2012 was an exciting year in mobile technology. We saw the release of quad core devices, 720p and 1080p displays, and new flagships from most of the major OEMs. However, one thing that hasn't changed much is mobile carriers. Their pricing has stayed pretty much the same. In many cases, they've actually gone up. In response to that, many customers are looking for cheaper alternatives in the prepaid market. As mobile technology improves, prepaid plans have the potential to be just as good as a contract plan for a fraction of the cost. So we're going to outline some of the best monthly prepaid plans. So far in 2013, the amazing devices have continued to roll out as we've seen with the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC one, the Sony Xperia Z, and the Oppo Find 5. All these new devices and the same old carrier garbage.
Each month we'll update these entries to reflect new deals, remove expired deals, and, if necessary, add and remove new carriers.
Verizon Wireless Prepaid Plans
First on our list is the popular Verizon Wireless. They're much more known for their contract plans, but they actually also do prepaid plans. Prepaid plans feature the same features as their contract plans, including their 4G data.
Verizon Wireless prepaid has a few noteworthy plans that have changed since January. Word is that they will soon be upgrading their prepaid plans to double the data, but as of May 31, 2013, those changes have not been reflected on their website.
- The first is a $50 unlimited plan for basic phones (read: not smartphones). It has unlimited talk, text, and web. This is an excellent plan for people without smartphones.
- Verizon has changed their smartphone prepaid plans. You can now get an unlimited talk and text with 500MB for $60 with 2GB running $70 a month. This is much better than their 1GB for $80 a month.
- The third is a pay-as-you-go plan. It features $.25 per minute charges, $.20 for texts, $.25 for picture messages, and $.99 a day for mobile data. Be warned, Verizon states that the mobile data on this plan doesn't provide full web browsing.
- They have added a second option to pay-as-you-go that gives daily access for $.99 and $1.99 per day. These include unlimited Verizon-to-Verizon calls, $.10 a minute for the $.99 plan, cheaper texts and $.99 a day for unlimited web.
- The pros of Verizon is that it's a tried and true network. You'll have the benefit of nationwide Verizon service and their first class 4G service if you get the plan that supports it.
- Verizon offers discounts on some devices for people who sign up for their no-contract monthly services.
- In terms of prepaid plans, they're pretty expensive for smartphones. You can find individual contract plans with better features for lower prices.
- 4G enabled devices will use up that 1-2GB of data pretty quickly, resulting in overage charges.
You can check out Verizon's plans on their website.
AT&T Prepaid Plans
Much like Verizon, and the others of the big four, AT&T is more known for their contract plans. Also like Verizon, they're known for being pretty expensive when compared to others. However, AT&T Wireless does offer some prepaid plans for people who want AT&T service without the expensive contracts. Like Verizon, AT&T prepaid customers will enjoy their nationwide service as well as their LTE where it is available.
AT&T has a few more options when it comes to prepaid plans. However, there are 3 that are the most noteworthy. As of May, they have reworked their rate plans to make them all smartphone compatible, albeit they are minor.
- The first is a $65 per month smartphone plan that has unlimited minutes, messaging, and picture messages. It also comes with 1GB of data. This isn't bad if you're consistently on a WiFi connection and don't really need data that much. They have added a similar $50 a month service for feature phones that is the same as the $65 one except there is unlimited data (read: not for smartphones).
- They now have a $50 per month feature phone plan with unlimited everything. Smartphone users can get this, but they must purchase a smartphone data package, which means it'll be more expensive.
- The second is a $25 per month plan with 250 minutes, unlimited text and picture messages, and instead of having a per-kb usage policy, customers must now purchase a data plan on their own.
- The last is a pretty unique plan. It's a $2 per day plan. You only pay for it on days you actually use your phone. It comes with unlimited minutes, texting and picture messages along with $.01 per 5kb of data used.
- Last, but not least, is the pay-as-you-go plan. This gets you $.10 per minute, $.20 per message ($.25 to numbers outside the US), and $.01 per 5kb of data used.
- Subscribers will get the same nationwide service as contract subscribers.
- Like Verizon, there is a small selection of smartphones that you can still get subsidies on even without the contract.
- As a GSM carrier, customers who have GSM devices can just get their devices unlocked and insert the new SIM.
- The best prepaid plan only gives smartphone users 1GB of data. If you live in an area with 4G, you'll get through that very quickly.
- Like Verizon, the smartphone plans are on the more expensive side, although they are better priced than most contract plans.
For the latest, check out AT&Ts prepaid plans on their website.
Sprint Prepaid Plans
For the longest time, Sprint didn't have any no-contract, prepaid services. They were the only carrier in the big four that didn't. However, in December 2012, they announced that a new prepaid service would be up in January 2013. They weren't lying as the Sprint prepaid plans are now live and available. They feature Sprint's 4G coverage, which is still under construction. This could be a great plan for Sprint customers who have ended their 2 year contract but want to wait until LTE reaches their area before signing a new contract and upgrading. Their 3G, talk, and text is nationwide, though, so there is that.
Sprint not only keeps it really simple but really static as well. These rates remain the same since they were launched.
- There is the basic $50 per month plan for feature phones. It's unlimited talk, text, and web.
- The other is a $70 smartphone plan. It also includes unlimited talk, text, and web. This includes Sprint's 4G, whether it be WiMAX or LTE.
