Autopay - Never Lose Phone Service!

Autopay is an great option for paying your prepaid wireless bill if you have a credit card, debit card, or checking account that you can setup with your carrier.  There are typically two main flavors of autopay that you can choose from.  The first one is the most common given how pervasive monthly plans are.  The second option is tremendously convenient for pay-as-you-go plans.
  1. Monthly Recurring Charge
  • This feature makes the most sense for Monthly Plans where there is a specific date each month that you have to pay a certain amount of dollars (ex. $50).  Basically, you'll setup your account to charge your credit card,Autopay Your Prepaid Wireless Phone debit card, or bank account the full amount of your monthly charge.  On that day each month, your wireless carrier will charge your card or bank account ensuring that you never miss a payment.  Note that some carriers will actually process the charge a number of days in advance to help ensure that if there's a failed transaction that there is still time to recover to avoid your service from being shut off.
  • The greatest benefit with this feature is that you never have to worry about going to a store to make a payment in time for your monthly payment/anniversary date.  In turn, this means that your phone service is never disrupted.  Picking up your phone the day after you've missed a payment only to find that it doesn't work is an experience no one ever wants to have!
  • Important Note:  A number of carriers offer monthly plan discounts (ex. $5 off) if you signup for autopay.  They do this because there's a much greater probability that you'll pay every month, which ultimately means more revenue for them.  Also, if you want to discontinue service, it's also more likely that it will take you an extra month or two to cancel autopay and discontinue service!

    2.    Low Balance Replenishment (a.k.a. Low Balance Auto Topup)
  • This feature makes the most sense if you have a classic Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) or a now rare Daily Plan, where you don't have a fixed amount of money that you know you're going to spend each month.  Basically, you'll setup your credit/debit card or bank account to be charged each time your prepaid wireless account balance hits a certain threshold.  When the threshold is met, your wireless carrier will add a certain amount of dollars (that you've pre-selected) to your prepaid wireless account balance.  For example, when your account reaches $5 or less, $20 will be added to your account.  You can usually select your amount from a fixed list (ex. $20, $30, $50, or better, from an open range (ex. $10 to $100).
  • The greatest benefit of this feature is that you never have to worry about not having any money on your account.  And if you don't use your phone regularly, you don't have to worry about monitoring your account balance to make sure that your phone doesn't expire (and you lose your phone number!).
  • Keep an eye out that your carrier not only includes hitting or passing the threshold (ex. $5), but also that the replenishment is triggered when your account reaches $0.  This might sound odd, but this detail actually changes the core functionality in a meaningful way.  The best example of this happening is that you don't use the money on your phone within the allowed time (ex. 60 days), and the money on your account is automatically swept (i.e. expired/removed) from your account, taking it immediately to zero.  In this case the balance doesn't actually hit or cross the threshold, at least not in a natural way that would happen if you were just using the phone.  If the service includes triggering the auto topup when funds expire like this, there's absolutely no risk that your phone will ever be shut off, and you will never lose your phone number.  This detail might sound odd, but having developed such replenishment programs, I know that this particular functionality is something that specifically needs to be considered and built.  And in my opinion, it's a great benefit to you, the customer, to have it work this way for a truly "set it and forget it" experience.
There is a third category of Autopay where you define a particular day where your card/account is charged, and with how much money.  This can be helpful when you're trying to coordinate a payment with your payday, however, I'm not a big fan of this approach.  The monthly payment date approach makes a lot more sense.  With this feature, if you don't continuously use the funds, while you won't lose your money, you could end up piling up a ton of money on your account, which you could be using for other things.

Generally speaking, autopay is an excellent option, and also has the benefit of getting additional points on your credit card.  Many wireless carriers will also give you bonus minutes or dollars for setting up autopay.  This is because the chance that you'll continue using your phone, never run out of minutes or get shut off is much higher...a good thing for wireless carriers.  Not to mention that direct payments (i.e. credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts) are typically lower cost for carriers than selling replenishment products in retail stores.  i.e. They make more profit from you!  

Lastly, look out for additional steps to setup autopay.  Due to laws regarding getting your approval to automatically charge your card/bank account (known as Regulation E = RegE), you'll have to authorize the recurring payments, and if the amount of your plan changes, you may be required to reauthorize (i.e. re-enroll in autopay).  Some carriers make this easier than others, but this is a necessary step, so make sure that you don't miss this step or you may think you're setup for autopay when you're not!

Visit the following pages to learn more about different payment devices:
Credit Card
Debit Card
Bank Account

Or visit the Adding Money section to learn about different ways to pay.


Be Heard!  Let prepaid wireless providers know what you want; fill out the survey now.


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