Which prepaid cellphone is best?

The differences between prepaid and postpaid cellphones have become blurred, but the basic one remains. Prepaid is just that: You pay your bill upfront, no contract necessary. Postpaid means you get a bill at the end of the month and it usually requires a credit check.

Most prepaid airtime providers offer a wide range of cellphone makes and models, so choose a company that has the cellphone you want and offers plans that fit your calling, texting and data needs. If you want a powerful, reliable and durable Android cellphone, take a look at the Tracfone Motorola Moto e 4G LTE.

What to know before you buy a prepaid cellphone

You need an airtime and data provider for your phone, so you can choose your service first and select the phone you want from the ones they offer. If they don’t have the cellphone you want, start by choosing your phone and find a carrier that does.

How do you intend to use your cellphone?

If you want to spend a lot of time online and you like to download and watch movies and videos, you want a full-featured smartphone. If you plan to use your prepaid cellphone mostly for simple talk and text and don’t need much data, you will be satisfied with less complex, less expensive phones.

Service providers

AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon offer prepaid and postpaid plans. The biggest prepaid-only companies are Metro by T-Mobile, Boost, Consumer Cellular, Mint and Tracfone. Dozens of smaller providers offer low-cost services, too. Cable and wireless companies also offer plans that can be significantly less expensive when bundled with their TV and internet services. 

Data limits

Most prepaid cellphone plans give you unlimited talk and text and charge for the data you use. The more news, entertainment and social media you download, the bigger the data plan you will need. The least expensive prepaid plans allow you to purchase as little as 1 megabyte of data. You can choose more, all the way up to unlimited data.


Prepaid providers piggyback on one of the Big Three’s networks. Tracfone uses Verizon; Metro, Boost and Mint services are delivered by T-Mobile and Cricket uses AT&T. The question about who has the greatest nationwide coverage is important only if you travel a lot. Otherwise, the best provider for you is the one that delivers the best service in the area where you live and work.

What to look for in a quality prepaid cellphone

Promos and deals

The cellphone business is cutthroat, with airtime providers constantly trying to lure customers to switch. If you want to provide prepaid cellphones for your family, you can choose a plan that covers two, three or four users and save on a per-phone, per-line basis. 

Locked and unlocked

Unlocked phones can be used on any carrier’s network. This gives you the flexibility to take your cellphone and your phone number to another carrier if you find a better deal. A locked cellphone may be cheaper because the carrier subsidizes the cost of the phone to get you on its network. It is called a locked phone because you are locked into using it with that carrier. If you value the ability to switch carriers, choose an unlocked cellphone. 

How much you can expect to spend on a prepaid cellphone

Prepaid cellphones can be had for free if you are willing to use an older phone with fewer features. Top-of-the-line phones can cost as much as $2,000.

Prepaid cellphone FAQ

How can I get the best price on airtime?

A. Most prepaid cellphone providers give you a discount if you set up autopay, where your monthly fee is automatically deducted from your bank account or charged to a credit card. 

Should I choose an Android or iOS operating system?

A. There are more Android phones to choose from than Apple’s iOS phones. If your computer, laptop and tablets are Android, choosing a prepaid Android cellphone means you will be comfortable and experienced with the user interface. The same level of comfort is true for users of Apple’s iOS products, too.

What’s the best prepaid cellphone to buy?

Top prepaid cellphone 

Tracfone Motorola Moto e 4G LTE

Tracfone Motorola Moto e 4G LTE 

What you need to know: This prepaid Android cellphone is powerful, reliable and durable.

What you’ll love: The 6.2-inch display is HD and ultra-wide, with vibrant colors. It comes with 32 gigabytes of memory, expandable to 512 GB, plus dual front- and rear-facing cameras and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built in. The battery delivers up to 48 hours of use.

What you should consider: This is a locked phone that works only on the Tracfone network.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top prepaid cellphone for the money

Nokia 225 LTE 4G Cellphone

Nokia 225 LTE 4G Cellphone

What you need to know: You can’t beat this affordable unlocked phone.

What you’ll love: It may be used with any carrier, so you can switch for better service, better deals or both. It delivers clear call quality on the 4G network. The case is durable, the phone is sturdy and a wireless FM radio is built right in. The curved back and smooth edges make it easy to grip.

What you should consider: There is only one camera, and it is very basic.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Tracfone Apple iPhone 7 4G LTE Prepaid Smartphone

Tracfone Apple iPhone 7 4G LTE Prepaid Smartphone

What you need to know: Apple is well known for high-quality cellphones with sleek designs and easy-to-use interfaces.

What you’ll love: The TouchID makes it easy to unlock your phone quickly. You get nationwide coverage and unlimited carryover. As long as your account stays active, any unused data automatically rolls over to next month.

What you should consider: The camera has only a single wide lens.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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