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What is a 'Pay As You Go' Cell Phone Plan?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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A "pay as you go" cell phone plan is one in which some amount of credit must be purchased before the phone is used. This credit can be used until it expires or runs out, at which point the phone owner must buy more. In most cases, this type of plan can be paid for upfront with any kind of payment, and the credit can often be used for texting and using the Web as well as for voice calls. There are many advantages and disadvantages to using a pay as you go plan, which may vary depending on the user's viewpoint. For example, some users may not like the idea of having to renew their credit regularly, but others prefer that control over their expenditures.

How Pay as You Go Plans Work

Pay as you go plans work differently from most standard phone plans. For starters, there is no monthly fee or annual contract. Instead, in most plans, a phone and certain amount of credit — usually some set amount, such as $25 or $50 US Dollars (USD) — can be purchased from the carrier, an electronics store, a discount department store, or other vendors. Credit is used to make calls, and the per-minute rate may vary depending on when the calls are made. Additional credit can be bought at many grocery and convenience stores or through the phone or online from the carrier.

Some pay as you go plans are available with unlimited calling minutes for a daily fee. Each day that the phone is used, this fee is deducted from the pre-paid credit. Calls made on such a plan can typically be made at any time of day, with no difference in how much credit is required; in other words, while some plans may charge more per minute for calls made during business hours, an unlimited plan usually charges only the flat fee. Some plans include unlimited texting and web browsing as well.

As calls are made or credits are used in other ways, those credits are deducted from the available balance. If the balance reaches zero, more minutes will need to be purchased to make or receive additional calls. This is why it is called "pay as you go."

For most plans, users must pay a minimum amount periodically — often every 30 or 90 days — to keep their phone activated and phone number current. If the user does not keep the account active, the phone may no longer be able to make or receive calls, and the number may be disconnected, even if the user still had credit. As long as the required amount of new credit is purchased, the existing balance usually accumulates, so credit will typically not be lost if it is not used. Users may have the option of registering a credit card with the carrier to automatically debit it as required to save the trouble of remembering to renew. Otherwise, users can "top off" the account anytime by purchasing more credits.

Phone Options

Many phones for these plans are quite simple, and can include flip phones with large buttons and phones may or may not have a camera and texting abilities. Some plans offer smart phones that for allow texting, surfing the Internet, taking photos, and other features. Convenience features such as voicemail, caller ID, and call forwarding are typically all available with these phones.

Cell phones from carriers that operate on the GSM standard include SIM cards, which are small integrated circuits that store all of the phone's information. The owner's cell phone number, minutes, and other information is tied to the card — not the phone. With pay as you go plans from these carriers, the SIM card can be removed from one phone and inserted into another compatible phone from the same carrier or an unlocked phone that is not tied to any specific carrier, allowing the service to be transferred easily.

Advantages of Standard Plans

In the US, standard cell phone plans usually involve a mandatory contract of one to two years, a credit card, credit check, and a minimum monthly fee. Many plans include free weekends and evening calling, meaning calls made during this time do not count toward each month's allotted minutes. Options like free calling to any other mobile phone that uses the same service or free calling to certain cell numbers on other services may also be available. These plans are best for people who use their phones for more than 90 minutes each month, as the per-minute charge is usually less expensive than with pay as you go plans. Phones available with these plans are usually the latest ones on the market.

Advantages of Pay as You Go

Unlike standard plans, a pay as you go plan does not require a contract. In addition there are no credit card requirements and no monthly fees in addition to the cost of credit. Free weekends and evenings might be offered for short periods of time as promotional campaigns, but as a general rule these plans tend to be very straightforward.

These plans are popular people who only use their cell phones occasionally and therefore don't need the expense of a standard plan. They are also useful for people who don't have credit cards or who have varying income and can't always afford a regular monthly payment. Other users don't want to be tied to one carrier for a long time, as is usually required by a contract, and want to freedom to try out different plans without paying early termination fees.

Disadvantages of Pay as You Go

The per-minute rate of a pay as you go plan is typically more expensive than with many traditional cell phone plans. Also, there are often fewer plan perks, such as calling other people with the same carrier for free. Phones for the cheapest plans usually have few options to them, so texting and Web surfing may not be available. Just like any plan, users should read the fine print for extra service charges, including for roaming and international calls.

As credit expires usually every one to three months, users need to keep track of it or risk losing their phone service as well as their cell phone number. This can be a particular problem for those who don't use their cell phones frequently.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon964607 — On Aug 06, 2014

When I studied abroad in Ireland, I was extremely happy with my pay-as-you-go plan that I got through g3 Wireless. That's the one I would recommend, at least when it comes to traveling and going overseas.

By dukdafodgrz — On Jun 14, 2014

Here are the details on T-Mobile.

1) You can purchase a 1,000 minute prepaid card at Target (etc.) for $100. There is no additional monthly fees, and you will have one year to use it up. The phone must be compliant for this type of plan, so make sure you check. Usually Target will know.

Other prepaid amounts:

You pay ------ Cost per min. -----You get

$100 -------------10¢/min. -----1000 minutes

$50 --------------13¢/min. -------400 minutes

$30 --------------19¢/min. -------160 minutes

$10 --------------33¢/min. ---------30 minutes

2) Pay-As-You-Go-Plans are two types of plans. You can pay $3 every time you turn on your smart phone. You get unlimited talk and text. You also get unlimited data, but only the first 200 MB are at 4G speed, balance at 2G speed.

Or, you can pay $2 every time you turn on your smart phone. You get unlimited talk and text. You also get unlimited data, but only at 2G speed.