- It's really simple. No data limits, no weird restrictions, and no corporate backtalk. You pay your $50 or $70 a month and you have unlimited everything.
- Presumably, you'll be able to use any Sprint device on the prepaid service. This is different from other Sprint-based prepaid which can include a lengthy porting process and fees.
- Their rates and unlimited data plans are a better value than Verizon and AT&T.
- If you don't have a Sprint phone, your choices for phone deals are pretty slim. You'll either have to deal with a substandard device or pay full price for a big name phone.
- There are other carriers who can get under the $70 price tag and still offer unlimited everything.
- Their LTE network is incomplete, their WiMAX network is outdated, and their 3G network is intolerably slow in some areas.
If Sprint's prepaid service is up your alley, you can find more details at their official website.
T-Mobile Prepaid Plans
Of the big four carriers in the United States, T-Mobile is the carrier that is usually among the cheapest. They've also undergone a transformation in the early portion of 2013. Instead of offering the usual contract stuff, T-Mobile has officially launched its Uncarrier infrastructure. So any new customers no longer sign a contract. All the plans are now no contract plans so there is no longer a real distinction between no contract and contract plans. They're all no contract!
What's fun is that T-Mobile's infrastructure has changed but their rates really haven't. Their no contract plans remain their no contract plans. However, they are not also the main plans from T-Mobile.
- Their no contract plans range from $50 to $70. You get unlimited talk and text with all three as well as unlimited data. For $50 you get 500MB of 4G data before being bumped to 2G. $60 is 2.5GB before being throttled and $70 is unthrottled 4G web. Their $70 plan now includes 500MB of hotspot space free of charge.
- Their talk and text pay-as-you-go plan comes in increments of $10, $30, $50, $100. $10 gets you 30 minutes, $30 gets you 160, $50 gets you 400 and $100 gets you 1000. As per the norm, texting takes away from the “minutes” value as does picture messages.
- T-Mobile has added a pay by day with unlmited talk, text, and web for $3 per day. The unlimited web is 200MB of 4G and the rest is 2G. You can also get a $2 per day plan with unlimited everything but it's unlimited 2G web.
- Subscribers will get T-Mobile's nationwide calling and text service as well as their nationwide 3G and HSPA+ coverage along with their new LTE servce.
- Their plans offer more bang for their buck than AT&T and Verizon.
- Like AT&T, you can bring your own unlocked GSM phone and avoid having to spend hundreds of dollars on a new one. T-Mobile even gives SIM kits to new subscribers to help out with this.
- Their data plans are all unlimited (although some are throttled) so there is no worry about overages.
- T-Mobile offers a Device Installment Plan where you can get a premium device for cheaper (like on contract plans) but they charge your account monthly until you pay off the phone. So you can get a brand new phone at a lower price like with contract plans.
- Their most expensive option ($70) is one of the few plans that come with free hotspot usage without requiring purchasing additional services.
- HSPA+ has subpar speeds compared to LTE and T-Mobile's LTE is extremely limited right now.
- They really only carry the latest HTC and Samsung flagship devices (and now Apple devices too). So if you're a Motorola, Sony, etc fan, you may not like their phone selection.
- Once you run out of 4G data, you're stuck on much slower data until you pay for a new month.
For more details on their prepaid and monthly plans, check out their website.
Boost Mobile Prepaid Plans
In terms of CDMA prepaid carriers, they are among the most known and trusted out there. They are also pretty reasonably priced. As Boost Mobile is based on Sprint's network, customers will be getting Sprint's nationwide calling, texting, 3G, and 4G WiMAX.
Boost Mobile has two plans worth looking at. One is a monthly plan and the other is a pay-as-you-go.
- The pay-as-you-go is $.20 per minute and $.20 per text sent and received. MMS is $.25 and web is $.50 per day. While the talk and text prices are nothing to throw a parade over, the $.50 per day for unlimited data is actually pretty nice.
- The monthly plan is Boost Mobile's go-to plan for new subscribers. It will cost $50 per month and includes what is called Shrinking Payments. If you hold on to the plan for 18 months, $50 progressively drops to $35 per month. This plans includes unlimited everything. Like T-Mobile, Boost limits the amount of high speed data you can use at 2.5GB. After that, you'll get unlimited at a throttled speed. For Android devices, it's now $55 per month with shrinking payments lowering it to $40 eventually. For Blackberries, it's $60 and $45, respectively.
- Boost Mobile now includes daily plans. For $3 a day you get unlimited talk, text, and web. Not bad for those who don't use their phone every day.
- $60 per month for unlimited everything is pretty reasonable for nationwide service.
- The data throttling may bother some power users, but Boost makes up for it by not having overage charges.
- If you're a fan of CDMA, Boost is cheaper than Verizon.
- Shrinking Payments is a fantastic idea.
- WiMAX is outdated and slower than even HSPA+ in most areas.
- Until Sprint rolls out its Network Vision, its 3G isn't very impressive either.
- Boost Mobile's phone selection is a generation behind the big carriers.
- Their pay-as-you-go plans aren't very exciting.
If Boost Mobile looks like your kind of carrier, check out their official website.
Republic Wireless prepaid
Republic Wireless has truly one of the most unique plans out there. Instead of depending on a cell signal for everything, Republic Wireless encourages customers to stay on WiFi connections whenever possible. This allows their services to be impossibly cheap, but there are drawbacks. If you're not on a wireless connection, you'll be depending on Sprint's cell service. Republic Wireless relies on the honor system when it comes to data. It's unlimited, but you have to promise to try to stay on a WiFi connection whenever possible.
