“Regular” cell phone services for most Americans are provided by a number of cell phone service providers on a contractual basis. These contracts typically lock the subscriber into a contract which lasts for a period of two years and clients are billed monthly following that month’s service. Cell phone service providers are very happy with this arrangement, as it practically guarantees their income for the next two years, and in return they offer discounted or “free” cell phones to clients prepared to commit to their services.

Inasmuch as a “free” cell phone might be an attractive proposition to many, you will pay for it during the course of your contract and, before you leap in to that special offer that you have seen in a magazine or on the Internet, you really need to know the number of significant ways in which prepaid cellular is different from regular contract cell phone services.

Credit Checks

The first major difference between the services provided by a regular cell phone provider and those available on a prepaid cellular service happens before you even get a phone. Contract cell phone service providers will insist that you undergo a credit check before allowing you to subscribe to their service – whereas subscribing to a prepaid cell phone service requires no such delving into your financial background.

Although this may not present too much of a problem to most Americans, if you have experienced a glitch or two on your credit history, or you are a young cell phone user who has not yet established a credit record at all, you may be required to pay a substantial deposit before being allowed to subscribe to a contracted cell phone service – or be declined altogether.

Minimal Usage

We mentioned above about regular cell phone providers offering discounted or “free” cell phones when you commit to a lengthy contract. Imagine how expensive this cell phone becomes when you have locked yourself into a contract @ $60.00/month (or more!) and only use your cell phone for the occasional call. Over the course of a two year contract, you would be paying $1.440.00 for the opportunity to make a couple of hundred dollars worth of phone calls – it had better be a pretty good phone!

Using a prepaid cell phone service allows you to credit your account with just the amount you believe you need to get the service you want. Irrespective of whether you are an infrequent cell phone user or somebody who likes to chat, there will be prepaid cell phone scheme which is suitable for your needs and flexible if your needs change. Have you ever heard of a “regular” contracted cell phone company allowing a subscriber to reduce their monthly commitment?

Overage Charges

Of course, you can subscribe to contract plans and packages that cost less than $60.00/month, and these will allow you a limited amount of talk time – possibly quite suitable for your needs. However, you will be independently billed for any text messages you send or receive, and goodness help you if you ever go beyond your monthly allowance of minutes. “Overage charges” are extortionate fees for using more than your permitted limit of talk time each month, and outrageously priced to encourage you to commit to a more comprehensive (and expensive) plan.

For example, T-Mobile offer a contractual plan for $49.99/month which allows you 1000 minutes of “anytime” talk time each month, plus free calls to other T-Mobile cell phone users and free calls after 9.00pm and at weekends. It sounds a fantastic deal, but for each minute you talk beyond your allotted 1000, you are charged at $0.45/minute. Compare this to the cost of T-Mobile´s prepaid cell phone $50.00 recharge card, which gives you 400 “anytime” minutes for the duration of your credit – at a cost of $0.08/minute!

Replacement Phones

One other major factor in how prepaid cellular is different from regular cell phone is when it comes to wanting to change your cell phone. This may happen because your existing cell phone is broken, or out of date, or you just fancy a change. With contractual cell phone plans, you will have to purchase a cell phone which is compatible with the service that you are paying for and, if you have taken advantage of a “special” offer when first committing yourself to a long term contract, this may mean a very expensive replacement is required.

Let´s pick on AT&T for a change. One of their best package deals at the moment includes a “free” Samsung Strive valued at $169.99. This means that if your Samsung Strive packs up after a year (usually the day after the warranty expires), you are going to have to spend a further $169.99 to be able to use the service to which you are committed for a further twelve months (or $70.00 if you shop on Craigslist). The alternative is to pay up to $200.00 in early termination fees if you want to end your contract before its two year period is up.


Regular contract cell phone services will continue to exist because of the convenience they provide to qualified people prepared to pay the price and forgo the flexibility offered by prepaid cell phones. If we have convinced you that a prepaid cell phone service is the best option for your way of life, and you would like to find out more about the options available to you, please take a look at our prepaid cell phone service provider reviews , and feel free to add your own comments if you have had any experience of those in our list.