Prepaid cell phone plans: Great option or Last Resort?

There was a time when prepaid plans were marketed mostly to people with poor or bad credit. Now, prepaid plans are being marketed as a great alternative to unlimited plans. Here are a few things to consider before you sign up for your prepaid.

What is prepaid?

Prepaid usually involves buying a block of minutes via online systems or replaceable cards, and you can use these minutes until they run out. Once you are out of minutes, you make another deposit or get a new card and you can continue using your phone.

No credit or poor credit

Prepaid Plans are the cell phone industryís equivalent of secured credit cards. You can still get a cell phone if you have no credit history or poor credit. Plans purchased through one of the major cell phone carriers might include free or low cost cell phones, and you can also get discounts on the standard accessories such as earpieces, headsets and faceplates.

Minutes Expire

One of the major charges against prepaid cards is that minutes expire after a period of time. That is, if you donít use all of your minutes within two or three months, you lose them and you have to buy another card. Some people consider this a rip off, but if you have an unlimited plan, you also lose your unused minutes on a monthly basis, unless you have one of the few rollover plans that are available. It is up to each customer to weigh the costs and benefits of their options.

Minutes are expensive

Since prepaid plans are still primarily use by people with poor credit, the cost per minute for a call is outrageous. Prepaid users can end up paying the same costs for all of their minutes that other consumers pay for over the limit minutes and roaming costs. If you are an occasional cell phone user and donít mind paying more, this might be a good option for you.

Standard features are nonexistent

Standard cell phone features such as free roaming, unlimited nights and weekends and text messaging might not be available on your prepaid plan. You can get the most incredible cell phone on the market, but the costs to use these types of services will greatly outweigh the benefits.

Renegotiate, if possible

If you find that none of the cell phone carriers nationwide (Iím assuming that you contacted everyone that provides service in your area) will give you an unlimited plan, your best bet is to sign up for a prepaid plan and try to negotiate a new deal every six months. Call the companies and ask if you can move to an unlimited plan even on a trial basis, or with a security deposit. You will have much more features and a lower bill in the end.

If would like to get started with a prepaid plan visit any major online cell phone retailer and sign up.

Syd Johnson is the Executive Editor of, Financial Solutions Website. You can see more articles at

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Syd Johnson