General Question

loothegr8's avatar

Cell Phones- Prepaid or Contract?

Asked by loothegr8 (100points) March 30th, 2011

I desperately need a cell phone, I am going to purchase one from Verison because it gives the best service out here in the boondocks. I had planned on buying a smartphone with the contract agreement until I found out I had to pony-up some more dough since I have no credit.
So my question is should I just fork over more cash (since the V-lady said I would eventually get it back) or go ahead and buy one of their prepaid phones?

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24 Answers

optimisticpessimist's avatar

It would help to build your credit by entering into the contract as long as you pay your bill on time. The big drawbacks; you are locked into a contract and if you do not pay you bill on time, you will ruin your credit instead of build it.

If you decide to do a contract, make sure you know all the costs involved. There are taxes (federal and state) and fees (like 911 availability) on top of the contract price that you have to pay. Also, depending upon the phone, you have to pay for other services. An example, I got my husband a Droid and we have to pay extra money a month for the web availability whether he uses it or not. (He does as his commute is 3 hours a day.)

fujivelo's avatar

I was going to post a really cheesy video of an “assurance wireless” commercial but I couldn’t find it :(

blueberry_kid's avatar

I honestly like contract phones because you dont have to worry about adding minutes and everyhting. Contract phones are more expensive but I like them alot better. You can have everything and if you have kids you can control what they have on thier phones.

ragingloli's avatar

Prepaid always.
Having a limit, even one you can refill, makes you more conscious of your cell phone use.
And it will save you a lot of money, especially if you have one of those nasty things called children.

loothegr8's avatar

Thanks guys, I used to have a Tracfone but the airtime finally went out, now that I have more money I want a nicer phone so that’s why I’m interested in the contract/smart phones. But I am afraid that if I get a smartphone I’ll get carried away with the web stuff & have a expensive bill. That’s why when I heard that Verizon has prepaid phones it made me undecided.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@loothegr8 Just so you know, with my husband’s phones, it is an extra $30 a month, but the web is unlimited.

Nullo's avatar

Prepaid. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting skewered with the fine print in a contract. Overall functionality is reduced, true, but it’ll still handle phone calls and support SMS, and you have a computer if you want to connect to the Internet.

KateTheGreat's avatar

Prepaid is the best. I have something called the Straight Talk plan from Wal-Mart and for $45 a month I get unlimited EVERYTHING. It’s pretty magical. I also get very good service.

YoBob's avatar

It really depends on your usage model. I am a low use cell phone user. Very limited talk, no real need for a dat plan. I use Tracfone and in the several years I have owned it I can only remember two times when I had to buy more than the minimum refill card. $20 for 3 months of service and 60 minutes of talk time, plus unused minutes roll over.

Bottom line: I pay less than $8.00 per month for my cell phone.

Stefaniebby's avatar

Prepaid, for the rest of my life I will ALWAYS have prepaid.
Get this: I pay $25 a month for unlimited web, unlimited texts, and 300 minutes. I have Virgin Mobile, I have the LG Optimus V phone which runs on Android. So I get tons of apps, great service (if I’m not on back roads, or in the country) and all for 25 bucks! I will never turn back.

(p.s. GREAT customer service, when I had one problem of them accidentally charging me twice I called right away and my money was returned to my credit card in about two hours, they are so nice and easy to talk to.)

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve got a smartphone I can pay a $45.00 card for and have unlimited everything or I can buy the $30.00 card. Easy stuff, I can refill online and so far it’s worked out so well that our whole household went with these phones.

loothegr8's avatar

@Nullo You make an excellent point.
@Stefaniebby That sounds pretty sweet, where in fact did you purchase this awesome plan+phone, I think I’ve seen it at the Super Walmarts but I’m not sure.

lbwhite89's avatar

I have Boost Mobile. It’s $50 a month for unlimited EVERYTHING, the service is good, there’s no contract, and the phones are pretty decent. Verizon and similar phone companies are ridiculously overpriced and I personally find it stupid to spend that much money on a fancy phone when they’ll be coming out with an even better one in about a month. And touch screen sucks in general, so I stay away from it.

I did prepaid for a few years with Virgin Mobile and the price was great, but I didn’t have signal ANYWHERE. You might want to stay away from that if you’re in the boondocks.

