Is it Time to Ditch the Cell Phone Contract and Opt for a No-Contract Plan?

Thinking of going no-contract on your cell provider? We took a look at the options to help you decide whether it's worth it.

Shopping for cell phone plans

Of smartphone owners paying more than $200 per month on their cell phone bill, nearly a third consider the cost to be a financial burden, according to the Pew Research Center. This may be why many people are turning to no-contract service plans, which allow them to get more bang for their buck.

I happen to be one of the many consumers who finally became fed up with paying $100 per month for a phone I hardly used for actual calls. Now that I've been a no-contract smartphone user for about three years, I can honestly say I wouldn't go back. My bill is half of what it was, and I still get to a use a modern smartphone for what I really need -- texting capabilities and Internet access. However, consumer needs vary on a case-by-case basis. For this reason, it's worth closely examining the options on the market.

The Rise of No-Contract Services

These days, there are several no-contract service providers to choose from, and most offer not only the newest phones, but also big savings. Let’s take a look at some of the most affordable plans offered by these companies, as well as who they fit best.

Metro PCS (Most affordable plan) - $30 per month. Unlimited data, with the first gigabyte of data reaching up to 4G speeds (speeds slows down after the first GB). Unlimited talk and text. Taxes and regulatory fees are included.
Best for: Consumers on a tight budget. With Metro PCS, you'll have peace of mind, knowing that you're paying a straight $30 every month with taxes and fees included.

Boost Mobile (Data Boost Plan) - $35 per month. Unlimited talk, text and data on the Sprint 4G LTE network. The first gigabyte of data reaches up to 4G in speed. International service is considered an add-on, starting at $5 per month for Mexico and Canada.
Best for: Consumers who make a lot of international calls. For $10 extra per month, you can get unlimited talk in more than 70 countries. It is also free to receive text messages from abroad.

Virgin Mobile (Unlimited Your Way) - $35 per month. Unlimited data, talk and text (250MB of high speed data), or unlimited data and text with 300 minutes of call time (2.5GB of high speed data).
Best for: Consumers who are worried more about texting and data, rather than minutes for calls. Big talkers -- or those who take numerous calls for work -- may find the 300 minutes too limiting.

T-Mobile (Simply Prepaid) - $40 per month. Unlimited talk, text and data on the T-Mobile network, and up to 1GB of 4G LTE data.
Best for: Consumers who want a "well-rounded" service and phone. Unlimited talk, text and data is ideal for the everyday smartphone user.

Ting Monthly price varies. Ting bills you separately for voice minutes, text messages and data, and usage is shared across all of the devices on your account. You pay for the "usage level" you hit at the end of the month. Devices start at $6.
Best for: Consumers who rarely use their smartphone or families that want to split the cost of a service plan on one account.

Some of the common bonuses that these companies offer include the option to keep your existing phone number, voicemail and three-way calling. Virgin Mobile, for instance, also has a buy-back program that gives you up to $300 for your old phone when you switch to its service. However, contract carriers, such as Verizon and AT&T, provide similar incentives for consumers.

Which Plans Are Slickdealers Using?

Unsurprisingly, most people in our community aren't on 2-year plans anymore. Some have kept their old plans that are now month-to-month while others are using the new carriers on the block.

Which Option Is Right for Me?

When you look at the bare bones of these services (including the prices), it’s obvious to see that a no-contract service is optimal if you’re looking to reduce your monthly expenses. However, it’s worth noting that many of these companies, such as Virgin Mobile, require you to pay the full price of the device prior to receiving service. So if you want the latest phone, it's going to cost you.

Some companies, like T-Mobile, offer financing plans for smartphones in no-contract arrangements. However, you must pay off the device before upgrading to a new one with the provider.

If you’re looking for a family plan, the grass may also be greener on the contract side. T-Mobile ($100/month), Verizon ($140/month) and AT&T ($160/month) all offer multiple lines with 10 GB of data. Sprint gives you five lines with 20 GB of data for $100 per month for one year. This amounts to a lot of savings when compared to getting each family member an individual line through a no-contract service. Of course, it’s worth looking into companies that offer both, such as T-Mobile.

Cell phone service deals change almost as quickly as the devices themselves. The best plan for you will depend on everything from your budget to your needs. For this reason, it’s critical to examine all of your options before upgrading to a new smartphone. If you're anything like this guy, definitely make sure you get unlimited data.

Image courtesy of ©iStock.com/mihailomilovanovic

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About the Author
Krystle Vermes Contributor

Krystle Vermes is a professional writer, blogger and podcaster with a background in both online and print journalism. Her passions include everything tech, sports, and the paranormal. When she isn’t freelance reporting, she’s breaking news on her blog, GetSpooked.net, and podcasting. Maureen is a graduate of Suffolk University and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism.


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