Prepaid cell phone plans?

Any comments about those so-called prepaid cell phone plans? Are there any hidden strings with them? And exactly how do you configure your phone to work with them? (Doesn't someone have to "turn it on"?)

I presume you can only make calls and not receive them.

We are EXTREMELY light users of our cell phone... and we cancelled service since we weren't using it enough to justify $30-40/month. We didn't like being locked into contracts, either. But it would be nice to be able to use it once in a blue moon.

My first cell phone was via ATT's prepaid. Very easy to setup: All I did was call their customer care center with the phone's registration number, and they did the rest.

I was able to receive and send calls too. It was pretty good for a first cell phone.

Most of the ones I've seen allow you to setup the phone yourself. You can send and receive phone calls (you get your own number) with this setup.

The primary attraction of prepaid is that there's no credit check (at least in the cases I've seen) and no contract to worry about; attractive to people who only use phones seasonally or with no credit references. The cost of using the phones regularly is generally a lot higher than a suitable contract plan.
I started out and still currently use the tracfone. I don't use a cell phone much either and this works well for me. You have 3 months to use your minutes. You can purchase a minimum of 40 units or as much as 200, depending on how much you need. I usually just get the 40 and have, like I mentioned, 3 months to use it. The 40 unit card is around 19 dollars at wal-mart. You get your own cell phone number, you can call out, receive calls, etc, just like a regular cell phone. My cell has voicemail for free, a few games on it, and other things. There are different tracfone's out there, it just depends on what style you are looking for. The units on a tracfone are around 50 cents per unit, if you are roaming it uses 2 units per minute. It is a little expensive but if you don't use it much, it's worth it. Also, the phone I have, I can set up voice calling. I just say the name of the person and it dials it for me. (I haven't used it though)
I use Boost Mobile. I very rarely use a cell phone but it's nice to have. They have WAP for 20 cents a day which is a nice feature. I was a little wary of how it would work in the wilds of Illinois but so far I haven't lost the signal yet. It uses the Nextel network so you get the Direct Connect capability too which has been quite handy.
Originally posted by Dan Cook

You can connect your laptop to the net with it?

Seems like it should since it has WAP capability... If it does, I would definately consider the Boost Mobile service.
I have an old AT&T prepaid phone. Kids use it until they buy their own plan or afford to join ours. But beware, the minutes are spendy and you only have 45 days to use or LOSE them!!!! BTW, that phone had the best coverage of any cell phone company I have ever used. I never lost signal, even travelling around WA State with my Texas prepaid phone in 2001. I had to go to a traditional plan, got too many calls! We do the Family plan with TMobile, most of my calls are to the hubby or one of the kids' cells (on the plan) and those don't count toward your minutes (as long as you call another TMobile customer). I have had cell service since 1995 and AT&T has the best clarity of all the providers I have used.
I just looked around and from the posts there it looks like you can't use it with a laptop. You just poke around with the browser on the phones which for me is good enough. Mainly because I don't have a laptop. :lol:

ETA: Sorry to get your hopes up!
Prepaid call plans – Ouch !

I brought a Nokia 5160 and hooked it up to Callplus which is in the AT&T network. At the time I had to specify a home location and as I was chasing I picked Oklahoma city. The plan on paper looked real good – giving me 17c / min talk time and no roaming etc. This was fine until I went to Kansas – now in order to use the phone I had to navigate a calling menu that went some like this …

Dial the number that I wanted to call…
01234 56789

Please enter you cell phone number..
0800 1234567

Please enter your pine number..

Please enter the number that you want to call..
9876 54321

Now this played havoc with my Ositec card and really only 1 out of 10 calls connected. I wasted so much money on the call plan – some $300 – I could had had a sprint card …

In the end I used my UK cell phone at 56K on GPRS.
I use a Verizon pre-paid plan. It's cheap (I use about $15 a month) but it's ridiculous what I have to go through to make a call out of area. Not a handy phone to have when you're out chasing but it's sufficient for local calling.
I've had real good luck with Virgin Mobile. Free long distance and no roaming charges-they use the Sprint network.