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Reviews: Prepaid from the 'Big 3' Carriers
Prepaid wireless services owned and operated by the 3 largest wireless carriers.
About Our Reviews:   These reviews are mostly data from the wireless carriers themselves.  We include a certain amount of opinion from our wireless experts to further distinguish among prepaid services, for which we receive no compensation.  We also have an affiliate relationship with most of these carriers, and if you click on their link and make a purchase we may receive a commission.
PREPAIDS FROM AT&T:
AT&T Prepaid
AT&T PREPAID
AT&T Prepaid gives you all the benefits of the entire national AT&T wireless network without the commitment. Choose Pay As You Go for as low as .10 a minute, or several levels of Unlimited voice, Text and Data. AT&T Prepaid's Unlimited plans are offered at a competitive price. Canada and Mexico Roaming is available, Mexico roaming is only .25/minute. If you have an Unlocked or AT&T GSM phone you can just purchase a new AT&T SIM and try it out.


Cricket Wireless
CRICKET WIRELESS
Cricket offers a competitive prepaid service on the AT&T network with Unlimited Voice, Text & Picture Messaging, Long Distance and Data. Plans start at $30 with discounts for Auto-Pay, but not much discount for multiple users. Cricket offers a selection of GSM phones and allows you to bring your own phone. Cricket phones can roam in Mexico for Talk, Text and Data but not in Canada and there is no off-network roaming available in the US. Cricket has the  advantage of using the AT&T Mexico network with roaming available there at no increase in price over their $50 and $60 plans. You can switch up to the higher plan for your trip and switch back when you return.



PREPAIDS FROM T-MOBILE:

Metro by T-Moble
METRO BY T-MOBILE
Metro by T-Mobile, formerly MetroPCS, is an alternative to T-Mobile's own prepaid. Metro's coverage includes Voice, Text and Data Roaming in Mexico and Canada, however, there is no off-network roaming in the US. The Metro network offers both 4G LTE and 5G. Plans start at a low price point and Family plans are cheaper than average. They have no activation fees and don't charge extra taxes and fees. All plans include Unlimited Web access with different thresholds for "throttling" data speeds. Metro offers a "Bring Your Own Phone" plan that includes certain iPhone models. They have a good selection of phones. We have never dealt with MetroPCS customer service but it should on the same above-average level as T-Mobile. Metro has their own stores which adds some benefit when you need help with returns and adjustments. Occasionally, Metro stores have promotional deals that are not available online, and vice versa.


Reviewer's Choice Reviewer's Choice

Metro by T-Moble
T-MOBILE PREPAID
T-Mobile has been a good value for Prepaid. Their 30-day "Connect" plans with Data start at $10/month for 1,000 Talk minutes, 1,000 Texts and 1Gb of Data. Data is "capped" which means when you have used all your monthly data allotment, services requiring Data will not be available until your next billing cycle unless you connect to wi-fi or purchase additional Data. They have a number of price steps with increased features to tailor your plan to your usage. The $15 and $25 plans automatically increase the amount of Data by 500 Mb each year for the next few years. If you have an unlocked GSM or existing T-Mobile phone you can just activate a new T-Mobile SIM and try it out.

T-Mobile Prepaid earns our "Reviewer's Choice" award as one of the best values among Prepaids from the Big 3 carriers with a starting price of only $10 per month. You're dealing directly with the carrier with some of their own retail stores, and customer service is very good. Moving up to the $15 plan gives you unlimited US Talk & Text and a whopping 3Gb of Data which increases by 500 Mb each year you stay with them.



PREPAIDS FROM VERIZON

Verizon has acquired the Tracfone prepaids from America Movil. For now, those prepaid services are being maintained as before. We expect all prepaids not already using Verizon's own network to be eventually converted over. There could be other changes coming such as consolidation of brands or a reduction of off-network roaming. Verizon also operates a couple of Prepaids outside of the TracFone acquisitions.


GoSmart Mobile
GOSMART MOBILE
GoSmart Mobile started as a variation of T-Mobile's own Prepaid before their acquisition of MetroPCS, now owned by Verizon. GoSmart offers some low price points and give you "unlimited" data and will "throttle" your web speed after your allotment. Your data access is limited to 3G speeds, which are becoming less available, but 4G-LTE for Facebook and Messenger. They have a very limited number of phones available, but they allow you to bring your own phone. Talk, Text and Data roaming is available for no extra charge in Mexico and 15 other Latin American countries at 3G speeds. With the end of 3G coverage in the US, we predict GoSmart Mobile will be absorbed into one of Verizon's other Prepaid networks.



NET10
NET10
NET10 was originally developed as a pure 10 cents a minute wireless experience but has evolved to a network that has a slight benefit toward families. NET10 has very good coverage with no extra charges for Roaming or Long Distance. You can get Local numbers and coverage almost anywhere in the US. NET10 uses the top cellular networks available. They can also automatically refill your account monthly. Net 10 also has a no contract Unlimited plan and a "Bring-Your-Own-Phone" plan. NET10 is nearly identical to its sister service, StraightTalk, but differs by being available at retailers other than Walmart and that plans are available at different data caps and price levels, especially for "family" plans. NET10  charges local sales tax.

