Wireless prepaid plunge

A bout of lousy customer service this morning with my wireless carrier finally pushed me to do what I’ve been threatening to do for a while – go to a prepaid cell service.

I ordered a prepaid phone online and, if satisfied, will get one for my wife and cancel our traditional service.

Savings: $700 a year.

We use our phones regularly but not for many minutes. I typically use 50 to 75 minutes per month, and she uses 100 to 150, so our shared bucket of 700 minutes – the least you can buy on a shared plan — was total overkill.

Our current plan costs $85 per month, including taxes and junk fees, or $1,020 per year.

Two prepaids, whose minutes include taxes and fees, will cost about $300 per year. And that includes the cost of two $50 phones.

The $700 first-year savings is diminished by whatever cancellation fee I have to pay to my current carrier, but it could be well worth it.

Going prepaid might not be for you, but it is worth checking out. I’ll report back about my experience, using company names, and whether this move turned out to be brilliant or dumb.

20 Responses to “Wireless prepaid plunge”

  1. Greg:

    Going prepaid is a smart choice. I doubt you will regret it.

    I did the same thing about two years ago. My circumnstances were similar, except on a smaller scale. I was paying about $36 a month with fees for service including, at my best relection, 100 anytime minutes plus free weekends and nights. While that might sound like a respectable deal, I wasn’t using minutes anywhere near that. Total yearly bill: About $432.

    Through Cingular, I swithced to prepaid after learning that for $100 a year (or $25 every three months) I could buy 400 minutes. That’s at a rate of 4 minutes per $1.

    The total averages to 33 minutes a month. As you can see, I’m not a heavy cell phone user. I treat it as a utility and little else. Sure I had to buy a new phone and switch to a new number. But my phone needed an upgrade anyway.

    Bottom line: I save $332 a year. That more than compensates for the $50 upfront cost of buying a new phone.

    When you know your mintues are not limitless, you use them judiciously. Simple as that. So if you don’t care to yak, but love to save, go for it.


    Tom Zanki

  2. Please excuse the typo:
    “relection” should have been “recollection.”

  3. Bill Gallagher on March 10th, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    I dropped mine and my wife’s service 2 years ago with Sprint, 29.99 + tax and fees for a total of $70 per month. We used about a 1/4 of the minutes for that. We switched to STI mobile, which provides service though Sprint. I got 2 flip phones from Staples, $100 each, they included $50 each in prepay. I also got $50 promotional rebate for more prepay when I activated my wifes card. To get the rebate you had to use 100 minutes in the first month, I ended up calling my own phone and letting the phone sit for over an hour the last night of the first month to get the 90 minutes (OK I don’t talk on the phone much.) Now we spend about $3-5$ a month on mine, $10-$15 on my wife’s. We came out ahead after the 2nd month, and save $50 a month or better. And got newer/better phones, to boot.

  4. […] I previously said I would name names for my cell-phone transition. It helps describe the process. […]

  5. […] inspired by my recent examination of wireless service and subsequent switch to prepaid service, a friend of mine started scrutinizing […]

  6. […] is something I did for two cell phones in our household earlier this year. Read more about that here and here. The net result is savings of about $800 per year, compared with a family plan through a […]

  7. Well I suppose that by now you have discovered that prepaid is a far better way to go than contract, they are just cheaper and you are always in control of your spending- no surprises. I switched to a Tracfone about two years ago and haven’t looked back since, I was also able to keep my phone number which was great. I also gave up my land line because I hardly ever use it and I can make long distance and international calls for the same price as a local call. The texts are also really cheap at 5 cents each which means that I can text to my hearts content and I’m not worried about overspending and if I don’t my minutes carry over as long as I top up.

  8. What company did you choose for your prepaid wireless? Cricket Wireless has some great prepaid options. That’s the great thing about prepaid - no contracts - so even after you find a good deal you can still keep looking for the best deal.

  9. Pre-Paid, GO phones, are a great deal if you use less than 200 minutes/month. But be careful, you may think you are using less than 200 minutes, but most contract plans include free 7PM to 7AM calls and free Mobile-to-Mobile calls to another having the same cell phone carrier.

    So, it is not easy to determine how many minutes you are really using, because they do not count against your 200 ANYTIME minutes. Most cell phones have the ability to keep track of your total time on the phone, so this would be the way to calculate your REAL usage. Reset this Minutes Timer counter on your cell phone when you receive a cell phone bill, then look at it and note it when you receive next months bill. This will be the ACTUAL minutes you are REALLY using. Of course you can reset the Minutes Timer at any time, and set a Reminder alert on your phone 30 days later to look at the total Minutes Timer. Reset it again after noting minutes, and Remind again to get the next 30 days Minutes Used.

    Most Prepaid cell plans offer you two basic plans, Free 7PM to 7AM and Mobile-to-Mobil if you pay $1 for each day you use your phone. This is in addition to any minutes you use. So if you are at least a call-a-day user, you will be spending $30/month plus any Anytime minutes you buy. Most carrier individual plans are $40 and you get 300 Anytime minutes plus free expensive phones every year or two. So Pre-paid plan one is not good deal for regular daily users.

    If you opt for the second Pre-Paid plan where there is no $1 daily use surcharge, you also do not get any FREE minutes at night or mobile-to-mobile. This means unless you have a land line to also use, you will have to be very careful about your time on the phone not to exceed $30/month(300 minutes), about 10 minutes per day!, else for an extra $10 on contract, you get 300 Anytime minutes, plus free nights and mobile-to mobile, plus free expensive phones every 1 tto 2 years.

    I certainly would be CAREFUL to access(calculate) your actual cell phone daily/monthly usage/habits before leaving the contract, or post-paid month-to-month plan, and EXTRA CAREFUL if you are under a CONTRACT and what the PENALTY will be to pay your way out of it.

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