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_Whitetigress's avatar

What are the pros with a cell phone contract plan vs prepaid?

Asked by _Whitetigress (4349 points ) September 24th, 2012

I’m mainly comparing contract phone plans vs Virgin Mobile in USA. Currently I’m paying 25$ a month for unlimited data (3g), unlimited text and 300 minutes. I use about 25–60 minutes a month. This is with Virgin Mobile and I’m running an Optimus V (which worked fine in the beginning but texting others can be problematic as the touch screen seems to be not working properly as in, I tap “b” it’ll enter another random letter for instance.)

Any who, can you think of benefits from going to say, Sprint on the contract? I know it’s about 80$ for unlimited data, unlimited text, and 300 minutes talk.

*Currently a student and don’t plan on doing any traveling out of the states (probably Canada if anything). But you never know, if I had a contract plan, would a Sprint plan even work overseas?

(The last time I remember being on a contract plan I was doing about 70$ per month and then went pre-paid where there were no late fees and significantly cheaper, however I wasn’t able to print out call records or build credit score? Are these the only benefits from contract phones?)

Thanks!

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9 Answers

creative1's avatar

I know I am looking at Virgin Mobile since they are powered by sprint. I currently have Verizon and its costing me over double for the same plan I can get through there, this isn’t even adding the taxes and charges to the bill. I hear good things about them so I am thinking when my contract is up in November, buying a phone through them. Even though you pay full price for the phone in the end it still works out cheaper per year when looking at a 2 yr contract. I want to upgrade to the iphone and this doesn’t even add in the extra data plan costs to my exisiting plan.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I do not know how you use your phone exactly, but what I need Metro PCS does it. The only knock I would give it is that I can’t call Hawaii, or Alaska directly with the plan I have (I can add international calling and get it, but since I do not call overseas I haven’t added that feature) but I text to those states. I never worry about minutes. I have some friends that tell me they have to get off their cell or they will go over their minutes, the wrong time of day so their minutes cost more, etc. I call anyone, anytime, and never worry about how long the conversation last. I have had a few that have gone near 2 straight hours and never a worry. Never worry about how often I text either, or how many text I receive (though it bugs me to read and delete them when they are unnecessary). For all that, it is easy; I know what my bill will be each month so it is super easy to budget.

woodcutter's avatar

The way I see it you have to pre- pay to keep any phone going but the deal with contracts is you are stuck or are expected to pay a deactivation fee to wiggle out of the contract if you see something better later down the road. The pre pay phones are usually a lot more expensive on the front end as a contract will include theirs with the plan or make them cheap to buy, although you are still paying for it in the long run.

livelaughlove21's avatar

It’s definitely CHEAPER to go with pre-paid, to say the least. If you’re going for saving money, stick with pre-paid. And the downside of contracts is that you’re stuck with them for 1–2 years, it’s more expensive, and late fees are often horrendous.

I started off with Virgin Mobile when I was 16. It suited my needs then for a really low price. I switched the Boost Mobile when the signal on VM became basically non-existent. I liked Boost better, and with shrinkage, I got my bill down to $40 for unlimited everything. The issue I had with them was that I constantly had issues with my phone (aka the phones sucked) and, again, the signal was atrocious in certain areas. I think it’s ridiculous that I have to walk outside just to take a phone call without dropping it.

I ended up switching to Verizon and, on a family plan with 3 phones, unlimited talk and text, and 3 GB of shared data, my portion of the bill (including insurance) is about $80. The pros for me are:

1.) I got an iPhone 4 for $50, and it’s the best phone I’ve ever had. Pretty amazing, in fact.
2.) Phone upgrades (sure, you have to wait 2 years, but it’s still pretty cool)
3.) Insurance through Geek Squad at Best Buy – your phone breaks, they replace it and give you a phone to hold you over until they get one shipped, if necessary
4.) Building credit – always a plus
5.) I have signal everywhere

If you don’t have issues with Virgin Mobile’s phones or signal, I’d stay with them. I would if I didn’t have such problems back when I used them. If you do decide to go with a contract, I recommend Verizon. They say it’s the most expensive, but according to my research it’s pretty much the same as Sprint, but the signal is typically better. And its definitely worth it if you can do a family plan with shared data – really decreases the bill.

Check out Boost also. I found it was an improvement over Virgin Mobile. And if not, apparently T Mobile has a $50/month unlimited plan or something similar. A friend of mine has T Mobile and says she doesn’t have signal a lot, but other people have told me they don’t have any issues.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

I am going to go to Virgin Mobile in April.
I don’t talk on the phone as much as text and go on the Internet, so I really really love the idea of their Beyond Talk plans. $30/month for 300 minutes and unlimited texts and data?
That’s perfect for me. Trying to save for college, so pre-paid is definitely a better choice for me.
The reason I have to wait until April to switch to VM is because of a Verizon two-year contract I had with my sister and mom.

_Whitetigress's avatar

@Aesthetic_Mess Nice! Mathematically, wise choice!

woodcutter's avatar

So what are the benefits of having a contract calling plan, other than possibly getting an I-phone free or really cheap on the front end?

_Whitetigress's avatar

@woodcutter In my research I’ve found that contract phones are definitely first in line to receive the latest and greatest, of course, since they have a larger guaranteed audience for the x amount of years signed up, so that’s a big plus when Samsung or Apple wants to roll out new phones.
I’ve also read the 4g networks are still a majority contract only since non contract companies typically use “last years” technology/satellites. 3G in my opinion is still pretty darn legitimate. But then that’s because I haven’t enough money to afford a 4G network type of deal. I’m sure if I had excess to spend like that, I’d go 4G, why not?
Non contract phones I think you have to pay for “call records” and go through the whole notary process to prove you’re who you are. [I’ve personally had to go through this and it was time consuming]
I think I’d sum it up as, if you travel only domestically, pre-paid is king. If you’re a huge traveler, world wide type, definitely contract and set up roaming with your provider.
Oh and credit history building is a plus with contract.

woodcutter's avatar

Good on these coveted contract phone users. I’ll let them blaze the trail in hopes I get to have a semi hi- tech phone even if it is a few years behind. Maybe the pre pays will get us call forwarding someday.

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