Potential caveats aside, prepaid and pay-as-you-go cell phone plans make a lot of sense for the right type of users, and not just people who don’t have the credit scores to get onboard with a contract plan. For example: No contract, pay-as-you-go plans make an affordable option for the occasional cell phone user who just needs a mobile lifeline now and then, while unlimited text and voice plans can cut bills for nonstop talkers who keep running over their monthly limits on a contract plan. But with dozens of prepaid and pay-as-you-go cellular carriers populating the U.S., finding the right one can be tough. Here are some of the top-rated prepaid cell phone providers out there, and how they’ve managed to stand out from the pack.

Net10

J.D. Power and Associates ranked Net10 number one in customer satisfaction in 2009, and all signs point to the cellular service provider’s impossibly simplistic price structure as key. Net10 offers blocks of prepaid minutes for 10 cents per minute no matter what quantity you buy, and has also teamed up with major retailers like Wal-Mart to offer both airtime cards and phones in stores. The selection of available cell phones leaves something to be desired, but prices are reasonable. (For instance, an LG300G goes for $30 with activation and includes 300 minutes.) Net10’s $79.98 unlimited voice and text plan may not be a bargain, but for pay-per-minute users it remains a reliable and affordable option.