Republic Wireless has only one plan but it's now broken up into 2 options.
- Their first plan is a ridiculous $19 per month. Due to their unique service, all services take place over WiFi connections. This includes talking, texting, and data. When you're not connected to WiFi, you'll use Sprint's call, text, and data services. With this plan you pay out $250 for a Motorola Defy XT.
- Their second plan is identical in every way to their first plan except it costs $29 per month. The trade off is that you get the Motorola Defy XT for the very reasonable price of $99.
- $19-$29 a month is fantastic for monthly service.
- Using your WiFi connection can be faster than any 4G carrier depending on your Internet Service Provider.
- Even if you're not around a WiFi connection, you still get data via Sprint and you still only get charged the plan rate. No overages.
- You can't bring your own phone and the Republic Wireless selection isn't all that great. The only phone available is a slightly modified Motorola Defy XT. It's not a bad phone, but it is definitely not a great one either.
- There is no 4G data available unless you count your WiFi.
To view their plan, check out their website.
Straight Talk Wireless prepaid
As with most of the other smaller wireless carriers with prepaid monthly plans, Straight Talk only offers one plan and it's based on a larger carrier's network. Also, like smaller carriers, the plans are more simple and don't usually include options. Straight Talk offers a pretty cheap plan for an average smartphone user and they allow you to bring your own phone assuming it's a GSM. Customers on Straight Talk will be on T-Mobile's GSM network, to include their HSPA+ 4G
Straight Talk continues to add and delete plans, here are the two currently on their website.
- Monthly plans range from $30 to $45. For $30 you get 1000 minutes and texts and a measly 30MB of web. For $45 you get the usual unlimited everything.
- A new $60 per month plan offers everything the $45 plan does but adds unlimited calling and messages to International numbers.
- They now have plans that you can pay in bulk for. For 3 months of service you pay $130. For 6 months of service you pay $255 and for a full year, you pay $495. These all have the same features as their $45 plan.
- Their single plan that's unlimited everything is refreshingly simple. No worries about data limits, overage fees, or other hassles.
- The GSM network allows AT&T and T-Mobile phones as well as international phones that support T-Mobile bands. Coverage is nationwide.
- Their International Plan is one of the best on the list if you have a lot of contacts out of the country.
- Not everyone will be able to get 4G data. You'll have to get a phone with T-Mobile's HSPA+ band to get that.
- Their phone selection is weak. It's highly recommended to bring a phone with you if you go Straight Talk.
- There has been a widespread complaint about Straight Talk not offering real unlimited data. So expect to get throttled if you're a really heavy data user.
To see everything Straight Talk has to offer, check out their website.
Net10 Wireless Prepaid
Net10 is about as old school as it comes with prepaid services. Net10 is a subsidiary of TracFone, which is why we won't be mentioning TracFone. They're pretty much identical services available in the same places. Net10 depends on the classic paradigm of buying minutes as you need them. Texting and data are taken off your minutes as you use them. So if you use one minute of mobile data, it deducts one minute from your plan. Thus if you get a plan with unlimited minutes, you get unlimited everything by proxy.
Net10 has expanded their services and offers a bunch of new plans. You can now do pay-as-you-go, monthly, and family. In the last month, they have changed their plans around quite a bit, including cheaper minutes and better monthly service plans.
- For pay as you go, it's pretty simple. You can get 200 minutes for $15 and 500 minutes for $30, 600 for $45, 900 for $60, and 1500 for $100. Keep in mind minutes are deducted for texting and data as well so all you have to buy to use the service are minutes.
- Montly plans have expanded as well. $25 gets you 750, and $25 gets you 750 (includes web). For $45 you get unlimited talk, text and web. For $60 you get unlimited international talk, text, and web. (The last two plans are web exclusives!)
- Net10 now has family plans. All plans are unlimited talk, text, and data. $50 for 1 person, $90 for 2, $130 for 3, and $170 for 4 people.
- Despite the screwy verbiage, you essentially get unlimited everything for $50 which is competitive with other unlimited everything prepaid plans like Straight Talk.
- They have a higher selection of phones than Republic Wireless and you can bring your own device if it is GSM.
- If you don't use your smartphone very often, the pay-as-you-go rates are very reasonable.
- Net10 lowered this prices and simplified their plans during May 2013. We like that.
- There is no 4G data, so if it's high speeds you crave you'll have to look elsewhere.
- Their unlimited plans are reasonable, but other carriers can get under them.
- Their phone selection is mediocre at best so if you use this, you may want to bring your own phone.
If you want to take a closer look at Net10 prepaid, check out their website.
Page Plus Prepaid
Page Plus is much like the others in a sense that it's really just piggybacking off of a larger service's network. While most of the others piggyback on GSM networks, though, Page Plus prepaid services puts their customers on Verizon's network. So customers will get Verizon's nationwide 3G, call, and text services. As with anything with Verizon's name or technology attached to it, you won't find any fully unlimited plans here. However, if you like CDMA and Verizon service and don't want to pay Verizon prepaid prices, then this prepaid service is worth looking at.
Like others, PagePlus Wireless has expanded their services to include new plans.
- Their newest plan is called the 12 small plan. It's $12 a month and includes 250 minutes, 250 texts and 10MB of data. Really, this plan is for people who hardly ever use their cell phone.
