Prepaid Cell Phones Help Cut Cost

December 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
When it comes to cell service, consumer reports says its readers' top complaint is how much it costs.Prepaid plans are hands down cheaper for many people. But which plan is best?

Mary Byrnes is one of 44 million people using a prepaid cell plan. There's no contract to sign and she's saving lots of money.

"I love my TracFone. I love it. I love it so much that I have purchased a TracFone and given them as gifts to some of my old lady friends," said Byrnes.

"About three-quarters of consumer reports' subscribers who chose a prepaid plan did so because it cost them less than a monthly contract plan. Typically, at least half as much," said Consumer Reports, Paul Reynolds.

Consumer Reports National Research Center survey covers five of the 11 major prepaid providers, including TracFone, T-mobile, and Virgin.

"We found people were generally happy with prepaid service. And TracFone got the highest marks, although it's a little more expensive than some other prepaid carriers," said Reynolds.

If you use your cell phone a lot, consumer reports says consider straight talk - a newcomer most attractive for its dirt-cheap pricing.

Consumer reports sized up eight of the prepaid phones, too. After extensive testing, they found the phones are mostly no-frills.

Consumer Reports Gerard Catapano said, "while the phones are pretty basic, our tests have found they're easy to use and fine for making calls and sending simple texts."

Consumer reports says when looking at prepaid plans, always check the coverage map to be sure there's service where you need it, both at home and on the road. Some prepaid providers have limited coverage.

"Prepaid isn't for everyone. If you e-mail and web access is important to you, keep in mind that fewer than half of prepaid users in our survey gave high marks to those services. And if you're on a family plan, you likely won't save as much by going prepaid," said Reynolds.

But for plenty of people, including Mary Byrnes, a prepaid cell plan can help cut costs considerably.


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