How to Convert My Cell Phone to a Pay-as-you-go (Pre-paid) Plan

By Techwalla Contributor

If you are tired of your expensive cell phone contract and you want to keep your existing cell phone, you may be able to convert your phone to a no-contract, pay-as-you-go phone. Here's how.

Things You'll Need

  • A GSM cell phone that is "unlocked" or can be unlocked
  • A pay-as-you-go wireless sim card

Step 1

Determine whether this is the right move for you. Maybe you have an existing cell phone and you want to drop your monthly contract and convert your phone to a wireless plan. Maybe you want to buy a used cell phone and put it on a wireless plan. Keep in mind that you PROBABLY can convert your cell phone. Here's what you need to know:-- Pay-as-you go plans are usually only economical for light to medium cell phone users who don't send a lot of text messages. Research rates carefully.-- If your phone is under contract to another cell phone carrier, you will pay a penalty if you break the contract early. Therefore you might want to wait until the contract lapses.-- You must have an "unlocked" cell phone. Cell phones purchased in the United States with a contract are configured only to work with the contract carrier. The carrier might give you the code to unlock the phone if you ask. If not, see below. Note: unlocking a cell phone call be difficult and isn't always possible. You can still enjoy the savings of a pre-paid cell phone by purchasing a packaged unlocked cell phone with air time. See my eHow article on this for details:http://www.ehow.com/how_5073680_save-cell-phone-prepaid-wireless.html

Step 2

Unlocking a cell phone. If you can't get the unlock code from a cell phone carrier, you probably can still unlock the phone so it will work with a prepaid plan. You have two options. -- The easiest way is to use a reputable company that specializes in unlocking cell phones. This may set you back $50. -- A less expensive way is to unlock the phone yourself. I recommend buying an unlock code/software from a reputable E-Bay vendor that lists your model in their E-Bay listing. To unlock some cell phones, you may need to buy a special cable to connect your phone to your computer. You can usually buy unlock codes and equipment for $10-$25. My husband did this for two of our old cell phones without any problem.Note that some cell phones can't be unlocked.

Step 3

After you successfully unlock your cell phone, you need to buy a prepaid sim card. You can buy one on the T-Mobile website for about $7. They are also easily purchased on E-bay, often for 99 cents or less. You will tell the seller the area code for your new prepaid plan. The sim card will be then be assigned a phone number with this area code. T-Mobile lets you change the phone number in four months.My husband uses T-Mobile pre-paid sims. They're very reliable. If you buy one, you also will be a T-Mobile prepaid customer. If you buy another brand of sim, make sure it will work in an unlocked GSM cell phone.

Step 4

You will need to remove your old sim from your unlocked cell phone and insert your new sim. Many sims are located behind the battery.

Step 5

Turn on your phone. If it was correctly unlocked, the new sim card should function. Your new sim card probably came with about 10 minutes of "starter" air time, so you will probably need to add air time. You can buy an air time card at a retailer like Walmart, Rite Aid, etc. Call the phone number on your air time card to add time. You can also add air time online with a credit card. Go to the cell phone company website for details on your new pay-as-you-go service.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have an unregistered T-Mobile sim card, it is possible to reuse it in a pay-as-you-go phone by purchasing an "activation code" on E-Bay and using this code to register your sim on the T-Mobile website.
  • be sure not to let your pay-as-you-go minutes expire. If you do, they won't roll over and you will lose them.