The Best US Prepaid Data Deals

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Last update: 26-Nov-2010. What’s new: Prepaid Android phones from Virgin Mobile, Cricket and MetroPCS, T-Mobile Web Day Pass, overpriced monthly prepaid smartphone plans from Verizon, $0.10/min calls on AT&T prepaid.

Prepaid mobile plans are a great way to save on voice and SMS but what about data? Using data on prepaid here in the U.S. will require making some compromises. Reasonably priced prepaid data options are scarce and what few deals there are are saddled with restrictions. That isn’t true in the rest of the world. In Italy prepaid users on WIND can get 1 GB of 3G data for € 9.00/month (about nine tenths of a US penny per megabyte). The best rate in the US for GSM/GPRS/Edge/EVDO data is AT&T’s $20 for 100 MB on prepaid, which is 22 times as much as the Italian price!

How can a frugal or cash strapped consumer on prepaid get a little of that web browsing, app using data excitement without wiping out the savings that brought them to prepaid in the first place? Here’s my assessment of all the current data options I could find on U.S. national carriers.

Boost Mobile Logo

Boost Mobile (CDMA): Boost now offers CDMA service using Sprint’s native 2.5G and 3G network. Boost has $50/month unlimited and $0.10/minute pay as you go plans. The unlimited plan includes unlimited voice, SMS, MMS AND 1RTT or EVDO data. Pay per minute users can add unlimited data for $0.35/day

A Boost branded phone is required to activate the service, nothing else will work. Activation is free with a new phone or $10 for a used one.

Most of the Boost CDMA handsets are basic feature phones but at least they fully support installing Java applications over the air. Boost also offers the BlackBerry Curve 8330, which is available only on a special $60/month BlackBerry Unlimited plan. The plan includes BlackBerry Internet Services (BIS) which is the proprietary BlackBerry data service that is required for the famous BlackBerry push Email and PIN messaging to work

An interesting thing about Boost CDMA is that a Boost phone is only required for initial activation. Once the plan is activated you can call customer service and switch the plan to another Sprint phone. Not all CS reps seem to be willing to switch services to a non-Boost phone so it may take several tries. Not all Sprint phones can be used on Boost CDMA, however. Android and Palm WebOS phones are not allowed and neither are certain BlackBerry, Windoes Mobile and feature phones. There’s section on HowardForums dedicated to Boost CDMA. It has information on which Sprint phones work and tips for gettingSprint phones on Boost and is recommended reading you are interested in trying to use a Sprint phone on Boost CDMA.

Boost Mobile (iDEN): Unlimited data is also included in Boost’s $50 month unlimited iDEN voice and data plan. Data on the iDEN network flows at a glacially slow 19.2 Kbps. Handset selection is limited to iDEN phones, which except for the BlackBerries and the Motorola i1 Android phone have tiny screens and limited web capabilities out of the box. With some tweaking (instructions for: BlackBerry, Non-BlackBerry) Opera Mini, Gmail, and several IM apps can be installed and can make the Boost Web experience tolerable.

Using a BlackBerry on Boost iDEN (aka a “BoostBerry”) is an interesting hack. There are no BlackBerry BIS or BES servers available so some features like BlackBerry’s trademark push email and BlackBerry Maps won’t work. But BlackBerries are much more capable phones than any of the Boost handsets. They can multitask and run the latest versions of Java apps like Opera Mini, Gmail, Google Maps and multi-network IM program Nimbuzz. Prospective BoostBerry users should read the compilation of what works and what doesn’t at HowardForums.

AT%T Logo

AT&T: Adhoc data is automatically enabled on all AT&T prepaid accounts at the obscene rate of $0.01/KB ($10/MB). At that price I wouldn’t even think about surfing on AT&T without a data add-on. Data packages are available at $4.99/1 MB and $19.99/100 MB (0.20/MB). The packages expire after 30 days, but if you add another one before expiration, the unused data rolls over. So if you you use less than 100 MB in a month, which isn’t a lot, on the 30th day of your package’s duration you can add another $5 or $20 package to retain your balance.

To add a data package to your account you can either call 611 from the handset and wade through the voice response menus or use the AT&T’s Pay As You Go Online site. It’s also possible to set up automatic refills using the web site.

The $19.99 plan is overpriced at 0.20/MB but at least you can use any phone that supports ATT’s 850/1900 bands and isn’t locked to another operator. Even the iPhone should work if you manually change the settings as described here.

AT&T recently reduced the price of voice minutes from $0.25 to $0.10.  Without a text bundle, texts are a steep $0.20/each.