Unfortunately, they do not provide proof of when you turned on your phone as a breakdown for billing. Somehow, it sounds illegal. How can a service to the consumers not have to provide it? I can understand if it pertains to pure unlimited plans, but in this situation, they should break it down.

Anyway, I was told they charge only when I pick up on an incoming call, which was an outright lie. Watch those guys!

In the beginning, don't put too much money in, or you might get charged in a way you believe to be unfair.

The third option is to pay $35/month to get 100 min talk, unlimited text, and the first 5GB at 4G speed.

3) You can buy a T-Mobile compliant smart phone that works on all of the above plans, at Target for $59. The brand is the ALCATEL One-Touch. If you buy it at the T-mobile store, this same phone costs over $200. I like this smart phone very much.

I can't say the same for those lying sales people at T-Mobile.

By anon356710 — On Nov 27, 2013

My choice is the international prepaid sim card Travelsim. I'm really satisfied with it.

By anon353875 — On Nov 03, 2013

I have a Motorola V flip phone. I purchased this phone several years ago. Can I put this (top of the line for its time) phone on a network?

By anon350731 — On Oct 07, 2013

You can actually buy cell refill phone cards or pay as you go cards online and sites also offer international phone cards for the lowest rates, I think. I like the bizon phone card. When I purchased it, I thought it had fees, but my phone card balance is still the same and shows the balance I used.

By anon285873 — On Aug 17, 2012

As many have mentioned before. I have a family member on the T-Mobile $100=1000 minutes good for 1 year and then they roll over to another full year. As long as it's before your one year date is up, you buy and add at least a $10 card. You have to activate $100 all at once to get the 1000 minutes. Otherwise, you get gold status once you reach $100 pre-paid cards but you won't have gotten anywhere near the 1000 minutes. So it's best to buy and activate $100 in whatever denomination: 4 x $25, or 2 x $50, or 1 x $100, but you have to do it all at the same time so if it's not a $100 card, call and have them do it for you.

However, I have another relative who is in a Zip Code/area where T-Mobile isn't present enough, so it would end up being too much into roaming and they would cancel the plan. So I'm looking for another plan that's very cheap (basically this one has been so far $19.99 for a phone plus a $100 card (first year) plus $10 second full year, plus another $10 to roll over the minutes into a third year (doesn't use a lot of minutes). So by the end of the third year it will be about $3.89 a month.

Is there a plan like that for AT&T? or Tracfone that can also be rolled over like T-mobile for another year for say $10 or $20? Or is T-Mobile the only one?

By anon272372 — On May 31, 2012

I have had T Mobile for six years. I add $100 each year and roll over all the minutes I have at the time -- usually around $30 worth. You have to do it a day before the expiration or you will lose the minutes. I am very satisfied with it.

By Answered — On Feb 17, 2012

I also just wanted to mention the following to ensure that everyone would have a better understanding of my first initial post below:

Verizon Wireless: Unlimited Everything: $170

AT&T: Unlimited Everything: $120

T-Mobile: Unlimited Everything: 120

Sprint: Unlimited Everything: $99.99

FinallyFreeWireless_com Unlmited Evrythg: $59.99

Basically, whatever Sprint charges, you will ALWAYS pay exactly about $10 LESS, since this company runs on Sprint's backbone network. It's defintely High-Grade.

Been using it for a year now. Works good.



Peter W.

*(please see previous post below for all related information pertaining to above information.)

By kkdavis — On Jan 19, 2012

Does anyone know if there is a cell plan out there that you do not pay for unless you use it. This is more for a security type of thing. I have had a phone for over two years and never use it, but pay about $19 per month. Is there anything else out there better than that?

By anon234144 — On Dec 10, 2011

AT&T is terrible for international calls. Often you cannot call abroad (despite my international minute package I bought). And my t-mobile phone worked. Called the customer service numerous times about this, but they are just so "intellectually challenged". They could not understand the simple fact that their international network had been down for days! (I was able to call international before, and still had more than enough credit. And suddenly the international network was down for days. In the end, I got another phone one another network.

My T-mobile phone worked the whole time, so the problem was the AT&T network, not the phone. But they are too dumb to understand it. For national calls I guess they are okay, but if you want to use it for international. Forget AT&T. They are terrible.

By anon205544 — On Aug 12, 2011

I just purchased a 7eleven SIM card for 410.00 Pus tax, put it in my 5 year old Motorola flip phone, bought $50.00 voucher and it's good for 365 days. It's the best deal I could find for limited use, like for car or medical trouble. I like the idea of 365 day service.

By anon204706 — On Aug 10, 2011

Puretalkusa has a wonderful plan for someone who likes to text, does very little talking and could care less about the internet. It is only $10 per month for 101 minutes (10 cents per minute for voice).

If you want an additional line, there is only a $5 a month charge for that line and you get 50 free minutes on that phone above the 101. Your minutes roll each month if not used. You can use any AT&T or Cingular phone for their service and the sim cards are free for a phone you may already have. Check it out!

Perfect for kids who just need to be in touch with home.

By anon192165 — On Jun 30, 2011

Pay as you go still has a decidedly down-market image here in the US. Not sure why. Saving money is a good thing, isn't it?

Regardless, for those on fixed incomes, it makes perfect sense. Tracfone is the leading provider of pay as you go service in the US, so their senior SVC phone is probably the best choice for oldsters.

By anon178546 — On May 21, 2011

It seems that Tracfone is starting to modernize with touch phones and qwerty keyboard phones which is interesting. What's next? Androids and iphones? Maybe.

By anon168004 — On Apr 15, 2011

These kind of plans are soon to be dropped. There is too much development in the field of internet and people go to the cheap solutions. Free calls and sms are now at the gates. All you need is a smartphone.