- Their cheapest is $29.95 which includes 1200 minutes, 3000 texts, and a whopping 250MB of data. For $30, that isn't bad and is certainly better than the Verizon deals above. We hope you're near a WiFi connection for most of the day, though, because 250MB is very easy to go through.
- Next up is their $39.95 plan with is unlimited phone and text. This includes 200MB of data. Still not a lot of data, but great for people who do mostly talking and texting. It's odd to see less data for a more expensive plan.
- Their new feature plan is $69.95 per month and includes unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 5GB of data. Really, if you're a smartphone user and you like data, this is the only plan worth getting.
- Verizon has one of the most stable services in the United States and this is a great, cheaper alternative to Verizon while still using the service.
- $70 for unlimited everything and 5GB of data isn't that bad. There are similar contract plans that cost way more for exactly the same features.
- $12 a month is a really good deal if you're getting a cell phone for someone who may need it in case of emergency.
- No 4G LTE for PagePlus.
- Their plans have had a significant drop in data usage. The only plan to raise their data also raised their cost.
- Their featured phone is the Kyocera Torino. With it's “bright and large” 2.2 inch display. Think about that for a minute.
If this sounds like a service you would like to have, you can find more info on their website.
Last month, PlatinumTel underwent a huge change. They switched from CDMA to T-Mobile's GSM network, revamped their plans, and revamped their phone selection. So this is PlatinumTel's first month under their new business model. They have T-Mobile's nationwide service along with their HSPA+ 4G web. They have also lowered prices and simplified plans to better match the competition found elsewhere on this list. However, their new business model and plans are a considerable update from what they once offered.
PlatinumTel has three different plans. A pay-as-you-go service and two monthly plans
- The pay as you go plan, called Paygo, is among the best priced on the list. They offer $.05 per minute, $.02 per text, $.10 per 1MB, $.02 per global text, $.02 per MMS, and $.50 per 411 use.
- The $40 monthly plan offers unlimited text and talk. In terms of data, customers get 250MB of HSPA+ before being bounced back to unlimited 3G data.
- The $50 monthly plan offers unlimited text and talk like the $40 plan. The update is you get 2GB of HSPA+ before going back to unlimited 3G.
- They have among the best prices on the list in terms of monthly and pay-as-you-go services.
- They have HSPA+ 4G which is better than the 3G and WiMAX that most carriers on the list offer.
- Customers can port their HSPA+ enabled phones to PlatinumTel's network much like Straight Talk.
- Something we missed before is that all these plans include unlimited International texting as well as domestic texting.
- Their phones are below average and over a year behind the times.
- There are no unlimited 4G plans. There are other services that use T-Mobile's network that allow for that in the same price range. At least you still get unlimited 3G.
For more info, check out PlatinumTel's website.
Ready Mobile PCS Prepaid
Ready Mobile PCS is another prepaid service that isn't the most well known out there. They operate on Sprint's service so customers will be able to enjoy nationwide service. Their plans are among the more conservative on the list. Ready Mobile PCS is definitely for people who don't really use their phones very often. At least not for data.
Ready Mobile PCS takes a more a la carte approach to their plans. They have a variety of call and text plans and then a data plan you can add on.
- For calling and texting, customers have two big options. You can get 500 to 1000 minutes with 1000 to 1200 text messages for $20 to $30 per month. This now includes 20MB of data.
- There is an unlimited voice and text option for $50 a month. Alternatively, you can get 3 and 7 day plans for $9.99 and $14.99 respectively. Once again, no data.
- The last is called $.05 minutes where you can get 500 minutes for $25 or 900 minutes for $45. It comes with 50 to 100 texts respectively and costs $.10 per text afterward.
- All of the above can be augmented with a data plan. 300MB runs you a whopping $25, with 1GB for $45 and 2GB for $75.
- They now also have night and weekend minutes. They start at 30 minutes for $10 and go up to $150 for 1250 minutes. No texts or data. Yes, it's a giant rip off.
- If all you need are a few texts or minutes per month, their prices aren't half bad.
- Sprint's nationwide service means you'll get signal pretty much everywhere Sprint customers do.
- Their most expensive phone is only $49.
- Their data is ridiculously expensive. For unlimited call and text with 2GB of data, it would run you $125 a month. You can get a better deal than that on Sprint itself and you would get more data. For an extra $10, you can get unlimited everything on Straight Talk for 3 people.
- Their phone selection is spearheaded by the Samsung Instinct.
If you have a grandparent who still thinks the internet is the lining in swimming trunks, you can hook them up with a prepaid phone on Ready Mobile PCS' website.
Consumer Cellular Prepaid
Much like Ready Mobile PCS, Consumer Cellular does their prepaid plans in modules. There are minute plans and a separate messaging and data package added on. It runs on AT&T's network, so customers will still enjoy nationwide calling, text, and 3G data. For now, there isn't 4G data on Consumer Cellular. Unlike most of the other plans on the list, there is actually no unlimited plans on this carrier.
Consumer Cellular has two different plans. A monthly service for minutes and a monthly service for messaging and data. You can get both together if you so choose.
- The minutes plans are simple to understand. Customers start out at $10 just for service and 0 minutes, charging $.25 per minute. At maximum, you can pay $60 for 4,000 minutes and $.10 minutes after that. There $15, $20, $30, $40, and $50 options as well that provide 150, 350, 750, 1500, and 2000 minutes respectively.
