Consumer Reports ranks best plans for smart phones

November 29, 2012 3:24:18 PM PST
A survey found a lot of people are saving money by switching to prepaid plans. And with smart phones expected to be a big gift this holiday season, you should know which cell phone plan is right for your wallet.

What's the best cell phone service in our area? It's Verizon, according to a just-released Consumer Reports survey of its subscribers in Houston. But if you want to save money, Consumer Reports says a prepaid plan may be your best option.

It seems like just about everyone is on a smart phone these days. And we're paying big bucks for all that connectivity.

"The average American household spent more than $1,500 this year on phones and services, and the biggest spenders easily spent twice that much," Consumer Reports' Rosalind Tordesillas said.

Consumer Reports says a prepaid phone plan can be a smart way to save.

"Two-thirds of our subscribers who switched to prepaid service knocked $20 or more off their monthly cell service costs," Tordesillas said.

Prepaid services are offered from companies like TracFone, Straight Talk, and MetroPCS. Big cell phone providers like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T also offer prepaid plans.

"Prepaid plans are either pay-as-you-go or have a monthly allocation of minutes. Some even have unlimited plans. You may pay more up front for the phones, but you can save in the long run," Tordesillas said.

The phones offered with prepaid plans used to be just the basics. But some prepaid carriers now offer smart phones. The Galaxy S III is even available from MetroPCS, and the iPhone 5 can be bought from Cricket Wireless, which is another prepaid company.

But if you don't need the absolutely latest smart phone, Consumer Reports recommends Straight Talk's prepaid plans available through Walmart.

"It's interesting that people in our survey were actually happier with Straight Talk than with contract service from any of the major carriers," Tordesillas said.

Straight Talk has several plans, including $45 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data. That's half the price of Verizon's cheapest unlimited plan.

Consumer Reports has another money-saving tip: When you're coming off a contract, if you have a phone you like, ask if you can transfer the phone to a prepaid plan with your current carrier or a new carrier. You often can get the same service you've been getting but pay a lot less.


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