For the Apple iPad, At&T offers two pre-paid data-only packages: 14.95/month for 250 MB or $25/month for 2 GB. The SIM must be activated in an iPad. There’s reportedly a hack to activate the iPad SIM with a PC browser using a modified user agent to impersonate an iPad. Once activated it’s currently possible to use the micro-SIM with an adapter in other devices. The iPad SIMs are data only, there is no option to use voice or text.

Verizon Logo Verizon: has what at could potentially be a pretty good deal for data. Unlimited data is available for $1/day, which is only charged on days when you actually use data. The catch is that Verizon will not allow any smartphones, BlackBerries or even feature phones that have a touch screen or any phone that requires what Verizon calls an “Nationwide” plan to be activated on the basic prepaid plans that include dollar a day data.

You can tell if a specific phone is allowed by looking at it’s description on Any phone that says “Nationwide Plan Required” or “HTML Web Browsing Capable” is verboten. The phones that actually can be activated have pretty basic browsers. The newer Samsungs with the Netfront browser are probably the best of the lot. The phones Verizon allows on prepaid also lack Java so no Opera Mini, Gmail or Google maps either. If you are into flashing firmware there are a several older Verizon Motorola phones that can be flashed with Bell or Telus Canada firmware which has Java. It’s not the best Java implementation (no task switching and limited support for recent Java apps) but it can run older versions of Opera Mini, Google Maps and Gmail. Detailed instructions are available for flashing the E815 and K1M/L7C The V3C can also be flashed to Bell firmware. Tethering is also possible with these phones.

More advanced phones including smartphones can only be activated activataed on Verizon’s overpriced Prepaid monthly plans whicg start at $64.99 for 450 minutes and unlimited text.  Add another $30/month for unlimited data and you are looking at $94.99/month!

Page Plus Logo Page Plus: has data on all their plans but it’s not cheap. A megabyte will run you $0.60 on the unlimited and Talk n Text 1200 plans after the included 20 (unlimited) or 50 (Talk n Text 1200) MB monthly allotment is used up. Data is $1.20 / MB on the pay as you go “Standard” plan. Page plus will activate Verizon and Alltel postpaid phones except for BlackBerrys, which are not allowed. Phones sold for or last active on Verizon’s prepaid service are not allowed. Most non-Page Plus phones will require some tweaking to get the data settings right before the browser will work. Windows Mobile and Palm phones usually work out of the box with Page Plus’s data features. Another option is QNC data, a very slow (14.4 Kbps) data standard that can be enabled on most CDMA Motorolas and some older Windows Mobile phones. Although it’s slow, QNC does have the advantage of being completely free to use.

Straight Talk LogoStraight Talk: América Móvil’s $45/ month unlimited plan comes with unlimited data. Straight Talk’s $30/month All You Need plan, which offers 1000 minutes and 1000 SMS, also includes 30 MB of data. With either plan only StraightTalk’s phones can be used. One quirk of the $30 plan is that if you use up your minutes, texts or data that feature stops working until you add another $30 top up. There’s no roll over either, adding $30 dollars resets your balance to 1000 minutes, 1000 texts and 30 MB of data.

Straight Talk offers CDMA phones which use Verizon’s native network and GSM phones running on AT&T or T-Mobile . Straight Talk phones do not officially support the installation third party apps. However, users at Howard Forums have discovered that one of the Straight Talk GSM phones, the LG 630G, is able to install apps from 3rd party sites using the browser. Opera Mini 3, 4.2 and 5.1, Google Maps and the Gmail app have all been reported to work.

Straight Talk recently started to offer a couple of Symbian smartphones, the Nokia E71 and the Nokia 6790 for $199.99 each.

T-Mobile logo T-Mobile: Finally! T-Mobile’s U.S. prepaid service has  data in the form of  the Web Day Pass which provides 24 hours of unlimited data for $1.49.  Officially only the first $30 MB get full 3G+ speeds.  Speed is supposed to be throttled to 60 kbits/second after 30 MB but when I tried the service shortly after launch, I used over 200 MB in a day with no apparent capping. The Day Pass can only be activated by visiting with the phone’s browser.

Even without purchasing a Day Pass, T-Mobile prepaid customers get a small walled garden of sites called T-Zones that is completely free. Officially that only includes ABC News which is linked off of the T-Mobile prepaid home page ( But there a few other sites that also work including Yahoo and the wml version of BBC News ( The free T-Zones sites should work on just about any T-Mobile or unlocked GSM phone, including the iPhone. The only exception is Android devices, which are explicitly blocked. Set the APN to on non T-Mobile branded handsets.

Unlimited SMS/MMS is a $15/month add-on on T-Mobile prepaid. Without the add-on incoming texts are five cents and outgoing SMS  cost 10 cents each.