- The data and messaging minutes that have fewer options. You can spend as low as $2.50 for 100 messages and 10MB of data. There are $5, $10, $20, and $30 options as well. At $30 you get 1GB of data and 10,000 messages.
- If you don't make a lot of phone calls, you can get 100 minutes, 10,000 texts, and 1GB of data for $45. They may not compare to others but it's certainly not terrible.
- The plethora of options allows for a number of customizable plan options.
- AARP members get discounts. Always a pro!
- You can share minutes when you're on a family plan. You can also change plans on the fly without fees.
- No 4G and data is rather limited.
- While 1GB can last for for a long time on 3G, it's still not very much.
- The best phone they have available is the iPhone 3GS.
- Getting 4000 minutes, 10,000 texts and 1GB of data will cost you $90 per month. Most carriers have better deals.
If this looks like your prepaid solution, check out Consumer Cellular's website.
H2O Wireless Prepaid
H2O Wireless prepaid is next on the list and it is another prepaid service that uses AT&T”s towers. So if you've seen an AT&T coverage map, you've seen a H2O Wireless coverage map. When it comes to their prepaid service, they're pretty simple. Like the others, there is no 4G for their plans, but if you're going prepaid you're probably used to that by now.
H2O Wireless has upgraded their plans to include a few more. Their create your own plan is a little cheaper now, and there is a new minutes-only option.
- For $30 you get unlimited talk and text with no picture messages or data. $40 gets you all the above plus unlimited picture messages and 100MB of data. $50 gets all the above, except 500MB of data. $60 gets all the above but 2GB of data.
- The create your own plan allows you to determine how many minutes, data, and texts you get. It comes stock with 80MB and allows you to add 1MB for $.25. Minutes will cost you $.025 each (yes, 2.5 cents) and picture messages will cost $.10 each. Presumably, once you select how much of each you want, that will be your monthly total.
- Minutes plans now exist for those who just need to talk. $10 gets you 200 minutes, $20 gets you 400, $30 gets you 600, and $100 gets you 2000. Texts are $.05 per text and data is $.30 per MB.
- The plans are reasonably priced. $60 for 2GB and unlimited everything else beats a lot of plans on this list.
- The create your own plan ability is pretty unique and allows for a maximum amount of customization to create a plan for you.
- You get nationwide coverage with AT&T's network.
- $100 for 2000 minutes is the best minutes-only plan on this list.
- As per the norm, their phone selection is horrid. Their best device is a refurbished iPhone 3GS.
- There is no 4G data so you're stuck on 3G.
- With the exception of the ability to create your own plan, their options are remarkably average.
If H20 Wireless prepaid looks your speed, check out their website.
When scanning lists like these, there are always people looking for a nice, secure, prepaid plan for their kids. After all, prepaid makes sense with kids. No need to spend an extra $100 adding a line to your plan if the kids only need phones for emergencies or to text their buddies. Kajeet fills this need with a prepaid service for children. It runs on Sprint's 3G network so national coverage is a given.
Kajeet plans are needlessly complicated but offer a range of customizations.
- The voice and text services are broken up into 5 options. It ranges as low as $4.99 and goes all the way up to $50.00 per month. All services give unlimited parental controls so you can keep your kids safe from some of the bad things roaming around the internet. At $4.99, you get 10 minutes inluded with $.10 text messages, $.25 picture messages, and GPS phone location for $.99 per use or $7.99 per month. $14.99 a month is the same except you get unlimited texts and 60 total minutes. $19.99 adds unlimited picture messages and 150 minutes. $24.99 adds unlimited GPS phone location and 300 anytime minutes. At $50, it's unlimited everything.
- The data plans are more simple. You can get 50MB for $4.99, 200MB for $14.99, and 1GB for $24.99. They are currently running a web special for 500MB for only $9.99.
- For kids, this service is fantastic service. Parental controls and GPS phone locator services help you keep an eye on your kids, especially if they're younger.
- You can get plans as low as $4.99 or $9.98 if you have data which makes this the cheapest plan on the list.
- Their phones are surprisingly awesome for prepaid plans and include the Galaxy S II and other mid range Android options.
- Unlimited texting at $14.99 because we all know how much the kids love texting these days.
- Plans can add up quickly. Unlimited everything and 1GB of data is $74.99 a month which is a little expensive for this list.
- This doesn't use Sprint's 4G LTE or WiMAX.
- Parental features don't really make this a family plan kind of thing, but more for a kids only thing.
If you'd like to check out Kajeet, head over to their website.
Red Pocket Mobile Prepaid
Next on our list is Red Pocket Mobile. As far as prepaid plans go, this company is right in the middle of the road, but they do have some decent plans. They piggyback off of AT&T's nationwide network, so customers will be able to get AT&T coverage. Customers have a choice of bringing their own GSM phones or buying one from Red Pocket Mobile.
In terms of plans, there are 7 days, 15 days, and month long prepaid plans.
- The 7 day plan is $13.99 and includes unlimited talk, text, and MMS. Included is a paltry 10MB of mobile web.
- The 15 day plan is $22.99 and includes unlimited talk, text, and MMS. The mobile data is still a bit skimpy at 25MB.