By anon154033 — On Feb 19, 2011

I use TracFone and I am for the most part happy. The phones are not top of the line, but the service is very cheap. With my lifetime double minutes applied, I pay about $15/month for voice + text.

TracFone only makes sense if you don’t talk a lot. I talk about 100-150 minutes/month, so TracFone makes much more sense than a $40+ voice plan for hundreds of minutes I’ll never use.

By anon143310 — On Jan 15, 2011

I'm a dane, and therefore I have a danish Mobile company, but the one I've got is one where you pay for what you talk on the phone, have no requirements on have much you need to put in on your account.

The only thing you need is to talk for 9 bucks over a period of three months. Other than that, you don't have to pay anything. You can choose if you want a texting plan, a internet on your phone plan, a talk plan or anything like that, but it is not a condition of your general cell plan. Does anyone know if there is a company like that in the US?

By anon140407 — On Jan 07, 2011

I have a pay as you go phone but i rarely use it and then it ends up costing me money. i don't even use the minutes -- i just want a phone that i can put money on it and it will stay on and not go away every month, just go away after i use it all. Is there such a plan? i just want a phone on me for emergencies and maybe one to five phone calls a month. like i said, i rarely use my pay as you go phone now and i only put $10 on it per month and about $6-$8 always goes down the drain so i need an idea of which phone plan i should get because I'm not going to use the pay as you go anymore.

By anon137426 — On Dec 27, 2010

I have a Bell-Aliant pay as you go but now that I've moved from Atlantic Canada to Alberta I can't add minutes by doing what I normally would do, #321 then use my credit card. However when I call #321 all I get is a busy signal. Any suggestions?

By anon137325 — On Dec 27, 2010

I was wondering if the Pay as you go plan included long distance calls. Thank you.

By anon128540 — On Nov 19, 2010

It looks like T-Mobile doesn't count texting as part of their 1000 minutes / 1 year pay-as-you go plan. It's an additional 5¢ to receive, 10¢ to send.

I'm always looking for something better than $100/year for talk & text, but I'll stick with tracfone. $100 a year for 400 mins (or $120 to also get double mins for life, giving you 800 mins). I usually get 1000 mins or more with a promo code each year.

Right now, I have 1500 mins for this year, due to rollover from the previous year. And it's .3 per text sent or free for texts received for my phone (I'm hearing newer phones might be charging for receive). Support may be an issue, but since I've never need to call them in years other than to port over my number (which was easy) I can't really comment on it.

By anon125037 — On Nov 08, 2010

AT&T gophone has recently changed rate plans and now the pay-as-you-go simple plan charges only 10 cents/min for calls (previously 25 c). You can get a text bundle for $10 (1,000 txt) or unlimited for $20/month.

So if you don't talk much it's very affordable.

You need to add a $25 card every 90 days.

Also some prepaid companies let you use an AT&T phone. H2o wireless for example.

Their lowest refill is $10 for 90 days I believe.

If you want CDMA prepaid with the Verizon network, Net10 "c" models use that and it's 10 cents/min for calls and half that for text. CHeapest monthly cost is $15 for 200 min.

Also Tracfone models with "c" use the Verizon network and cheapest cost is $20 for 90 days.

You can use old Verizon phones on Page Plus, but for data to work they want you to buy a phone from them. For text and calls it's a good price too.

Text plan starts at $10.95 a month. Their refill cards are good for 120 days I believe.

Verizon prepaid now offers a basic plan without a daily fee and 25 c/min calls. They have a text package where you can text unlimited to other Verizon customers and 250 txt to others for $10/mo.

I think cheapest refill for 90 days is $30.

If you like Sprint coverage, you can use Platinum tel or Kajeet Prepaid, but you have to buy their phones for it to work. Kajeet offers unlimited texting and 60 talk min for $15/month.

Platinum Tel paygo starts at $10 for 90 days and rates are 5c per min calls and 2c per txt.

By anon124808 — On Nov 07, 2010

T-mobile's pay as you go contract-less plan is wonderful. Initially, you buy a phone from them and pay $100 for 1000 minutes that last for a year. This makes you a Gold Star member, entitling you to additional minutes when you refill.

Just before the year is up, pay $10 for a few minutes (50 I think) and any minutes left over from the initial 1000 get rolled over for another year.

If you don't need many minutes, this is the way to go. Pay $10 per year (after the initial outlay) and your minutes keep rolling over.

If you run out of minutes during the year and have to buy more, the newly-acquired minutes are then available for a year.

Either way (don't use many minutes or do use many), I think this plan works for everyone.

I've had the plan for almost seven years now and wouldn't consider any other.

By anon110351 — On Sep 11, 2010

There a new tracfone that's made for seniors and it looks great. Samsung phone, prepaid with a nice large display and BIG numbers!

By anon108558 — On Sep 03, 2010

if you want a cellphone on a budget get a refurbished tracfone. I got a refurbished Motorola flip phone for $20 with free shipping and it came with a $20 (60 min) card for free. It has double minutes for life on the phone and when I add a 60 min card I get 120 min and usually with a promo code another 30 extra minutes. That lasts me a long time.

If I don't want to buy extra minutes but want my phone to stay active, I sign up for the "lifeline" plan which renews your service for 30 days and costs $5.99 a month.

I've had my phone since Christmas and have only added (2) 60 min cards that cost me less than $40 because my phone came with two months of service upon activation and with the included card I got another three months of service.

So I paid less than $60 total so far for 11 months of service. I think that's a good deal.

