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How to Choose a Prepaid Cellphone

Prepaid plans for cellphones allow you to purchase minutes as you use them, so you only pay for the minutes you use. These plans are attractive for those who cannot qualify for a wireless contract, and for those who don't need all the minutes provided by a standard cellphone plan.


  • Step 1: Find carrier Find a prepaid cellphone carrier that offers a range of phones and service plans.
  • Step 2: Decide on price range Decide on your price range for the cellphone. Prices can range from free -- with the purchase of minutes -- to a couple hundred dollars.
  • TIP: Prepaid cellphone models are available online from the carriers and at walk-in stores.
  • Step 3: Consider usability Consider the phone's usability. Determine whether it is small, functional, durable, and includes a long-lasting battery.
  • Step 4: Consider voice features Consider the voice features you need. Prepaid cellphone voice features may include three-way calling, speakerphones, voicemail, call waiting, and caller ID.
  • Step 5: Consider multimedia features Consider the multimedia features you need. Prepaid cellphone multimedia features may include text messaging, instant messaging, a camera, recording capabilities, audio/video playback, games, ringtones, and a radio.
  • Step 6: Consider extra features Consider any extra features that come with the phone, including a calendar, phonebook, task list, or note pad.
  • Step 7: Select service plan Select a service plan that meets your needs. Look at your recent cellular phone bills to determine whether a particular prepaid plan would be a cheaper option for you.
  • TIP: Prepaid cellphone plans may require you to pay a set monthly fee for a fixed number of minutes, pay a fixed rate per minute without a monthly fee, pay a daily access charge each day you use the phone, or pay a monthly fee for unlimited calling.
  • Step 8: Look for free calling options Consider whether the plan offers free calling on nights, weekends, and with in-network calls.
  • FACT: An early version of the cellphone was introduced in 1947.

You Will Need

  • Cellphone carrier
  • Comparative prices
  • Usability evaluation
  • Voice options
  • Multimedia options
  • Extra feature options
  • Service plan
  • Internet access (optional)
  • Walk-in cellphone store (optional)
  • Payment options (optional)

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