As new prepaid plans become more and more ambitious, customers are starting to wonder if they should think about what life might be like on the other side of a contract. Prepaid has a hollow ring for many, as they tend to see it as a second-run alternative to a ‘proper’ plan and service. If that’s your thinking, we’ve got a few reasons you should reconsider prepaid for your next smartphone. You never know, reading this article might actually save you some money!
Some tend to think that they’ll get worse service with prepaid. That’s a fair assumption, but not always correct.
If you were to go through a carrier that doesn’t have their own network (they’re what’s referred to as an MVNO), you’d technically be piggybacking onto a network. Boost, for instance, works on the Sprint network. They don’t have their own towers or spectrum to speak of, so they “rent” space from Sprint.
That doesn’t make them any less a carrier, but it’s something to consider. If you were to go prepaid from a carrier like T-Mobile, AT&T, or Verizon, you’d get the same service and coverage you would from a subsidized plan. Though it’s not fair to consider an MVNO lesser-than, it’s a consideration to make.
Prepaid can bring some freedoms you might not utilize at every turn, but they’re nice to have. For instance, you can switch plans any time you like. If you find a different plan that works better for you, just switch! There’s no fuss; just choose a different plan, even with a different carrier!
This is especially handy when traveling. If you’re going away for a bit, and you find coverage in the area you’re going to isn’t what you want with the carrier you have (we suggest OpenSignal for this), just get a new SIM card from a carrier that might work better. For a few days or weeks, you use that SIM, and life goes on relatively uninterrupted.
You might have a new phone number with the new SIM card, but that’s a small price to pay for reliable coverage when you need it. It won’t work across the board (Verizon and Sprint use different tech than T-Mobile and AT&T), but it’s definitely a nice option.
For some, prepaid is seen as a temporary and expensive fix. It’s not. Prepaid can save you quite a bit of cash, even when a nearly identical postpaid plan is available.
Let’s take T-Mobile, for instance. A postpaid plan brings you unlimited everything, with the first 1GB data at 4G speeds. That plan is $50/month.
With prepaid, you’ll spend $40/month for the exact same plan. Though T-Mobile caps the download speed at 8Mbps on their new prepaid plans, that may not affect you if the service in your area isn’t drastically better. And if it doesn’t affect you (8Mbps is still pretty fast), that’s $120/year (or more) in your pocket.
I know what you’re thinking; you just read that last sentence and wondered what I meant by “or more”. Prepaid is a what you see is what you get proposition.
There are no hidden fees or taxes with prepaid. With a postpaid account, that $50/month quickly turns into $56 or so with taxes and such. A prepaid plan is a flat fee, and your plan is set. You won’t get any charges for going over a data plan, or charged for extra minutes on a call. If your plan is $40, you pay $40.
If you have AT&T, but are really interested in that new T-Mobile prepaid plan, just switch. Stop paying for AT&T, and just head into the T-Mobile store and buy your new prepaid plan. Seriously, it’s that simple.
With prepaid, you don’t need to call in and cancel a plan. You won’t have to listen to some customer service representative go on and on about how valued you are. You stop paying, they stop service, and away you go. If your new carrier doesn’t work out, just go back. No problem!
Prepaid isn’t perfect. It also requires you to be smart about your smartphone usage, which some aren’t. If you know your needs, prepaid is perfect.
For those times you go over on your plan call minutes or data, you’ll need to call your carrier and add extra time or data. Remember, your plan is static — there is nothing more than what you paid for. Want more? Pay more.
You also don’t get to take advantage of bells and whistles. Take T-Mobile (again) and their features like Music Freedom or data rollover. You can’t take advantage of those on prepaid.
Another drawback people see is paying for your phone outright and upfront. Rather than pay monthly for your device, you’ll need to own it outright.
So, let’s get personal — I’m prepaid. Have been for three years, now. Before switching, I considered these points. After going prepaid, it might have been the smartest thing I’ve ever done when it comes to carriers and smartphones.
Once I took a look at my needs and usage, I found the plan that was right for me. I purchased my phone outright (twice, now), and save just shy of $400/year versus being postpaid. It’s extreme, sure, but I was paying $110/month on a postpaid account with a subsidized phone. Now I pay $30/month (for a better plan, too). Factoring in the cost of buying my phone upfront, I’m still saving a ton of money, and I see no interruption in how I use my phone.
I also didn’t compromise on my phone. Though prepaid carriers like to try and sell you their off-beat devices, you don’t have to buy those. You can get any phone you want. I graduated from a Nexus 4 to an iPhone 6, and routinely swap my SIM between various phones as needed for work.
Prepaid won’t be for everyone, but I would urge everyone to make it part of the discussion next time their contract is up. You just might save yourself a lot of money, time, and headaches.
Correction: A previous version of this article said Cricket Wireless operated on Sprint’s network. That has since been changed to reflect Boost as a Sprint MVNO.