Before you make the switch to a prepaid phone plan, here’s what you need to know:
Below, you’ll find more information on prepaid phone plans including the top five benefits of a prepaid plan and the best plans available now.
Prepaid Phone Plans vs. Postpaid Phone Plans
Prepaid and postpaid phone plans aren't really all that different these days. Now, "prepaid" simply means that you pay your bill before you use the phone's service instead of at the end of the month.
Prepaid phone plans are available from major cell phone service providers such as T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T as well as from cost-efficient MVNOs that run on the same towers as major networks (examples include Mint Mobile and Boost Mobile.)
You can choose unlimited talk, text and even data for a lower price than you'll see with traditional postpaid plans. The price is often lower because you get slower data speeds, but being able to avoid a credit check, contract and overage fees may be worth it to you. To see exactly how much you can save with a prepaid phone plan, I looked at a couple of examples from AT&T and T-Mobile:
- AT&T offers a 4GB plan for $50/month for one line with unlimited talk, text and 4GB of data while prepaid plans directly from AT&T begin as low as $25/month per line for 8GB of data. Of course, the data is likely to be a little slower with prepaid (in this case, you won't have 5G access.) But you'll save $25 per month for one line and get twice the amount of high-speed data by switching to AT&T Prepaid.
- Next, let's consider T-Mobile. For one line, T-Mobile offers prepaid plans beginning at $40 per month for 10GB of data and unlimited postpaid plans that range from $60-$85 per month. Alternatively, Boost Mobile is a T-Mobile MVNO that runs on the same towers with prepaid plans beginning as low as $15/month for 2GB of data. Unlimited data plans from Boost begin at $50 per month, which is still a better deal than T-Mobile's cheapest postpaid plan.
As you can see, prepaid phone plans are a great way to save on your monthly phone bill. For even more affordable options, be sure to check out our full list of the best prepaid phone plans.
The Benefits of Prepaid Phone Plans
No matter which plan you decide is best for you, opting for a prepaid phone plan, in general, has its benefits. You’ll be able to find a lower monthly price, change your plan at any time and enjoy the same coverage that you’d get with a postpaid plan.
If you're still on the fence about it, here are five of the best reasons to consider a prepaid phone plan:
- Pricing. Generally speaking, prepaid phone plans are cheaper. You'll find deals beginning as low as $9 per month with prepaid plans such as Boost Mobile. While you'll likely have slower data speeds, you'll still have access to the same service.
- No Credit Checks. When you sign up for a prepaid plan, you'll pay upfront for what you plan to use, and you won't have to sign a contract. That means you won't have to worry about any credit checks because you won't be borrowing anything.
- Flexibility (No Contracts). Since you won't be signing a contract with a prepaid phone plan, you'll have total flexibility. You can cancel, change your plan features or change your phone at any time.
- No Overage Fees. Since you'll be paying upfront for what you use, you won't have to worry about overage fees. Prepaid plans simply pause your service once you've met any calling, texting or data limits. And you can change your plan or add to it at any time.
- Coverage and Features. Prepaid phone plans from major carriers and MVNOs offer the same coverage that you get with traditional postpaid plans. Plus, there are tons of features to choose from now with prepaid plans including mobile hotspot availability and international add-ons.
What To Know Before You Switch
While there are several benefits to choosing a prepaid phone plan, there are still a few major differences and exceptions that you should be aware of. For example, if you’re looking for a family phone plan with shared data, if you’re looking for a phone plan with a lot of additional perks or if you’re looking for a contract-based phone plan that includes a new phone on a payment plan, you may want to consider a postpaid plan instead.
Before switching to a prepaid phone plan, here are a few differences that you should be aware of:
- Data may be slower. Monthly prices are lower with prepaid phone plans due, at least in part, to the fact that data may be slower. This is thanks to data throttling and prioritization, which basically means that you may have a limited amount of high-speed data or experience slower speeds when the network is busy. Prepaid phone plans tend to get hit the hardest with this, so expect slower data speeds.
