For those of you who don't use a cell phone very often, or simply for emergencies, the prepaid wireless option that some providers offer can be the most cost effective solution. There really isn't one provider that will suit everyone as they both market their products towards a specific group of people. Some plans offer perks like cheaper long distance, unlimited data, longer expiry times on refills, or cheap after hours minutes.
I'm currently on a contract plan with one of the bigger providers in Canada, but I'm looking to go move into the "pay as you go" route as my cell phone usage as gone way down.
The biggest perks of prepaid cell phone access are:
- Unused minutes roll over to the next month
- No monthly system access fee charge (except for bell).
- Voice mail and Caller ID are usually included
One thing that really bugs me about cell phone contracts is the damn $6.95/month system access fee gouge that they conveniently tack onto the monthly bill. I believe that there is a lawsuit pending on this fee and whether or not it's legitimate.
As a low cell phone minute user, I did a little digging around for the best pre paid wireless provider in Canada. From my research, here are the specs of some of the more popular "pay as you go" providers:
|Company||$/Min||LD$/Min||Refill / Expiry (days)||Text out||Text in||Free Incoming VM||SAF?||Auto Top Up?|
|7/11||$0.20||$0.30||$25/365, $50/365, $75/365, $100/365||$0.05||$0.05||Yes||No||No, Store only|
|PC Mobile||$0.20||$0.25||$25/60, $15/30||$0.15||Free||Yes||No||Yes|
|Petro Canada||$0.20||$0.10||$20/180, $50/180, $75/180, $100/365||$0.05||$0.05||Yes||No||No, Store only|
|Rogers||$0.40||$0.30||Minimum top ups /month||$0.15||Free||No||No||Yes|
|Telus||$0.25||$0.30||$10/30, $25/60, $50/60||$0.15||Free||Yes||No||Yes|
|Virgin Mobile||$0.30||$0.25||$100/365, $50/120, $25/90, $15/45||$0.15||Free||Yes||No||Yes|
There is quite a bit of selection, but each company has their good and bad points.
- 7/11 and Petro Canada both have great / min rates and long expiry dates on thier top ups. The down side being that the top ups are only available in store. The convenience factor is an important factor to me, and considering that we don't have any 7/11's in NL, it's out of the picture for me. These companies offer the best "Emergency" cell phone as you can purchase one top up and it'll be good for a year.
- PC Mobile and Telus are similar and seem promising as they both have a decent / minute rate, fair pricing on the other features and convenient automatic credit card top ups. The only down side with those guys their longest expiry is 60 days. Also note that Telus has a better phone selection than PC Mobile.
- Rogers is a little more on the expensive side of things with extra charges for incoming voice mail. For example, if someone leaves you a 2 minute voice mail, Rogers will charge you 4 minutes. 2 for the person leaving the message and 2 more for listening to it. Rogers does though have nicer phones along with perhaps the most competitive / min rates if you pre-pay at least $20 / month.
- Virgin Mobile has higher than average / min calling rate but they come through with their long 365 day expiry on their $100 top up cards.
If you are in the market for a prepaid phone, the choices out there can be overwhelming. Best thing to do is to write a list of what you "need" from a phone and select the corresponding company that suits your purposes for the best price.
Are you on prepaid wireless? I would like to hear from your experiences with your respective companies.If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free weekly money tips newsletter below (we will never spam you).