Best Pay-as-You-Go Cell Phones in Canada

Michael Kwan
man on cell phone downtown Toronto

In Canada, pay-as-you-go plans can be a good choice for occasional users. If you plan to use your phone a lot, another type of plan will be a better option for you. Please note that the rates and plans described here are accurate as of March 2018. They may change, so it is best to consult with the individual carriers directly to get the most current information.

Telus Mobility

If you want to save some extra money by pre-paying for a long period ahead of time, the Talk & Text 180 plan from Telus Mobility offers a great value. It has a higher up-front cost of $180, but it is good for a full 365 days. During that year, you will have a total of 180 weekday minutes to use, plus unlimited evenings and weekends, unlimited text and picture messaging, voicemail, and call display

This is very similar to a promotion plan from Rogers Wireless, except the Rogers version only gives you 50 minutes. Rogers raised its pricing from $120 to $180 in September 2017. As a result, the Telus plan is preferable for offering more minutes for the same amount of money.

Virgin Mobile

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One of the more notable advantages to using Virgin Mobile's cell phone service is that you get access to a range of member benefits. These include deals on fashion and beauty brands, the chance to win exclusive tickets, pre-sale ticket offers, and more. You do not need to have a traditional post-paid plan with Virgin to have member status.

Monthly pay-as-you go Virgin Mobile plans start as low as $15. They start with basic features like voicemail, call display, call waiting, call forwarding and three-way calling, as well as unlimited text messaging to Canada and the U.S. Additional minutes are 40 cents each. The pay-per-use rate for data is $1 per 10 MB, which is good for 24 hours.

Their cheapest prepaid plan that includes data is $50 per month. It includes 500 daytime minutes, unlimited weekends and evenings, unlimited global text messaging from Canada, and 500 MB of wireless data.

SpeakOut Wireless

Most people think of 7-Eleven as a convenience store for slushy drinks, hot dogs, and potato chips, but the company also offers a prepaid cell phone service called SpeakOut Wireless. It operates on the Rogers network, so there is a great assurance in terms of reliability and coverage.

Major features include the following:

  • 365-day expiry dates, regardless of voucher fill-up amount
  • 30 cents per minute talk rate, regardless of voucher value
  • Free voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, three-way calling, and incoming text messages
  • $10 per month for unlimited outgoing text messages to Canadian and U.S. mobile numbers
  • $10 per month for 100 MB of data
  • 30-day value plans to reduce costs

Easily one of the most appealing aspects of Speak-Out Wireless is the 365-day expiry. Even with a $25 voucher, the value does not expire for a full year. Any unused value rolls over with additional voucher redemptions. By contrast, most major carriers require a $100 voucher purchase in order to get a 365-day expiry period.

Petro-Canada Mobility

Much like 7-Eleven's SpeakOut Wireless, Petro-Canada Mobility is a service that consumers may overlook. However, like SpeakOut, Petro-Canada Mobility also uses the Rogers network and provides value. All plans include key features like voicemail and caller ID, as well as free nationwide coverage, and Canada-wide long distance.

The available prepaid plans fall under one of two main categories:

  • Anytime plan: Geared toward users who only send occasional text messages or want a phone mainly for emergency purposes, the anytime plan has pay-per-use rates of 15 cents per text, 30 cents per minute talk, and 15 cents per MB of data.
  • Build-your-own monthly plan: If your usage pattern is a little more consistent, this may be a better option. The $15 base plan includes unlimited Canada-wide texting and 25 Canada-wide anytime minutes. Minute packages can then be added on, ranging from $5 for 100 minutes to $40 for 1,000 minutes, as well as data packages from $10 for 100 MB to $45 for 3 GB.

In both cases, an additional $1.25 911 recovery 5ee is charged monthly.

Koodo Mobile

If you would like to have a little wireless data with your pay-as-you-go plan, Koodo Mobile offers a few affordable options to consider. If you don't make any actual phone calls, the $25 base prepaid plan can be a great fit. It includes unlimited international text and picture messaging, plus 250 MB of data, voicemail, and call display.

The base plan can then be amended by a variety of add-on options, like $5 for 25 anytime minutes, $5 for 50 MB of roaming data while in the United States, or $10 for an extra 100 MB of data.

J.D. Power rated Koodo Mobile with the second highest customer care satisfaction score, behind only Virgin Mobile.

Finding the Best Value Possible

In trying to find the best pay-as-you-go phone plan, be sure not only to check the per minute rate for your calls, but also the coverage area, any included bonus features, and how long your deposited money lasts before it expires. For example, some prepaid cards expire within as little as 15 days, depending on the value of the top-up. In some cases, a larger pre-payment can render a longer expiry period, up to one whole calendar year.

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Best Pay-as-You-Go Cell Phones in Canada