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Choosing a Prepaid Wireless Provider

Prepaid cell phone services have become more and more popular over the past few years. Once a haven for the credit-unworthy, they've now expanded in market appeal. Some people choose prepaid because they're young and don't have a credit history. Some don't want to be tied down to a stuffy two-year contract. And yes, prepaid is still the best option for those with poor credit. Because of its increased popularity, new prepaid services are popping up, and it becomes tough to keep track of all of them.

Here at Prepaid Reviews we attempt to help you with your research by doing all of the legwork for you. We have gathered all of the plan information per carrier and given you the facts, as well as our ratings - all you have to do is pick the right plan based on your needs. We've even gone a step further and created We Help You Decide, a series of columns devoted to helping you find the best prepaid provider for your calling habits.

Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Provider

Most prepaid plans typically charge anywhere from 8 to 30 cents per minute. The average is around 15 cents per minute, though there are plenty of services that offer rates as low as 10 cents per minute with no commitment. Sometimes, though, you want more than just voice rates. You want text messaging, picture messaging, ringtones, games, and other goodies. We've included all of that information in our provider reviews

The best, and most convenient part about prepaid service though is that with most providers, you're not locked into any contracts. If you're unhappy with the service you originally choose, or if your calling needs change over time, you can always choose another plan. This is much easier nowadays, as most prepaid providers offer a number of plans to fit the needs of different callers. Even if your current provider doesn't have what you're looking for, you can jump ship to another provider, with no penalty.

Be realistic about your calling patterns. And keep in mind that the per minute plans usually give discounts on the minutes the more you buy.

Most times it is smarter to buy one bulk minute card then buy three or four cards per month - because in the end, the larger bulk purchase ends up costing less then several smaller cards. For instance, if you look at our Page Plus review, you'll see that the 10 dollar refill card gives you 14 cents per minute, while the 50 dollar refill card gives you 10 cents per minute.

Be sure to check for any expiration dates before purchasing the highest denomination card, though. Just as you don't want to buy too few when you regularly use more, you also don't want to purchase 5000 minutes and only end up using 300 before they expire.

That brings up the best part of prepaid, though. You only pay for minutes you use. Contract carriers may advertise a lower per-minute rate than prepaid, but they're based on monthly plans. If you don't use all of those minutes, your per-minute rate skyrockets. With prepaid, though, you know that you're getting the advertised per-minute rate.

Also, depending on the prepaid plan package and/or provider, additional features may or may not be included in the base cost per plan or minutes purchases. Most carriers will provide the basics: Voicemail, caller ID, call waiting. However, it's best to check for each provider. The last thing you want is to buy a phone and realize that you have to pay extra for voicemail.

Some providers charge an extra fee for features such as text messaging, 3-way calling, caller id, etc. If you use a specific feature a lot, be sure to go with a provider that includes it in their service package.

Get Answers Before Choosing a Provider

Some things you may want to find out about the prepaid wireless provider you plan to use might be:

 


• How good is the coverage area where you plan to use the phone most?
• Are there any activation fees?  
• Are there expiration dates on the minute cards?
• Are anytime minutes more expensive than nights and weekends?  
• Is long distance included?  
• Are there roaming charges?  
• Are there charges for features I need?


Some prepaid providers charge a daily access fee, whether you use the phone or not. But, as a benefit to those types of plans, they usually have cheaper minutes as well. Those plans are not for everyone. We note all access fees in our provider reviews. Make sure to watch out for them, as many people find their bills far higher than they expected, all because of the access fee.


If you plan to use the phone a lot, the lesser cost of the minutes might make up for it. If you only use the phone when traveling or a few times a month, you may find that the higher cost per minute is still cheaper with another provider than choosing one with an access fee and a lower cost per minute.