Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Want to save serious money on your smartphone bill? Go prepaid.

Photo by mujitra
If you're like me, you are always looking for ways to trim a little bit off of your monthly spending. A few dollars here and there can add up quickly and make a big difference in the long run. For most people, one of their most expensive monthly bills is the phone bill. We all love our smartphones, but the data plans are costly. We've all wondered, "do I really need this?" and we inevitably realize, yes, we do need it, so we just grit our teeth and live with the expensive monthly bill.

People are naturally resistant to change, especially one that requires effort. I saw a survey once that asked people how much they would need to save to consider switching mobile phone carriers. The numbers were staggering: the vast majority of people wouldn't switch even if they would save 25%, and most still said they wouldn't switch even if they could save 50%. Why? Because they viewed it as too much of a hassle.

Today, though, it's not the hassle it once was. With number porting, online activation, etc. switching providers only takes a few minutes in most cases and since your number comes with you, none of your contacts will even know anything changed. Plus, if you have an unlocked phone, you can switch carriers without even needing a new phone, just swap SIM cards and go.

If you're ready to lower your phone bill, though, it's easier than you think, even though there is some effort involved. If you could cut your phone bill literally in half, would you? Prepaid is the way to go. 

The biggest hurdle to overcome with prepaid is the cost of a new phone. Phones purchased without a contract tend to be expensive ($549 or the iPhone 6 instead of $199). But the amount you save every month will quickly make up the difference.

Here are some of the best prepaid options out there. For the T-Mobile plan, I picked the special $30 plan which admittedly isn't for everyone. This plan only includes 100 minutes of talk, but has unlimited text, and a full 5GB of high speed data. If you don't talk much, this plan could save you hundreds. 

Note: for all of these options, I only picked one monthly plan to highlight, and tried to pick the best value for most people. All of these plans include "unlimited" data, but data speeds are throttled down to 2G speeds after a set amount (two exceptions are the T-Mobile plan I picked, and Republic Wireless)

------------------------------------------------

AT&T GoPhone Prepaid:
Plan: $60 for unlimited talk, text, and 2GB of high speed data (see all plans)
Network: AT&T
Bring your own phone: Yes (must purchase a SIM card for $5)
Pros: bring your existing AT&T phone or unlocked phone
Cons: Worst value for the money

Boost Mobile:
Plan: $45 for unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of high speed data (see all plans)
Network: Sprint
Bring your own phone: No
Pros: Cheap plans, lots of data, and a decent selection of phones
Cons: Must choose one of their phones, video streaming is slowed to 3G speeds

Cricket Wireless:
Plan: $45 for unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of high speed data (see all plans)
Network: AT&T
Bring your own phone: Yes (must purchase a SIM card for $10)
Pros: Cheap plans, lots of data, bring your own AT&T phone or unlocked phone
Cons: None except that other places are still a bit cheaper

MetroPCS:
Plan: $60 for unlimited talk, text, and high speed data (see all plans)
Network: T-Mobile
Bring your own phone: Yes (must purchase a SIM card for $10)
Pros: Offers a truly unlimited plan, best value for the money, lots of data, bring your unlocked phone
Cons: Still has a social stigma despite offering great service and prices

Net10 Wireless:
Plan: $45 for unlimited talk, text, and 3GB of high speed data (see all plans)
Network: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon
Bring your own phone: Yes (must buy a SIM card or code for $7)
Pros: Bring almost any phone, including locked phones (check compatibility first)
Cons: None except that other plans are still a bit cheaper

Republic Wireless:
Plan: $25 for unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of 3G data, $45 for 4G (see all plans)
Bring your own phone: No
Pros: Very cheap, hybrid WiFi calling, cheap phone selection
Cons: Must choose one of their phones, does not include unlimited data, used phones cannot be easily resold.

Sprint Prepaid:
Plan: $45 for unlimited talk, text, and 3GB of high speed data (see all plans)
Bring your own phone: Sprint phones only
Pros: Bring your Sprint phone to a cheaper plan
Cons: Not the best value, and can't bring your unlocked phone

StraightTalk Wireless:
Plan: $45 for unlimited talk, text, and 3GB of high speed data (see all plans)
Network: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon
Bring your own phone: Yes (must purchase a SIM card or code for $7)
Pros: Bring your own phone, including locked phones (check compatibility first)
Cons: Some users report being throttled after less than 3GB

T-Mobile Prepaid:
Plan: $30 for 100 minutes, unlimited text, and 5GB of high speed data (see all plans)
Network: T-Mobile
Bring your own phone: Yes (must purchase a SIM card for $10)
Pros: Offers a truly unlimited plan, bring an unlocked or T-Mobile phone, very fast network
Cons: Most plans provide too little data for the price

Verizon Prepaid:
Plan: $45 for unlimited talk, text, and 0.5GB of high speed data (see all plans)
Network: Verizon
Bring your own phone: Verizon phones only
Pros: Bring your existing verizon phone, runs on Verizon's vast network
Cons: Terrible value for the money

Virgin Mobile:
Plan: $45 for unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of high speed data (see all plans)
Network: Sprint
Bring your own phone: No
Pros: Good phone selection, including some very cheap options
Cons: Not the best value, must choose one of their phones, video streaming is slowed to 3G speeds

------------------------------------------------

I hope that list proved helpful for some of you. If you take a little time to compare prices, I'm sure you can find something there that's cheaper than whatever you are currently paying, probably a lot cheaper. If you're willing to get a new phone and don't need 4G, you can go with Republic Wireless and spend only $25! Or if you don't talk very much, get that T-Mobile plan and only spend $30. 

No matter which plan or carrier you chose, I hope this list at least proves that there are cheaper options out there. With everyone trying to save money, an expensive mobile phone bill is a lot easier to cut down than you think. Happy shopping!