Save Big With Prepaid Phone Plans

Sick of being locked into a lengthy contract and forking over hundreds every month? Here's how you can save.

By Liane Cassavoy

Prepaid phones often get a bad rap. Maybe that’s because, years ago, the phone selection was limited (to say the least) and the service was spotty. But that’s no longer the case: Today, you can find great devices, great services, and—best of all—great deals on prepaid phones.

Prepaid phone service can work in different ways. Some providers allow a user to purchase a set number of minutes or a set amount of data, and use that until it runs out. More common, though—especially for the higher-end prepaid phones—are arrangements where you pay a set monthly fee in advance for (in many cases unlimited) talk and data service. The prices tend to be significantly lower than what you might pay for traditional monthly phone service, and you aren't locked into a lengthy contract for service.

Boost Mobile, for example, has an “Unlimited Starter” plan that costs $30 a month for 1GB of 4G LTE data and unlimited talk time, and an “Unlimited Unhook’d” plan that costs $50 a month for unlimited 4G LTE data and unlimited talk time. Virgin Mobile offers two “unlimited” data plans: both include unlimited talk, text, and 2G data (which, you should note, is significantly slower than today’s high-speed data services), but limit the amount of high-speed 4G LTE data you can access. The Data Love Plan offers 5GB of 4G LTE data for $35 a month, and the Data Love+ Plan offers 10GB of 4G LTE data for $45 a month.

You may balk at these caps on your high-speed data, but most phone service providers are doing away with unlimited data altogether. Verizon’s new cell phone plans let you choose between 2GB and 16GB of data a month, but the high-end plan will cost you $90 a month. And Sprint, which still offers unlimited data plans, charges $60 a month and up for that option.

If all this talk of prepaid plans and the cash you could save has you ready to switch, you’ll need a phone that’s ready to work with your prepaid provider of choice. I looked around and found good deals on some prepaid smartphones.

Samsung’s Galaxy Prevail 4G for Boost Mobile is available from for $47.99, a savings of $32 off its current list price of $79.99—which is what it actually sells for at It’s also available on Amazon for $69.99, so BestBuy’s deal is a good one. The Galaxy Prevail 4G runs on the Android OS and features a 4.5-inch touchscreen and a 5MP camera.

Another option is the LG Tribute 2, currently available from for $26.99 for both Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile. Its list price is $100, but you can find similar models selling elsewhere for around $35 to $40. The Tribute 2 supports high-speed LTE networks, runs apps, and has a 5MP camera. It’s not the latest and greatest model—but at this price, it’s perfect for a tween or an older relative who needs a phone primarily to stay in touch.

The beauty of choosing a prepaid cell phone arrangement is the flexibility it offers. If you don’t want a long-term contract, you don’t have to sign one. If you don’t want to pay a lot for a phone that your teen is likely to lose or destroy, you don’t have to. And if you want the latest and greatest iPhone for yourself, you can get that, too—while saving money on your monthly bills. Who doesn’t love that?