I don’t like cell phones.
I have no desire to be available 24/7. If I’m out of the house, I’m probably busy, so leave a message at my house and I’ll get back to you when I’m able to. In other words, I’d like the option to ignore you without you knowing that I’m ignoring you.
I don’t like that every 8 year old in America now has one. I could say a lot more about this, but that’s not the point of this article and you don’t want me wandering down that rabbit trail.
But, most of all, I don’t like how much money they cost. As you know, cell phone plans generally cost between $50 and $1,000,000 per month.
However, I understand that I’m out-numbered in my hatred for cell phones. Additionally, I know that I’m a grouch, I’m old (I’m turning 33 in a few days), and I’m out of touch. Bah humbug!
So, I’ve put aside my feelings to do some research to find the cheapest cell phone plans on the market today. But, we all have different needs, so one or two plans won’t work. The following list has been divided into 5 distinct types of plans. We’ll look at everything from “all I want is an emergency cell phone” to “I’d like to be able to run a small country from my smart phone.” There are deals to be found no matter what your situation.
By the way, each of the following plans should be “no contract” plans. They are either prepaid cards or monthly plans that you can set up to renew automatically each month, but can be canceled anytime.
The Cheapest Cell Phone Plans for Every Type of Person
But, what if my toe falls off and there’s no phone around?
Less than 50 minutes/month
This is for those who want a true emergency cell phone – for those who aren’t interested in chatting, but like the convenience and safety of having a phone with them in an emergency.
$10 prepaid card – 30 minutes – expires in 90 days
This is the epitome of an emergency phone. You only have 30 minutes for a 3 month period, but that’s all you need if it’s only for emergencies. Unless you are REALLY accident prone.
$10 prepaid card – 100 minutes – expires in 90 days – $1/month “maintenance fee”
The maintenance fee puts the price at $4 per month instead of $3, but you do get a few more minutes in case you need them. The coverage map looks pretty decent too.
You can talk to me, but keep it brief!
50 – 200 minutes/month
$10 prepaid card – 200 minutes – expires in 60 days (100 minutes/month)
Platinumtel can certainly lay claim to having the cheapest overall plans on the market. That’s who I’ve been using for the last couple years (an even cheaper option that’s no longer available), but they recently changed their coverage and apparently I’m being pushed out.
I live in Northern Michigan – not exactly 7G territory (or whatever they’re up to now). However, they didn’t even warn me of the changes. I happened to call them when doing some research for this article because there were some inconsistencies between the website and the current service I have, and they sprung the bad news on me. So, needless to say, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Platinumtel, but they are the cheapest service available, so I figured I should at least mention them.
Plus, I must say that I haven’t had any problem with their cell phone service during the time we’ve used their phone, and if you live near a metropolitan area you’re probably still within reach of their new coverage. So, go ahead…I won’t blame you if you choose the enemy
$20 prepaid card – 210 minutes – expires in 120 days – $1/month “maintenance fee” (52.5 minutes/month)
$100 prepaid card – 2000 minutes – expires in 1 year (167 minutes/month)
Same price as the options to follow, but double the minutes.
$100 prepaid card - 1000 minutes – expires in 1 year (83 minutes/month)
$25 prepaid card – 250 minutes – expires in 90 days (83 minutes/month)
Each of these options are from major carriers and allow texting as well. T-mobile texts count as 1 minute and AT&T texts count as 2 minutes. Additional texting plans are available.
Several companies, including AT&T, have a prepaid option that charges you $2 per day instead of per minute. Meaning you can talk or text as much as your little heart desires during a single day and they will only charge you $2 for that day. However, if Aunt Josephine texts you the next day and that’s the only communication you have all day, you still get charged $2 for that day as well.
The $2 a day plans use the normal prepaid cards and the expiration dates of the cards still apply, so you can’t wait 6 months in between cell phone splurges.
