Are you getting the best deal? Consumer Reports names best cellphone plans

Consumer Reports Magazine rate plans, carriers


Are you in the market for a new cellphone, or unhappy with your carrier?

Consumer Reports Magazine surveyed thousands of subscribers coast to coast and came up with some big winners for 2012:

     -Verizon ranked No. 1 for best overall satisfaction and service.

     -AT&T ranked No. 1 for best 4G network, taking that crown from Verizon.

     -Sprint and T-Mobile finished further back in all categories.

With basic smartphone bills averaging $80 a month or more, Consumer Reports says a prepaid plan may be an alternative option.

"The average American household spent more than $1,500 this year on phones and services, and the biggest spenders easily spent twice that much," Rosalind Tordesillas of Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports says a prepaid phone plan can be a smart way to save to money.

"Two-thirds of our subscribers who switched to prepaid service knocked $20 or more off their monthly costs," Tordesillas said.

Prepaid services are offered from companies like TracFone, Straight Talk, and MetroPCS.

Big cellphone providers -- Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T -- also offer prepaid plans.

"You may pay more upfront for the phones. But you can save in the long run," Tordesillas said.

The phones offered with prepaid plans used to be just the basic models. However some prepaid carriers now offer smartphones.

The Galaxy S III is even available from MetroPCS and the iPhone 5 from Cricket Wireless -- another prepaid company.

Top Rated Basic Service

But if you don't need the latest smartphone, Consumer Reports recommends Straight Talk's prepaid plans, which are available through Walmart.

"It's interesting that people in our survey were actually happier with Straight Talk than with contract service from any of the major carriers," Tordesillas said.

Straight Talk has several plans, including $45 a month for unlimited talk, text and data. That's half the price of Verizon's cheapest unlimited plans.

Consumer Reports did not rank prepaid plans, so your best bet is to choose one that is most convenient for you, has the phone you want, and fits your monthly budget the best.


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