Sometimes the last thing you want in life is one more contract to tie you down, so pay as you go cell phones can come in handy.
Explanation of Pay as You Go Cell Phones
Want a cell phone without the one, two, or even three year commitment to a contract? That's where pay as you go cell phones, sometimes known as prepaid phones, come in. They're available through almost every cell phone service provider. You could end up paying more per minute, but they're still valuable for:
- Those who have bad or no credit
- Those who do not plan to use a cell phone much and therefore need fewer minutes than even the lowest monthly plan and would not get their money's worth
- Parents with teens who don't have much experience pacing themselves when it comes to minutes attached to a plan, or those who are simply worried about overage fees for themselves or their kids
- People who don't enjoy the idea of contracts, period, because they like to keep their cell phone options open without suffering the $150 to $300 in cancellation fees should they decide to exit their contract early
With pay as you go phones, you buy a set number of minutes. When you use them up, you buy more. You can buy them online, in the store, or on your phone. In some cases, you will get free minutes when you purchase the phone. There are also opportunities to get additional free minutes when you purchase a certain number of minutes during a special. A quick online search for deals offered by your service provider when it's time to purchase more time will sometimes save you quite a few dollars. Who doesn't like getting something for free?
Worried about running out of minutes? Aside from the ease of adding more minutes on the go, you can access your minutes balance quickly and conveniently. AT&T even sends you an update after each call. Some plans also allow you to keep your unused minutes as long as you don't hit the expiration date on one set without adding more on.
You may not be able to do everything on a pay as you go plan that you could on a contract with a smartphone and a "the works" plan, for example, but if phone calls and texts are what you're after, you'll have no problem getting what you want. Additional options included or available on pay as you go plans vary from provider to provider. You can get email, picture messaging, and more.
Pay as You Go vs. Monthly
If you have the option to choose between a pay as you go service and a contract that ties you to a monthly payment, which is better?
Your Minutes: With a contract plan, you never have to worry about reloading minutes onto your phone. If you run out, you will be charged overage fees. You are able to check your minutes balance, however, if you're afraid you may be near your limit for the month. When the month is done, you will automatically get more minutes. You never have to remember to reload them the way you do with a pay as you go phone.
- Pro: This is great for someone who doesn't want the hassle of having to load the minutes.
- Con: It's easier to spend more than you meant to on calling and texting your friends.
Commitment: You're free to shop around and jump from one company to another when one offers a better deal if you have a pay as you go, or prepaid, cell phone. You don't have to worry about fees that you would incur if you cancelled your contract.
- Pro: Freedom to look for the best deal out there, all the time.
- Con: You're not likely to be able to find a one-time great deal and get that same deal for one or two years. By signing up on a contract, you may take advantage of a sale price for the extent of your contract (and possibly even when you renew that contract).
Credit Checks: There is no credit check when you want to get pay as you go cell phones.
- Pro: You don't have to have a credit history at all, and if you have bad credit you still get to have your own cell phone. Also, if you're under eighteen years old, you can get a pay as you go phone but not a contract phone.
- Cons: None.
A Final Word
Is a pay as you go cell phone right for you? Maybe. Perhaps you'd rather go with the standard contract. You'll need to weigh all the options, the hassles, and how much you think you'll talk or text per month. Pricing varies between companies and all throughout the year due to specials. Break down the cost per minute to discover the best deal, and consider the additional options you'd like your phone to have, like the ability to surf the Internet. There's no simple answer when it comes to the pay as you go versus contract debate unless, of course, your credit score isn't where you'd like it to be or you're under eighteen.
The pay as you go solution has come a long way since it first started, so it's worth a look even if you checked them out the last time you signed up for a contract or decided to skip the cell phone altogether.