Page Plus Prepaid
PAGE PLUS
Page Plus is a great choice to convert your existing CDMA phone to Pay As You Go. They offer great rates and you are charged for their various features only when you use them. Refills start at only $10 for 100 minutes and they have an inexpensive Unlimited plan. They can refill your minutes automatically, although their "auto-fill" function is not 100% reliable. You get access to the entire Verizon Wireless network in the country with off-network roaming available for an additional charge, including roaming in Mexico. Their normal refill period is good for 120 days and at the $80 level, refills are good for a whole year. Unlike other Prepaid carriers, Page Plus Auto-Refill occurs on the same date each month, not each 30 days, a small but notable advantage. Also, Page Plus phones will roam off the Home network as long as you have a cash balance in your Page Plus account. Page Plus charges local sales tax.
We predict Page Plus will be absorbed into one of Verizon's other Prepaid networks.


Reviewer's Choice Reviewer's Choice

NET10
SIMPLE MOBILE:
Simple Mobile phones were confined mostly to the T-Mobile network and give you lower rates in return for more restricted network access, including during congestion, Simple Mobile customers may notice reduced speeds vs. T-Mobile customers. Simple Mobile plans allow FREE calling to 69 other countries and a credit of $10 or $20 per month to call 100 more. FREE international roaming is included to 16 Latin America countries including Mexico. The name "SIM-PLE" originated as a "SIM-only" service, but now they offer several Simple Mobile-branded phones. You are still invited to bring your own unlocked or T-Mobile-compatible phone and they'll send you a SIM card to start service. SIM's are also available at many retailers for as little as $1. Data is indeed "Unlimited" but it is slowed to 2G speeds after your monthly allotment is depleted. All plans have Unlimited Calls and Texts. Watch for substantial promotional prices especially for Auto-Refill.

Simple Mobile earns our "Reviewer's Choice" award as one of the best values among Prepaids from the Big 3 carriers with a monthly charge of only $20 (+tax) which gets you all the above features and at least 2GB of Data. SIM's are easy to find at local stores but we have found them in different stores priced for $1 and as much as $10. We expect new customers and new SIM's will eventually start using the Verizon network.


Straight Talk
STRAIGHT TALK
Originally offered as an exclusive product to be sold at Wal-Mart, Straight Talk now offers their phones and service online. They offer single-network phones which allows a choice of one of the national carriers, and a Bring-Your-Own-Phone plan that offers access to multiple networks. We expect the home network will eventually be limited to Verizon. Straight Talk also offers Hot Spots and Wireless Home Phone Systems.


Total Wireless
TOTAL WIRELESS
Total Wireless was created to be sold with limited retail distribution but is available online. Coverage is limited to the Verizon network and not their roaming partners. You can get Unlimited Talk & Text plans starting at $24 and a large amount of Data for about $10 more. Total Wireless is operated by Verizon and sales tax and local fees are added. If you live and travel within Verizon's wireless network, Total Wireless can be a good value if you.  


TracFone
TRACFONE
TracFone has been one of the most popular prepaids in the country and offers a wide variety of payment options. They offer the option of having the charges deducted from your credit card or checking account automatically, eliminating the need to renew on an exact expiration date. TracFone offers Free international calls to about 60 countries by calling a special access number, and with their International Neighbors features, they can provide a local number in Mexico or Canada for incoming calls from those countries at local rates for both callers. Tracfone's customer service is fairly easy to access, however, their agents have a wide variety of experience. It may take multiple calls to solve a problem. TracFone charges local sales tax.


Verizon
VERIZON PREPAID
Now that Verizon owns all the Tracfone carriers, it should be assumed that they all have, or will have, a cooperative realtionship. Verizon Prepaid was never a strong product by itself so there is a chance it could be eliminated in favor of one of the other networks, or it could become the 'catch-all' for any of the other Tracfone carriers that could cease to exist and have their operations and customers switched to Verizon Prepaid. Having Verizon Prepaid is like having Verizon's regular plan, so we recommend looking at one of the other associated Verizon Prepaids for better value.


Visible Wireless

VISIBLE

Visible uses the Verizon network. It's an app-based phone service with a single fixed price and 5Gb of monthly data before throttling. Verizon is a partial owner of Visible.


Walmart Family Mobile
WALMART FAMILY MOBILE
Walmart created their own brand of wireless using the T-Mobile Network. America Movil acquired the Walmart Family Mobile service and now has been taken over by Verizon. The phones and plans continue to be sold at Walmart stores and Walmart.com.  While the phones should continue to use the T-Mobile network in the near term, expect them to either be switched over to the Verizon Wireless network, or could be sold or discontinued. Their service is competitive with other prepaids and they may be offered at price points that may better fit your usage.



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