If you are elderly/on a fixed income or only need it for emergencies they have basic tracfones for like $8 at the dollar store and you could do the monthly service for $5.99 for 10 months, and the phone usually comes with 20 minutes and two months of service upon activation.

By anon108538 — On Sep 03, 2010

tracfone has a "lifeline plan" for people who just want the phone for emergencies. It's like $5.99 a month and keeps the phone active but does not add minutes.

By anon106208 — On Aug 24, 2010

How is it legal for the phone company to take your money if not used at the end of the month? It would be like the gas station getting their gas back if I did not use it after a certain time!

Is there any company that offer a plan that I can put $10 and do not have to top up at the end of the month? I rarely use a cell and just like to have one for an emergency, but hate to lose $10 every month. Thank you for your input.

By anon103232 — On Aug 11, 2010

T-Mobile pay as you go, I've had it for 5 years now. It's the best plan out there. The only thing is you have to start as a gold member ($100.00) and you get 1000 minutes good for a year.

If, at the end of the year you still have minutes, the only thing you have to do is add $10. That will buy you another year. I have gone with $110 for 2 years ($55 per year) and probably you can go on till you run out of minutes.

Another good thing also: you get some data with T Zones. How can you beat that?

By stbear007 — On Aug 10, 2010

I am in Canada (by the Detroit, Michigan border) and wondering what the best plan would be. Now, I am in Detroit a lot and Chicago (as well as various places in the USA). What would be the best plan/service for a pay as you go to call home to Canada as well as to family while traveling in the USA?

I would love to get a cell phone in the USA that I can call anyone in the USA or Canada(if need be) with the lowest costs and best services. Thanks. I have been searching for a few months now and all is so confusing between carriers.

By anon102730 — On Aug 09, 2010

Does the length of a local call affect how much is deducted from your account? I got a pay-as-you-go phone today, so I am new to this racket. What about long distance calls? How would they affect my account?

By anon100609 — On Jul 30, 2010

Is my Kyocera Virgin Marbl K127 cell phone dead or just its battery? I can no longer charge the phone: the battery icon does not fill or show filling when plugged in to the charger. When phone is off and plugged into the charger, there is no "phone is charging" or "charging is complete" message displayed. If I buy a replacement Virgin phone, do I get to keep my current minutes and phone number?

By anon95517 — On Jul 12, 2010

I recently got an assurance wireless cell phone through the state of VA. I already have a prepaid cell that is a nice flip camera phone (samsung through verizon). Does anyone know if the sims cards can be switched so I can use the better phone? Thank you.

By anon92626 — On Jun 29, 2010

I've been using a prepaid, no monthly and a one year mandatory renew with T-mobile for a couple years!

Aside from the fact that t-mobile doesn't give a hoot where their "bars" show up or not, for 50 bucks or less a year, you just can't the beat the service or the price -- a deal with the Devil I suppose!

By anon88645 — On Jun 06, 2010

Didn't you ever hear the old saying, "nothing good comes free"? Contract plans also require you to "purchase" a phone for their network - even though they claim it's free (hey, this is business – nothing personal).

In turn, you should stop and think about that awesome touch screen that should cost $480.00 but is being promoted as "free". Let me explain. Truth is, you’re financing the phone with your contract.

Suppose you pay $60 per month on a contract plan while a “pay as you go” plan only charges $20. Why the huge difference in price (trust me, differences in coverage aren’t that extreme)? The reason is pretty simple. The $40 difference for contract service (or your “inflated charges”) is a sneaky way for the cell company to recoup their money for the phone they provided. Do the math. $40 X 24 months = $960. Now, consider “pay as you go”. $20 per month X 24 months = $480.

What’s the difference between $960 and $480? You guessed it - $480. Wasn't that the price of your “free phone”? What’s “free” about that?

By anon88398 — On Jun 04, 2010

Can one keep the number of the PAYG mobile if you don't top up for a few months.

By anon87849 — On Jun 01, 2010

I have been using the Readymobile $14.99 - 7 day Unlimited talk and text plan. This plan is the way to go when money is tight. If you need to cut expenses you have the ability to do so.

By anon87554 — On May 31, 2010

What is the best way to go, for a cell phone in Europe? Do they have family plans in Europe?

By anon85843 — On May 22, 2010

I have an AT & T 'Go phone" pay as you go plan, and even though I buy a certain number of minutes that are supposed to be good for 90 days. they prompt me to pay after just 60 days, and my minutes expire if I don't pay. This ticks me off. I can see they are just trying to get more money from me annually. Anyone else have this issue?

By anon82093 — On May 04, 2010

@conchobhair: "Pay-as-you-go plans aren't very popular here in the U.S., I think, while they seem to be the prevalent cell phone plans in Europe. Does anyone else have more data on this."

The reason is that you pay for incoming calls in the US and Canada. In most other countries I am familiar with (Finland, Sweden, most likely the EU in general, New Zealand, Australia, etc.) you only pay for outgoing calls. That means you can buy $20 of credit and then if you make no outgoing calls you won't have to top up again for another year or two (depending on the plan provider). This means you always have a number people can reach you on, basically free.

If you need to call someone you can.

In the USA, you pay for incoming and outgoing calls. To me this completely defeats the primary purpose of having a pay-as-you go plan. Sure, it avoids having a contract, but the cost adds up big time.

Outside North America/Canada the primary motive for pay-as-you-go for most people is not the absence of a contract, but the ability to spend almost nothing on having a mobile phone and being reachable by phone.

Another nice feature of pay-as-you-go in New Zealand and Finland (just two places I have tried) is that the SIM is anonymous. It does not have to be registered to a person. It is also free to obtain (well, you might pay $2 but you'll get $2 (or more) of credit automatically, so in effect it is free. So easy, and so cheap.

