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Cell Phones Without a Plan

Updated on February 15, 2018
RuthCoffee profile image

I've been researching and writing about consumer electronics for over 13 years.


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

In many instances you can get a free or highly subsidized cell phone when you sign up for a plan. But sometimes, a long commitment (contract) 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.


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.
  • Buy a prepaid or pay-as-you-go phone. These phones can be purchased along with prepaid minutes but require no contract. Although the per minute cost of calling was generally higher than with a longer 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 the 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. Unlocked CDMA phones would work on Verizon, Sprint, or US Cellular.

Amazon and Newegg are sites that carry a variety of unlocked phones however you can also find them at Best Buy, Target and other stores.


Prepaid Phones

Prepaid and pay-as-you-go are other options for getting a cell phone without a plan ("plan" meaning commitment). Most prepaid providers offer phones.

Many of these prepaid options are actually a 30 day plan which allow you to buy the phone and a set number of minutes to use during a 30 day period. When the minutes run out, you can decide to purchase more minutes, or not. There is no credit check and no commitment to a long term plan. You can stop using it when your 30 days is up.

Even the large, traditional cellular networks (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) offer "prepaid plans" as do other providers which have no network of their own (Tracfone, StraightTalk, Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, MetroPCS, PagePlusCellular,and others). Simple Mobile and Red Pocket are two lesser known options with 30 day plans.

Pay-as-you-go phones are the ones that truly have no plan. With pay-as-you-go, you agree to pay a certain amount per use or per day. For instance, AT&T has an option to pay $2/day every day you use your phone (any number of minutes or messages). H2O is a lesser known company but they have a pay per minute/message set up.

When you select your provider, you can see what phones they have available. Just keep in mind that if you choose not to stay with them you will need to figure out what other provider can work with that phone if you want to keep it.

© 2008 Ruth Coffee


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