- There are a range of 30 day plans. $19.99 gets you 250 minutes and 500 texts with no data. $29.99 gets you unlimited talk and text with 10MB of mobile data. $39.99 gets you unlimited minutes, texts, and MMS with 100MB of data. $49.99 is the same as $39.99 except you get 500MB. Their highlight plan, called Red Pocket Max, is $59.99 and it's the same as the $49.99 plan except you get 2GB of data.
- They now offer a Pay As You Go plan, which gives you $.10 per minute. You can get prepaid cards to refill your minutes. Like the good old days.
- It's a middle of the road carrier with some decent prepaid rates.
- There are 7 day, 15 day, and 30 day options available.
- Red Pocket Mobile actually has the Samsung Galaxy S III available, so their phone selection is far above the others.
- You can bring any GSM phone and activate it.
- Once again, there is no 4G.
- They brought their 1GB plan up to 2GB of data, which is nice. However, for 3G, why no go unlimited?
- Their cheaper plans have a laughably low amount of available data. Seriously, it's not hard to use 10MB in under an hour, let alone 30 days.
If you're looking for a decent option and don't care about the data, check out their website.
SIMple Mobile Prepaid
As their name implies, SIMple Mobile keeps their prepaid services simple and easy to understand. This is another company that uses T-Mobile's nationwide network which means customers will have access to nationwide talk, text, and HSPA+ 4G. That, coupled with their simple outlook on prepaid monthly plans makes this carrier one of the most attractive on the list.
They only have 3 plans, and they're all pretty easy to understand.
- For $25 per month, you can get unlimited talk and text with no data.
- Their $40 plan is one of the newer ones. You get unlimited talk and text with 250MB of HSPA+ riddled data, and unlimited, albeit slower, data thereafter.
- For $50, you get unlimited everything. Talk, text, and HSPA+ 4G. There is a second $50 plan for Blackberries that is essentially the same thing. For all plans, adding international calling will cost you $10 per month.
- A rare unlimited 4G option. With plans either including some form of unlimited data or no data at all, web lovers won't have to compromise like other plans.
- They're unlimited everything plan is only $5 more expensive than Straight Talk.
- Their flagship Android device is the Galaxy Nexus and we like that a lot.
- Other than the Galaxy Nexus, their phone selection is rather weak.
- Their $25 option would be a lot better with some data added, even if it wasn't 4G data.
- Many people have reached out to us to let us know that Simple Mobile may throttle your data if you use too much. Some have reported as low as 5GB while others say it's around 10GB. It doesn't say this on their website and we have no real confirmation, but it's something to think about.
To check out their plans yourself, head to the website.
Total Call Mobile Prepaid
Total Call Mobile prepaid service runs on the Sprint network, so nationwide call, text, and 3G data is a given. Yes, we said 3G again. Their plans are more old school and revolve around prepaid cards that you load. They do the monthly plan deals by having customers buy monthly cards that last for 30 days.
They have 4 plans that are worth looking at.
- The first is the straight pay as you go plan. $.10 per minute and $.05 per text with no data option.
- Their monthly plans start at $29.99 and includes 1000 minutes and 1000 text messages. Once again, no data option.
- Their second monthly plan is unlimited talk and text for $39.99 per month and includes an option for international calling as well.
- Their final monthly plan is unlimited talk, text, and domestic data for $49.99 per month. This also includes an option for loading additional money for international calling. This plan is now available in 4, 7, and 15 day increments for $8, $13, and $25 respectively.
- Total Call Mobile has among the best pay-as-you-go prepaid rates on the list. Their unlimited talk, text, and web option is one of the few on the list that offers truly unlimited data.
- One of the few carriers on the list with a dedicated international calling option.
- The ability to purchase unlimited everything for a short amount of time may be cost effective for people who have heavy periods where they use their phones, but don't use them that often all the time.
- As we've come to expect from these prepaid carriers, their phone selection is just atrocious. Since it's Sprint CDMA, you'll unlikely be able to bring your own phone.
- There is no 4G WiMAX or LTE.
- They only have a single data option and it's their most expensive plan.
If you'd like to take a closer look, head to their official website.
Virgin Mobile Prepaid
Virgin Mobile is a CDMA prepaid service that runs on the Sprint network. Much like Boost Mobile, customers will get Sprint's nationwide calling, text, 3G, and 4G WiMAX. While it isn't Sprint's LTE coverage, even WiMAX is better than just 3G. Virgin Mobile keeps it simple and actually doesn't offer any contract plans. So no matter which one you choose, there is no obligation.
There are 3 plans that Virgin Mobile promotes the most and they're pretty simple.
- The first is for $35 and it includes 300 anytime minutes, unlimited texts, and unlimited 3G and 4G data. The data is much like other deals on the list. You get 2.5GB of unlimited data at max speed, then unlimited at a reduced speed. The second is $45 and it's the same as the $35 plan except you get 1200 total anytime minutes. Finally, the $55 plan is unlimited everything. Clean and simple.
- Virgin Mobile also has a new payLo talk and text plan. These are for people who don't use data often or at all. For $20 you get 400 minutes, $.15 per text message, and $1.50 per MB. At $30 you get 1500 minutes and texts and 30MB included. For $40 you get unlimited talk and text with 50MB of data included. It's worth noting that these are unavailale for smartphones.
- For $15, customers can make their smartphones a mobile hotspot and increase their max speed unlimited data to 3.5GB. That's not a bad hotspot deal.