Regards, Jonathan

By anon81423 — On May 01, 2010

After years of contract, I finally made the switch to Net10 and am very happy paying $15 a month with their easy plan. The coverage is great and since I'm not a heavy user the plan suits me just fine. The icing on the cake is I also got my phone for free since all Net10 phone comes with 300 minutes and two months of service upon activation.

By anon80408 — On Apr 27, 2010

Current as of Apr 2010.

I have been researching ad nauseum a Pay as you Go plan for my son. He is a "mad texter", and an infrequent talker. I am trying to keep the budget around $20/month.

Here is what I found:

ATT2Go, Virgin Mobile and Page Plus Cellular have a $20/mo unlimited texting plan. Under these texting plans, voice minutes are $.25, $.10 and $.10 respectively. (PagePlus actually has $.05/min rates if your buy a $50/120day expiration refill). These three also offer 'big bucket' texting plans: ATT & V Mob have 1,000 SMS for $10, Page+ offers 2,000 SMS for $11.

Kajeet has a $30/month with unlimited SMS (plus 300 min voice).

TMo prepaid (surprisingly considering their hip image) has no unlimited or 'big bucket' texting plan. Every SMS is $.10 ($.05 for incoming). You have to opt for their EvenMorePlus (no contract) to get an unlimited SMS plan - $40).

Boost Mobile is $.10 text in or outbound, or there is a $1/day plan for all you can text (plus $.10/minute). This does not work for me because I have no idea what days my son is going to switch his phone on (safe to assume every day? So that could means $30/mo + voice mins).

Verizon has a pay by the day plan too. Not good for me for the same reasons.

Sprint does not offer Prepaid (V Mob and Boost are their subsidiary).

Trumpet Mobile is $.10, no texting buckets.

Net10 is $.05/SMS (though I did see labeling on on some boxes that state $.03/SMS). This means that 1,000 SMS would cost $30-$50, plus minute usage.

Cricket and MetroPCS offers a unlimited texting plan, requiring $40/month (but with lots of voice minutes).

Conclusion: Page Plus Cellular, Kajeet and Virgin Mobile win this contest. Kid gets his gobs of SMS (for which he will pay), I get to talk to him from time to time for which I will pay.

Unfortunately these are all CDMA carriers, meaning that I need to buy a new phone to use their services. Patrick

By anon79978 — On Apr 25, 2010

Despite any negative reviews I might have found when I was researching for a new carrier, I still decided to go with Virgin Mobile.

I opted to go no-contract since it was the reason I left my previous carrier and Virgin’s pay-as-you is awesome. I cut down my minutes drastically and went with a $20/200 minute plan with roll forward and $10 for 1,000 texting and $30 a month is a huge break over the $110 I was previously paying.

While the phone selection is limited, it is hardly expensive and has some really great buys and the calling network has been very dependable.

Speaking of dependable, Virgin Mobile has a whole new program out that is really helping people get and keep a cell phone. Their “Assurance Wireless” program is being in offered in five states and exclusively to low income, qualifying families and its an amazing deal. Qualifiers can get both a phone and 200 minutes, with no fees or contract, for $10 a month with the potential to expand their program at. 10 a minute. While the program is new, I can only hope it will expand to more states and people who could also use a plan like this.

I might not be low-income, but the savings would totally help me. Times are tough and having a cell phone is a must, so e-mail Sprint president and let him know that everyone could use these savings.

By anon78824 — On Apr 20, 2010

I bought a AT&T GoPhone with unlimited text and IM for $20.00 a month. That to me is a pretty good plan for a prepaid phone.

By anon78810 — On Apr 20, 2010

There is a cell service call page plus. I've been with them for about three years. i am a truck driver and the phone works well in all states and even had good coverage in the mountains.

The good part of this is that you can activate an old phone, or purchase one from 19.99 and up. You can purchase the phone and service or just the service over the counter. 40 dollars a month unlimited talk and text with 20 megs of web. The only way people would know who that phone was listed to is if you call and register your name with the number.

By anon75565 — On Apr 07, 2010

I am a victim of domestic violence. Does anyone know how I can get telephone or cell phone service without having my personal information available to the general public via the carriers or online?

Three times I was tracked via my phone records. The companies state it is public info even though I paid extra to keep info private. I always blocked my calls except for emergencies (police, etc.). I have even tried having service in a friend's name, which is no longer an option.

Unfortunately, the domestic violence shelter phones only work for 911.

I looked into prepaid phones/service and all the ones I checked seem to have to enter your personal info the first time phone is used (name, physical address, etc.) even when prepaid cards are used for minutes.

Anyone who can give me some suggestions so I can get other than 911 service, it would be appreciated.

By anon75121 — On Apr 05, 2010

Beware of Tracfone. Their customer service is incompetent and situated in India, where they don't want to take responsibility for their mistakes. They screwed up my one year pre-paid plan and they would only compensate me three months of air time to cover what I had paid for 1 year.

I escalated it all the way to Miami, their corporate head office and still, they wouldn't compensate me anymore.

By anon72757 — On Mar 24, 2010

Rogers offers pay as you go plans, however their phones that work with it are limited, with a very large blackberry-design like qwerty phone. they also offer two sliders and two normal phones. you can get 2500 texts a month for 10 dollars and the same for unlimited mobile browsing. their pay by the minute plans are only 1¢ a minute for weekends and evenings!

By anon72332 — On Mar 22, 2010

Are you able to get like a pay as you go phone but still have free nights and weekends?

