Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

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FB01
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Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by FB01 » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:02 pm

Hi,

I am with ATT and have just one line. I pay around 55 bucks for unlimited talk, text and 2GB of data plan. I was surfing around and Tmobile is offering Prepaid plan with Unlimited Talk, text and 5GB of data plan for 30 dollars + tax. Seems enticing.

Does prepaid plan have any issues or hidden cost which I am not aware compared to regular contract plan? I am planning to get this plan but wanted to check if has any impact

-JR

bloom2708
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by bloom2708 » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:22 pm

Where are you at? T-Mobile coverage is not the same as AT&T (or Verizon) in many areas. I find the T-Mobile coverage map deceiving because the overlay 2g/3g/4g and make it seem like they cover most areas. Get off the beaten path an T-Mobile may leave you high/dry.

If large urban area and you don't venture out to more rural areas, you might be fine. See if the $30 includes fees/taxes or they are extra. See if your phone supports the necessary bands that T-Mobile operates on.

For $35/month (taxes included) with Auto-Pay on, you can get 5GB data with Cricket Wireless and keep AT&T coverage. Data speed is reduced after 5GB. $25/month if 2GB of data is plenty for you.

I pick Verizon or AT&T every time, but then I am not in a large urban area.
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chambers136
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by chambers136 » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:23 pm

I’m on AT&T prepaid. $35/month (with $5 auto pay discount), 6 gb data, unlimited talk and text. There are a few things, like I don’t think it will roam to non AT&T towers, but I rarely have any problems. I would recommend it

runner3081
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by runner3081 » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:32 pm

FB01 wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:02 pm
Hi,

I am with ATT and have just one line. I pay around 55 bucks for unlimited talk, text and 2GB of data plan. I was surfing around and Tmobile is offering Prepaid plan with Unlimited Talk, text and 5GB of data plan for 30 dollars + tax. Seems enticing.

Does prepaid plan have any issues or hidden cost which I am not aware compared to regular contract plan? I am planning to get this plan but wanted to check if has any impact

-JR
No, not really at all. As long as the T-Mobile is good for your area, go for it.

On the other hand, you can check out Red Pocket, they have good deals.

There is only one difference I have heard in prepaid and that is the Walmart Prepaid (MVNO) that uses the Verizon network - speeds are throttled.

le_sacre
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by le_sacre » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:33 pm

In general I find that prepaid plans are a great hiding-in-plain-sight opportunity to cut costs. The main thing to consider is which cell tower network the plan uses, and how its coverage is for your locations.

I switched to Verizon (from Virgin Mobile) in order to get the phone I wanted and slightly better coverage, but they have a little-advertised prepaid plan that works just as well. It actually seems like a separate entity (e.g. regular Verizon sends me marketing to try to lure me as a customer), but it uses the same network. I pay $40/mo, and forget the details of what I get for it, but it's definitely more than enough for my data needs.

Both Virgin & Verizon prepaid make it easy to set up autopay, so it's not like you have any extra chores to re-up your prepaid balance to keep your service going. Highly recommend going with prepaid plans.

batpot
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by batpot » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:06 pm

How many minutes and data do you use in a month?

I've been very underwhelmed by T-Mobile's coverage area.

ConsumerCellular is an AT&T MVNO that works great, and will save you a ton, provided you don't have large voice requirements.
And you won't have to change phones.

bob60014
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by bob60014 » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:13 pm

Before we switched to tmobile 55+ plan, I had the tmobile $30 plan as described for several years using it primarily for work. It worked great for me and didn't have any unexpected charges or issues. I simply switched due to having the need for international service and unlimited data.

iamlucky13
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by iamlucky13 » Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:42 pm

bloom2708 wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:22 pm
Where are you at? T-Mobile coverage is not the same as AT&T (or Verizon) in many areas. I find the T-Mobile coverage map deceiving because the overlay 2g/3g/4g and make it seem like they cover most areas. Get off the beaten path an T-Mobile may leave you high/dry.
It's deceiving even if you view the map (which I can't consistently seem to find, including today - it's not the one linked from their main page) that let's you select coverage based on technology and also view legacy bands separate from 700 Mhz.