- Their smartphone offerings may be under average compared to the biggest carriers, but it's above average compared to most prepaid carriers.
- Virgin Mobile understands that people want unlimited text and data and all of their regular plans include that.
- $35 for unlimited data (albeit throttled data) is among the best prices on the list. Also, Virgin Mobile doesn't hide that it throttles data like some carriers.
- Even if it's unlimited, WiMAX isn't LTE.
- Their smartphones may be above average compared to many prepaid carriers, but it's still below average compared to the biggest carriers.
- Data throttling is never pleasant.
To check it out further, go to their website.
Ting Mobile Prepaid
Ting is perhaps one of the most interesting prepaid carriers on the list. They're on Sprint's nationwide 3G, call, and text network along with their 4G WiMAX. What's interesting is that they also have Sprint's LTE coverage as well. That makes Ting one of the few carriers on this list that actually offers LTE. Pair that with their interesting plan policies, and you have a unique experience.
Ting has 1 plan that they offer, but that plan is very highly customizable.
- Okay, so here's how it works. Ting has a plethora of selections that are named after t-shirt sizes. Minutes, texts, and data are available in sizes ranging from XS to XXL. For minutes, you can choose 0, 100, 500, 1000, 2000, or 3000. For texts, you can choose 0, 100, 1000, 2000, 4000, or 6000. For data, you can choose 0, 100MB, 500MB, 1GB, 2GB, or 3GB. You can mix and match to your choosing. For 0 everything, you pay $6. For the highest level of everything, you pay $126.
- This is one of the few prepaid carriers with LTE coverage.
- Their smartphone lineup is astounding, and includes the HTC EVO 4G LTE and the Galaxy S III.
- Their unique plan selection allows people to ditch features they don't want.
- If you go over, you pay exactly the same rate as you do on the plan. If you go under, you get credited on your next bill. That's great for light users.
- They are more expensive than many of the plans on the list.
- Many get unlimited everything for less than $60 per month, while Ting's maximum plan charges you a lofty $126. That's actually more expensive than Sprint, and both have the same coverage and phone selection.
- You cannot get unlimited anything (call, text, or data).
- We failed to mention this before, but there is a $6 monthly charge for active devices. So that puts their max plan at $132, the most expensive on our list.
To check out Ting, go to their website.
You may have noticed that January 2013 is the first time we've added MetroPCS to our prepaid list. There are two reasons for that. The first being that MetroPCS was recently bought out by T-Mobile and we assumed that this would bring some changes. Second is because they actually did make some of those changes. MetroPCS has recently revamped their no contract plans to make it more simple for people looking for a mobile plan. MetroPCS has their own CDMA talk, text, 3G, and 4G LTE network. So unlike many carriers on this list, they don't piggy back of the network of another carrier.
MetroPCS has lowered their offerings down to three easy plans for users to choose from. These may change again in the near future as the T-Mobile and MetroPCS merger has been approved, so things are going to change for both carriers in short order. These are accurate as of May 1, 2013.
- The first plan is for $40 a month and it includes unlimited talk and text. For data, customers will get 500MB at their 4G LTE speeds, then unlimited data at 3G speeds.
- Plan number 2 is $50 a month and it's identical to the $40 plan. The exception is customers will get 2.5GB of 4G LTE data before being bounced back to 3G.
- The last plan is $60 a month and, like the others, it has unlimited talk and text. However, this one includes (supposedly) completely unlimited 4G LTE data.
- MetroPCS has their own network, so while other carriers may be cheaper, you won't be sharing your service with other carriers.
- The plans are simple to understand and have no data overages, even if 4G is limited.
- Their phone selection is less than average, but they do have the Samsung Galaxy S III prepared for their network.
- Not as cheap as some plans, but definitely less expensive than many.
- Their 4G LTE doesn't stretch across their entire service area, so many may be left with 3G.
- Outside of the Galaxy S III, their phone selection is not impressive.
- Their LTE service isn't on par with other carriers' 4G data in terms of speed. This isn't that big of an issue though, since you can get an unlimited amount of it for $60.
If MetroPCS looks like something you'd like to try, check out their official website.
AIO is a recently released carrier that came from AT&T. They boast a simple to understand mobile experience that appeals to the masses. They use symbols like smiley faces and peace signs to appeal to customers, but are their rates that competitive? Well that's what we're going to talk about. As mentioned, this is a prepaid service on the AT&T service, so you'll get their excellent nationwide coverage. For now, they only serve a few cities but once the testing markets have been tested, there's no reason why this won't expand nationwide.
AIO has 4 plans and one of the very few carriers that offers a tablet-only plan.
- The first plan is the AIO Basic plan. It'll run you $40 a month and you'll get unlimited talk, text, and data. The first 250MB of data is “high speed”, which, according to their very nice customer service reps, is AT&T's HSPA+. After 250MB, you'll get throttled.
- Next up is their AIO Smart plan. It's $55 a month and you get everything described above except you'll have 2GB of HSPA+ before getting throttled.
- Their last smartphone plan, the AIO Pro, is $70 a month and you get 7GB of HSPA+ before being throttled. This is actually pretty good. Not a lot of people use that much.
- They do have a tablet plan for $15 a month where you get 250MB of high speed data. It doesn't say if it's throttled or just turned off after that.
