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Pay As You Go Cell Phone: Questions and Answers

All you need to know about the pay as you go cell phone option... before deciding the best cell phone plan for you.


Pay As You Go Cell Phone

by Mónica P. Vazquez

With a totally different approach from the standard 1-2 year contract, a pay
as you go cell phone plan gives you the chance to pay only for the minutes
you use. The higer price per minute however makes it not suitable for
everybody. If you are planning to get a cell phone, and are considering the
"pay as you go" plan as an option, these faq will be of help.

1) What is a "pay as you go cell phone"? It is a cell phone made to use with pay as you go cell phone plans, usually for the carrier you will be using. There are some companies like TracFone that offer pay as you go cell phone plans using Motorola prepaid cell phones.

2) How does the plan work? Once you buy the pay as you go cell phone of your choice, you also purchase a phone card for that carrier. Phone cards cost from $20 up and are plastic cards used to add credit to your account. You can also use your credit card instead of buying a phone card. Once you buy the phone, signing up is easy:

  • Call the carrier's number listed in the phone manual.
  • Give the representative the serial number of the phone.
  • You are assigned a cell number.

Some carriers automatically credit your account with $10 for signing up with them. If this is not the case, you can add $20 to your account with the phone card you purchased.

Your account is recorded using the cell number.

Cell phone minutes are deducted from your available balance. If you use it all before the 90 days expire, you will need to buy another phone card to make more phonecalls.

3) What happens if I don't use my minutes in the 90-days period? If you haven't consumed your balance in 90 days you need to add $20 to your balance to keep the phone active. The $20 will add to the existing balance.

4) Can I use my credit card to add credit? Yes, you can have your carrier debit your credit card automatically every 90 days. Optionally you can "top off" the account yourself anytime by simply accessing the top-off menu on your cell phone.

5) Is there any contract or monthly fees? No contract and no monthly fees. Contract, monthly fees and credit card are typical requirements for standard cell phone plans, but do not apply to pay as you go plans.

6) How much does the cell phone minute cost? It's more expensive than standard cell phone minute: about .25 dollar cents/minute.

7) Are there any perks available for pay as you go cell phone plans? No, in general, it's a fix price per minute without perks.

8) I'm not sure if a pay as you go cell phone plan will fit my needs. Pay as you go cell phone plans are very popular among young people who don't have credit cards -a requirement for standard cell phone plans, and for people who need a cell phone mainly for reciving calls and have a minimal need to make calls. If you need to make 90 or more calls a month, you would probably be better off with a standard cell phone plan.

There is a wide variety of pay as you go cell phone plans available so it's a good idea to check with several carriers about your particular needs and the choices they offer before deciding which plan is best for you.


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