I've spent a fair amount of time over the years trying to get a better idea what kind of coverage I can expect where, and never finding a very good answer.

Unfortunately, from discussing the topic with friends on other carriers who have happened to try comparing coverage maps to reality (surprisingly few of them do so), it doesn't sound like other carriers are clearly any better.

five2one
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by five2one » Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:48 pm

I was looking at pre-paid also and talked with a customer rep.

She stated that pre-paid lines save money through customer service and being lower priority during network congestion and not subsidizing devices but otherwise treated the same.

They basically run on excess capacity that is auctioned off by Big 3 (T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon).
The challenge is sorting the rumors from the facts as there isn't a lot of industry transparency.

YMMV.

scooterdog
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by scooterdog » Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:29 pm

Others have already mentioned Cricket Wireless, they use AT&T towers, and $35 (including $5 discount for autopay) for 5GB is a great offer, and I've used them without any issue for several years now.

Currently they are running a promotion for 4 unlimited lines for $100, so if you have a large family it's worth considering. (The 'limit' is 22GB data, and then it slows down, so you can still consider that 'unlimited'.)

You can also upgrade to tethering data (to have your phone serve as a hotspot) for $10/line. Highly recommended.

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Don_Qua
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by Don_Qua » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:42 pm

bob60014 wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:13 pm
Before we switched to tmobile 55+ plan, I had the tmobile $30 plan as described for several years using it primarily for work. It worked great for me and didn't have any unexpected charges or issues. I simply switched due to having the need for international service and unlimited data.
I too was happy with TMo's $30 prepaid plan, left it to sign up for their 55+ plan. I live in a small city and Tmobile never worked for my wife or myself in the house, a minor pain. But we recently swapped out our old phones for Samsung S9's and now our phones work everywhere. Newer phones include reception of Tmobile's new bands that supposedly penetrate walls better.

BeneIRA
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by BeneIRA » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:54 pm

$55 for one line with those stats on AT&T is like burglary. Verizon, a better network in my experience, has a prepaid plan for $40 with 3gb of data and unlimited talk and text along with rollover data each month. Have not had issues with Verizon prepaid. AT&T post paid makes me question how far we have actually come in cell phone tower technology and Verizon makes me believe we have come a long way. The issue with prepaid that dissuades people is that you have to own your phone, so people can’t finance an $800 phone.

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Tyrobi
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by Tyrobi » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:37 pm

If you like AT&T plan/signal, try switching to Cricket for similar quality but cheaper. I believe AT&T also owns Cricket so it's a big plus if you like AT&T's tower signal in your area. That's why we did it for my wife and I with 2 lines on Cricket for $70.
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DoTheMath
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by DoTheMath » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:26 pm

There are a couple of orthogonal issues to consider. The first is which network you would like to be on. This is definitely a YMMV situation. Depending on where you live and travel, one or another provider may be acceptable or not. As others have mentioned, Verizon and ATT generally have better coverage, especially in rural areas.

Once you've settled on a network, say ATT, you can go with ATT's primary offerings, their in-house prepaid offerings, their in-house budget brands (Cricket), and third party companies who buy time on ATT's network to resell as their own brand (called MVNOs on the interwebs). Generally speaking, as you go down the list you are less likely to have free roaming on other companies' towers, and more likely to have limits on your download speeds. You are also more likely to have a lower priority when the towers are congested in crowded locations. But the otherwise equivalent plans are also generally cheaper as you go down the list. As in all things, it becomes a question of what you value and what you're willing to pay extra for.

Aggravatingly, the companies make it extraordinarily difficult to determine the details of their offerings. An MVNO may not even tell you they run on the ATT network, nevermind their speeds or prioritization.

