A prepaid cell is a cellular telephone that allows you to purchase minutes as needed instead of committing to a long-term contract and a specific monthly plan with features you may not use. Prepaid phones are most popular in Europe, but a number of people within the United States now use them as well.
For parents who would like their children to have a cellular phone, but are worried about the potential for misuse, a prepaid cell is an excellent compromise. It allows the child to call his or her parents as needed, but there is no opportunity for an unexpectedly large bill caused by excessive texting or nonessential chatting with classmates.
A prepaid cell phone is also a good idea for people who aren't concerned about having the latest features, but would like the added security of a cellular phone while traveling. When you only intend to use a phone in the event of car trouble or other emergencies, it makes no sense to pay a monthly maintenance fee and lock yourself into a long-term contract.
Another reason customers often choose prepaid cell phones is poor credit. Before you can sign a contract for standard cell phone service, you must meet the company's requirements for creditworthiness. If you've struggled with bankruptcy, foreclosure, excessive credit card debt, or long periods of unemployment, you may not be able to pass this credit check. No credit check is required for a prepaid cell phone.
You can buy prepaid phones at many electronics stores as well as large discount stores. Additional minutes are purchased by buying a plastic card that resembles a credit or gift card, then completing the activation instructions on the package.
Prices for prepaid cell minutes typically range from 10 to 60 cents per minute. In most cases, you'll get a cheaper rate by purchasing more minutes at one time. Some companies also offer a slightly discounted rate for calls made on nights and weekends instead of during the peak weekday hours.
Expiration dates for minutes purchased can wary widely, so it's important to read carefully to make sure you're not buying minutes that you'll never get a chance to use. Additionally, certain plans require you to use a specific number of minutes per month to keep the account active or charge daily access fees that can inflate your bill.