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Which Type Of Wireless Plan Is Right For You? The Ups And Downs Of Prepaid/Postpaid Service

May 30, 2014 - Written By Justin Diaz

When it comes to shopping for a wireless carrier the age old question is whether you should go with a contract, or stay off contract and instead go with a prepaid plan. This is more true today now than ever because of the large selection of prepaid wireless carriers in addition to the prepaid plans available at postpaid carriers, not to mention the huge push of off contract available postpaid plans that have shown up since T-Mobile’s Uncarrier strategy began. Honestly when it comes right down to it there is no one right answer for everyone, as people all have different lives with different needs, and one type of plan might work better for some while it may end up a disaster for others. There are pros and cons to both, and we’re here to highlight some of the major positives and negatives of each in hopes that you might make a more informed decision when shopping for who to give your money to each month.

Prepaid/Non-Contract

Since I’m based here in the U.S., the focus here will be on what U.S. carriers have to offer, although some of the same principles can apply to carriers outside this country. First off lets go over the prepaid and/or non-contract route. With a prepaid or non-contract plan the benefits can be obvious. The plans are often times cheaper or less expensive than that of their contracted counterparts, which is always a good thing right? You save more money, which means more money for other things. Prepaid/non contract also means you have a little more freedom. You have the option to go where you want or where you need if things with your current wireless carrier aren’t working out. Perhaps it’s just a simple case of bad coverage where you need it the most. In any case, no commitment means you don’t have the stress of being tied down. This ties in to the better flexibility as well. Not only does no commitment give you the option to switch carriers at any time, but should you simply just want or need to stop paying your bill for a month prepaid plans allow you to do so. Non-Contract postapid plans are a little different as you still technically have a monthly bill and you’re usually obligated to pay it monthly, at least that’s the case with T-mobile’s non contract postpaid plan that allows for phone breakup payments.

You also have more phone freedom with prepaid or non-contract plans, and since most prepaid services are usually working off of GSM based technology, you’ll have a wider range of options when it comes to choosing the actual handset or device you want with your service. In most cases if you’re not going to be working with an already unlocked device, you can usually get it unlocked by simply requesting the action from your carrier. Unfortunately with prepaid, the downside can be higher prices for handsets, in the long run you still save more money this way, but that means you have a higher up front cost so this is something you’ll need to be prepared for if you’re looking for a high-end device. Prepaid also sometimes has a difference in the service side of things. This hasn’t personally been a problem for me because T-mobile seems to have exemplary customer service and network service across the board, prepaid or not, but for some individuals, prepaid can mean a lower quality of service whether we’re talking about dealing with the employees in a store or over the phone, or network prioritization.

Postpaid/Contracted

Contracted plans have the obvious benefits of getting lower priced handsets, and many times customers can get a handset for free if they decide to sign up for two years and commit their services to that particular carrier. This is a huge Pro when weighing out your options. It means less money upfront to get things started, and that can be a good thing depending on your current situation. Contracted plans also have the benefit of a family plan, which can be a great thing if you have multiple people who need wireless service and you want to keep everything consolidated on one monthly bill. Again, for some individuals although not myself, contracted can mean better customer service and better network prioritization. Contracted plans can also have boost in coverage on the network depending on the carrier that you subscribe to, but in T-mobiles case this doesn’t seem to hold true. This is coming from experience of having both types of plans on that carrier over the past 10 years, with seemingly no difference between either of them personally. Contracted plans can also come with more features, which a lot of times can be a huge benefit.

As for the downsides to postpaid/contracted plans, most of it relates to fees or charges, whether it be for the phones themselves or for the plans and services you’re subscribing to. One of the pros associated with a contract plan also creates a con, and that’s the larger selection of features. More features is great, but those features come attached with charges. Carriers aren’t letting their customers have features for free. So in turn your wider selection usually equates to a higher bill. Your bill is also usually higher from the base price point, so even without any added extra features, contracted plans usually cost more than prepaid. Contracted plans have the commitment which means you’re not free to switch if your needs suddenly change, which also can limit you to what types of handsets you can purchase for use with your plan, although not always.

In the end, which type of plan works best you domes down to what your needs are. If you are more able to pay a higher price over a monthly set of bills, contracted is probably the better way to go. If you want the freedom to cut your plan and go where you wish then prepaid is what you will need, however you have to be ready to pay a higher price for a phone. Sometimes you can get around that if you bring your own device, but then again you’re still probably going to pay more than most people on contract. I have personally been on both sides, and I currently use a prepaid plan because I don’t always have need for a phone plan, allowing me to skip a month when I know I won’t need it. The downside is I have to plan a little harder when I want or need a new phone, because i’ll likely be spending hundreds. However I’m ok with that. What types of plans suit you best?