In the U.S., the “normal” way to get cell phone service is to pick your preferred plan, sign a two-year contract, and pay every month when the bill comes. Consumers are often lured into contracts like this with the offer of a very cheap or even free phone, as well as an attractive monthly rate that fails to mention the additional taxes, fees, and surcharges that will be tacked onto each bill.
The consumer pays the same amount whether he uses all of his allotted minutes, or just a handful. Exceed the number of minutes (or text messages) on your plan, though, and watch out: you’ll be hit with a whopping bill that may charge you as much as $ .40 per minute or $ .20 per text message for each unit by which you exceed your limit.
What’s normal in the United States, though, is decidedly abnormal when compared to the rest of the world. Consumer-friendly pay-as-you-go phone service is the standard in most other countries. This type of service allows the consumer to pay only for the minutes she uses, regardless of how much that number might fluctuate each month.
This seems like a more sensible approach for many consumers, but the problem is that many users are unaware that there are a wide variety of prepaid options available here in the U.S. Most major carriers don’t spend a lot of resources advertising their prepaid plans because they make more money on the post-paid options.
In fact, many of the best prepaid cell phone options are offered by smaller companies that don’t own any networks, but enter into contracts with those network owners to provide service. These smaller companies are called MVNO’s, for “Mobile Virtual Network Operator,” and though they are lesser-known, provide some of the best deals.
Finding the best prepaid cell phone plan for you, though, can be tricky. The first key to getting a good fit is figuring out approximately how many minutes you’ll use on average each month, and how many text messages you’ll send and receive.
Another question to consider is how many bells and whistles you want on your phone – prepaid providers usually don’t subsidize the cost of a phone nearly as much as contract plans, so you’ll have to share more of the cost burden of a nice phone, if you decide to go that route.
Even after deciding on these two key factors, it can seem like an overwhelming task to find the best prepaid cell phone for your needs. However, if you look around the web you’ll find some valuable tools, such the website that is linked at the end of this article, to help you sort it all out, and in the end you’ll be a happier (and wealthier) cell phone user because of it.