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Many pre-paid cell phone companies are offering unlimited calling packages. Some include just voice calls, while others include text and even web access. I will not be comparing those with this post. This post goes into the per-minute pre-paid cell phone pricing, and if unlimited plans are really the right option.
If you use text, or mobile web, then some of the prepaid options might be better for you, I will likely add a comparison of these services in the future, but for now I am going to focus purely on voice call costs on per-minute cell phone carriers.
I have excluded Verizon and AT and T in this comparison, because there pre-paid minutes are around 25 cents per minute, which is more than double what the carriers that I will be comparing offer.
Over the last half a month I have been using a Net10 phone, as the charger was damaged with my Boost Mobile phone. So I was able to track my usage, and determine aproximately how much minutes I actually use per month. I used 300 minutes within 16 days, so I guestamate my usage at 600 minutes per month. The following comparisons will be done with a usage of 600 minutes per month. Boost Mobile is also excluded from this test, as there per-minute rates are 10 cents per minute, and there unlimited plan is $50, making the unlimited a better option for 600 monthly minutes of usage.
Net10 offers 10 cents per minute. So for 600 minutes you would pay $60 a month or $720 per year. If you payed per-minute for Boost Mobile you would be paying the same.
The next cheapest alternitive would be TracFone, which is the same company as Net10. With this option you would purchace a $24 double minutes for life card, then a 450 minute card (doubled, gives you 900 minutes) every month and a half since the minutes expire every 90 days. This would have you buying 8 cards for the year, for a grand total of $664 ($640 for the airtime, plus $24 for the double minutes for life card).
The final two options that I researched were both Virgin Mobile. I came up with two options to save almost half of the other options above. The first method is to purchace a $50 (1000 minute) airtime card one month, then the following month purchace a $20 (200 minute) airtime card. Repeat this step over and over. Total cost for the year would be $420. (6 $50 cards, and 6 $20 cards per year). The second option that I came up with was to purchace a $50 (1000 minute) airtime card one month, then the following TWO months purchace a $30 (400 minute card). While I thought that this option might be cheaper then the previous option, because of the discounted minutes, it actually cost $20 more per year for a total of $440 per year (4 $50 cards, and 8 $30 cards per year).
I will try to make a crude chart here...
MONTH 1 thru 12
NET10 $60 = $720 per year
MONTH 1, 2 1/2, 4, 5 1/2, 7, 8 1/2, 10, 11 1/2
TracFone $80 = $640 + one time payment of $24 for lifetime double minutes = $664
MONTH 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11
Virgin Mobile $50
MONTH 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12
Virgin Mobile $20 = $420 per year
MONTH 1, 4, 7, 10
Virgin Mobile $50
MONTH 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12
Virgin Mobile $30 = $440 per year