Cheapest prepaid Cell phone service
April 5, 2008 10:40 AM   Subscribe

What is the best prepaid cell phone plan with lowest recurring cost per being the deciding factor?

I would not mind paying a little extra for the phone up front if the recurring cost of minutes is lowest. Ideally the plan would:

1) have no per-call connection fee and
2) bill in 6-second increments rather than whole minutes.

Deciding factors would be lowest cost per minute with no per-call connection fee. 6-second billing increments would be nice but is not essential.

Thank you all!
posted by swarkentien to Shopping (11 answers total)

Have you checked out the prepaid sections at Howard Forums? Good resource.
posted by sharkfu at 10:59 AM on April 5, 2008

I've done a lot of comparison shopping on prepaid plans over the last two years, as I am always looking for a better deal. Unfortunately, I don't believe what you are looking for exists. Nobody bills in six-second increments on prepaid; with my service, it would actually be billing me less than a penny for six seconds, which is not feasible for the carrier technically or financially. As for per-call connection fees, if you are connected, either calling or receiving, then you're paying for each minute. There's no extra cost for the connection; you simply pay per minute. There are unlimited prepaid calling plans available, but they tend to be expensive enough to negate the benefits of prepaid. Cricket has unlimited calling, which is nice until you have to go out of town. Then you'll be paying through the nose on roaming if they connect you at all.
posted by azpenguin at 11:02 AM on April 5, 2008

This site also does a good comparison of each provider.
posted by sharkfu at 11:07 AM on April 5, 2008

If you go for days at a time without making any calls, which is what you seem to be implying, the current Verizon prepaid plans will let you not use a phone on a particular day and escape charge. After that, it can get pricey, though, depending on your usage habits, but this seems to be what you have in mind. Very nice phones available, too, if you're willing to shell out money.
posted by recoveringsophist at 1:17 PM on April 5, 2008

Er, strike that. I didn't seem to read that right, or at all. Apologies.
posted by recoveringsophist at 1:18 PM on April 5, 2008

T-mobile seems to have the lowest cost for both low/no-usage types and frequent talkers.

I think their use of GSM SIM phones and lack of annoying teen-centric branding is a big plus.
posted by unmake at 2:17 PM on April 5, 2008

The salient criteria for me was service quality and per-minute-only charging (Verizon's prepaid has a daily charge on TOP of per-minute on any day you use it). I don't care so much about phones themselves.

I've been happy with Net10 which resells ATT (I think) at 10ยข a minute with no connection or daily-access fees. Call quality, coverage, and online service is fine. They sell a choice of boring older-model phones on the web (incl a couple of camera models) with 300 free minutes; telephone customer service is outsourced (Phillipines, I think) but heavily-scripted-adequate, and you can refill the phone via the web. Can also buy them at big-box stores, incl Wal Mart if you're politically incorrect.

I've gone through 700 minutes in the last three months. (That's $70, which used to my per MONTH on an ATT plan). Happy happy.
posted by jouster at 7:15 PM on April 5, 2008

Also, I meant to add that, if you're willing to jump through some hoops, it appears you can work a lower rate (7c/m) on Tracfone.
posted by unmake at 9:29 PM on April 5, 2008

I've had a lot of luck with Tracfone. In addition to already being cheap, and having the double minutes for life thing that jouster linked to, I usually find a sale when I add minutes which can make it even cheaper. They have no per-call connection fee, but do bill in minutes rather than the 6 second increments you wanted.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:15 AM on April 6, 2008

If you're going to go with a straight per-minute cost, it's hard to beat Page Plus. 8 cents a minute with a $25 card, 5.6 cents a minute with a $80 card. No extra hoops to jump through or anything like that. All you need is a working Verizon phone; any of the prepaid ones you get at Wal mart or Target for Verizon prepaid will work as well.
posted by azpenguin at 1:08 PM on April 6, 2008

Vodafone if you buy the $100 recharges. You did mean in Australia, didn't you? I'm assuming you live here, but apologies if I'm being presumptious.
posted by bystander at 11:51 PM on April 6, 2008

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