MetroPCS logo Metro PCS offers unlimited talk, text and web for $40/month. The operator’s roaming agreements give users no extra cost text almost everywhere in the country. Voice service is available in most major cities. Data service is limited to a dozen or so metropolitan areas. Available smartphones are a $249 BlackBerry Curve 8350 and the LG Optimus M Android device  in MetroPCS’s handset lineup. The BlackBerry requires a $60 BlackBerry plan and the Android phone requires a $50 plan. Many non-MetroPCS CDMA handsets, if professionally flashed with MetroPCS firmware, can also be activated on the service.  MetroPCS can be a good option if you spend most of your time in the areas where  there is data coverage.

Cricket Logo Cricket charges $45/month for unlimited talk, text and web on feature phones.  Thanks to a roaming agreement with Sprint, extensive nationwide talk, text roaming and data roaming (map) is available at no extra cost.  Cricket has a $299.99  Blackerry Curve 8530, which requires a $60/month Berry plan and two Android phones, the $149.99 Huawei Ascend and the $249.99 Sanyo Zio. Both require a $55/month  Android plan. Phone prices are often substantially disconted  for online purchases from Cricket’s web site. Cricket also accepts non-Cricket phones, if flashed.

Virgin Mobile Logo Virgin Mobile: Has three Beyond Talk packages that induce unlimited data and messaging. The packages vary only by the number of included voice minutes; 300 for $25/month, 1200 for $40/month and unlimited for $60/month. Virgin recently started offer the $249 Samsung Intercept Android phone which can be used on any Beyond Talk plan at no additional cost. Virgin also has a  $199.99 Virgin branded BlackBerry Curve. There’s an extra $10 a month fee to use the BlackBerry on Virgin but it includes includes full BlackBerry Internet Services with Push email and PIN messaging.

Virgin doesn’t allow activation of non-Virgin Mobile phones. Except for the BlackBerry and Android phones, the Virgin handsets are rather basic feature phones. Most Virgin phones do support Java, but Virgin blocks downloading anything from 3rd party sites and locks the phones down to the extent that side-loading is virtually impossible. An exception is the LG Rumor Touch where HowardForums users have found a hack for installing apps using a USB cable

STI Logo STi Mobile: is a Sprint CDMA MVNO that advertises “unlimited” data for 19 cents a day. This is another deal that is nowhere as good as it sounds. The 19 cents is on top of a 9 cent a day access fee. Both fees are charged every day whether you use the phone or data or not. Only STi branded phones are allowed, all of which are really old basic models. The Java implementation on these phones is MIDP 1.0 which can’t run Gmail or current versions of Opera Mini or Google Maps. None of the STI phones support EVDO but the real show stopper with STi is the “fair use” data cap of a mere $12 MB week. If you exceed that STi will cut off your data without warning. They will restore it once if you ask, but exceed 12 MB again and they will ban your account from using data permanently. Pretty draconian especially considering that STi doesn’t provide any way to check to your data usage.

Recommendations: As I said at the outset, there really aren’t a lot of great deals out there for prepaid users who want to surf the web and use data aware applications on a modern, reasonably powerful phone. That’s especially true for someone who doesn’t talk enough to justify an unlimited voice plan. the situation does seem to be getting better. Boost CDMA is probably your best bet if you can swap out the Boost Feature phone for a Windows Mobile or legacy Palm OS smartphone or can use the BlackBerry unlimited plan. If you must have GSM and/or want to be able to use any phone your most affordable options are to use AT&T or T-Mobile for voice and WiFi for data.

I hope that the lack of decent data options for U.S. prepaid users is a temporary thing. Two of the biggest buzz words in mobile in the U.S. are prepaid and data. They are also the fastest growing areas in terms of subscriber growth. As the number of U.S. prepaid users increases consumer demand and market forces will eventually drive more of the operators to offer affordable data plans on prepaid. This has already happened with T-Mobile and Sprint’s Boost CDMA and Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk plans. I’m hoping we will see some good prepaid options for GSM from T-Mobile before too long.

Here’s a table summarizing all the plans mentioned above.