In your case, if you're happy with ATT service, not roaming very often (which is unlikely unless you're in rural areas pretty often), and not needing superfast speeds (unlikely unless you're streaming hi-def videos of playing video games), then Cricket would be a good choice. Cheaper than ATT with no noticeable loss of service. T-mobile seems to be a love-it or hate-it company, depending on the quality of their service in the locations you go.

ETA: One last consideration is if you use things like Wifi calling or VoLTE service or what-have-you, then it is worth noting that these are the sorts of things which are not always supported by a provider. This should be investigated if it's important. Of course, if you'd don't know, then the answer is likely that you can live without it. In any case, these days you don't need to sign a contract so if you find your service lacking, you can always switch again next month.
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rolandtorres
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by rolandtorres » Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:46 am

T-mobile is great in some urban areas and terrible in some rural areas. If you're not sure, try looking at Rootmetrics scores in your area:

http://www.rootmetrics.com/en-US/rootscore/map

You should also consider just buying the cheapest prepaid T-mobile plan and testing the service in the areas you'll be before making a commitment. You can pickup a T-mobile sim card and try their pay as you go plan for $3/mo.

palaheel
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by palaheel » Wed Jul 11, 2018 5:27 am

I'm also happy with Cricket. One thing I like is that the monthly price includes taxes and other fees. When I was on the major carriers, those were always added charges. I don't know if that's still the case.
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Tamarind
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by Tamarind » Wed Jul 11, 2018 5:57 am

scooterdog wrote:
Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:29 pm
Others have already mentioned Cricket Wireless, they use AT&T towers, and $35 (including $5 discount for autopay) for 5GB is a great offer, and I've used them without any issue for several years now.
+1. OP, you can keep your network while saving $20/month and getting a better plan.

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jeffyscott
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by jeffyscott » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:17 pm

You can read about pretty much every available prepaid plan here:

https://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2011/0 ... s.html?m=1
press on, regardless - John C. Bogle

dsmclone
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by dsmclone » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:39 pm

I'm going to give Project Fi (Google) a shot since I'll be spending some time in Europe. Not quite as cheap as some others depending on data usage but the bill is capped and it can use multiple networks.

A440
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by A440 » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:58 pm

If you live in a Wi-fi zone for most of the day and don't need a data plan, T-mobile has a $3/month plan for 30 calls or texts. Every call/text past that is 10 cents.
Works for me and my kids, but we all "live" in Wi-fi areas most of the day, so no data is needed.
My kids also use Google Voice for texting which is free. Their friends know to text them on their Google voice number, rather than T-mobile which is usually just for contacting Mom or Dad when not in a Wi-fi zone.

neilpilot
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by neilpilot » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:46 pm

A440 wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:58 pm
If you live in a Wi-fi zone for most of the day and don't need a data plan, T-mobile has a $3/month plan for 30 calls or texts. Every call/text past that is 10 cents.
Works for me and my kids, but we all "live" in Wi-fi areas most of the day, so no data is needed.
My kids also use Google Voice for texting which is free. Their friends know to text them on their Google voice number, rather than T-mobile which is usually just for contacting Mom or Dad when not in a Wi-fi zone.
If you happen to have Comcast internet and don't need much data, then Xfinity mobile on the Verizon network has unlimited voice & text for up to 5 lines free. The last bill for our 2 lines was about $5.60, that covers taxes and fees.

A440
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by A440 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 6:40 am

Thanks for the heads-up. Unfortunately, none of our phones are compatible. However, I'm visiting the store today to see how much we would get for our trade-ins. Combined with one of their $150 pre-paid offers, it might just work for us. My wife doesn't even use 1 GB/month, so at $12/GB/month Xfinity should be fine. Plus, I believe Verizon coverage is more than sufficient around the Philadelphia area.

