Monthly Payment/Installment Billing Plans (carriers with postpaid plans):
When you decide to purchase a mobile phone tied to a postpaid mobile plan, you may have the opportunity to select a monthly payment plan for your phone instead of a contract with the carrier’s service. In lieu of a contract tying you to the carrier’s service plan for a specified term of use, you will sign a contract to pay for the phone over a specified period of time. The cost of the phone is divided up over this period of time, and added to your monthly bill for your service plan. Some carriers also offer a lease option in which, just like a vehicle, you pay a monthly fee for the phone and then return it to them after your lease is up. While this doesn’t initially sound like a great deal in comparison to signing a contract with the carrier’s service, many carriers offer certain service plans at a discount with this option to offset the cost of the monthly payment for the phone. Also when it comes time to upgrade or change carriers, rather than having predetermined fees as a penalty for withdrawing from your contract early, only the remaining amount due for the phone must be paid.
Monthly fee (carriers with postpaid plans):
When you buy a mobile phone tied to a postpaid mobile plan, you'll sign a contract with a carrier to use their service until the end of a specified term of use (usually two years). You'll agree to remain with the same carrier with penalties for early withdrawal. This route is ideal if you want the latest in cutting-edge technology features like 4G and want to pay for a subsidized-priced phone at the time of purchase. Popular postpaid carriers include Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.
Pay as you go (no-contract carriers):
When you choose a phone associated with pay-as-you-go services you'll pay for the service in advance and don't have to sign any type of contract. Since you're prepaying for your minutes, texting and data, you'll be able to easily keep track of your phone budget. And because you aren't locked into a long-term contract, you have the freedom to switch phones and shop other no-contract carriers without penalty. Popular pay-as-you-go carriers include AT&T GoPhone, Boost Mobile, Verizon Wireless Prepaid and Virgin Mobile.
Mobile phone carriers differ in signal coverage, plan pricing and phone selection. Check out the links below to find the right carrier for your needs.