- There will be fewer perks included. Compared to postpaid family plans and major carriers, you'll find fewer perks with prepaid phone plans. You won't see many prepaid family plans with shared data, multi-line discounts or streaming service subscriptions. Plus, you'll likely need to bring your own phone or buy a new one on your own. one new. Prepaid plans without contracts don't typically offer new phone deals.
- International data may not be available. Many prepaid plans don't include international talk, text or roaming. In fact, several prepaid plans and carriers don't offer international data at all. So if you're a frequent traveller, prepaid may not be the way to go. Still, as long as your phone is compatible, Wi-Fi calling and texting will be available anywhere you're connected.
The Best Prepaid Phone Plans
When it comes to prepaid phone plans, there are more options to choose from now than ever. There are prepaid plans available directly from major carriers as well as from more cost-efficient MVNOs that provide access to the same service towers. I've researched dozens of prepaid phone plans to find the absolute best prices and features. You can check out the full list here.
Below, you’ll find my top three picks for the best prepaid phone plans:
Below, you'll find additional information on these three top picks for a prepaid phone plan. For more options and information, be sure to check out our full list of the best prepaid phone plans.
Cheapest Overall Prepaid Phone Plan
Boost Mobile, a T-Mobile MVNO, offers a variety of prepaid phone plans beginning as low as $9 per month for the first six months. For that price, you can get 2GB of high-speed data in addition to unlimited talk and text. After the first six months, the bill increases to $15 per month. This plan is available only to new customers who bring their own devices; you can check your phone's compatibility online before switching.
Other prepaid plans available from Boost Mobile include 5GB of data for $25 per month, 10GB of data for $35 per month and unlimited plans starting at $50 per month. To learn more about Boost Mobile before switching, be sure to check out our full review.
Mint Mobile prepaid phone plan
Cheapest Unlimited Prepaid Phone Plan
Mint Mobile, a T-Mobile MVNO, offers an unlimited data plan for $30 monthly plus taxes and fees. It includes unlimited talk, text and data as well as 5GB of hotspot data. After 35GB of mobile data, speeds reduce, but you can still continue using unlimited data. Like all Mint Mobile plans, you will have to prepay for three months at a time, which makes this plan $90 total at the time of purchase.
If you want to bring your own phone to Mint Mobile for even more savings, check your device's compatibility online before switching. To learn more about Mint Mobile, read our full review here.
T-Mobile Simply Prepaid
T-Mobile simply prepaid phone plan
Best Unlimited Prepaid Plan from a Major Carrier
If you’re looking for an unlimited prepaid plan from a major carrier, T-Mobile Simply Prepaid is a good option to consider. The cheapest unlimited plan is available for $50 per month for one line plus taxes and fees. Speeds slow after 50GB, but you can still continue using unlimited data. This plan also includes unlimited mobile hotspot at 3G speeds, unlimited talk and text.
Additional plans from T-Mobile Simply Prepaid include 10GB for $40 per month for one line and Unlimited Plus for $60 per month for one line. If you're thinking about switching to a T-Mobile plan, be sure to check your device's compatibility online first.
Ultimately, switching to a prepaid plan is a great way to save money. You’ll find lower monthly costs for the same coverage and a variety of features. You won’t find credit checks, contracts or overage fees. Of course, data may be slightly slower than you’d experience with postpaid services. There may also be fewer perks and limited international features.
If you're thinking about switching to a prepaid plan, be sure to check out Boost Mobile for the cheapest overall price. Mint Mobile offers the cheapest unlimited prepaid phone plan and T-Mobile Simply Prepaid is a great unlimited option from a major carrier. For more of the best prepaid phone plans, check out our full list here.
For even more options, be sure to read our guide on the best cell phone plans and deals available now and our full list of the best prepaid phone plans. Once you've decided on a new phone plan and you're ready to make the switch, check out this guide that we put together to take you step-by-step through the process.
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