UALflyer
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by UALflyer » Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:22 am

five2one wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:48 pm
She stated that pre-paid lines save money through customer service and being lower priority during network congestion and not subsidizing devices but otherwise treated the same.
The vast majority of the differences are disclosed by all the pre-paid carriers and MVNO's, but you may have to dig through their respective websites to find them, as they don't exactly advertise it.

For instance, Cricket clearly discloses on its website that the download speeds are capped at either 8mbps or 3mbps depending on the plan. All pre-paid plans and MVNO's also disclose the fact that the service is deprioritized, which comes into play during periods of congestion.

Most MVNO's, including Cricket, have much higher latency:
https://www.howardforums.com/showthread ... ency-Tests
https://www.howardforums.com/showthread ... ter-at-all
https://www.howardforums.com/showthread ... gh-Latency

I am in no way suggesting that people should be avoiding Cricket or other MVNO's. The OP simply asked for the gotchas, and I am answering his question. In many cases, all these downsides can absolutely be perfectly acceptable to people, while in other cases they won't be. In general, Cricket and other MVNO's can represent a good value for people with relatively few lines who only require fairly light casual usage.

On the other hand, if you have a lot of lines, have substantial corporate discounts, need higher speeds with low latency, mobile hotspot, heavy overall usage and discounted flagship phones, or have some combination of these factors, you'll generally be better off with a postpaid legacy carrier. In some cases, these plans can actually end up being cheaper than the MVNO plans, while providing more benefits.

michaeljc70
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by michaeljc70 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:40 am

dsmclone wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:39 pm
I'm going to give Project Fi (Google) a shot since I'll be spending some time in Europe. Not quite as cheap as some others depending on data usage but the bill is capped and it can use multiple networks.
That only works with a handful of phones. It also gets pricey if you use a lot of data. International data is the same price as local which is a great deal.

I've considered getting a used phone that works on Fi just to use when I travel out of the country.

HIinvestor
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by HIinvestor » Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:22 pm

We have the T-Mobile 55+ plan—if on autopay, it’s $60/month for 2 lines including all taxes and fees for unlimited voice, text and data, including international text and data.

I also have my nonprofit on a T-Mobile prepaid legacy plan. It’s about $10-100 every year. Calls are $.10/minute or $.10/text. It works for us and is a low cost option.

dsmclone
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by dsmclone » Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:56 pm

michaeljc70 wrote:
Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:40 am
dsmclone wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:39 pm
I'm going to give Project Fi (Google) a shot since I'll be spending some time in Europe. Not quite as cheap as some others depending on data usage but the bill is capped and it can use multiple networks.
That only works with a handful of phones. It also gets pricey if you use a lot of data. International data is the same price as local which is a great deal.

I've considered getting a used phone that works on Fi just to use when I travel out of the country.
Just a heads up that you can get around this. I have an old Nexus 6 (and 5) I can set up the sim card on there and then move it to another Android phone. I think it may even work on some iphones. I believe the one thing you lose is the ability to easy switch from network to network.

michaeljc70
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Re: Prepaid cell phone plan vs Regular Contract Plan

Post by michaeljc70 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:56 pm

dsmclone wrote:
Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:56 pm
michaeljc70 wrote:
Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:40 am
dsmclone wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:39 pm
I'm going to give Project Fi (Google) a shot since I'll be spending some time in Europe. Not quite as cheap as some others depending on data usage but the bill is capped and it can use multiple networks.
That only works with a handful of phones. It also gets pricey if you use a lot of data. International data is the same price as local which is a great deal.

I've considered getting a used phone that works on Fi just to use when I travel out of the country.
Just a heads up that you can get around this. I have an old Nexus 6 (and 5) I can set up the sim card on there and then move it to another Android phone. I think it may even work on some iphones. I believe the one thing you lose is the ability to easy switch from network to network.
There's no guarantee it will continue to work and I believe it supports a 6P and 5X and not the 5/6.

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