Plan Monthly Minimum Price (sales tax of 0-10.75% of total cost additional) Network SIM Cost or Activation Fee
Allowed Phones Voice Text Data
T-Mobile prepaid $3.33 T-Mobile (GSM) 0 Any T-Mobile or unlocked GSM $0.10-$0.33/min $0.05 to receive, $0.10 to send each
Unlimited – $15/month
Unlimited (throttled after 30 MB) – $1.49/day
Boost Mobile Unlimited $50/month (BlackBerry $60) Sprint (CDMA or iDEN) 0 ($10 for used phones) Most Sprint Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Boost Mobile Pay As You Go $3.33/month Sprint (CDMA or iDEN) 0 ($10 for used phones) Most Sprint $0.10/min $0.10/each Unlimited – $0.35/day
Verzion Prepaid $15/month Verizon 0 Verizon Prepaid feature phones only * $0.25/min
* $0.10/min, free Nights, Weekends and to Verizon phones – $0.99/day (charged only on days used)
*$0.05/min, free Nights, Weekends and to Verizon phones – $1.99/day (charged only on days used).
*Unlimited – $3.99/day (only charged on days used)
$0.10 on $0.99/day plan,
$0.05 on $1.99/day plan,
$0.01 on $3.99/day plan,
250 + unlimited to Verizon phones – $10/month
unlimited – $20/month
unlimited – $1/day
PagePlus Prepaid $2.50/month Verizon (CDMA) 0 Any CDMA except BlackBerry and Verzion prepaid $0.04-0.10/min $0.08/ea,
$2000 – 10.95/month,
unlimited – $19.95/month
PagePus Unlimited Talk n Text $44.95/month Verizon (CDMA) 0 Any CDMA except BlackBerry and Verzion prepaid unlimited unlimited 20 MB (overage $0.60/MB)
AT&T Go Phone $8.33 + $0 – $1.50 911 fee AT&T (GSM) $20 Any At&T or unlocked GSM e $0.10/min $0.20 each,
200 – $4.99,
1000 – $9.99,
unlimited – $19.99
ad-hoc – $0.01/KB,
1 MB – $4.99,
200 MB – $19.99
AT&T GoPhone Unlimited $60+ $0 – $1.50 911 fee AT&T (GSM) $20 Any At&T or unlocked GSM phone unlimited unlimited ad-hoc – $0.01/KB,
1 MB – $4.99,
200 MB – $19.99
AT&T iPad Plan 14.95 AT&T (GSM) 0 iPad only (workaround exists) voice not available text not available 250 MB – 14.95
2 GB – $25
Straight Talk All You Need $30 Verizon (CDMA), AT&T, T-Mobile (GSM) 0 Straight Talk only 1000 (overage not available) 1000 (overage not available) 30 MB (overage not available)
Straight Talk Unlimited $45 Verizon (CDMA), AT&T, T-Mobile (GSM) 0 Straight Talk only unlimited unlimited unlimited
MetroPCS $40 (Android $50, BlackBerry $60) MetroPCS (CDMA) 0 MetroPCS and some other flashed CDMA unlimited unlimited unlimited
Cricket $45 (Android $55, BlackBerry $60) Cricket & Sprint (CDMA) $15 Cricket and most other flashed CDMA unlimited unlimited unlimited
Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk $25 (BlackBerry $35) Sprint (CDMA) 0 Virgin Mobile Only 300 unlimited unlimited
STi Mobile $2.70 Sprint (CDMA) $4.95 Sti Only $0.089/min $0.05/each $0.19/day, $0.29/day data + MMS (12 MB/week cap)

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146 thoughts on “The Best US Prepaid Data Deals

  1. I find it a breath of fresh air that Straight Talk’s network provider’s connectivity is constant and not constantly unreliable as other are. You get a really good deal with no contract requirements. I pay $45 and have unlimited talk/text/data with free 411 calls. I auto refill just in case I might forget to do so and if I have any queries I go to Straight Talks facebook page and get a quick response.

  2. If purchasing a prepaid phone for the first time, I definitely recommend Straight Talk if you are a power user trying to save some money. At $45 they have the cheapest unlimited plan in the land!

  3. I am a Canadian snowbird, living in Florida at the present time. I have a MIFI 2372 (unlocked but needs SIM Card) and want to get better than $50 for 1 gig of data. Tmobile and AT&T both require a US address and Social Security number in order to put it on my credit card.
    I would like to get the $40 /mnth unlimited but have not been able to find a Social Security number work around….. any thoughts ????

    • Try calling T-Mobile or visiting a store and asking for the “FlexPay Even More Plus WebConnect Overage Free Plan” This is a monthly prepaid plan with no-contract required that costs $39.99/month for unlimited data (throttled to Edge speeds after 5GB/month). You should be able to pay for it using cash in the store or with a disposable credit card on the phone. The keys are the”FlexPay” and “Plus” in the plan name. The Plus plans are month to month and Flexpay is a no contract option for those who can’t pass the credit check.

  4. Dear Dennis,

    Thanks for the great info! I am considering to use T-mobile data day pass. I have HTC legend and not sure if it can be used for T-mobile. I am also wondering if you know which one is better for data plan (i don’t care talk/text)- Pay as you go or Mobile Broadband Passes? Thank you!!

