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Cell Phones Without a Plan

Updated on August 21, 2014

Looking for a Cell Phone but Don't Want a Plan?

In many instances you can get a free cell phone when you sign up for a plan. But sometimes, a two year commitment isn't what you want. You'll generally pay quite a bit more for the phone itself, but it's possible to use a cell phone without making such a commitment.

Learn about your options for getting a cell phone without a plan, and find the phones you want here.

How to Get Cell Phones with No Contract: The Options

There are two primary ways of getting a cell phone without a plan.

Buy an unlocked cell phone. These phones are GSM phones and will work on any GSM network. Buy a prepaid phone. These phones come with prepaid minutes but require no contract. Although the per minute cost of calling was generally higher than with a contract in the past, things have changed. Cell phones without a contract now offer competitive per minute pricing in many instances. For individuals with light usage these phones are a particularly budget friendly choice.

Learn a bit more about these options below.

Buying An Unlocked Cell Phone Online

If you're shopping for a cell phone without a plan, one of the options is to buy an unlocked cell phone online. After purchasing such a phone, the buyer can then get a SIM card from the company of their choice (must be on a compatible GSM network such as AT&T or T-Mobile) to activate service.

Amazon and e-Bay are sites that carry a variety of unlocked phones. You will find a number of these phones lower on this page.

Prepaid Phones

Prepaid phones are another option for getting a cell phone without a plan. Prepaid phones allow you to buy the phone and a set number of minutes to use. When the minutes run out, you can decide to purchase more minutes. There is no credit check and no commitment to a plan.

Prepaid phones are available in local retail stores from companies such as Tracfone and Virgin Mobile as well as from more traditional cellular providers. NET10 Wireless offers phones as low as $19.99 and calling for $.10/minute and texting at $.05 per message without a contract. Cricket offers cell phones without a contract for as little as a $1/day for unlimited local calling only or $3/day with unlimited long distance and mobile web added on. There is no charge on days when the phone isn't used. They also have a variety of no contract unlimited plans with monthly fees from $30 to $60/month.

Consumer Cellular has been around awhile too. They allow users to get their cellular service without a contract as well. They have several plans including (but not limited to) an Anywhere Casual plan for those who have limited calling needs which lets users call for $.25/minute, an Anywhere 1000 plan that allows users 1000 minutes for $40 with additional calling at $.25/minute, and an Anywhere 2000 plan giving users 2000 minutes for $60 and additional calls at $.10/minute. They offer phones that are priced from free to $50. AARP discounts are available. Cricket Communications is another prepaid provider that's growing. They now offer unlimited talk and text plans starting at $30 a month. Another option is MetroPCS which offers a$40 Unlimited Local & Long Distance calling plan.

My Simple Mobile is another fairly new prepaid provider. Their month to month plans include a $25/month for unlimited nationwide talk and text/international text and $40, $50, and $60 per month unlimited plans with increasing amounts of data; from 1 to 5GB. Their coverage is a bit limited, particularly in the western US so be sure to check their coverage in your area.

Traditional cellular providers have also begun offering prepaid plans as well. For instance, T-Mobile has their Even More Plus plans available without a contract. Some of have a cap on minutes and start as low as $29.99/month, but there are also unlimited plans starting as low as $49.99/month for voice calling only up to $139.99 for unlimited voice/text/web on a family plan with two lines. Of course, Verizon Wireless offers month to month no contract plans and Sprint offers their's through their Boost Mobile division. Traditional carriers will typically charge more for phones when you opt for a no contract plan to offset their costs/risk. However, you can find some good prepaid cell phone deals here from traditional carriers.

On the Sprint's Virgin Mobile network you can now find the Pay Lo prepaid wireless service. Their phones are available online and at WalMart. They offer nationwide calling. Users can get 1500 minutes and 1500 messages for $30/month plus 30MB of web access.

T-Mobile offers To Go, AT&T has the GoPhone, and Verizon Wireless has INpulse. For more information on these prepaid options, visit our Emergency Only Cell Phones page which discusses them in greater detail.

You will find a number of prepaid phones lower on this page.

Shop for Unlocked Cell Phones

Shop for Prepaid Cell Phones

Another option for an inexpensive cell phone without a plan.

Photo Credit

Introduction: AMagill.

Cell Phones Without a Plan: Did you find what you wanted? Let us know!

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    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      I can see I need to know more about unlocked phones. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      LittlePolly 6 years ago

      Really comprehensive lens-thanks. One thing that I disagree on though, is a comment you make about prepaid "The per minute cost of calling is generally higher than with a contract so these phones are best for those who don't have heavy usage." Not sure if this used to be the case, but definitely not anymore. I have an unlimited everything (incl. data) plan with Straight Talk, and it's probably one of the cheapest out there and less than half the price of any of the unlimited offered on contract. This actually means I have the best of both worlds, with no restrictions in usage, and no contract or early termination fee tying me down. On Verizon or AT&T, with a couple of smart phones to choose from, at the lowest rates. What more could I ask for?

    • profile image

      rebelcalling 6 years ago

      Cellular phone service are such a necessity these days.It allow you to communicate with your near ones even when you are traveling abroad.

    • cannedguds lm profile image

      cannedguds lm 7 years ago

      Wow! It's so nice to see all the best phones in one place but you could really get confused on what to choose! LOL! Anyway, I'm really fascinated with this Net 10 wireless system and it's good that it is available to most common brands of cell phones! Thanks for this info! I'll look into Net 10 right now!

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 7 years ago from London, England

      Very useful article

    • profile image

      excaflowne 7 years ago

      hmm.. interesting article.. keep it up.. ;)

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 7 years ago from Concord VA

      Thanks for the great info! Nice lens.

    • rebeccahiatt profile image

      rebeccahiatt 8 years ago

      It is nice that there are options for those who do not want a long conract. Thanks for the information.

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 8 years ago

      The technology today is truly amazing, never knew so many great phones existed. Thanks