If you don’t use a lot of cell phone minutes then you probably shouldn’t enter into a service contract. Too many people commit to spending $30 or more per month (plus inscrutable taxes) just so they can make an occasional, “I’m running late,” or, “I’m over here” call.
The best alternative is a prepaid cell service like T-Mobile To Go. There you buy a SIM card that you can plug into any (unlocked) GSM phone and you buy minutes in advance that are credited to that card. For $100 T-Mobile will give you 1000 minutes that will last up to a year. If at the end of the year you haven’t used them all you can spend as little as $10 to buy more minutes and your entire balance will carry over for another year.
Not only can you buy this service without the hassles of a credit check, but you also enjoy freedom from any future bills or charges. If you don’t want or need the service you can just throw away your card, or sell it with its balance to somebody else. Be aware that the cheapest 2-year cell contract will probably cost a total of $700 (hard to tell with all the taxes and surcharges they keep adding — not to mention the billing errors that always seem to be in the phone company’s favor). In contrast you can keep T-Mobile To Go for 2 years for just $110 plus sales tax. And in my three years with this service I haven’t had any unpleasant surprises.
The best way I found to buy T-Mobile To Go is at Costco, where last week I got an activated SIM card and a current-generation slim Samsung t219 phone for just $20 after rebate!