If you find yourself in the market for a cell phone, but don't want to end up locked into a long-term contract - or if you find obtaining a cell phone difficult because of poor credit history or financial limitations - you may want to consider a prepaid cell phone plan. Inexpensive and convenient, prepaid plans offer low-cost cell phone service without many of the complications of more traditional service plans.
The chief advantage to a prepaid cell phone plan is the general lack of obligation. Prepaid plans require no credit check and no long-term contract - so you only pay for your cell phone service for as long as you need it. There are also generally no deposits or termination fees, and fewer of the hidden expenses that can sometimes crop up with other plans. The cell phones that come with prepaid plans also tend to be very affordable, although they may not be as feature-rich as some of the more upscale phones.
The other big advantage is the low cost - especially if you don't plan to use your phone a great deal. With a prepaid plan, there's no monthly bill - prepaid plans generally operate by a system of “credits, " wherein call minutes are paid for up front, instead of a monthly fee for a certain amount of minutes. Credits can be replenished at your leisure, often simply by calling your cell phone carrier or visiting a local dealer.
Unfortunately, while prepaid plans leave a cell phone user joyfully free of most of the complications of an individual plan, all is not wine and roses just yet. There are a few limitations to this type of plan that you should probably be aware of.
While prepaid cell phone plans have no monthly bill, you will still want to keep track of the credits in your phone. As anyone who's come face-to-face with overages can tell you, cell phone minutes can sometimes sneak up on you, even if you were only planning to use your phone “for emergencies. " The last thing you'll probably want is to actually have an emergency, only to find out your phone has no credits left. In addition, some plans require credits to be replenished occasionally in order for the service to remain active - you may want to compare cell phone plans before picking one. Stay aware of how many credits you have left on your phone, and top them off if you need to.
The other drawback to a prepaid plan is the built-in expiry date. Many prepaid plans simply terminate service once the expiry date has passed - which isn't necessarily a drawback by itself, but could be rather inconvenient if you weren't expecting it. If you decide to go with a prepaid plan, simply be aware of its expiry date, as well as any hidden charges or restrictions that may apply to you, and you shouldn't have a problem.
Prepaid cell phone plans can be a great convenience if you're traveling, need an emergency phone, or just want to simplify your life.
Daniel Swensen is a freelance writer who covers websites like Wirefly .