Wireless Phone Service

Choosing between contract and pre-paid plans

There are three main types of cell phone plans detailed below: pay-as-you-go, pre-paid monthly service, and monthly contract plans. There are reasons to pick each one of these plans that extend beyond the financial differences.

Pay As You Go Wireless Plans

This option is inexpensive and works well for people who only use their phones for emergency back-up or who talk less than an hour and a half per month. You purchase minutes in bulk and are only charged for the minutes you use. These plans now allow users to send and receive text messages and are capable of calling internationally, though some providers do require an international calling plan. Be forewarned: pay-as-you-go minutes can expire. Be sure to read the fine print with your provider to be sure you have minutes available when needed.

Company US Airtime Rate per min Cost per Text Message Minimum Recharge Amount Expiration of Refill Minutes Per Minute Calling Rate to Canada
AT&T - Go Phone 25 ¢ 20 ¢ $25 30 Days n/a
T-Mobile 10 ¢ 10 ¢ $3 30 Days n/a
Tracfone 33 ¢ up to 1/2 airtime min. per text $10 90 Days International Plan needed
Verizon Wireless 25 ¢ 20 ¢ $15 30 Days n/a

Pre-Paid Plans

Pre-paid plans are a good fit for those trying to keep their budgets in check or avoid a lengthy contract term. These plans now include unlimited calling minutes, unlimited texting and up to 1.5GB of data. Another advantage is that many companies offering pre-paid plans do not charge overage fees if your data usage exceeds the plan limit; however, the download and upload speed slows dramatically once the data limit has been reached. The phones available on these plans may not have all of the same features available that phones on contract plans have, such as parental controls, so it is worth checking with a sales representative if you are looking for additional features.

Company Monthly Rate Data Rollover Data Calls to Canada
AT&T - Go Phone $45 2GB Yes $5 for 250 min.
Net10 $35 500MB No $10 for 700 min.
Straight Talk - Tracfone $45 5GB No $10 for 1000 min.
T-Mobile $40 3GB No $5 for unlimited calling
U.S. Cellular $45 2GB No $5.99 for unlimited calling
Verizon $45 2GB No $10 for 1000 min.
Sprint $35 1GB No 10 ¢ per min.

Monthly Fee Plans

These plans make the most sense for heavy cell phone users. There are numerous choices for data plans, upgrade schedules for those interested in having the newest technologies, and family plans for those with multiple cell phone users under the same roof. The phones and plans have many additional features that allow for more parental control options, location tracking and even driving controls. These plans often come with 1 or 2 year contracts and termination fees if the user chooses to break their contract.

Company Monthly Fee Plan
Text Messaging Included Data Additional Data Plans Overage Charge Cost of Extra Line Cost of calls to Canada
(per min.)
Termination Fee Notes
AT&T $50 Unlimited Unlimited 5GB $20 | 300MB
$30 | 2GB
$50 | 5GB
$100 | 15GB
$140 | 20GB
$225 | 30GB
$300 | 40GB
$375 | 50GB
$20 per 300MB on the 300MB plan
$15 per 1GB on all other plans
$25/mo. | 5GB or less
$15/mo. | 15GB or more
Unlimited calls and text to Canada included in plan $325 minus $10 for each mo. of Service Commitment Monthly access charge will be $15 - $40 based on plan
T-Mobile $50 Unlimited Unlimited 2GB $65 | 6GB
$80 | 10GB
$95 | Unlimited
$0/reduced speed once data limit is hit $30 Unlimited calls and text to Canada included in plan No Early Termination Fee; Remaining balance of phone is due at termination. No annual service contract and no data overage charges
U.S. Cellular $60
$45 with $15 retail installment or customer owned equipment discount
Unlimited Unlimited 1GB   $15 | 500MB n/a Option 1) 44 ¢/min.
Option 2) $3.99/mo. and 8 ¢/min.
Option 3) $5.99/mo.
$350 for customers with smartphones or tablets without retail installment contract Individual line plan; pricing as of April 15, 2016.
Verizon $60 Unlimited Unlimited 6GB $30 | 1GB
$45 | 3GB
$60 | 6GB
$80 | 12GB
$100 | 18GB
$15 | 1GB $20 49 ¢/min. $350 minus $10 for each month up to 24 completed months Additional overage charge of $15 for each 1 GB
Sprint $60 Unlimited Unlimited 12GB $20 | 1GB
$30 | 3GB
$45 | 6GB
$60 | 12GB
$80 | 24GB
$100 | 40GB
$15 | 1GB $20 49 ¢/min. $350 Monthly access charge is $20/mo. when purchased with Sprint Installments or Lease
Consumer Cellular $40 3,500 (25 ¢/add'l min) None Included None Included Text and Data Plans:
$5 -1,500 text + 150 MB
$10 - 3000 text +500 MB
$20 - Unlimited +1.5 GB
$30 - Unlimited + 3 GB
$40 - Unlimited + 4 GB
25 ¢ per MB, for all but the largest plan which is 1.5 ¢ per MB of data $10 20 ¢/min n/a Referral Program- $10 Credit
5% Discount for AARP Members
Voice Plans:
$10/mo. - 25 ¢ min
$15/mo. - 250 min
$20/mo. -750 min
$30/mo. - 1,500 min
$50/mo. - Unlimited
Pure TalkUSA $45 Unlimited Unlimited 2.5GB Unlimited Talk & Text Plus:
$24 200MB Data/200 text
$29 1GB Data/Unlimited text
$35 1.5GB Data/Unlimited text
Data will automatically cap once the plan limit is reached. Customers can select to allow overages and will be automatically billed an additional $4 for every 100MB of data or 100MMS up to a 3GB cap n/a Varies based on carrier and landline n/a Referral Program-$10 Credit
Voice Plans:
$5/mo. - 80 min
$10/mo. - 300 min
$15/mo -600 min
Straight Talk $45 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited/ First 5GB is at high speeds then 2Gbps n/a $0/reduced to 2Gbps speeds once data limit is hit n/a Unlimited International Plan available n/a Automatic refills or on demand refills
Minutes do not rollover
Republic Wireless $40 Unlimited Unlimited 2GB Plans:
$10 unlimited talk & text /no data
$17.50 unlimited talk & text/500MB
$25 unlimited talk & text/1GB
$0/reduced speed once data limit is hit n/a n/a n/a Add data whenever you need it
Dollar for dollar, refund for the cell data you don't use every month

Updated - October 27, 2016