If you're willing to give up the services of big corporations like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, and you're willing to part ways with all the fancy phones that you can hardly keep up with anyway, you can welcome yourself into the world of bargain mobile plans.
In my neighborhood alone, my neighbors average $160 a month (or almost $2,000 a year) for their family plans with The Big Four providers mentioned above, and that's not even mentioning what they've spent on their phones. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Smarter and smaller providers have discovered that consumers want cheaper options. They offer plans that accommodate the needs of those that only need a few minutes for calling, or those that just use data. As a result, they pass the savings onto the customers. As long as you're not brand loyal or too stuck in getting the latest phone, you can save some major bucks. Here's an overview of the cheapest options on the market today:
FreedomPop. The basic plan is free. You get 200 minutes of talk time, 500 texts and 500MB data for free. The Unlimited Talk/Text Plan is free for the first month and $10.99 afterwards. It includes unlimited talk and text, and 500MB of data. If you opt to pay annually, the cost is only $79.99, which comes out to under $7 per month. For the data seekers out there, the Unlimited Everything Plan for $19.99 per month offers unlimited voice, text and data. If you don't have a phone that you'd like to activate, FreedomPop offers Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 5 and many others for less than retail price.
Republic Wireless. For the $5 Monthly Plan, you get unlimited data. The $10 Monthly Plan gets you unlimited data and talk and the most popular $25 Monthly Plan gets you all of the above on 3G data. If you'd rather get 4G data, then you can opt for the $40 plan. You can also switch between plans, twice a month, which will help save you money in the long run because you only pay for what you use. They also offer the 8GB Moto G for only $149. If you're looking to get your child a phone without too much startup costs, this would be the best choice.
Zact. If you use less than the allotted amount for your plan, you get a credit back to your account and if you are close to going over, you can add more without having to pay overage. You can customize the plan to your usage needs which makes this plan appealing. I added the bare minimum services, which was 30 minutes of talk ($0.90), 25 texts ($0.71), 50MB of data ($1.88) and the price came out to be $3.49 per month. For what I would normally use, which is about 400 minutes of talk ($8.63), 100 texts ($2.06) and 500MB of data ($13.23), the price came out to be $23.32, which is $17 less than what I am currently paying. This is perfect for someone like me because my monthly usage varies from one month to another.
Ting. This is a provider that would work for someone like my mom, who doesn't use her phone much. Instead of committing to a certain plan, you use what you need and pay for it at the end of the month. I wouldn't recommend this to folks who are attached to their phones. It's more for people who just occasionally use their phones. To give you a little idea on pricing, one to 100 minutes of talk cost you $3, one to 100 text messages cost you $3 and one to 100MB of data cost you $3. Plus, you pay $6 per device. For the bare minimum, you pay $15 per month. (If the company could get rid of the extra $6 fee per device, it would be better and more in line with direct competitors). It's not the cheapest of the bunch, but if you want a no-contract, pay-at-the-end-of-the-month type of plan, this is it!
Page Plus Cellular. If you're somewhere in the middle of road when it comes to mobile usage, this carrier may be perfect for you. Plans start as low as $12 for 250 minutes of talk, 250 text and 10MB of data. The unlimited plans begin at $39.95, which includes unlimited talk and text and 1GB of data. The cheapest phone is the basic LG220 flip phone for $19.95 and the most expensive is Huawei Ascend Plus for $149.95.
Susan Yoo-Lee is the editor of Savings.com personal finance blog and founder of Mommas in the House blog.
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