We Help You Decide: You Talk A Lot
The main problem with most prepaid plans (or at least this is the way it used to be) is that you're paying by the minute, and it's tough to find a low per-minute rate without signing a contract. This is where prepaid got the bad name that it seemingly just can't shake.
Now, though, you can talk a lot and find an affordable prepaid plan. We'll show you some of the best companies for a “talk a lot” calling plan.
The unlimited plans
Cricket (read the review) Leap Wireless, which also owns Jump Mobile, introduced Cricket, which is founded upon the idea of unlimited minutes. Every single one of their plans, priced from $40 to $60, lets you talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you're a talker who stays at home, you can get by with the $40 per month plan, which only covers your local calling area. For $5 more, you get unlimited within Cricket's entire coverage map. And really, that should cover all of your calling needs. Anything more expensive includes bells and whistles like unlimited mobile web, or roaming minutes.
Bonus: free unlimited texting.
The only drawback is that they're not available everywhere. But they're expanding, so check to see if Cricket is available in your area.
MetroPCS (read the review) MetroPCS and Cricket are similar in many ways — well one way, really, in that they provide unlimited minutes prepaid plans. They've been strategic about it, too: they rarely cross markets. Of course, this has led to talks of a merger.
That would sure up the value of their respective companies, since both have a glaring weakness: coverage maps. It's not very extensive, though MetroPCS does plan an expansion in the near future. That's good news, because they provide quality unlimited prepaid plans.
They offer unlimited local calling for $35 per month. But with all the cell phone area codes out there, can you really trust a local calling plan? If not, you're still safe: they offer local and long distance plans for $40 to $50 per month.
However, that's not what you'll pay. See, MetroPCS actually charges you extra for voice mail and texting. Only the $50 per month plan covers your calling features (but not texting).
It's worth a check to see if you're covered by their network. Can't go wrong with an unlimited plan.
Boost Mobile (read the review) If you stay within your local calling area for the most part and happen to live in a covered area, Boost Mobile is now offering Boost Unlimited for $45 or $55 per month, depending on your area. This is only available in Texas and California for the moment, though Boost expects to eventually roll out this plan to its entire coverage map (though the fee may vary).
The drawbacks: well, the limited coverage area doesn't help those of us outside of our two largest states (sorry, Alaska). Text messaging still costs you 10 cents per message sent, though received messages are free. And you can't get the walkie talkie deal. Yeah, and the roaming thing (15 cents per minute). Really, it's right along the lines of Cricket and MetroPCS: reasonable rate for unlimited, but a miniscule coverage area.
Lots o minute
Liberty Wireless (read the review) If unlimited plans aren't your thing, or you aren't covered by any of the companies that offer unlimited, there are providers like Liberty Wireless that offer tons of minutes. They've got 1,000 and 2,000 minute plans ($65 and $100 per month). Plus, there are no roaming charges like those unlimited plans. The per-minute rate turns out to be real cheap: either 6.5 cents per minute on the 1,000 plan and 5 cents per minute on the 2,000 plan.
The drawback: It's 20 cents per minute when you go over, so we're talking a drastic increase. Other than that (and some questionable customer service), it looks pretty good.
Don't talk that much
So maybe your definition of “talks a lot” doesn't exactly match ours. We understand, especially if you do lots of night and weekend talking. Once you separate from the services already listed, though, the lines can be blurred. Some services offer free nights and weekends, which attracts many gabbers. Others offer all calls for 10 cents per minute, which is great for the “gab sometimes, live like a hermit at others” kinda person. We'll run down some other plans that are reasonable, but in our opinion, don't come near MetroPCS, Cricket, Boost, Liberty, and Amp'd in terms of benefits for the big talker.
Alltel: 700 anytime and unlimited nights and weekends for $70 per month.
AT&T: 650 anytime and unlimited nights and weekends for $70 per month.
Jump: 10 cents per minute, all day, every day. Roaming hurts, though, at 65 cents per minute.
Kajeet: 10 cents per minute all the time.
Net10: 10 cents, all the time.
Page Plus: 1,000 minutes for $80 — but that's only if you buy the $80 refill card. If you buy a lesser amount, you get a higher per minute rate.
T-Mobile: 1,000 minutes for $100 — but you have to keep buying the $100 cards, or you get a lesser rate (we're talking near 20 cents per minute).
Tracfone: If you buy the doubles minutes for life card ($50), you have access to the 200 minute cards for $40 (so it's really 400 minutes for $40 — 10 cents per minute).
US Cellular: 1,000 anytime and unlimited nights and weekends for $80 per month — plus free incoming calls.
We left out the plans that charge you a per-day access fee, because that can turn into $15 to $30 per month, which in reality makes that 10 cents per minute rate not really 10 cents per minute.