    • If the Legend is unlocked it will work on T-Mobile. You will get Edge speeds, not 3G on T-Mobile (or AT&T) as the phone doesn’t support US 3G bands.
      As for whether Pay As You Go or the Mobile Broadband Pass is best it really depends on you usage. The rates are:

      Day Pass $1.50/day – unlimited data (capped to Edge speeds after 30 MB)
      Mobile Broadband Pass – 3 packages:
      $10 – 100 MB cap, 7 days validity
      $30 – 300 MB, 30 days validity
      $50 – 1GB, 30 days validity

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  6. Hi everyone,

    This site is really well done ( hope all the information are reliable). I’ll be on holiday in the States ( NY & FL) end of december, I have an unlocked 3GS Iphone, I have a french plan with unlimited text, sms, calls , data in France , to Europe and North America but not from. I need myself the best prepaid solution , I am 24/7 on Internet I need the data or I die :-), I wont really need the call cause I can buy phone cards.
    According to your posts, AT&T or T-Mobile but what kind ?

    thx in advance

  7. First of all, I must say this is a great site for information sharing.
    I’ll be heading to the US (NYC) for a month in mid december for the holidays and I would like to know which prepaid plan I should go for. I’m considering between T-Mobile’s webpass or ATT Ipad plan.
    I’m using an unlocked Iphone 4, and would just require a data service to access emails, surf the web and occassionally youtbe and facebook.
    Would you recommend the T-Mobile webpass or the ATT Ipad plan (would the microsim work in an Iphone 4?)
    Thanks very much.

    • The micro SIM will physically fit in the iPhone 4 but the AT&T iPad plan requires some hacking (and probably a access to a PC) to get working on an iPhone (see the link in the post for what it entails) and the iPhone must be unlocked of course.

      T-Mobile’s Web Day Pass should be relatively hassle free although you wouldn’t get 3G, only get Edge speeds on an iPhone.

  8. Ciao Dennis,

    I’m returning to the States from Europe next month with an unlocked iPhone. I’ve come across this post several times in my hunt for a cost-efficient data/network option… my question is about tMobile’s edge: how slow is this actually in comparison to 3G? Do you think that tMobile will update their frequency early next year so that their 3G will be compatible with the iPhone? I’m asking because I’m wondering if it’s better to wait for a few months before jumping back into the world of cell phone contracts… what do you think?

    • Edge typically delivers download speeds of 100-200 Kbps
      The iPhone 3G and 3GS on AT&T achieves download speeds of about 1.0-1.5 Mbps (1,000 – 1,500 kbps) in a 3G area or 10-15 times faster than Edge
      The iPhone 4 supports HSUPA and is capable of 2-4 Mbps in areas where AT&T has enabled HSUPA

      You will definitely notice the difference between Edge and 3G. I recommend that you try your iPhone on T-Mobile prepaid for a month to see if you can live with it before committing to a contract.

      T-Mobile can not change their 3G to the 850/1900 Khz bands used by AT&T as all the channels in those bands are already assigned to other operators (primarily AT&T).

      I think that there is a good chance that Apple will release an iPhone with support for T-Mobile’s 3G, possibly as early as next year. If you don’t want to wait there are a number of Android, Windows Phone 7 and Symbian smartphones that support T-Mobile’s 3G frequencies.

  9. Hi everyone,

    Quick feedback about the Huawei E5830 Mobile Wi-Fi modem. I didn’t go myself to the US but instead a colleague of mine went there.

    He did buy a T-Mobile Sim card which would allow him to connect to the T-Mobile network, but somehow, he couldn’t do anything else but reach the T-Mobile activation page.

    He spent an hour with the technical support and even after they reactivated his account, it would still not allow him any web browsing.

    Apparently, T-Mobile network and Huawei E5830 don’t work together.


    • Regular prepaid will not work with smartphones, especially the ones that do not have the T-Mobile modified OS.
      I tried that with my HTC Dash. I ended up putting the factory OS back on it.

      In order to browse the internet, you would need a T-Mobile OS so.
      It is because it will prompt you to pay extra on the T-Mobile OS.
      Else you need to purchase the other pre-paid services I listed.

    • That’s not my experience. I browse on T-Mobile US using an unbranded Nokia N8 or N95-3 smartphone and the $1.49/day DayPass. If you have set the proper APN ( or you will be prompted to buy a day pass using the funds on your account when you try to open a site. This probably won’t work with a MiFi or USB modem however.

    • I did not see also they have an internet pass only incase you have a calling plan already

      $10 for 7 pass 100MB
      $30 for 30 day pass 300MB
      $50 for 30 day pass $1GB

  10. I’m a child (although sometimes I hate saying that) I have a job and recently bought an iPhone 3g 16g off of ebay. I had to save up for that for a while, so I’ve been looking for a pre-paid plan that includes data (a must) for the cheapest rate possible(permanant since I live in the US). Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Unless your iPhone is unlocked AT&T is your only option. AT&T rates in the post above are current. If your iPhone is unlocked you could use T-Mobile although you would not get 3G data speeds.

