Prepaid Cell Phones Guide: Pay As You Go Cellular Phone Plans Explained

Bad cell service2. Smaller Coverage Areas: Where Did My Bars Go?

Coverage can also suffer. Very few prepaid carriers own their own networks, which typically means that they’re leasing it from one of the big guys, like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile. And the only carriers that manage their own networks – MetroPCS and Cricket – aren’t as expansive in terms of coverage areas as the majors. (Headed to Virginia, Alabama or Florida with Cricket? Don’t plan on making any calls.)

Even going with a prepaid plan from a company like AT&T won’t get you the same level of coverage as postpaid AT&T customers. “With contract plans, a lot of those carriers have roaming agreements: You’re roaming off network, technically, but it’s built into your plan that you’re allowed to do that,” explains Pawlikowski. “With prepaid, you’re only working with the primary network.” The result: Many people keep their carrier and switch from postpaid to prepaid, then experience inferior coverage because they were forced to use other companies’ towers without even knowing it.

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