February 18, 2013

Prepaid vs. Contract (pt. 2)

If you or anyone in your family has a smartphone, you know that your monthly bill is easily $80 a month, and can top $125 if you are on it a lot. A new survey finds that 60 percent of iPhone users now pay well over $100 a month. A prepaid phone can get you a smartphone at a flip phone price. In some cases, it's uncanny the difference between a prepaid plan and a standard monthly plan. And of all the prepaid plans, Walmart's Straight Talk is the fastest growing. It's no wonder, as Straight Talk, run by Tracfone, is just at $45 a month, undercutting all the other major plans. 

Straight Talk 
For $45 a month you get unlimited talk, as many minutes as you want, and unlimited text," without a two-year contract. 
Even data is listed as unlimited, though you may find data "throttled," or slowed down, after you hit 2GB. There is one catch to this and all prepaid, contract-free, plans: You have to buy your smartphone at full price, such as $600 to $650 for an iPhone 5 (the iPhone 4S runs about $200 less). 

Other Options Expanding 
It seems everyone is now pushing prepaid. Cricket, an early comer, offers prepaid smartphones, also with unlimited data, for $50 a month (it can vary slightly by Cricket location). 

Tracfone (which runs Walmart's Straight Talk) continues to offer non-Walmart plans at similar rates that are offered at Walmart. 

Net 10 Wireless and Boost Mobile both offer a plan, also with unlimited talk, text and data, for $50 a month. 

Virgin Mobile currently offers a deal at just $35 a month for unlimited data, though talk is limited to 300 minutes. So this is a plan for texters and data users, not heavy talkers. 

Cincinnati Bell's i-Wireless prepaid plan is also $50 a month, and offers a generous 4GB of data, along with unlimited talk and text. 

Even more expensive top tier carriers like T-MobileAT&T, and Verizon are jumping in. Sprint was launching one as this story was being written (full details not yet available).
Until now, these plans have been fairly expensive, but Verizon just unveiled a new $60 a month plan for light data users. It's $70 a month to bump up to a more popular 2GB of data: That's not super cheap but is a decent deal from a major carrier. AT&T also offers unlimited talk and text with 1GB of data for $65. T-Mobile offers a variety of different plans, offering unlimited data and text for as low as $30, as long as you can manage the mere 100 minutes of talk. 

Customers Warming to Prepaid
With prepaid you either buy a card at the store each month, or get billed in advance, so you don't have to walk into Walmart or the Cricket store every month if you prefer not to. 
So if you know where to look, you can still get a smartphone plan for $50 a month, or even less, and it doesn't have to look like a 15-year-old flip phone. 
Virgin Mobile$35300 minsUnlimitedUnlimitedLimited 4G
T-Mobile$30100 minsUnlimitedUnlimitedLow talk
T-Mobile$301500 minsUnlimited30MBLow data
Walmart Straight Talk$45UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedSlows after 2GB
Cincinnati Bell$50UnlimitedUnlimited4GB
Cricket$50UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedSlows after 1GB
Net10 Wireless$50UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Boost Mobile$50UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedLimited 4G
Story by John Matarese of ABC Action News

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