Prepaid Phone Cards

By J.A. Hitchcock

If you're not quite sure you're ready for a year or more commitment to a cell phone provider, then consider going the Prepaid Cell Phone Card route. I tried that when I lived in the Washington, D.C. area and that's when I decided I needed a cell phone full time.

Prepaid Cards are convenient if you already own a cell phone and don't spend much time using it, aren't sure you need a cell phone full-time, or if you don't want to go through the hassle of a credit check. It's also good for someone who just wants a cell phone in the car for emergencies. 

All you need to do is go to a provider, Radio Shack, K-Mart, or other retailers and ask them what they have available. Some offer phones at a good deal when you buy the Prepaid Cards and all of them offer the cards by themselves. The downsides are that you do not "own" the phone number you're assigned and, in the long run, cards are more expensive per minute than a regular contract!

Questions to ask:

  1. Is there an activation fee? (Most of the time there is and it can be hefty, but it is a one-time fee)
  2. What if I forget to buy additional cards for additional time?  Is there a reconnect fee?
  3. Are there any discounts if I convert from a prepaid card to a regular contract?
  4. Can I use my current cell phone?
  5. What features come with it? (some offer caller ID, call waiting, etc)

Going along with the areas covered by the providers in the main article, here are the ones who offer PrePaid Cards:


$125 one-time prepaid, non-refundable fee
Daily service fee of 50 cents
Prepaid rate comes out to 39 cents/minute
Long Distance 25 cents per minute
Includes voicemail, numeric paging on PCS phones, caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting, three-way calling, directory assistance, 911, operator services
You must keep money in your prepaid account to keep it active, if not, a $25 reactivation fee is required

Cellular One

$25 or $50 Prepaid Cards, expire in 60 days or when it hits a $0 balance
Rate works out to 69 cents/minute, $1.69/minute roaming
Requires new or inactive phone and can only be used in the area you purchased the PrePaid Card from
A one-year $90 Prepaid card gives you 10 minutes a month for a year
Place or receive up to 10 minutes of calls, day or night, local or long distance at 69 cents/minute


$15, $30, $50 and $100 denominations
You can use your own phone or buy one from them
Good only in the area you live in for incoming/outgoing calls; outgoing out of your local area results in roaming charges, which can eat up a $15 or $30 card in no time.

Bell Atlantic Mobile (You have to go to the Mobile Online Store at their Web site, as if you are purchasing one, to find out how much they cost)

For $79.99, you get a $25 PrePaid card plus an Audiovox phone - this gets you approximately 34 minutes of local airtime
Cards by themselves are in increments of $25, $50 and $100, but limits you to purchasing three cards total, which I found odd.

J.A. Hitchcock is a regular contributor to Compute Me. Visit her web site at

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