Stacking Twenties: With Your Cell Phone

Two years ago, I was living in North Dakota, where my prepaid cell service didn’t get any reception. In a fit of idiocy, I then signed up for a two-year Verizon contract that cost me about $115/month – and more in the months when I went over on data, which was fairly often since I don’t have wifi at work. In the last two years, I have spent close to $3000 on cell phone service. Yes, it hurts. As of two weeks ago, the contract was over! Hallelujah! There are a ton of options out there for cell phones that won’t eat up a huge portion of your paycheck every month. Plus, they are prepaid so you don’t get locked into contracts. A few of them are:

  • Ting, which charges you based on actual usage. This one didn’t make sense for me since I, as a stereotypical member of my generation, use quite a bit of data.
  • Republic Wireless, which starts at $10/month for unlimited talk, text, and wifi usage, plus $15/GB for data. This is a great option if you primarily use wifi, and my mom and little brothers all use it. Make sure to check their coverage map though.
  • Virgin Mobile. I had a Virgin Mobile plan in college, but it also doesn’t have great coverage in rural areas, which I discovered on a camping/road trip when I couldn’t get service anywhere in the state of Wyoming.
  • Straight Talk. This is what I chose this time. It’s sold through Walmart, and for $45/month (not amazingly cheap like Republic, but soooo much better than what I was paying before), I can get unlimited talk and text. The plan typically offers 3GB of 3G data, but a current promotion bumps that up to 5GB if you bring your own phone, which I did. Additionally, you can pay for a year up front, which gives you a discount equivalent to a free month.

Speaking of phones, on prepaid plans you won’t get a “free” phone like you will if you sign a 2-year contract (where you’re actually just spreading out payments for that phone over time, which is why there’s a termination fee). Most providers will let you bring your own phone and port your number over, some make you buy one of theirs, so make sure to consider that cost. Used phones are widely available from Amazon and other sites, I’m just continuing to use the iPhone I’ve had for two years until it dies and I can go back to Android.

There are a ton of other options for prepaid wireless service. Many of them offer the exact same benefits you get from a contract provider for a fraction of the cost – with the purchase of an annual plan, I’ll be spending about 1/3 the amount for a plan with 3GB more of data.

What cell phone provider do you use?

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