A good, durable phone with all you need for a good price. That’s where it’s at. :)

SABOTEUR's avatar

Well it really depends on how much you use the phone. Prepaid is for casual users…people who don’t use the cell that often. If your
usage exceeds…say…150 minutes a month, a contract would be a better option.

loothegr8's avatar

@lbwhite89 That sounds pretty good too! And when I went up to Verizon the Lady told me it would be $600!!! so yeah ridiculously overpriced, for me anyway.

SABOTEUR's avatar

I only use my cell so I can stay connected to the wife and kids. I opted to go with Net10. For $30 I get 300 minutes for 60 days (which averages to $15 a month). The minutes roll-over provided I add minutes prior to the 60 days running out. I currently have 964 minutes…more minutes than I’ll ever use, but at least I don’t have to worry about running out OR a dang blasted contract.

jerv's avatar

As I lack a landline, my wife and I rely on our cellphones. When we first moved to Seattle, we had Tracfones and while a 120-minute card would last her a couple of months, all of the calls for job interviews and setting up a home and all meant I was burning though 3–4 of them a month.

Though my wife saw no need for a contract phone, I presented her with the math and how our phone usages differ enough to make it a worthwhile thing. We don’t text, so we got a two-line, voice-only 700 minute plan and though it meant paying more the first week of the month, the fact that I no longer needed to refill my phone every week saved us quite a bit.

One added convenience is that with a contract phone you won’t have your phone die in mid-call. Yeah, overage fees suck, but there are some call you do not want to drop.

If you are like me and like smartphones, a contract will allow you to spread the cost out a bit and save overall. For instance, I paid $200 for my Droid X. If I went prepaid, it would be $345 and that is only if you buy before tomorrow (31 March).

Stefaniebby's avatar

@loothegr8 My phone plan is with Virgin Mobile My phone itself was $150 at the time (The cheapest smartphone they carry) but now I believe it’s at $200 dollars. Still a great deal if you ask me!

jerv's avatar

@Stefaniebby What is the coverage like? Do you have your phone insured just in case it is broken, lost, or stolen? And how much is it of you use more than 300 minutes, as I often do?

Stefaniebby's avatar

@Jerv Coverage is good, I live in the Twin Cities, MN so I always have service here in town. When I go up to my cabin, 20 miles from Canada, I have no service, which is okay for me because that’s my relaxing time.
Right now if I wanted to upgrade from my $25 plan to having unlimited anything I would pay $40 a month, which is still cheaper than any other provider, Including Wal Mart.

loothegr8's avatar

okay this really blows, I was all set on getting either Boost Mobile or Virgin Mobile and neither of them have coverage in my area.

jerv's avatar

@Stefaniebby So I take it that that is a “no” on the insurance, and I spend enough time outside of or between metropolitan areas that I would not call that coverage “good”. If I spent all of my time in the city then I would consider it good, but I don’t so I won’t. Such are the costs of saving.
If it works for you then great, but as it appears that my needs are different, my opinion is different as well. I am still unclear on what the OP’s needs are, so I don’t know if what works for you would work for them, though apparently the coverage isn’t available in their area so I would guess not.

@loothegr8 That is part of the reason I like Verizon; lots of coverage. They even cover where I used to live a mile out in the woods and ~20 miles from the nearest place with >1,000 people whereas most other carriers didn’t cover even half the state.
The unlimited data plan also helps; I tend to go through >2.5GB/month, so that saves me quite a chunk of change. Yeah, Boost and Virgin claim “unlimited” but read the fine print and you’ll see that it’s a bit more restrictive, especially since there is limited 3G coverage.
As you probably already guessed, there is a lot more than price to consider here.

Stefaniebby's avatar

@jerv oops! They have insurance but I feel no need to have it. Sorry it wont work in your area!

jerv's avatar

@Stefaniebby Ah, so they do offer it. Okay then. I can see how it may not be as big an issue with a $200 phone as it is for any of the Motorola Droids which tend to cost considerably more (and also more than I’ve paid for most of the cars I’ve owned). When I had a Samsung Trance, I also declined insurance, but changed my mind when I upgraded.

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