  11. Hi everyone,

    First of all, thank you very much for your interesting article which would have helped me if… my context wasn’t so specific.

    I have a Huawei E5830 Mobile Wi-Fi modem, and I’m going to the US on Sunday. I have unlocked this device so it accepts all standard SIM cards.

    I would like to know if there is any decent pre-paid Data plan compatible with this sort of device. I understand that Boost Mobile (CDMA) will no work in the Huawei.

    Thanks guys.

    • It’s a GSM device so your only choices are AT&T or T-mobile. I’ve no idea which 3G bands your device supports. You will be only get Edge speeds unless it can handle either 1700 AND 2100 (T-Mobile) or 850 AND/OR 1900 (AT&T). The plans listed in the post are for phone use, prices may be different for a data only SIM for a MiFi device. You will need to visit an AT&T or T-Mobile shop to get a SIM and discuss your plan options

    • Just a thought, not sure if this works.
      I am also looking at the Hua Wei E5830 or E585 Mi-Fi device to use in USA for my trip to USA (Tahoe and Vegas)in December. I currently have an office Blackberry which should have a data plan which allows me to use it to read my emails anywhere in the world. Maybe I could levergage on my Blackberry SIM card for the Hua Wei Mi-Fi device while I am in US to get free Wi-Fi? Will try this once I get a E585.
      Will this work or is this just a hair-brained idea?

  12. Actually you are incorrect about the T-Mobile prepaid data plan. Regular phones are charged .99 per hour of unlimited access.

    Smart phones are different. After paying that .99 they require you to agree to pay an addition $2.99 per MB of data.

    • First I’ve ever heard of that. Is it documented somewhere on the T-Mobile site?

      On my smartphones (T-Mobile MyTouch 3G and a Nokia N95) When I try to visit a site outside the T-Zones walled garden I get a prompt to upgrade my data plan with no rate specified.

      When I click the OK link I get “We’re sorry but eere not able to help you with a plan change here. Please check or call customer care to complete this service change”.

      If I call T-Mobile I’m told that the $.99/hour plan is only available on a select few T-Mobile dumb phones. I guess T-Mobile doesn’t want my money

      However, I’ve heard from several users with Nokia Neurons, a Symbian smartphone, that there are able to use the $.99/hour data with no additional per MB charge.

    • This is not documented. About a month ago, I got a hold of a Behold for a price I could not pass up. One of the first things I did was try the browsing service. First thing I noticed was the Reduced T-Mobile web service. Only ABC news left over.

      So I try a URL in the browser when I am taken to a T-Mobile redirected page telling me I need to pay the 99 cents for one hour. I click okay to pay for the hour and try again the same URL. Again I, am redirected telling me I need to upgrade yet again. Telling me 2.99/MB for data use. I wanted to upload a picture to a social networking site. ~3MB image……no thanks!

      I called Customer and Tech Support and about it telling me that I could get the hour for 99 cents and demanding more after the fact.

      It took a couple of days for answers that is I finally get someone knowledgeable to tell me the 99 cents was for only the dumb phones and I would have to pay the upgraded fee.

      We in the US are really getting ripped by the cell companies.
      The real intent was to give the phone to another person in Mexico so I could get good pictures, videos, etc with that 5Mp camera from them.

      After looking up the prices of TelCel, I am a bit more angry. Calls with cell phones in Mexico cost more than they do in the US.
      However, looking up the prices for internet, TelCel has what is cals “Internet on Demand” Meaning it is available anytime for use but will not be charged until you start using it.

      Its pricing is as follows:

      GPRS (General Packed Radio Services): .02 pesos/2 centavos a kilobyte. Thus making 1MB = 20 centavos or .20 pesos. That comes to about 1.5 cents a megabyte.

      CSD (Circuit Switched Data: 9.2kb/sec): The same price of a voice call which comes to 1.70 pesos a minute, or about 12 cents a

  13. We are from Singapore (Asia) and I currently use an iphone 4. My family will be in Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas this Dec. What is the most cost efficient way I can still use my iPhone 4 for data as well as calls/SMS while we are on holiday there?
    Thanks in advance for your help, much appreciated.

    • For an iPhone you need GSM so you are limited to AT&T and T-Mobile.

      AT&T will give you 3G speeds but data is expensive at $20 per 100MB
      T-Mobile would be more cost effective but would only give you Edge speeds

      See my post US Mobile Data and Voice Options For Travelers for the details

      Also, most US coffee shops and some hotels offer free WiFi which depending on your needs might be enough to keep up with email, etc.

  14. I have a blackberry storm with verizon. I have the data package on this phone. I want to lower my bill.I talk a minimum of 500 mninutes every month and check email. My contract with Verizon ends in November. I am tired of paying the hefty monthly price. Which plan would you suggest would be better for my usage?

