Prepaid services can pay off
You can save money with prepaid services because they usually cost less than contract plans.
The catch is that you'll have a smaller selection of devices with no subsidies, and they often aren't the latest and greatest models.
The big 4 carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon) and smaller carriers like Cricket and Virgin Mobile offer prepaid service.
The cheapest plan comes from discount carrier Republic Wireless, which operates on the Sprint network. You can pay just $5 a month if you don't need any cellular service and are willing to do everything on your smartphone over Wi-Fi.
Don't assume you'll get subpar service because you're paying less. Customers ranked 3 smaller providers -- Ting, Consumer Cellular and Republic Wireless -- as excellent in Consumer Reports' 2014 cellphone service satisfaction survey.
"If you live in and around major cities, paying a premium for America's largest network isn't always the best investment," says Jason Bauman, a former Verizon Wireless manager at one of their reseller stores, TCC Wireless.
But some discount carriers use Sprint's smaller network; if they don't offer roaming, you won't get service in more remote areas.