We Help You Decide: You Prefer Text, Not Talk

Text messaging is quickly becoming the favored mode of mobile correspondence. According to CTIA, Americans sent 2.5 trillion text messages in 2019, up from a trillion text messages in 2008, and 81 billion in 2005. That growth far outpaces voices minutes. This is made possible by the introduction of text messaging bundles, which provide users with a large number of text messages far below the per-message cost -- which, for postpaid carriers, is usually at 20 cents or above.

Prepaid carriers have two advantages over their postpaid counterparts. First is a lower per-message rate. While postpaid carriers charge 20 or 25 cents per message, prepaid carriers are typically lower than that. There's no difficulty in finding a carrier which offers text messages at 10 cents each, and a little research reveals a few that go as low as 5 cents. Secondly, prepaid carriers also offer text bundles, oftentimes as cheap or cheaper than postpaid versions.

Here's a look at our featured pay as you go cell phone providers and where they stand in terms of text messaging rates.

Unlimited text messaging available for $20/month or under

(read the AT&T review) Those who don't plan to purchase a text messaging bundle would do well to stay away from AT&T, which charges 20 cents per message sent and received. Their bundles help bring down that cost. Both Pay As You Go and Pick Your Plan customers can purchase 200 messages for $4.99 per month (2.5 cents), 1,000 messages for $9.99 (1 cent), or unlimited messages for $19.99 per month.

(read the Jitterbug review) At first glance, it might seem like Jitterbug's monthly plans might not fit with a heavy text messager. That is actually not the case. Those who don't need a lot of voice minutes can sign up for the $15 monthly plan, which provides 50 anytime minutes. Unlimited text messaging is $3 on top of that, so you'll see a monthly bill under $20. So it's quite a good deal, actually.

The only problem is the phone. It's made for older folks, so the buttons are big and the phone isn't very functional. You'll have to judge the trade-off for yourself.

(read the US Cellular review) Good news: US Cellular offers free incoming text messages. This applies to both their monthly plans and pay-as-you-go plans. The bad news: outgoing messages are 25 cents each, so the average would be above 10 cents per message. They do have texting bundles, including $14.95 for unlimited messaging. That's definitely the way to go. While unlimited incoming text messages is nice, the price for outgoing is far too steep.

(read the Verizon prepaid review) Verizon's prepaid system involves a daily fee, which might seem like an instant turn-off for heavy text messagers. However, they do have two texting bundles. The first provides unlimited mobile-to-mobile texting and 250 out of network messages for $10 per month. The other is an unlimited texting plan for $20 per month. This works best with Verizon's basic plan, in which minutes cost 25 cents each, but with no daily fee.

(read the Boost Mobile review) While Boost has a number of high-quality service plans, the texting-minded user might not find them the most attractive. There are no text messaging packages, just the normal 10 cents per message rate for pay-as-you-go users. They do offer the $1/day Chat Plan, which offers unlimited messaging, but $1 per day comes to $30 per month, so unless customers plan to take advantage of the unlimited mobile-to-mobile and unlimited nights and weekends, it might not be worth the charge.

There is also the unlimited everything plan, which costs $50 per month. That is a good deal overall, but might not work for those who text heavily but don't talk much.

(read the Cricket review)The good news is that Cricket offers unlimited voice and text services. The bad news is that they're a regional carrier, so service isn't available nationwide. But if you're apt to stay in your locale, Cricket might be your texting solution. Their cheapest plan with unlimited messaging is $35. It also includes unlimited voice, including long distance, so you're set if you're a big texter and talker.

Cricket's PAYGo $2 service has unlimited text messaging, but not long distance. So if you text heavily on some days and not at all on others, that could work out. However, you'd have to use your phone roughly half the days in the month to make that more worthwhile than the $35 unlimited package.

(read the MetroPCS review) MetroPCS offers service in the same manner as Cricket, so when you get unlimited text messaging you'll also get unlimited voice. Metro, though, is a bit more expensive than Cricket when it comes to messaging plans. Their $40 plan is the cheapest which comes with unlimited messaging, though customers of the $35 plan can add it for $3, so $38.

It's not a huge difference, but in any case you might not even have a choice. Both Metro and Cricket are regional carriers, and they don't overlap in too many markets. It might be one or the other.

(read the Page Plus review) If 2,500 text messages is enough for you in a month, Page Plus has one of the best plans out there. It costs just $10.95 per month for those 2,500 messages, so you get a ton of messages at a relatively low cost. There's also a 5,000 message bundle for $19.95. If you talk and text a lot, there's the Unlimited Talk n Text plan for $39.95, which offers unlimited messaging and voice. Any of these plans can satisfy the heavy texter.

(read the Straight Talk review) A new service introduced by Tracfone in 2009, Straight Talk offers low rates on voice and text bundles. They have two plans: $30 and $45. The $30 offers 1,000 minutes and messages, and the $45 offers unlimited both. This puts them around the areas of MetroPCS and Cricket.

The difference is that Straight Talk operates on Verizon's nationwide network, giving it a clear advantage over the regional carriers. Those who can get by with 1,000 text messages will do well with the $30 plan.

Non-unlimited bundles

(read the Consumer Cellular review) Traditional pay-as-you-go plans tend to work better for heavy text messagers, since they can avoid paying for unused minutes. Consumer Cellular offers only monthly plans, which might make text messaging pricey. There is an option to pay for no minutes monthly, but that means paying a $10 fee and 25 cents for each minute used -- which can get expensive even for infrequent callers.

They do have text messaging plans, though: $2.50 for 100 messages and $5 for 500 messages. They have $10 and $20 plans as well, but they're at the same one-cent rate as the $5 plan. Not bad, but the heavy texter might find Consumer Cellular a bit expensive.

A la carte: 5 cents per message

(read the Net10 review) While minutes with Net10 are 10 cents each, text messages are half that. There isn't an unlimited text messaging bundle, so that hurts a bit, but five cent texting is a good deal. It means 500 text messages would cost $25 -- more than an unlimited plan, but still not the worst deal. If you're going to pay per text, Net10 is the clear choice.

A la carte: 10 cents per message

(read the T-Mobile prepaid review) T-Mobile is one of the few prepaid carriers which continues to offer variable pricing. They charge 10 cents to send a message and 5 cents to receive, making it difficult to accurately calculate your estimated usage. Still, we've seen a number of straight 5 cents per message carriers, so there are better a la carte deals.

Plus, it bears repeating that heavy texters do much better with texting bundles. These are available with many carriers, and are much cheaper and more efficient than a la carte messaging.

(read the Tracfone review) Tracfone doesn't make it easy to calculate your monthly text messaging usage. It costs either a third or a half a minute to send and receive text messages, and because rates vary by card, it can get very complicated. It's best to consult the rule of thumb here: If you are a heavy text messager, you are better off finding a texting bundle.

This goes especially for a carrier like Tracfone, which makes it hard to make accurate calculations of just how much text messages cost you.

(read the Red Pocket Mobile review) Red Pocket Mobile is a niche MVNO focusing on cheap international calls to Asia and other destinations. This focus does not include text messaging -- or at least not for the heavy user. There are no bundles, and the a la carte option is 10 cents per message. It's the same rate for international text messages, so that's a plus, but probably not enough to satiate the heavy texter.