While cell phone contracts lower the price of a handset, they also lock you in and impose early termination fees. Prepaid wireless, though, offers no contracts and affordable plans often at the expense of pricier phones.
This is a library of the prepaid wireless and pay-as-you-go plans at the major no-contract carriers. We feature plans from AT&T, Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Cricket, Jitterbug, Kajeet, PlatinumTel, Straight Talk, T-Mobile, TracFone and Virgin Mobile.
You can also use our prepaid plan calculator
, read our analysis of prepaid versus a contract
and see which networks
the prepaid carriers use.
Image © AT&T
While AT&T has primarily been a contract-based cell phone carrier, it competes with the major prepaid companies with two plans under the GoPhone brand. The first option is a pay-as-you-go plan and the second allows you to pick your plan.
Image © Boost Mobile
Boost Mobile is a major player in the prepaid wireless space. While the carrier’s prepaid linchpin is its all-unlimited $50 monthly plan, Boost Mobile has two other compelling choices as well.
While prepaid wireless from Consumer Cellular can work for anyone, it’s specifically designed for seniors in direct competition with Jitterbug. The carrier has simple offerings for individuals and families with texting and mobile Web usage available at an additional cost.
Image © Cricket Communications
Like Boost Mobile, Cricket is designed to be a lower-cost prepaid alternative to the major cell phone carriers. Unlike Boost Mobile, Cricket has many more plan options for individuals, families and pay-as-you-go seekers.
Image © Jitterbug
While prepaid wireless from Jitterbug can work for anyone, it’s specifically designed for seniors in direct competition with Consumer Cellular. Jitterbug has three simple offerings for individuals, families and texters at various price levels.
Image © Kajeet
Just as Jitterbug and Consumer Cellular are targeted at seniors, Kajeet plans and features are designed specifically for kids.
Image © PlatinumTel
PlatinumTel features a variety of prepaid and pay-as-you-go wireless plans all without contracts. Like many of the carriers listed in this library, PlatinumTel doesn’t have its own network infrastructure. Instead, it uses the Sprint network.
Image © TracFone Wireless, Inc.
Straight Talk is the newest prepaid wireless carrier to join the no-contract scene. As of July 30, 2009, Straight Talk is a brand of TracFone Wireless. With two affordable plans, Straight Talk has among the simplest prepaid offering around.
Image © T-Mobile
Like AT&T, T-Mobile also offers various contract-based plans. But T-Mobile also has two popular prepaid plans. One is a pay-as-you-go option and the other allows you to pay by the day.
Image © TracFone Wireless
TracFone Wireless bills itself as a prepaid leader. The company is a subsidiary of América Móvil, which has more cell phone customers than AT&T and Verizon combined, according to TracFone.
Image © Virgin Mobile
Finally, Virgin Mobile has built its lifeblood around prepaid wireless and offers one of the strongest offerings in the industry. The carrier has the full spectrum of no-contract and contract-based plans.