These days, you don't have to be shackled to a cell phone contract if you don't want to.
Image © Chad Baker, Getty Images
The four major cell phone carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless) typically want to lock you down for two years in exchange for a subsidized handset price.
But carriers like Boost Mobile, Cricket, Virgin Mobile, PlatinumTel, Jitterbug, StraightTalk and MetroPCS compete by going the other way. They offer prepaid wireless and pay-as-you-go service without contracts.
There are pros and cons to having a contract. With one, you get a cheaper phone and typically have access to today's most innovative handsets. But you're also faced with termination fees around $150 if you try to leave early.
Without a contract, you can often save money on your service plan in exchange for a higher-priced handset and often more basic models. Which do you prefer? Vote in our poll below!