What are the best prepaid phone plans on the market?

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Answered by: Joshua, An Expert in the Plans and Prepaid Category
Twenty years ago, cell phones were a novelty. Today, they are as common as televisions. During that time, not only did the devices themselves undergo a gradual transformation toward efficiency, computing power, and cost-effectiveness -- the service that makes them tick has evolved as well. For the longest time, owning a cell phone meant costly hidden charges, unforgiving contracts, and unrealistic limits on data, text, and voice. For the American consumer who wished to avoid these pitfalls, options were limited.

In 2015, it is entirely possible to find a plan that suits you without feeling like you've been forced into less-than-optimal terms. The bulk of these are called Mobile Virtual Network Operators, or MVNOs. These are better known as prepaid cell phone plans. Not long ago, prepaid plans meant questionable service, bottom of the barrel devices, and a lack of features. This is no longer the case. MVNOs typically piggyback on the cell towers of the big four providers (Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T), so service is on par with contract-based plans. These MVNO plans allow the same quality of data, text, and voice at a fraction of the cost. How is this possible? The name of the game today is data. For the casual user, unlimited data is not a necessity. Prepaid phone plans recognize this and allow you to choose your plan based on how much data you will use in a given month.

There are entire swaths of the Internet dedicated to sussing out the modern user's options and separating the wheat from the chaff. At the top of the heap is Cricket Wireless. Here is a quick rundown of everything you need to know about getting the best prepaid phone plans through Cricket.

Cricket is one of the most well known providers of prepaid cell phone services. Their reputation wasn't always so great, but in the changing landscape of today's service provider market, that is changing. Part of the reason for this is that Cricket was bought outright by AT&T in 2013. Now you can use the AT&T mobile network at a fraction of the price, no strings attached. In the past, signing up with Cricket meant you could kiss the idea of a capable smartphone goodbye. Nowadays, you can use top of the line phones with their service, including the Samsung Galaxy s6 and the iPhone 5c -- and they are always adding newer models. Users also have the option to bring their own phone to Cricket as long as it's compatible -- and it probably is.

There are three main plans with Cricket, all of which include unlimited voice and text. Cricket also has a feature that subtracts $5 a month if you setup their autopay feature. Since keeping a working cell is a given for most consumers, this is a great way to save even more. The three plans (including the $5 off from autopay) are as follows:

• $35 a month for 2.5GB of LTE data

• $45 a month for 5GB of LTE data + unlimited international texts + unlimited voice/text to Mexico and Canada

• $55 a month for 10GB of LTE data + unlimited international texts + unlimited voice/text to Mexico and Canada

Looks a lot more enticing than that contractually obligated $100 a month Verizon plan, doesn't it? It is also worth noting a few things about Cricket, the first of which is that all taxes and fees are included in their pricing! If your plan is $35 a month, it's $35 a month. That's it. Cricket also has a great referral system. If someone signs up under you and keeps their service for 60 days, both you and your referral earn an automatic deduction of $25 from your next bill. Finally, if you're unsure about how much data you use in a month, that's okay! You have a couple of options if you reach your data limit. First, you can change your plan mid-month to include more data, simply paying the difference between your current plan and your new plan. However, if you are not a data intensive user or it's near the end of your billing cycle, there is good news: Cricket does not cut off your data entirely after you reach your cap. Instead, they offer you a slower speed at 256kbps (roughly the speed of old dial-up modems), which is still entirely capable of basic data functions like Google Maps or E-mail.

There are other options on the market for the best prepaid phone plans, but you would be hard-pressed to find a cheaper, more straightforward plan that still allows you the phone you want with no strings attached.

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