Consumer Reports: best pre-paid cell phone plan

(WMC TV) - Just about everyone is on a smart phone these days -- and we're paying big bucks for all that connectivity.

"The average American household spent more than $1,500 this year on phones and services, and the biggest spenders easily spent twice that much," said Rosalind Tordesillas of Consumer Reports.

Tordesillas said a prepaid phone plan may be a better way to save.

"Two-thirds of our subscribers who switched to prepaid service knocked $20 or more off their monthly costs," she said.

Prepaid services are offered from companies like TracFone, Straight Talk, and MetroPCS. Big cell-phone providers Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T also offer prepaid plans.

"Prepaid plans are either pay-as-you-go or have a monthly allocation of minutes," Tordesillas said. "Some even have unlimited plans. You may pay more up-front for the phones, but you can save in the long run."

The phones offered with prepaid plans used to be just the basics. But some prepaid carriers now offer smart phones.

Even the Galaxy S III is available from Metro PCS and the iPhone 5 from Cricket Wireless, another prepaid company.

If you don't need the absolutely latest smart phone, Consumer Reports recommended Straight Talk's prepaid plans, available through Walmart.

"People in our survey were actually happier with Straight Talk than with contract service from any of the major carriers," said Tordesillas.

Straight Talk has several plans, including $45 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data.

Consumer Reports also suggested this trick:  when your current cell phone contract is about to be up, ask if you can transfer the phone to a prepaid plan with your current carrier or threaten to bolt to a new carrier. Sometimes, that can score you the same service at a much lower price.

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