  15. I will be living on the Gulf coast (navarre, fl) and want the cheapest price for a prepaid service that offers unlimited voice and text. What do you suggest? I have been using Metro PCS in Ga., but I don’t think it will work there?

  16. Hi Dennis,
    I wanted a no contract plan for 2 months (in Chicago).
    It dont care if its prepaid or postpaid.
    I have unlocked iphone 3GS that i wanted to use with the plan.
    I was looking for a plan with data/Internet usage included that i could use on my unlocked iphone.
    Can you please suggest me which plan would work best for me?

    Thanks a Lot. Appreciate your help.

  17. you can actually get free mobile for all of these carriers with a company called embee mobile ( you watch videos or install some apps, and they give you points that you can trade for free prepaid

  18. The AT&T rate at the summary table differs from the main text
    It is 20$ per 100 MBytes and not per 200 MBytes unfortunately.

  19. Wow, this is a great list of prepaid data plans, but it is missing like 2 other prepaid company plans that came out less then 2 months ago: platinumTel and minGo.

    platinumTel offer “10 cents per MB” in their Pay as you go plan.

    minGo offer monthly data packages up to 500 MB for $30.

    But I wouldn’t recommend these plans for the same reason for Virgin Mobile and STi: There run off the Sprint Network and only the Big cities can take advantage of these great deal.

    Also, Page Plus Standard Plan do have 50 cents montly fee.

    Again, this a great list of all the US prepaid data plans

  20. Dennis,

    I am travelling to US for 2 months from Ireland and am looking for a Prepaid Data only SIM for my Panasonic CF19. I will be mainly in Texas area. Is there any Mobile operator that can provide me with such an offering?? If not, what is the best solution for my predicament??

    Thank you in advance,,,,

  21. id have to go with either smarttalk offered by walmart or boost..virginmobile would be in there if they didnt insist on blocking java application use..this kills them for me no matter how cheap they are.

  22. Hi, Dennis!

    I’m from Brazil and I’m planning on going to California this October. I’m used to travel to the US and buy prepaid phones/SIM cards there.
    I’ve already bought Net10 phones, but lately I switched to O2 Wireless SIM, since they allow me to use my own phone instead of the crappy cheap refurbished phones Net10 requires me to use.

    The thing is: I bought an unlocked Nokia E75 smartphone here in Brazil (GSM 850/900/1800/1900, UMTS 850/1900/2100) and I’d like to have a data plan there so I can use some of its smartphone features when I’m in the US.

    My primary use will be a few web searches (I also travel with my netbook and use the hotel wi-fi for longer/heavier browsing), A-GPS, Nokia Maps searches and retrieve some emails while on the road. I’ll be in the US only for a week.

    In your opinion, what are the better options for me? One thing I love in O2 Wireless is the international calls to landline numbers Brazil (I still have to pay for the airtime, of course). I wish O2 had a prepaid data plan, but since they don’t, what’s the best thingo to do?

    Thank you!

  23. Hey, have you written about the Cricket new prepaid smartphones? They’re freakin’ awesome! I would like to read what you have to say about unlimited prepaid droids.. :)

    • Only current Cricket smartphone is a BlackBerry Curve. As I mentioned in the post, an Android device is “coming soon”. Until it’s actually available there’s not much to say!

  24. Hey,

    I am using Verizon family plan (without data plan) for voice/text.

    But from time to time our cable/internet service is very slow or totally out and we need internet access badly (project due … etc.) How can I get around with this problem (no internet service for notebook) with prepaid data plan ? Thanks

    • There was a hack that worked a few years ago. You can modify certain Verizon phones to enable tethering. The process is explained here. I don’t know if this still works. In any cases you would need a data plan and would be violating Verizon’s TOS and subject to substantial charges and/or termination of your data plan if the unauthorized use was detected.

  25. Thanks for all the great information.
    I’m coming from Canada and I’ll be traveling to Florida for two weeks and want a plan with data for my unlocked iPhone. I found a dealer though the Boost Mobile site. They suggested Simple Mobile
    I was told they sell just sim cards and have an unlimited talk, text, & data for $60. It sound like a lot but it cheaper than me going though my Rogers plans with the US travel pack.
    At&t said I couldn’t get data without a plan for the iphone.
    Has anyone heard of Simple Mobile?

    • I heard of them. They’re a new T-Mobile MVNO. There’s a long thread about them on the HoFo PrePaid Forum: Seems like a fairly good deal with the following caveats:

      – Simple uses T-Mobile so you won’t get 3G on your unlocked iPhone. Edge data only.

      – Check the coverage map. Simple users can only use the native T-Mobile network not the extensive off network roaming available on T-Mobile’s own more expensive Flex-Pay plans. It looks like Florida is well covered though.

