As a country, we check our phones more than 8 billion times a day. Millennials? We spend 14.5 hours a week on our phones. But it’s not just time that we’re spending on phones – we’re spending money. The average price for cell phone service in 2014 was $47 per month. And during a brief fiasco with Verizon, I spent $74 a month for unlimited service, and I wasn’t even financing a phone.
While the rest of the world spends less than $31 a month on mobile service, Americans are stuck paying more – or so I thought. Then I discovered the joys of pay-as-you-go cell phone plans.
My husband and I pay less than $40 a month for both of our phones.
What are Pay-as-You-Go Cell Phone Plans?
Pay-as-you-go cell phone plans don’t require a contract. The providers usually “piggyback” off of large carriers. This means that you get all the coverage of a national provider without the hassle of a contract. And if you find a better deal, you can switch plans in an instant. I love that feature.
What’s better is that these services usually come at a fraction of the cost of traditional providers. My husband spends around $12 a month for his service from Republic Wireless. I spend about $23 most months for service from Ting. Justin of Root of Good spends $0 for his service from FreedomPop.
“My smartphone service is free through Freedompop. Each month I get 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, and around a gigabyte of 3G/4G data for free,” he writes. “I never come close to any of those limits.”
FreedomPop starts with free plans and moves up to $34.99 per month for four gigs of data. Heavy iPhone users will find that to be a more compelling offer.
Focus on the Hardware
I’m not one to judge you for wanting to have a status symbol. And let’s face it – if you buy the newest phone, you’re buying a status symbol.
But each year you hold onto your “old” phone, you’re saving money.
When it’s time to upgrade, consider buying a used phone. I bought my iPhone 5s for $120 from eBay. Now that the iPhone 7 is out, I’ve seen even lower prices. I love this phone. It’s functional and fashionable (or it was until I put an OtterBox on it). Best of all, if I keep this phone for two years, I’ll have an effective monthly rate of $5.
My husband bought a brand new smartphone, $300 Moto X Pure Edition from Republic Wireless. At the time, they didn’t support used phones. But now they do, so it makes switching even more compelling.
Just one tip before you buy: check with your preferred pay-as-you-go provider to make sure that they support the phone you want. Ting supports most Apple phones. Republic Wireless supports many Android phones. FreedomPop supports both Android and Apple products, but they don’t have coverage everywhere. You can check their coverage before attempting a switch.
Pick the Right Time to Switch
Switching to a pay-as-you-go cell phone plan isn’t as expensive as you may think. Some plans are actually quite cheap! FreedomPop has $10 activation fee.
I just had to buy a $14 SIM card to switch to Ting, and Rob paid nothing to start his Republic Wireless service.
But if you’re on a long-term contract with one of the big providers, there might be a penalty to pay. In that case, you’ll want to wait for the contract period to end before making the switch.
What Pay-as-You-Go Plan Fits Your Needs?
My husband’s $10 plan offers unlimited talk and text, but no data. Whenever he needs to, he pays an extra $10 to buy one gig of data.
Republic Wireless claims their best-value plan is the $30 monthly phone plan with two gigs of data, but the network doesn’t support Apple products. Since I love the Apple Universe, this didn’t fit my needs.
A Final Thought
Switching between pay-as-you-go providers isn’t like switching traditional carriers, and you won’t pay hefty up-front fees. And there are plenty of pay-as-you-go cell phone plans to choose from. Though there are other ways to save on your cell phone bill, one of the easier ways to do so is by switching to a pay-as-you-go plan. So what are you waiting for? Start saving money today (or as soon as your current contract ends)!