. I still think that prepaid service is a good choice for many people, but it's possible that some prepaid companies may not survive the change-over.
Try lowermybills.com. They have a comparison chart for not just cell phone plans, but Internet, debt, loans, and insurance as well.
I have quite a bit of experience with pre-pay cell phones. Previously, I subscribed to a plan that billed me each month. My bill got up to $400 a month, so I had to find a better way.
At the time I made my decision, I lived in the rural Midwest. It was very important to purchase a phone that would accept calls at many locations, both rural and urban. I chose Virgin wireless (can buy at Target, etc.) and it worked well. It is 25 cents for first 10 minutes a day, and then 10 cents a minute. The minutes do carry over from month to month. It comes with a charger for your electrical outlet. I have never had a problem and used it for five years before I replaced it.
When the time came that my husband needed a phone, we did the same prepaid idea, but with TracFone. Now we live in a large city, there is never a problem (in the city) with reception. His minutes are all 10 cents each. TracFone is cheaper to buy, and offers deals on their minutes all the time. For example, 100 minutes is $29.99, but another 30 may be offered for $5. Or they may double the minutes for $10 more. Again, the minutes will carry over from month to month.
Neither of these companies charge a monthly fee. You are charged the same for local and long distance and for sending or receiving. Cards to recharge the phones can be purchased at any store like Walgreen, Wal-Mart, Sam's, and Target. The cost difference is probably less than $20. Virgin phone cards can be bought for half price about two times per year at Target. They never expire. They do require "re-charging" every 90 days, which means you are required to buy $10 of air time. If you let the air time expire, there is a re-connect fee. I've never done that so I don't know what the fee is.
My experience has been good with both companies. You can re-charge the phone online at their internet site. The Virgin phone can be re-charged without the phone in your hand and with just a few keystrokes. The TracFone requires the phone to be in your hand, and the entering of several 15-20 digit code numbers. It is not as user friendly to recharge, but cheaper to use.
Rev. Mary Jane
Hello! I actually work for a wireless provider, and the $70 for two phones on a nationwide plan seems right on track of recent offerings. You might want to consider using only your cell phones and disconnecting your landline phone for extra savings. Most large providers have a trial period for new customers, meaning you can test it for a few days or even weeks to ensure you get coverage where you need it. Make sure you find this out in advance. Pay-as-you-go wireless can be an option, but generally, it costs much higher when figured per-minute, and also prepaid wireless generally does not include free mobile to mobile. That means you'd be eating your minutes up every time you want to call one another. Shop wisely, but have fun. There's a plan and phone for everyone!
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