look for, gotcha's, shortcuts and resources in shopping for Prepaid
Prepaid Palatable with Auto-Pay
of our biggest objections to Prepaid was the cumbersome payment
cycle required by prepaid refills. You didn't pay the bill once a
month like the electric bill, you paid at or near an exact payment date
or you lost your account value, and
your service, if you were one day late. These types of
payments still exist but now most Prepaid operators offer some form of
"Auto-Pay", or "Auto-Refill", where your monthly payment is
automatically deducted from a
credit card, debit card or checking account.
The upside with Auto-Pay is that it becomes easier
to pay than
the electric bill because the payment is made without any hassle.
In most cases you get an Text or email that the charge to
your card or checking account is
being made, but no action is required on your part. Having an
associated account also makes it easy to change features or add-ons to
downside includes the challenge of stopping
Auto-Pay. Some carriers don't make it easy by
making you go through a menu of choices before you find a way to cancel
the process. Additionally, credit cards have expiration dates
that can interrupt the Auto-Pay process and you can suddenly find
yourself with no wireless service.
Some carriers are better than others in making the Auto-Pay function
consumer-friendly. There are carriers that offer a discount
when you sign up for Auto-Pay. In some cases you can
credit card number or an alternative notification method.
Most carriers offer both online and app access to your
account. Several will notify you long before there is a
problem including an upcoming credit card expiration date.
is an automated process, you may want to consider a Prepaid service
that includes a convenient way to correct any inevitable problems.
Our advice sometimes includes backing away and allowing for
the fact that something will cause your account to be charged a
slightly different amount, and it may cause less trouble to grin and
bear it than pressing the issue to get back a few dollars.
Keep in mind that if you choose not
which can be applied automatically or with a
PIN, normally saving you even more than retail refills, and we offer
refills in more denominations than the carriers themselves to better
match your Prepaid usage.
Prepaid starts as low as FREE!
Here are examples of how low it can go.
FreedomPop gives you a
certain number of Talk minutes, Text and Data for FREE! The
idea is that you'll like their service enough to add some of their
low-priced features after you sign up and see how much you like their
service. Even after adding features, your monthly price can be super
more info on FreedomPop.
T-Mobile's lowest-priced Prepaid is only $3 a month and there's no
penalty for going over your allotment, they just charge you at the
same, per-use rate. It's easy to keep the account going
without much action from you with Auto-Pay.
Tello plans start at $5/month. Get 100 Min.
Texts/ 200 Mb Data for just $9/month. Add or subtract features as
needed for more savings. Get More Information About Tello.
The Different Types of Prepaid "Carriers"
- Prepaid Provided by the Major Carriers
deal with the major carrier's stores and customer service and you are
normally limited to their own network. We review the Prepaid services
of the major carriers on our Primary
- Prepaid Provided by Companies NOT
Affiliated with a Major Carrier
companies have no network of their own and re-sell access to one or
more of the networks of the major carriers. Customer Service ranges
from good telephone support to online-only support. There are few or no
stores related to these carriers but there is a large number of retail
outlets for their own phones, refills or SIM's.
'resellers' provide access to one major wireless network, all US
wireless networks, or one primary network with access to other networks
at a per-use charge. We
review the Prepaid services of the non-major carriers on our Secondary Prepaids Page.
- All Prepaid Carriers Listed Here Have
there isn't a clear
definition of "nationwide" coverage, the Prepaid carriers reviewed here
service across the entire national footprint of their associated
wireless networks. There is also a number of Regional
some of which that offer 'nationwide' coverage but, more likely, limit
Prepaid users to their own network. In return, these regional
carriers normally permit 'Unlimited' access to their own network.
Easy Way: Just Change the SIM
wireless devices now contain a removable programming chip called a SIM
Information Module). Change the SIM and you give your phone
or wireless device a completely different complexion. The
phone's screen probably looks the same (you may even see your original
sign-on at start up) and you have the same apps on it, but your
network, plan, phone number and usually the cost, could be quite
different. The process of switching to a SIM of a different
network is called "BYOP" (Bring Your Own Phone, or Device) is fairly
common with the limitations of being a compatible technology (GSM vs.
CDMA), and your phone must be either "unlocked" or
switched to a Prepaid carrier that uses the same
network as the original phone
supplier. Unlocked devices are
becoming more common and are almost always available when a device is
purchased directly from the manufacturer.
Prepaid offers a large number of SIM's from our
wireless store, Moose
- Save money by
paying only for what you need.
- Plans are
often priced lower by providing a more limited customer service process.
- No deposit
- Taxes and fees
are normally not added, including
"activation" fees. America Movil
does add those fees.
- Pay only for
what you use or for
the time period you choose.
- You only pay
for your phone once.
- No monthly
bill, you can set up some plans to
- No contract or
required service period, and No
Early Termination Fee.
- You may be
able to use your existing wireless
purchased minutes usually renew when you refill.
- You may not
have detailed call reports.
credits can't be issued for "mistakes".
- Refill dates
are critical unless you use "Auto-Pay".
- Even with
"Auto-Pay", your credit card expiration date may interrupt your
- Coverage may
be less than postpaid plans.
use may incur roaming charges, higher
data fees, reduced features or just unavailable.
- Service ends
abruptly when money runs out.
selection of phones.
- Rates and
expiration depend on refill amount.
- You may need
to pay a higher price for the phone.
Service may be lower quality or difficult to
are only made by text or email, not by US Mail.
a certain number of minutes usable over a certain length of time. This
is referred to as "Pay As You Go."
that normally offer an Unlimited numbers of Calls, Texts, Data or some
combination, good from Midnight to Midnight.
||BY THE MONTH
get a generous or Unlimited number of Voice Minutes & Texts,
and a fixed or Unlimited amount of Data included, or available as an
add-on, for 30 days.
||BUY THE PHONE
the pun, but in almost all cases you will pay full price for a Prepaid
phone unless you are converting
an existing phone to Prepaid. Do the math. In most cases,
paying full-price just once for a new phone is less expensive than
paying a higher fee each month for a cheap or "free" phone with a
contract. And with that contract you keep paying for the phone
until you obligate yourself to a new one. Some carriers allow you to
pay for your phone with payments over time. They don't call it a
"contract", but you can't drop the service unless all the payments are
made or the phone is returned.
can Set It & Forget It. Most prepaids let
a credit card or checking account with your service which pays your
monthly fee automatically and is available for any add-ons.
the opportunity to pay less for your wireless service by buying refills
from discount sources or at retail stores that offer special deals. Mountain Prepaid
offers Discount Refills that can be added immediately.