By collegegirl — On Mar 21, 2010

I've had Net10 for several months and while I'm on their "easy minutes" monthly plan, I know that they offer many pay-as-you go minutes options. What's great about Net10 is you use either option and their phone displays actually keep track of how many minutes you have.

Companies like Net10 and prepaid in general don't necessarily get they due they deserve since they provide great service and prices without the contract commitment.

I'm having such a great experience with Net10, that I wouldn't go back to a contract carrier.

By anon67172 — On Feb 23, 2010

I just bought a new tmobile sim card to go with my sidekick LX, not the 09, and when i made an account on my tmobile it said i had gold status and i didn't buy and minutes and i paid eight dollars for the sim card. w00t! i am one of the lucky ones!

By anon66452 — On Feb 19, 2010

I recently ran out of minutes on my pay as you go Tmobile phone so I called and charged $50 worth of minutes. After I OK'd the charge, I was told that I had 400 minutes and that they would expire in three months.

As I very seldom use my phone, I immediately called and said please cancel the charge as I do not use 400 minutes in two years and I would lose lots of time and money. I was told that they do not cancel orders (It was only two minutes later that I called) so now I have to keep the phone and use 20 minutes (roughly) and lose the rest. I call this a complete rip off and I am changing plans as soon as I lose the rest of my $50.

By amypollick — On Dec 22, 2009

Yep. It's in the U.S. and if the company foots the bill, it is perfectly legal for them to keep tabs on the usage. Doesn't make them great human beings, but it is legal. It's like internet access at work. As long as the company pays the bills for usage, they have the right to monitor your activities. Besides: only a very large company is apt to provide cell phones for everyone, and my company is not that big.

By anon57347 — On Dec 22, 2009

really? seems a little backward. especially considering the rates corporations tend to get on large accounts. And, their calls are monitored? do you work in the united states? ...geesh!

By amypollick — On Dec 21, 2009

The only people where I work who have a company-paid cell phone plan are the owner and the Director of Operations. No one else in the company has one. Most of the people I know who have one are only allowed to use them for company-related business, and their usage is monitored.

By anon57191 — On Dec 21, 2009

nothing personal, but doesn't anyone here have an employer-provided cell phone to use as they wish? geesh, i got 3/4 g, bluetooth. i can send vacation photos and videos and all. they do frown on downloading ring tones however! unprofessional and a needless cost and all, you know?

i did, however, get my daughter a "virgin mobile" for her thirteenth birthday. she said it was "kewl!"! :)

By anon57136 — On Dec 20, 2009

Have a GoPhone and love it! I load it up for $100 every year, no problems, great value and usage. Use it as a "Don't call me, I'll call you" phone! I don't even usually keep it on, only when "I" want or need to reach out, and for my immediate circle of close personal communications.

I like my privacy and really prefer most contact me by landline, and there's usually one handy for business or boring necessities.

GoPhone, more than enough for what I and most need!

By anon54807 — On Dec 02, 2009

I have had a TracFone for 2 1/2 years. At first the minutes did not roll over at the end of the 90 day period the cards are purchased for, however, that was changed a year or so ago-now they roll over.

By anon54284 — On Nov 29, 2009

I just got T-Mobile prepaid with a new T-Mobile SIM card. There is no activation fees! The SIM card cost me US$6.00. It is cheap! T-Mobile gave me $25.00 worth of additional free "welcome minutes". I purchased US$100.00 T-Mobile refill card and got 35 percent cashback from BING!

I have earned Gold Status with T-Mobile so now I get 15 percent additional minutes! What a deal and what a steal! This adds up to something like US$0.8 per minute or perhaps even less in my case!

T-Mobile even has 3G coverage and nationwide roaming with no extra charges. This is the least amount I have ever paid for good phone service!

By anon53663 — On Nov 23, 2009

I have had Virgin Mobile now for about seven years. It worked fine when I lived in the Chicago area, but since I moved to southwest Michigan, I am almost always in a "dead zone" unless I am downtown or on the freeway.

By anon45215 — On Sep 14, 2009

I just got on the bandwagon and picked up a Tracfone prepaid cell phone. Their amazing plan Straight Talk, for only $45/month, gives you *unlimited* minutes and texting and 30 MB of data - and you can call anywhere in the nation for the same local rate. How's that for an incredible deal! What's best is that with Straight Talk you never get dropped calls because their signal is carried on the Verizon Network, which as we all know is the most dependable network in America. They also offer cheaper plans - though this is a pretty amazing deal. You can get the phone/plan at any Wal-Mart.

By anon39252 — On Jul 31, 2009

I have three Tracfones in the house. Currently they run us about $20 every three months to refill air time. We text a lot as that uses .3 unit, and more economical than the local call of one unit per minute. Tracfone uses the AT&T Cingular network. All of our minutes roll over.

Customer service is a little spotty, and Sim cards do not interchange, which requires programming numbers into the phone. Adding air time is simple and can be done with a prepaid menu option, which is the most hassle free. Just buy the card and punch in the number.

Tracfone may not have the most glamorous up to date models, but for people who just need a phone and don't use more than 20 minutes a month, it's pretty cheap.

By anon37463 — On Jul 19, 2009

I don't know if this was ever answered but based on what I'm reading, you can't just switch out sim card from one phone to another and expect it to work automatically. Only certain phones work outside the US. You need to check with the provider. I think pay as you go was a popular idea until people started losing money when they didn't use the minutes.

By anon37002 — On Jul 16, 2009

I have an ATT pay as you go phone and found out it didn't work in Europe last year. did they change since then? does it work now?


