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Published Jan 11, 22
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First, there’s the $40 “activation fee” ($35 on Verizon), which is probably the single most unfair, ridiculous charge in the entire business. When AT&T or Verizon advertises a new phone for $200, what they really mean is $235-$240. They’re just hiding 15% of the cost in the fine print. Each time you buy a premium phone under a two-year contract, you’ll end up paying nearly $2,200, all told, by the end of the two years.

You can’t say that about the payment plan method. The pay-as-you-go plan: Best for the micromanager, complicated for everyone else If you’re disciplined, data-driven, responsible and self-restrained, the pay-as-you-go option is your best bet. With these plans, you can pay only for the exact amount of data, texts and minutes you use.

You can pay for one, practically ignore the other, and pocket all the cash you saved. The problem is that all the rules and fees vary significantly from one plan to the next. One company might charge you by the day, another by the minute, and a third for any month in which you make a call.

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Got an hour-long emergency call from your parents? Received a flurry of unwanted text messages out of the blue? Pay-as-you-go plans add up quickly if you deviate from the original structure you set, so proceed carefully. Month-to-month, no contract plan: For once, a fair deal In many ways, the month-to-month approach is the best of all worlds.

You can still enjoy several GBs of data. You’re not locked into any long-term agreements, and you can switch carriers as you see fit. The only downside? You have to pay the full price of the phone on day one—which can be $600+ for the latest and greatest models. But if you can stomach the initial setback, you can save more than $400 over two years.

Let’s assume you’re buying a 16GB i, Phone 6. As of this writing, AT&T’s plan will cost you $80 per month for two years. You’ll be hit with a $40 ‘activation fee’ when you buy, and you’ll still need to pay the subsidized cost of the phone: $199. Add it all up, and that’s $2,159 over two years.

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You pay $649 for the phone, and then $45/month after that. If you stick with the plan for two years, that comes out to $1,729 total, $430 cheaper than the AT&T contract.* *What about the payment plan option, AT&T Next? That’ll run you $2,209. 20 total if you want the right to resell the phone.

Cricket Wireless is in fact owned by AT&T, and so they use the same network. The lesser-known Cricket simply offers better plans for month-to-month smartphone users. There are many other month-to-month providers as well, like Ting, Boost Mobile, US Cellular and Virgin Mobile, each of which offer rates comparable with Cricket.

But what about families? This all sounds great for an individual, you might say, but I’m interested in a family plan—something where I can share data among two or more family members. Does a no contract, month-to-month plan still work better for group plans? Once again, the answer is yes.

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Compare that to a two-year contract with AT&T or Verizon, where the overall cost is well over $7,000. Bottom Line In the end, it all comes down to how much sticker shock you can bear the day you buy your device. If you’re willing to purchase your phone unlocked—even if it costs you $650 on day one—you’ll save hundreds over the course of two years.

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You don’t need a contract to tell you that. Read next: The FBI’s Top Hostage Negotiator Teaches You How to Lower Your Bills More Must-Read Stories From TIME at .

AWARDED BY J.D. Power11 TIMES IN A ROW “#1 in Customer Service among Wireless Value MVNOs!” Read More.

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Now, more than ever, it can be difficult to distinguish between cellular providers since the differences between them have grown more subtle. Gone are the days of paying per message, waiting until nighttime for free calls, and worrying about hefty charges for international calls. When it comes to cellular providers for seniors, though, both Consumer Cellular and Verizon are two popular options.

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Consumer Cellular Grand, Pad Consumer Cellular and Verizon Similarities Consumer Cellular does not require contracts for any of their services, but they do require lease agreements for the phones they offer. Because they use AT&T/T-Mobile as service providers, they can offer the same high speeds and 4G data option as Verizon and other major carriers.