I love to talk to my friends…but I don’t have a lot of friends
200 – 500 minutes (talk and text only)
This is for the casual cell phone user who doesn’t need a data plan because they’re willing to wait until they get home to read the next incredible article from SimpleFamilyFinance.
Airvoice offers a 250 minute monthly plan with no contracts (can be set up to automatically renew each month). Texts counts as only half a minute, so you could talk for 250 minutes or send 500 texts instead. That’s a pretty great value.
This is a monthly plan with 200 minutes. Net10 also offers a $100, 1500 minute prepaid card that lasts for 6 months. So, for less than $2/month more, you would end up with an extra 50 minutes per month on average.
You get 400 minutes, but it’s a little unclear how the texting works. They say it costs 15 cents per text, so I’m assuming that just comes out of your minutes (3 minutes).
If you don’t really need a data plan, but would like to text to your heart’s content, AT&T has a prepaid $25 monthly plan that includes 250 minutes (talk) and unlimited texting. However, it may be cheaper to simply use the $8.33/month prepaid card above (only 83 minutes per month) and add a $10/month texting plan that allows for 1000 texts.
I may not have an iPhone, but that doesn’t mean I’m not important
Plenty of Minutes (Talk, Text, and Data)
$30 monthly plan with unlimited talk and texting and 100 MB data. There is also a $40/month plan with 1 GB of data!
$30 monthly plan with 1500 talk, 1500 text, and 30 MB data
$30 monthly plan with 1000 talk, 1000 text, and 30MB data
Straight Talk is owned by Verizon and are available at Wal Mart. It’s a similar plan to the Virgin Mobile option above, but offers less talk and text minutes. Airvoice is a little bit more, but might be the best value since it gives you 3x the data and unlimited talk and text. The Airvoice plan once again looks pretty appealing.
I love my Smart Phone more than my children…and I’m not ashamed to admit it
Unlimited talk, text, and data plans designed for smart phones
You get unlimited talk, text, and data with 4G speed for the first 250 MB of data. A $50/month version is available if you need 4G speeds for the first 2 GB instead.
A similar plan as the Platinumtel option above, except you receive 4G for the first 500 MB instead. The $50 version offers high speed data for 2.5 GB. However, it appears that you have to buy a 4G phone from Metro PCS to receive the offer.
Unlimited talk, text, and data. A prepaid 1 year option is available for $495. If you chose the one year plan it would knock the monthly cost down to $41.25/month.
Unlimited everything once again. The $45 charge is only if the plan is on “auto refill.” Otherwise, it’s $50/month.
Virgin Mobile offers a smart phone plan that’s reasonably priced, but not included in this section because it’s not completely “unlimited.” However, for those of you who want plenty of data and would rather text than talk, they offer a 300 minute (talk) and unlimited text and data plan for only $35/month.
- Most wireless companies are heading away from contract-based plans due to customer demand, but you’ll want to make sure before jumping into anything.
- The majority of the companies that I checked now allow you to keep your old phone and buy a SIM card from them for $5 – $15, but if they don’t allow that option, you may to factor the price of one of their phones into the equation as well.
- If you have a large family and everyone has a phone, you’ll want to consider family plans as well. They usually work out to around a $5/month discount per line from what I’ve seen. Just do the math to figure out what’s best for your family. Sometimes it might even be best to stay away from the family plan and share fewer phones. It depends on your situation.
- Depending on your location, not all of these companies may offer coverage in your area. Check the map on their website before buying.
- We’ll take a look at a few frugal home phone options in the weeks to come.
If you’re still spending $70 – $100+ each month on your cell phone plan it’s time to take a closer look at what you really need. How many minutes do you use each month? Do you usually text or call? Do you need a data plan, and if so, is 4G really necessary? Analyze your cell phone bill in order to find any wasted dollars that may be lying around. Once you’ve decide what you need from your phone, determine if any of the plans listed above will save you some cash.
Or do what you SHOULD do and chuck your cell phone against the nearest tree Talk about savings!
Cell Phone image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net