By anon36866 — On Jul 15, 2009

I have pay as you go. It's more Pay when they say. If you don't use up your time in 30 days they delete it and you have to pay 50.00 every month to keep it. I rarely use my phone and I am constantly losing up to 30.00 a month if I forget to pay one day past the due date. I am switching to someone else.

By anon34972 — On Jul 01, 2009

If you have pay as you go, does the cell have to be from the company that the pay as you go is from? like i got my cell of e-bay but i want to get my pay as you go plan from rogers will they give it to me or do i have to buy a phone from rogers to get a pay as you go plan?

By anon31448 — On May 05, 2009

We just switched to T-mobile to go from T-mobile family plan. Because we stayed with the same company, we could use the same phones and sim cards with no extra activation fees.

By anon28874 — On Mar 23, 2009

I had virgin mobile. I had my credit card linked to the phone in order to get the $15 for 90 days plan. It was for emergencies only and I kept it in the car so when it was stolen I didn't notice it for a week. The thief managed to rack up over $600 worth of charges in that time. Evidently having a pin number did not stop it at all.

By m100035150 — On Jan 29, 2009

what are pay as you go cell phone plans? ...great gifts for adolescents! good for instilling a work ethic! ;)

By anon24846 — On Jan 19, 2009

I noticed with Virgin Mobile a little 10 cents a day add-on charge that they sneak on called Xtras.

By krisNYC — On Jan 18, 2009

Pay as you go are good for emergencies but when you want to have a phone for everyday use i would pick contract plans.

By anon23860 — On Jan 04, 2009

I have a sister who is working at Vancouver Canada, BC. She doesn't have any cellphone. So I wanted to buy her a cellphone. I plan to buy her a pay as you go phone. can anyone tell me what is the best phone and phone service I should purchase for her? I am living in Florida USA, can I buy her a phone here and just send it to her in Vancouver? Can she ever use it with a cheapest airtime she will pay?

By anon20408 — On Oct 30, 2008

Is it possible for someone to trace the purchase of a cell phone top up card to a credit card and for them to get the credit card number?

By anon14712 — On Jun 22, 2008

can you just use a cellphone you already have and buy the random little cards that they sell in stores? or do you have to sign up and get a whole new phone?

By taurus — On May 14, 2008

I bought a nokia 7360 off E-Bay it is unlocked and I have a sims card from previous phone. How can I get a signal? The carrier is AT&T should I contact them?

By anon12373 — On May 05, 2008

We have a work phone for our department that is mainly used when someone travels outside of the US. We used about 100 minutes in the US and only made seven trips outside of the US last year. Are there any prepaid or pay as you go plans that would be cheaper than the $65 per month we are paying right now?

By anon11722 — On Apr 21, 2008

everyone always says it cost this much i thought you just bought those card things and add minutes.

By anon10484 — On Mar 27, 2008

If all you want is a cell phone for emergency situations, i.e., calling only 911, don't buy a plan at all. Just get a cell phone with a charger and carry the charged phone with you. If you are in an emergency and need help, just turn it on and dial 911. All major carriers are required to complete your call, even without a plan. You can always check it too, by dialing 911 when you see an accident or similar. That way you are not wasting their valuable time, you are being a good concerned citizen, and you are testing the operation.

All the rest of us are paying for this with our monthly 911 facility fee/tax.

By anon10412 — On Mar 26, 2008

I have been using Virgin Mobile for about 6 months. They have a very wide range of plans and you can change from one to the other very easy, so you can try different ones to see which works best for you. Large amounts of minutes with free nights, weekends to small monthly fee with low per minute cost to flat per minute fee. I had Tracfone this works better for me.

By Anniec — On Feb 11, 2008

I've been looking into prepaid as well and will probably go with T-Mobile. If you buy 1,000 minutes, it's good for a year, and when the year is up, if you still have minutes left, they roll over. One thousand minutes is $100, which averages $8.33 a month -- and I've never seen a contract that low. Of course, you also have to buy a phone, so that adds to it.

Personally, I don't want the hassle of remembering to top up every few months.

By anon6999 — On Jan 15, 2008

Can you take out the sim card and put it in a different phone?

By anon6487 — On Dec 30, 2007

umm..do you have to pay bills every month??..

and do you get charged for calling?

By anon6220 — On Dec 20, 2007

I know that pay as you go plans are popular in Germany. I was in the Army and stationed there for some time. I bought a prepaid phone for about 50 Euros and used it when I was traveling on vacation. I retired and came back to the States. A year passed and I returned to Germany on a vacation, and the prepaid phone still worked. I bought a 15 Euro phone card to buff up my account. I was even able to call the States with it to let my family know I arrived safely. All in all, a great service and a good deal.

By anon6061 — On Dec 14, 2007

Pay as You Go plans are indeed very popular in Europe. That's because you do NOT pay for incoming calls. It's amazing the cell phone companies here are getting our money twice [for the caller and the receiver]. Also, your minutes ever expire. They don't force you to top up after 90 days or EVER. Europe's plan is much more sensible and doesn't rip off the customer. Shame it's not that way in the US.

By anon5972 — On Dec 11, 2007

re: Virgin Mobile

Just to make it clear... my experience was you do NOT get to roll over your minutes with this plan. And having to talk to "Simone" the recorded voice operator is a TOTAL pain.

By anon5867 — On Dec 08, 2007

All the carriers charge per minute whether the call is outgoing or incoming.

I researched all the major and many minor carrier pay as you go cell phone rates. The two cheapest I found if you don't use many minutes per month and want the lowest minimum keep it activated rate/month are:

Virgin Mobile is $5-6.66/month minimum, with a $15(autopay) or $20(cash) refill every 90 days (fixed 18c/min rate)

Has some very low priced ($10) very basic phones as well as more featured models.

