Non-Contract Cell Phone Companies: 5 You Should Consider!

Non-Contract Cell Phones

In a previous post, I discussed the positive reasons to ditch your two-year cell phone contract and switch to a non-contract phone. Today I’d like to take a look at a comparison of non-contract cell phone plans. Since there are more services out there than I can put into one post, I studied all I could find and included the five that I think are either the best investment or have the best coverage.

1. Straight Talk

I have been a Straight Talk customer for several years. Owned by TracPhone, Straight Talk is only available at Walmart. The phones run from free to $350. With Straight Talk you can pay as you go for as little as 10 cents per minute. Or you can pay for a monthly plan.

They have unlimited everything for $45/month and an All You Need Plan that gives you 1000 talk minutes, 1000 text messages, and 30 megabytes of data for $30/month. They offer international calling, discounts, and a SIM card program with which you can use your own unlocked phone. The downside to Straight Talk? Their Android phones use an outdated operating system.

2. Virgin Mobile

Running on the Sprint network with CDMA phones, Virgin Mobile definitely beats Straight Talk in their phone offerings. Priced from $12-$450, they offer a few top-of-the-line Android phones using the latest Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system on a 4G network, plus the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S.

As for calling plans, you can go as cheap as $20/month. That gets you 400 minutes of talk, 15 cents/text, and $1.50/MB of data. But why do that when you can get 1,500 minutes of talk, 1,500 text messages, and 30MB of data for $30? Or, of course, you can go with the unlimited everything for $40 for non-smartphones. If you have a smartphone, the price starts at $35 and goes up to $55 for unlimited everything. Virgin Mobile also offers phones that work as a mobile hotspot for an additional $15/month. And, they have an assortment of Broadband2Go plans that provide wireless for your other devices. Virgin Mobile also offers international calling for an extra charge.

3. Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile offers the most plan choices I’ve seen. Beginning with a pay-as-you-go for 20 cents/minute up to their monthly unlimited everything for $55/month for an Android phone or $60/month for a BlackBerry. Operating on the Sprint network, Boost Mobile’s 15 phone choices range in price from $29 to $370. They do have a few choices with the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system as well.

The nice thing about Boost Mobile is their shrinking payments plan. If you renew your plan on time for six months, your rate drops by $5. After the next six months, the same thing happens. How low you can get your monthly rate, depends on the plan you have chosen. If you stick with Boost Mobile, this program makes their rates very competitive.

4. T-Mobile

If data is not what you want on your phone, T-Mobile has you covered for as low as 10 cents/minute. You just buy the time as you need it. However, if you want a monthly plan, they have those too — from $30-$70/month, depending on your needs. Their phones range in price from $40-$650, and they do have phones using the latest Android operating system.

T-Mobile offers an international calling plan, mobile hotspot services, and a BlackBerry Internet service. You can also purchase a T-Mobile SIM card to use in your unlocked GSM phone. Although T-Mobile says they cover 96% of Americans, their coverage map for my neck of the woods is pretty sketchy. So if you live rurally, I’d check that map before investing in a T-Mobile phone.

5. AT&T

AT&T offers some of the same services you’d get from a contract plan with no contract on their GoPhone plan. However, AT&T is the least economical of all the options I’ve explored thus far, if you want an unlimited package for a smartphone. A smartphone unlimited package – unlimited being talk and text – runs $65/month with only 1GB of data. However, if you use your phone primarily for texting, as do a lot of teens, AT&T has a great plan with unlimited texting and 250 minutes of talk for just $25.

AT&T’s phones range in price from $20-$200 and were the most unattractive of all that I’ve seen. So if having the latest and greatest looking toy is important to you, AT&T’s GoPhone plan is not for you. The one thing I was excited to see on their GoPhone plan page is that AT&T includes unlimited international texting on all their monthly plans. That’s important when you’re the mother of a missionary.

Final Thoughts

Looking at other options, no other companies were able to compete with these five.

MetroPCS has some wonderful plan options all on a 4G LTE network, but their coverage area looked really spotty.

Cricket offers a great $60/month plan that includes international texting and tethering to your laptop but their coverage didn’t impress me, either.

My first cell phone was with Net10, also owned by TracPhone, and they have some straightforward deals but crummy phones.

Remember, the key to cutting your expenses on your cell phone bill does not necessarily mean finding latest and greatest for the least amount of money; but going with who offers what you need for the least amount of money.

What about you? Which non-contract cell phone carrier do you use? Feel free to share if I missed your favorite!

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  1. LJ

    I’ve been with Pages Plus Cellular for two years and I love it! I was able to port my number from Verizon AND use the same CDMA phone I had (they work off VZW towers). I have the 1200TalknText plan and have never had any problems with it.

    • Carol

      That’s great LJ. Thanks for sharing about another great service.

  2. Jenny

    I have been using Virgin Mobile for year and find it is the best game in town. I’ve told other people about the $35 per month plan and they switched over. At one time, that plan was only $30 per month. I have never heard of GoPhone, I have to check that one out.

    • Carol

      The main difference for me, Jenny, between VM and ATT’s GoPhone is the service. Verizon has our rural area covered much better than ATT.

  3. James Holland

    I have been using Pure Talk for around 1 year now and the rates are very competitive. They use the old 3G AT&T network. Base plans are as little as $10/mo.

    • Carol

      Now Pure Talk is one I’ve never heard of James. I will have to check them out. Thanks for mentioning them.