- They do have add-ons for those who may need more. You can buy features for just a single month or add it permanently to your plan. For $10/month you can get international calling and texting. Again you can do this for just one month or permanently. You can also get an additional 1GB of high speed data for $10/month for either one month or as a permanent add-on on your plan.
- They said simple and they weren't lying. Their rates plan page is easy to go through and easy to read. They say repeatedly that they throttle you, so unlike some carriers on this list (unlimited my keister, SIMple Mobile).
- Their rate plans are on par with competition like SIMple Mobile, Straight Talk, Platinum Tel, and others.
- Unlimited (albeit throttled) data on all smartphones plans is better than paying overages. This is a rarity on AT&T's network and surprising since AT&T is affiliated directly with AIO.
- Tablet plan is sparse when it comes to data, but with a couple of 1GB add-ons, you can get a decent tablet plan for under $40 with more than 2GB of data. That beats out most of the big names in US mobile.
- No AT&T LTE, although the customer rep stated they were working on it.
- Very limited number of places where this service is available. They've launched in Orlando, Tampa, and Houston. So if you don't live there, you'll have to wait for nationwide launch.
- Their phones are from before last year. Their best being the iPhone 4. So you'll probably want to take advantage of the “bring your own device” option.
- It's kind of ridiculous that AT&T started a whole new company to do this, when their own prepaid plans are so very terrible and could've used these rates.
If you live in a test market and want to give AIO Wireless a shot, check out their official website.
So which of these prepaid plans are the best?
Based on their price and features, we have determined the best carriers on the list are:
- Straight Talk
- Virgin Mobile
- Boost Mobile
- SIMple Mobile
- Republic Wireless
We chose these carriers based on a number of factors. They have unlimited talk, text, and data plans for under $60. Most of these include some form of 4G data along with that. While most may throttle 4G data, 2G/3G data remains unlimited so there are no overages and you get web when you need it. They range from $19 to $60 respectively. When AIO Wireless goes nationwide (which they can do anytime, since they are essentially AT&T Jr.), they'll probably be on this list.
What are the up and coming prepaid carriers?
Republic Wireless remains our biggest up and comer. They have an amazing concept with their $19.99 unlimited plans. For $20 you get all the talk, text, and 3G you can handle but you have to promise to spend as much time on a WiFi connection as you can. This sort of give and take is very unique and $20 is, far and wide, the cheapest unlimited plan on the list. They've made their service a little more friendly to new customers by bringing in a $30 unlimited plan and lowering the price of their only phone to $99.
The only problem is their phone selection. They only offer one phone and it's from the Android dark ages. If Republic Wireless ever bumps up their smartphone offerings, or at least allows people to bring their own Sprint phones (they are on Sprint's network), then Republic Wireless could become the go-to prepaid carrier. However, for now, that $19.99 looks great but the phone it comes with looks terrible.
Are there any mobile services we should avoid?
Sadly, there are. Based on price and features, we have determined that you should think twice about the following carriers:
- Ready Mobile
- Consumer Cellular
Now before anyone gets mad, we're not saying these are bad carriers. We're saying that in terms of no contract carriers, they lag behind the rest in features in comparison to price. Ting doesn't offer unlimited anything and it's the most expensive service on this list. To get the maximum in each area, customers will pay $132 per month for a single user. That's insane. For $35-$60 you can get unlimited everything on half a dozen different carriers.
Ready Mobile is no better. For 2GB of 3G data, unlimited texting and calls, it will run $125 per person. That is simply absurd. For the price of a Ting or Ready Mobile account, you can get 6 Republic Wireless accounts and you get unlimited everything. Consumer Cellular faces a similar problem but at a lesser degree. You can get 4,000 minutes, 10,000 texts, and 1GB of data for $90.
Essentially, if a carrier makes this list, you can find contract plans from the US big four (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile) that have better deals. In most cases you also get a nicer phone.
The Best Phones for Prepaid Plans
As you may have read, many of these plans either require you to bring your own phone or give you the option to do so. So we thought we'd suggest a few devices depending on if you're going GSM or CDMA.
The best GSM phones out right now are:
- Nexus 4
- Sony Xperia Z
- Samsung Galaxy Note II
- Galaxy S III
- HTC One X+
- Samsung Galaxy S4
- HTC One
- Oppo Find 5
Since you'll be buying these off contract, the best combination of power and price will be the Nexus 4. If you're particularly strapped for cash, you can find good deals on the Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy S II, or the HTC One S on sites like eBay or Swappa.
For our CDMA picks, the best out there are:
- Motorola Droid RAZR HD
- Droid RAZR MAXX HD
- HTC EVO 4G LTE
- HTC One
- HTC Droid DNA
- Samsung Galaxy Note II
- Samsung Galaxy S3
- Samsung Galaxy S4
It's a little harder to port a CDMA phone to a CDMA carrier, but there are legal ways of doing it. Some of the CDMA carriers on the list allow you to bring your phone to their service if they share towers (like Kajeet, which works on Sprint's network). Since Boost Mobile is our top CDMA pick and it boasts Sprint's WiMAX, our suggestion is to find a way to get the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch or the HTC EVO 3D ported to Boost Mobile. They are the top WiMAX phones.
Prepaid Monthly Updates
As the world of mobile technology moves at lightning quick speeds, we will be updating this on a monthly basis. So check back every month to see if there are any new deals or rate changes. Also, if there is a new wireless carrier that we don't have on the list or an old favorite we missed, leave us a comment and let us know. We'll check them out!