T-mobile is $3.33/month minimum, with a $10 refill every 90 days (up to 33c/min rates)

Phones are $40+ (but include $25+ credit for airtime)

Other major carriers have a higher minimum however some offer much lower per min rates and probably are a better choice if you use a lot more minutes/month, but not enough for a regular $40+/month year+ agreement:

AT&T is $8.33/month minimum, buying a $25 refill every 90days. 25c/min or 10c/min with $1 usage fee for any day phone is used.

Has wide selection of phones, starting at $10 for refurbs.

Verizon is $15/month minimum, buying a $15 refill every 30 days. 3 plans: $1/day actual use fee with 10c/min, $2/day actual use fee with 5c/min, 43/day actual use fee with 2c/min

Only more expensive higher end phones over $100

By anon5775 — On Dec 05, 2007

I have virgin mobile, and I think that is a great plan! You just buy a $20 (or more if you'd like) top up card every 90 days, and your money just keeps accumulating. The texts are .05 to send and .05 to receive. There are other text plans that you can choose from, like 4.99 a month for 200 texts, and 19.99 a month for unlimited. There are monthly packages and pay-as-you go packages. There is .10 a minute for 6.99 a month, .20 a minute to other phones and .10 a minute for other virgin mobile users, and there is the plan I use, which is .18 a minute all the time. Best of all, there is no roaming charges, and they work almost everywhere. I'm not trying to make you join, but just alerting you to this great plan! Also, you can earn more minutes by doing "Sugar Mama," just watch a 30 second clip and earn one minute!

By anon5579 — On Nov 30, 2007

There are many elderly and handicapped people who only require cell phones for emergencies,probably not using more than a few hours in a whole year. Here is an opportunity for the cell phone companies to do some good by coming up with a plan, although not profitable that could save lives. Of course, satisfactory proof of the above conditions must be met and severe monetary penalties if obtained by fraud. My interest ? I'm 86, still driving and no cell phone..........Anonymous

By anon5541 — On Nov 29, 2007

Does anybody know of a pay as you go plan that does not require you to refill your card every 3 months or so as long as there is still some money left on the card?

By anon4640 — On Oct 26, 2007

I believe pay-as-you-go plans save money. No other plan, that I've seen, offers 10 cents a minute, and if they do, there is probably a 25 cent connection fee with each call you make. I love not having monthly bills and, most of all, not having the annual commitments hanging over my head.

By thailai5 — On Oct 02, 2007

Well right now I have Cingular/At&t. I love my phone because it is prepaid but with all the benefits of a plan. It is called Pick Your Plan. I have 650 anytime minutes with free nights and weekends and free mobile to mobile. I pay one price every month which is $69.99 plus tax. The only thing is that you need a debit card, a credit card or a checking account and they take it out the same time every month. If I run out of minutes before my reup date, I can add more money or I can wait until next month for it to reup. Plus my minutes roll over. All in all I think this is one of the best in prepaid phones.

By anon3963 — On Sep 26, 2007

My husband and I recently switched to pay-as-you-go so I was hoping I could be of some use here. We switched because we were paying $100 monthly on a family plan and only using about 20 minutes of the time between the two of us. We did use a lot of text messages however and I think that's where a lot of people don't want to get prepaid because you do pay for incoming and sent messages. But for us, it was just a lot cheaper to go prepaid.

We have tmobile, and I'm not sure what the exact charges are for their calls/messages, but we've found we usually put $100 on each phone and it lasts us for three months or more if we talk less. It's really easy to refill your minutes also. We don't like buying the plastic cards at the store, so you just call the refill number and talk to a representative and give them your credit card number to keep on file, then every time after that we can just log onto the "web" on our phones (it's really easy and it doesn't cost you anything) and choose "My Account" and it gives you the option to refill again with the credit card in different amounts.

It's definitely not for someone who talks a lot, but useful if you feel like you are throwing a lot of money away each month on wasted minutes. Also, our phones only cost us $25 a piece, granted they don't take pictures but you can get that option if it's that important.

I hope some of this information has been helpful to some of you!

By anon3484 — On Aug 31, 2007

I agree with the poster above me that prepaid plans can be really great if you do a little research first to figure out which provider and plan is right for you. My favorite site for pay as you go cell phone reviews has a cool comparison tool that lets you see the plans that different providers offer side-by-side.

By anon3213 — On Aug 16, 2007

are you charged for incoming calls?

By anon2949 — On Aug 01, 2007

I have a pay-as-you-go plan and it's pretty easy to use. Just make sure you do a little research. Just because the plans are sold in your area doesn't mean the network covers that area. Also, some PAY companies offer deals that are only available online, so check there before you grab a phone in Walmart or something.

By anon2019 — On Jun 24, 2007

do you need to be 18 to buy one?

By anon1916 — On Jun 19, 2007

pay as you go phones are quite handy....its widely used here in philippines...its also easy to track

By anon1726 — On Jun 13, 2007

Are pay as you go phones easy to trace and track or are they annoymous?

By anon1676 — On Jun 11, 2007

Verizon offers pay as you go. I am also looking at T-Mobile.

By anon1101 — On May 15, 2007

I have Verizon on a contract, but scarcely use the phone so am paying $2-3 per minute for the calls I make.

Are the pay as you go plans easy to use?

Which one has the best national coverage?

Thanks for any input.

By conchobhair — On Mar 15, 2007

Pay-as-you-go plans aren't very popular here in the U.S., I think, while they seem to be the prevalent cell phone plans in Europe. Does anyone else have more data on this?

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