  4. Gabriela

    We use Page Plus Cellular as well. I love that I didn’t have to buy a phone through their company to be able to use their service. I’ve used a few of my Verizon phones and have had no trouble with any of them. My current phone is a Droid 2 which is WiFi capable. On my $29.95 plan I can use 1200 minutes, 3000 texts and 250 MB data. WiFi on my phone helps me save the data for when I go out. 🙂

    • Carol

      Since I just got my first smart phone, Gabriela, I’m learning. At home, I connect to my WiFi and it doesn’t use my data quota. Thanks for sharing. Seems Page Plus has a lot of happy customers.

  5. jbledsoejr

    I was just looking into no-contract options last week, as we are looking to lower our bill and be free from a contract. This post is very helpful!

    Do you know what network Straight Talk runs on? Sprint or Verizon?

    I am also wondering if a current Sprint network phone can have it’s number ported to Straight Talk in addition to using the SIM card program.

    • Carol

      With Straittalk, Jbledsoejr, it depends on the phone. They have GMS phones that use one server (ATT, I think), and CDMA that use Verizon. And then, their smart phones use Sprint. That, at least, is what the guy at Walmart told me. I used Straighttalk for several years and I found the best way to get help was to go to the Walmart that had college-age tech geeks working in the electronics department and ask them. For me, in my rural area, that means a drive. At my closest Walmart, the cell phone department is serviced by a middle-aged woman that reads novels when no one is in there. She’s not much help.

  6. KathyM

    Carol, thanks for that comparison. We’re currently using Tracfone as we only need it for short calls while away from home. You mentioned that you can ‘go for as little as .10/min’ with StraightTalk… can you tell me what they call that, as I wasn’t able to find it.

    • Carol

      Kathy, When you buy the Straighttalk cards for adding time, the cheapest they come is 10 cents/minute. Of course, if you’re gonna use it more often, it’s better to get it by the month. Your best bet, if you have questions, like I told jr. is to go into a Walmart and ask a 20-something employee.

  7. christina

    Straight talk can run on sprint, verizon or at&t depending on the phone and area where you live. I had a nonsmart phone with them on verizon towers and then upgraded to a smart phone that runs on sprint. I have used this service for 3 years and love it. They are improving all the time.

    • Carol

      Thanks for the clarification, Christina. Good to see another happy Straighttalk customer.

  8. Michael

    Another Page Plus happy camper here! I bought an HTC Incredible new from eBay and use the TnT1200 plan as mentioned above. I signed up my plan as an autopay through KItty Wireless, an excellent PP dealer. $30/month for an Android smartphone, can’t beat it!

  9. Cindy

    I have Boost Mobile, which in my area runs off Sprint, and I live in a sort of rural area and I love it! I have had it for a little over 6 months, and my plan just dropped from $55 to $50 a month. DH plan is a little higher since I put insurance on his phone b/c he tends to be more accident prone (which by the way I had to file a claim for about 2 months ago) and was a very seamless process. That was the main difference for me in the decision b/t Boost and Straight Talk. At the time Boost had a better phone offerings and they offered the insurance option.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Thanks for that tip, Cindy. That reminds me that if you purchase your no-contract phone from BestBuy, they have an insurance that costs $8 for one year. My husband broke the glass on his VM phone two weeks after purchase and it was covered. Great idea.

  10. Samirian @MoneyWisdoms

    Great Article Carol. Getting Tech Smart is one of my goals this year and cell phones is the best place to start. I have a Net10 phone with pay as you go plan for $45. It serves my immediate needs. It was my baby steps into Smartphones with minimum investments. I think you may be right about the crummy phones. I have limited storage. Luckily I have an iPad for that. I am upgrading this year. Thanks for the information.

  11. Jewely

    Page Plus is the one I’m looking into – Right now I’m paying my soon-to-be ex husband $90 for our “shared” Verizon plan – and I don’t hardly talk on the phone! Page Plus has a plan for $12 a month – 250 Minutes, 250 Text/Picture Messages, 10 MB of Data – and that seems to be about right for me! I’ve checked my usage, and that’s about where I fit! And I can get a phone for less than $100 – so within 2 months, I will save… but I will miss my iPhone!!!!! But, I have an iTouch that will do everything my 4S will do, with the exception of the phone stuff – so it would be worth it to carry 2 items with me! And it uses the Verizon network… I think with my next unemployment check, I’ll be switching! This was a good article!

  12. Kimberly Medina

    I have had Boost Mobile for 5 years now and would never go back to contracts. I paid $60/mth for Blackberry service, but recently they put a “shrinkage” plan in place. If you make so many monthly payments on time, without losing service they take $5 off. I’m at $50/mth now. I may when my Blackberry dies switch to Android though. My son’s Android phone through Boost also has much better 3G internet than my Blackberry.

  13. Jim B

    What’s the name of the company you use that has unlimited everything, and allows you to use your existing phone with no contract?

  14. Chris

    Do not go with Virgin Mobile. I have been with them for a year and have had nothing but problems. Their phones are junk. I’m on my 5th replacement of a phone that was rated very highly on every tech site I researched. Their customer service, while they have nice people, is completely useless. Replacement phones are used phones. And they all had problems-same problems in fact, that’s why they are used and returned. These are not quality refurbished phones. I am waiting on another replacement because the replacement phone I received last week didn’t work. I live in a city, plenty of coverage. I rarely have full bars and the online surfing speed is crap. Given the amount of problems I’ve had, they should have sent me a new phone last year, but they are completely inflexible. I am going to be switching to another carrier shortly.

  15. Spencer

    I have been using Net10 for over 2 years now. It was nice since I could use my ATT phone and keep my number. I have changed my wife, daughters and mine from 180 a month to 120 unlimited with my daughter on the international plan since her boyfriend is in school in Canada and that would have been $50 more with ATT totaling it to $230 a month if I had stayed with them