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Best Prepaid Pay-as-you-Go Mobile Phone Plans in The U.S.

written by: Faith Oh•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 6/28/2010

Are you tired of paying for those extra minutes on your current cell phone plan that you never use? Or worse, are you tired of the limiting two-year contracts? Maybe it's time to get a prepaid or pay-as-you-go cell phone plan. Read more to find out about some of the best plans on the market today.

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    Why Go Prepaid?

    Are you stifled by the two- or one-year cell phone contract? Would you rather pay for only the minutes you use and no more and in the process reduce your overall cell phone cost? What if you only need a cell phone for emergencies and would rather not pay for 200 unused minutes every month that do not transfer to the next for example? Well the prepaid cell phone plan is the answer. Now you can have an affordable cell phone for which you can pay as little as $10 a month and only pay for the talk time you use. There is a variety of prepaid pay-as-you go cell phone plans you can choose from, depending on your purpose in having the phone, such as unlimited talk time, occasional use, basic functionality and service, or as an emergency phone.

    One of the main features of a prepaid cell phone is that you buy a prepaid phone chip, known as a SIM card, which you then insert into your cell phone. If you have a phone that is universal and accepts all SIM cards, not just that of your provider, you can interchange SIM cards, such as when traveling internationally.

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    The Best Prepaid Plans

    As stated earlier, you can compare pay as you go cell phone plans and choose one based on your call patterns and how you use your phone. Now let's sample some of the best prepaid cell phone plans available today in terms of value for money and overall out-of-pocket expense.

    1. T-Mobile Prepaid Cell Phone Plans: As of this writing in June 2010, T-Mobile has two basic prepaid plans: the monthly plan and the pay-as-you-go plan. Both plans do not need contracts, credit checks or monthly bills. The two monthly plans are an unlimited $50/month plan (with unlimited talk, text, video and picture messaging) and the 10 cents/minute, $15/month plan (with unlimited text, video and picture messaging and domestic calls at 10 cents a minute). The pay-as-you-go plans allow you to purchase refill minutes for $10, $25, $50 and $100 in minute blocks that range from 30 to 1000 minutes. These minutes are good for three months. Available phones range in price from $50 to $90 and you receive a $50 discount if you buy online. You will also need a SIM activation kit which costs about $10. These plans work with T-Mobile's nationwide network and there are no roaming charges.
    2. Tracfone: Tracfone has a variety of plans and phones to choose from and the company provides one of the cheapest prepaid phone services in the country. For as little as $30 you can get a prepaid cell phone service from Tracfone since some of its phones cost as little as $10 and you can get the cheapest block of minutes at the rate $10 per 30 minutes good for 30 days. Tracfone also has monthly plans called value plans. These include an individual value plan and a family value plan. You enroll with your credit card and it is charged automatically each month for the service. The individual value plan comes in three forms: the 50 Minutes Value Plan at $9.99 per month, the 125 Minutes Value Plan at $19.99 a month and the 200 Minutes Value Plan at $29.99 a month. The family plan costs $9.99 a month with 50 minutes for the first phone and each additional phone gets 40 minutes per month at $5.99. Tracfone does not have an unlimited service plan.
    3. Boost Mobile: Boost Mobile is owned by Sprint and phones using this service are on the Sprint nationwide network. A popular plan on the Boost Service is the $50 monthly plan that comes with unlimited talk, text, web, multimedia messaging, 411 directory assistance and walkie-talkie service. Available phones range in price from about $30 to $250. Boost also has unlimited BlackBerry service with similar features plus unlimited email for $60/month. The pay-as-you-go plan costs 10 cents per minute for calls and 10 cents per text.
    4. Other Prepaid Phone Plan Providers: Other prepaid cell phone providers include Net10, Straight Talk, Virgin Mobile and AT&T Go Phone.