Prepaid cell phone carriers
November 6, 2012 6:14 PM   Subscribe

What is a good prepaid cell phone carrier in the U.S.?

I'm looking for a prepaid cell phone to be used primarily for talking and texting, with limited data usage for email and web browsing. A simple design, QWERTY keyboard, and wifi would be nice. The option to either pay for a monthly plan or per minute would also be a plus. What are the best carriers and/or phones? It looks like I have good coverage for AT&T and Verizon networks in my area.

posted by YukoInNature to Technology (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Straight talk. Unlimited text, talk, and web. $45 a month. Never has given me a problem.
posted by Autumn89 at 6:20 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite] This has a QWERTY keyboard! I'm in love with it. Also I dropped it in water about 3 weeks ago for like 3 seconds and dried it out with rice, and it still works fine!
posted by Autumn89 at 6:22 PM on November 6, 2012

I didn't have good reception with Boost Mobile, which is through Sprint, but I've had good luck with at&t's prepaid Gophone. You can get unlimited talk, text, and basic data (no smartphones) for $50 per month prepaid, or $25 for 250 minutes, unlimited texts, and 10 cents per minute after that. They have different model phones you can buy online or in store, and some have the qwerty boards.

As a bonus, if you pay at the in-store kiosk, you don't have to pay sales tax (at least in Virginia), which can be a pretty big savings over time if your area has a high tax rate for cell phones.
posted by shortyJBot at 6:35 PM on November 6, 2012

Right now, I pay T-Mobile 50 a month for unlimited talk and text, and can bring my own phone. I also get unlimited data, with a huge asterisk, in that the first 100MB is 4g, and then it drops to edge or something.

What I like about T-mobile is that you can bring your own device; when I wasn't on the hook for a ton of nagios pages, I owned a smartphone for 2 years without a data plan. Ended up spending 100 dollars a year on a pay as you go plan, and used wifi for data. If you have wifi at home and work, and the commute isn't too dire, it's doable.
posted by pwnguin at 6:48 PM on November 6, 2012

Depends on what you mean by good... I can tell you that T-mobile has lousy coverage (and I'm in a major US city), but their basic prepaid service is dirt cheap. Once you reach $100, subsequent refills are good for a year. When I need data, I switch to their $3 or $5/day data plan and then switch back. I can't speak to phone models since I use my own unlocked phone.
posted by asynchronous at 6:56 PM on November 6, 2012

Straight Talk / TracFone / Net10 different faces to the same company.

They offer phones with service from different providers (Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T) based on your zipcode. has forums on all the carriers with lots of info.

For my household Straight Talk with a zip that provided us Verizon based service worked well versus what we had with AT&T contract.
posted by dknott123 at 7:00 PM on November 6, 2012

I'll second Straight Talk and add PagePlus to the thread. My fiance has Straight Talk and hasn't noticed a difference in coverage (we're in northern CA). I use PagePlus which is an MVNO of Verizon Wireless and I use the "55" plan, which is unlimited talk, text, & 2 MB of data for $55/month. I couldn't be happier. I canceled Verizon the day that my contract was up and haven't looked back since. A bonus is you can bring in your own device. Not sure if this is the case with Straight Talk. Good luck!
posted by luciddream928 at 7:29 PM on November 6, 2012

It really depends on where you are. Give us a city.
posted by Sphinx at 8:50 PM on November 6, 2012

VirginMobile, $35 / month for talk/text/data, no contract. You can also pay less for just talk/text and go with a prepaid plan. It runs on the Sprint backbone. It is great.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 10:51 PM on November 6, 2012

Virgin Mobile is pretty great, also one of the cheapest ways to have an iPhone with unlimited data.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:54 PM on November 6, 2012

Thirding Virgin Mobile.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:27 PM on November 6, 2012

Tracfone, if you want a supercheap handset (got a simple Samsung at Target for $9.99). There are always bonus codes you can find online (like this one) that will give you 2x or 3x bonus minutes when you buy airtime online.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:36 AM on November 7, 2012

I've used Virgin Mobile for 5+ years (still locked in at $25/month too.) Don't think I've ever had a problem but I barely use the thing. Looks like you can get the Kyocera Rise (with qwrty keyboard+android) for $80 online.
posted by thylacine at 8:24 AM on November 7, 2012

I've been using Virgin Mobile for 5+ years as well, in an area that hasn't had the best of Sprint's coverage, although it is getting better. $25 a month makes it more than worth it for me.

Straight-talk runs on ATT's signal IIRC, and I briefly considered switching over recently, but I couldn't justify the $45 a month fee.
posted by Giggilituffin at 8:37 AM on November 7, 2012

Ting, which is the Tucows Sprint Network LTE carrier -- yes, you can get LTE service. Amazingly affordable and no contracts. I have them set to email me when my Tmobile contract is up so I can get in on it. They have a lot of QWERTY phones -- a must for me too.
posted by sweltering at 1:22 AM on November 8, 2012

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