      – The “unlimited” data is capped at 1GB. That should be more than enough for 2 weeks with an iPhone unless you’re a heavy user of audio or video streaming. Video streaming at Edge speeds will be painful anyway.

  26. Pingback: Prepaid GSM Phone Service? - Talk Delaware Online

  27. hi all, I was in the US a few weeks ago and purchased a Gophone sim only and it worked fine in my Nokia e71 smartphone. It was $3 unlimited calls per day, and I purchased the $20 100mb data pack and it worked great for my web browsing, and google maps

    It was great for what I needed for the few weeks I was there. Had no issues with the sim and phone, just went to an AT&T shop and they put the sim in my phone and set everything up no probs

  28. Dennis,

    I am currently using an unlocked Sony Ericsson c902 with a GoPhone sim card. This works well for me, but I would like a phone with more PC-like capabilities. I am thinking about purchasing an AT&T branded Palm Pixi Plus, but I have not seen conclusive answers as to whether or not it will work on GoPhone. Here are my questions:

    1)Will it work with my sim chip?

    If so,
    2)Will the GoPhone data packages work?

    3)Will AT&T be alerted that I am using a smartphone and charge me for a postpaid data plan ($15 or $25)?

    4)Will my account be suspended or closed for using a smartphone with GoPhone?

    Any insight is greatly appreciated!

    • Good questions. Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with using a Web OS phone on GoPhone and I’ve heard of anyone doing it.
      I suspect it will work fine but I really don’t know. I Think:
      1. The SIM will work for voice, text and probably data. People use Android, Windows Mobile and legacy Palm OS phones on GoPhone without problems. iPhones also work with a bit of hacking.
      2. If the $0.01 ad hoc data works the packages will too.
      3. GoPhone data is unlimited. Even at $25 that’s a much better deal than $20 for a paltry 100 MB. There’s no way AT&T will give you, let alone force you to use a post paid data plan on GoPhone.
      4. I’ve never heard of AT&T bothering smartphone users on GoPhone other than iPhone users and even that was a long time ago

      Again there are no guarantees but I think it will work. If you try it let us no how it turns out.

  29. Net10 is by far the best prepaid phone service. With net10 you never have to pay for minutes that you simply do not use. If it’s not Net10 it’s not for me.

    If you can’t tell I have been a net10 user for years now.

    • MetroPCS is good if their coverage footprint meets your needs. They now have roaming agreements that give you text almost everywhere and voice in all major cities except Minneapolis. The biggest issue is that data is only available in MetroPCS native coverage areas which include only about a dozen metropolitan areas

  30. I want to use an unlocked blackberry in USA and then use the same in India. Will be buying it from e-bay. Need a sim card for it to work till im here in USA(3 months). What connection shall i go for. I need data usage, text and call.

  31. Pingback: Mobile Data While Traveling « random($foo)

  32. And another thing: you’ll be surprised at how many places actually offer free wifi now. Starbucks, McDonald’s and all kinds of other places. Even parks and service centers on the highways.
    I’ve been to the US for three weeks now, and I would never have bothered with prepaid if it wasn’t for the piece I will write for a Swedish iPhone mag when I get back home.

    • About the wifi is so true: the past month I’ve been in New Mexico/Arizona/California and every hotel/motel and on so many places in cities there was free wifi. I’m glad I didn’t bother with a prepaid data sim, because almost every place I was in had free wifi.

      The only time there was no wifi, was in a desert where I didn’t have phone reception either.

      So if you dare to gamble, just rely on wifi.

  33. Dennis…. Incredible amount of information – Thank you. I was wondering if you could please give me advice on what carrier and plan you would suggest for an unlocked novatel mifi 2352- the frequencies it works on are 900/1900/2100 for 3G and 850/900/1800/1900 on GPRS/EDGE. I plan to be in the US for a month in Florida,Nevada and California. I will be using the mifi device with a laptop and my wifi iPad emails, light surfing, maps etc.

    • You will only get 3G on AT&T. With T-Mobile it will be strictly Edge.

      But with a laptop or iPad even “light” surfing at AT&T’s $20 per 100 MB will add up very fast. If it was my money I’d go with T-Mo. Edge speeds are more bearable then hundreds of dollars of data charges.

  34. Your choices are:

    AT&T pay as you go with the 100MB data package at $20 for the SIM and $20 per 100 MB
    T-Mobile Flexpay with unlimited data free SIM, approx $50/month (includes 500 voice minutes)

  35. Hi Dennis, great site! The information is very helpful for us travellers.

    I will be travelling to US for 3 weeks and need a prepaid plan for my HTC Diamond. Generally I my talking/texting/data usage requirement is minimal but certainly required… Any suggestions on plans? My usage will be bursty, relatively high usage expected during weekends :)

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