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What is Prepaid Wireless?

Article Details
  • Written By: Dan Blacharski
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Everybody loves cell phones. They bring us tremendous convenience, and let us stay in touch no matter where we go. But not everybody loves cell phone plans. Too often, we're surprised at the end of the month with a big overage charge. Traditional cell phone plans require long-term contracts, which may be particularly inconvenient if you're planning on moving to a different area.

Signing up for a traditional plan also isn't as easy as it seems for all people. Most plans will conduct a credit check, and if you have less than perfect credit, you may be refused or you may be charged a hefty deposit.

In many circumstances, prepaid wireless is the way to go. Offering the advantages of no long-term contract and no credit check, prepaid plans simply allow you to buy a block of minutes ahead of time, and when they are used up, you can buy more. Refill cards are available at most drug stores, convenience stores and department stores, and most carriers will also let you buy refills online. Prepaid wireless is an excellent way to avoid the hassles of contract plans, and also is a good way to budget phone minutes and avoid those nasty overage surprises at the end of the month.

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Prepaid wireless costs are higher per minute than plans that require long-term contracts, but depending on how often you use your mobile, it may still be the more affordable option. For light cell phone users, long-term contracts just don't make sense. Traditional wireless contracts bill you for a set number of minutes every month, whether you use them or not. Also, prepaid units are the best option for very light users who want to have a cell phone for emergencies only. Federal law requires that cell phone carriers provide emergency 911 service at no cost.

There are three basic types of prepaid wireless service. With traditional prepaid service, you simply buy refill cards when you need them. Hybrid prepaid systems have a monthly charge attached to them, often automatically deducted from your charge card; this option gives you the convenience of not having to manually refill your phone minutes, while still not having to sign a long-term contract. Unlimited prepaid options are also available, typically for local calling areas only.

Before choosing a plan, take a look at the options that are available. Most prepaid wireless services deliver options such as caller ID and voice mail at no additional charge. Long distance calls however, can be more costly. Combining a prepaid wireless phone with a standard prepaid long distance card may be even more economical. When buying your prepaid minutes, also consider how much you are likely to use. You get discounts for buying larger amounts of minutes, but many plans have expiration dates attached to the prepaid cards - so if you don't use all the minutes within, for example, 90 days, you lose them.

Prepaid networks typically offer the same quality of service as standard plans, with the same call clarity, and the same types of phones available.

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Discuss this Article

anon152331
Post 4

I not much of a talker but I definite see the benefit of carrying around a cell phone, in case of emergencies. Last year, I had two flats within a six month period, but thanks to my Tracfone, I was able to get Triple A on the scene within minutes!

anon134944
Post 3

I'm also a fan of prepaid but since I have very minimal min. usage, I opted for TracFone. Spending $7 a month for a reliable cell phone service works for me.

anon80621
Post 2

Prepaid is a much better way of getting a cell phone nowadays! All the prepaid providers are dropping their prices and giving more value on their plans. All the contract carriers are doing the same old thing with their hidden fees and gouging their customers with overages, service charges, mandatory data charges etc while they hold them prisoner for two years under contract.

I tell you, my last contract was enough to spoil me on the cell contract thing for life!

Fortunately I found a number of prepaid providers with lower prices and better service. I tried a few but settled on NET10 prepaid - no hidden fees, no roaming charges, no long-distance charges, always 10c a minute (no daily use fees) and you can pick up their cards like everywhere!

anon1199
Post 1

On one website, they are saying that Virgin mobile does charge daily fees to your prepaid cell phone regardless of what plan you choose. Is this true?

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