I’ll just come right out and say that I’ve been using cell phone since the late 1990s. I’ve had both contract and prepaid services. And I don’t mind saying that for sheer savings, prepaid cell phone services beat contract services hands down (for the sensitive among the readership, I will refrain from any references about how I felt violated by the terms of previous contract services).
However, I do know that many cell phone customers are still privy to utilizing contract services for various personal reasons. For that reason, I thought I would post a little something about saving money with both cell phone and contract cell phones services. First, let’s start with the contract services.
With the many options available to cell phone customers (texting, internet access, voicemail, e-mail, etc.), those looking for the best bargain in contract cell phones have to consider what type of phone might be best for them. Nowadays, even the most basic of available cell phones have at least some options in addition to simple calling. T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T for example offer basic phones that all have texting, voicemail, e-mail, and camera capabilities. Such phones are perfect for those who need simple no bells-and-whistles communications, such as elderly customers, or those smart enough not to be addicted to leisure social networking. These same providers, in addition to most others, also have on the other end of the technology spectrum “smart phones” that have more apps that the average person will use. These high-end phones are mostly touch-screen android models (although there are still some Blackberry phones still favored among cell phone users), with internet service, programs that synch computer-based e-mail accounts to their phones, and a host of other cool gadgetry. The biggest difference between high-end cell phone and basic models is the reliability and speed of the networks these phones work on. Higher speed networks (3 & 4G networks) tend to be reserved for high-end phones with internet access.
If you already have a basic model phone, upgrading from the basic model to a high-end model from one of the major carriers isn't cheap. First, you have to buy the smart phone itself, which is usually cost in the neighborhood of between $100 to $700 when signing a two-year contract. In addition, be prepared to fork over $70 to $110 a month for a plan with data service for internet access. That’s a lot more than a basic phone plan, which generally costs $40 to $70 a month.
Even if you already own a smart phone, you might be persuaded to buy the latest new smart phones, the best being the Apple iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy S III, and Samsung Galaxy Note II. Each have better cameras, bigger and more responsive screens, and faster built-in processors for speedier internet surfing and app performance.
If you want to go with a contract carrier, according to Consumer Reports, the best-rated company for customer service is Verizon. And for the third year in a row, the company with the worst customer service is AT&T. Sprint and T-Mobile are in the middle.
However, if you’re interested in contract services, you have to be willing to balance the worst aspects of a particular provider’s service with areas where they might be worth considering. Despite their reputation for poor customer service, AT&T was rated as having the best network coverage—particularly 4G internet speed—of all the major carriers.
So, what if you already have a cell phone service, and you're looking to cut monthly bills--especially if you have plans with multiple users such as family members? Watch a recent piece from ABC news and consider these tips...
And speaking of prepaid cell phone plans, Consumer Reports revealed that for sheer savings, Wal-Mart’s Straight Talk was the best-rated company. With both $30 and $45 a month plans, Straight Talk offers both basic and smart phones, with the $30 a month non-contract plans linked to the basic phones, while the $45 a month plans working only with the high-end phones (conversely, $30 plans do not work on Straight Talk’s smart phones). This is half the price of Verizon’s cheapest, unlimited air time per month plan. That’s a huge savings from the estimated $1,500 a year Americans save on contract cell phone services.
The advantages of non-contract month-to-month cell phone plans like Straight Talk include—in addition to the cost savings—the lack of credit checks, non-contractual commitments, and flexible monthly spending plans.
T-Mobile offers individual prepaid plans, “Pay As You Go” and “Pay By The Day.” The latter plan involves paying only when you use your phone. That means starting as low as $1 a day on the days you use your phone, subtracted from the $30, $50, & $100 cards you purchase. With the $1 a day plan, you pay .10 a minute with unlimited texting. With the $2 and $3 a day plans, the talking and texting is unlimited with different amounts of available web use.
Verizon's prepaid plans offers unlimited talk and texting starting at $50 a month, with both basic and smart phone availability (by the way, ranked No. 1 for best overall satisfaction and service).
There are a host of other prepaid cell phones and cell phone services (e.g., prepaid services are also offered from companies like TracFone, and MetroPCS).
each with their respective pros and cons. As with everything else involving saving money and comparison shopping, its up to you to research which phone and service suits your needs. A good starting to begin comparing prepaid cell phones and price plans are the online offerings of the major consumer retailers, including those listed by Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and Target.