With all the different cell phone plans available, consumers have no shortage of options to stay connected, regardless of budget. To get the top deals and avoid overpaying, those in the market for a new plan must figure out their needs and how much they’re willing to spend. There could be a plan that initially seems like the best choice, when it’s actually far more expensive than a similar plan that offers the same amount of minutes, texts and data. Even after a consumer finds a good cell phone plan, it’s still in their best interest to keep checking for other plans and comparing what’s out there. That’s easier than ever with Wirefly, which allows consumers to check out and compare the best cell phone plans of 2017 at low prices and see the different options available with each phone and plan combination. By using Wirefly, consumers can get the right plan at the right place, saving themselves time and money.
Categories of Cell Phone Plans in 2017
While each consumer has their own needs when it comes to cell phone plans, those boil down to a few things – enough minutes, text messages and data to cover what they use every month. Therefore, picking a cell phone plan depends on the data limits, number of minutes and number of text messages offered.
It’s even more crucial for a consumer to find the plan that suits their exact needs when they use their cell phone as their primary method of communication. Consumers can see all the different carriers and types of plans available here on Wirefly, which also helps them discover how much they could save over their current wireless plans.
When it comes to wireless plans, there are three types available, although there can be some overlap between types of plans. The plan types are individual, family and prepaid plans.
An individual plan, or single line plan, is as simple as it gets. The consumer has one phone line and pays one rate for minutes, texts and data. They can only use the plan with that line and can’t add any other phones or devices. This type of plan works well for consumers who don’t have spouses or children and only need the plan for themselves.
A family plan provides a phone line for each member of the family. Consumers can choose different devices, and even though it’s called a family plan, any group of people could get a plan together. This type of plan is the best choice for anyone who needs more than one phone line, because it costs less on a per-line basis. With a family plan, each member shares the same pool of minutes, texts and data, making it crucial to find a plan that has enough of those for everyone.
Prepaid plans offer the most flexibility, both in terms of pricing and ending the plan. These are also known as no contract, month-to-month and pay-as-you-go plans. The consumer only needs to pay for the services they want each month, but there may be extra fees, such as an activation fee. With this type of plan, the consumer can purchase a prepaid phone at a retailer and use it immediately. However, phones are often significantly more expensive, unless the consumer opts for a basic phone. Many prepaid plans also have the most advanced smartphones; the consumer will just need to pay the upfront cost of the phone. The biggest benefit with these plans is that there’s no contract.
Contract plans require consumers to commit to a phone plan for a minimum amount of time, and the standard time is two years. Wireless carriers usually also have one-year plans available. The consumer pays a monthly bill for service, but is required to pay that bill for the length of the contract. While they can cancel the service at any time, this will result in an early termination fee. Whatever is left on the consumer’s plan will be part of the fee calculation, along with an extra penalty.
How to Choose the Best Wireless Plan
Consumers shopping for wireless service should first consider the number of lines they need and the services they want. The standard services that carriers offer are talk, which refers to the number of minutes, text, which refers to the number of text messages, and data, which is a number of either megabytes or gigabytes. Wirefly is the best way to compare cell phone plans online. Check out our plan comparison tool for more information.
If a consumer wants to save money, they can stick to a contract plan with about 400 or fewer minutes and texts. Of course, unlimited plans provide the best value for consumers who want to make calls and texts without worrying about going over their limits. On a prepaid plan, the consumer first puts money on their wireless card and then uses that money to pay for services. For example, they could buy a package of 1,000 minutes for $40.
Data has become one of the most significant factors in wireless plans. Unlike with minutes and text, unlimited data plans are rare. If a consumer goes over their data allotment, they may need to pay overages, or the carrier could slow their data for the rest of that billing cycle. Consumers can avoid this by getting a data plan that covers what they use every month.
Paying Upfront or Over Installment Payments
Most cell phone carriers sell phones with no upfront costs, allowing consumers to get the latest phones and then pay off the cost over monthly installments, usually for 24 months.
The AT&T Next plan is one example of how this works. The consumer chooses an eligible phone and gets it without a down payment. They then pay a minor fee every month, and after 12 to 18 months of paying the fee, they’re eligible for an upgrade, and the process repeats itself.
If a consumer likes the carrier and wants to get a new phone while renewing their contract, then these installment plans are an excellent idea, as they allow the consumer to finance the purchase without paying interest. Of course, consumers should need to make sure they choose a phone that provides a great value. 4G compatible phones that use iOS, Android or Windows operating systems tend to be smart picks. They’re functional, dependable and there’s a large selection to choose from.
Comparing Wireless Carriers
AT&T has long been one of the largest carriers, and it includes quite a few types of plans. Consumers can get individual, family, contract and no contract plans through AT&T, and it even has plans offering unlimited data.
Individual, family and no contract plans are available through Verizon Wireless, which has a unique way of choosing service. The consumer starts by selecting either a shared data plan or a prepaid plan. Individuals or families can use the carrier’s shared data plans. The plan specifies the amount of data, and there’s unlimited minutes and texts.
Sprint has the standard types of plans along with its new Spring Unlimited Freedom Plan, which offers unlimited minutes, texts and data for friends and families.
Also known as the “uncarrier,” T-Mobile only offers no contract plans. Its two lines of plans are T-Mobile ONE and Simple Choice. For a single monthly price, consumers get unlimited minutes, texts and data, although data is throttled at certain levels depending on the limit the consumer selects.
Other Cell Phone Carriers
While the carriers listed above are the major carriers, there are quite a few other quality carriers available including Ting, TPO Mobile, Tello, US Mobile, Twigby, Republic Wireless, and many more. Wirefly also lists these carriers in its cell phone plan comparison tool above.
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