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Last updated on November 11, 2015

The 3 Best Pay-As-You-Go Phone Plans

When choosing a pay-as-you-go phone plan, first consider how often you plan to use your phone. Some companies let you purchase large quantities of minutes upfront while others charge you a per-minute fee for the minutes you actually use. If you use your phone frequently, a per-minute fee adds up quickly. You also need to think about how you use your phone. Some companies charge extra for texts, for instance. If you purchase a set number of minutes at once, be mindful of their expiration date, usually anywhere from a month to a year after the purchase date. Pay-as-you-go plans may not be the best option if you’re interested in a smartphone because few companies allow smartphone users to take advantage of these plans. If you do decide to go with a pay-as-you-go plan, though, one of the following companies may be your best bet.

TracFone has some of the most flexible pay-as-you-go phone plans in the industry. You can buy as many minutes as you need in increments as small as 30 minutes at a time. Once you’ve used up all the minutes on one airtime card, the next card automatically goes into effect. Each card expires after a certain amount of time, though, so make sure you only purchase as much as you’ll use within that time. Another unique element of TracFone’s pay-as-you-go plans is the option to purchase double minutes. With this, all of the minutes you purchase are doubled for the remainder of your phone’s lifetime. This is a good investment if you plan to stay with the company for a long time. TracFone also has a large selection of pay-as-you-go phones to choose from, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that has what you need within your price range.

Net10 offers the most affordable rates of any pay-as-you-go phone plan on this list. Depending on which package you purchase, you can get your minutes for as low as $0.07 each. At the high end, minutes cost just $0.10 each, which is still relatively low. You can use your Net10 prepaid phone to make local or international calls and for accessing the web and text messaging, and they won’t cost you extra. As with the other companies on this list, minutes expire after 30 to 180 days, so be mindful of this when purchasing airtime for your phone. Like TracFone, Net10 has a wide selection of phones available for use with their pay-as-you-go cell phone plans.

AT&T GoPhone’s pay-as-you-go plan is only available to customers who purchase a basic cell phone. Smartphone customers must opt for a monthly plan instead. Rather than purchasing a set amount of minutes and paying one upfront fee, AT&T charges you by the minute and by the text. Rates are relatively affordable, with calls costing just $0.10 per minute. If you just keep your phone on hand for emergencies or only use it occasionally, this may be a better option for you than to buy a large number of minutes you won’t be able to use before they expire. AT&T doesn’t have many phones that are compatible with their GoPhone plan, so your options are fairly limited in that regard. However, you can always bring your old phone if you don’t find any you’re interested in.