No Contract Monthly Plans

Monthly plans have also been known as Bucket or Hybrid prepaid wireless plans.  These plans were originally introduced to offer greater value to prepaid wireless customers in comparison to classic Pay As You Go plans.  The term "hybrid" is often used because this plan type is a cross between monthly postpaid plans and prepaid plans.  If you're willing to prepay a larger amount each month (for example $30 to $50 minimum), wireless carriers are prepared to give you a better value for your dollar than if you simply pay per minute in the pay as you go model.  Basically, you get a certain number of included minutes per month, and some other included or unlimited services.

The degree and type of these included "other" services changes over time as the market becomes more competitive, and the cost of delivering services changes.  Interestingly, once the market fell in love with Unlimited Wireless plans, Monthly plans pretty much fell out of popularity, with many carriers dropping them altogether.  However, as the cost for prepaid carriers to support unlimited plans increased, and they started increasing the monthly cost, they started to re-introduced this type of monthly hybrid plan.  Why?  Because it allows carriers to offer a lower monthly cost than their unlimited plans, and without the risk associated with the unlimited model, hybrid wireless plans are actually more favorable to carriers.  That said, keep in mind that most plans now included unlimited minutes, so Monthly plans are largely a relic of the past, and is usually used synonymously with Unlimited Wireless.  Here are some common features of these plans to look out for should you come across one of these plans:

 Number of monthly minutes included.  Note that minutes typically do NOT rollover to the next month, but look out for that feature just in case.
  • After you run out of your included minutes, you'll be charged a per minute rate.  If you think that you may go over your minutes, be sure to understand how much it will cost you after that.  Some carriers offer add ons that you can purchase in the form of an additional bucket of minutes, though most tend to simply charge a per minute overage fee in the range of $0.10 to $0.20.  Or they require that you purchase an additional full month of service to reset your service allowances.
  • Mobile-to-mobile is sometimes included, which means that you won't use up your bucket of minutes when calling people that are on the same network.
  • Richer plans will also include unlimited services such as:
    • Unlimited nights and weekends
    • Unlimited text messaging
    • Unlimited wireless Web (Though not usually unlimited data, which is different from Web usage.)
    • Unlimited 411
    • Unlimited navigation (Not that this is very interesting if you have a smartphone, as Google Maps is a great free app.)
  • You'll typically get shut off (i.e. you won't be able to use your phone) if you miss your monthly payment.  So make sure you understand the rules around what happens when you miss your payment date so you're not surprised by paying extra fees, or having your service completely cancelled resulting in losing your phone number.
Generally speaking, Monthly plans can offer great value if you have a good understanding of your usage needs, and specifically what's included in your plan.  They are, however, much more complicated in terms of what's included versus what's not, and what will cost you extra and when.  In the spirit of trying to offer customers more options and greater flexibility, carriers ultimately ended up with arguably too much complexity.  It's for this reason that people are drawn to unlimited plans, which aren't always the best value at the end of the day.  So do your homework, pay attention to the details, and you can find that Monthly plans can save you money in the end.

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Otherwise, return to the Prepaid Wireless Plans section to explore the other plan types.

Monthly Plans

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