This article is brought to you by RadioShack.
The majority of cell phone usage in the United States is conducted by virtue of post-paid cell phone plans. In the post-paid model, users sign up for service with a cell phone provider and pay at the end of each service period (usually monthly). Users are typically under long-term contracts (e.g., two years), at the end of which the customer has the option to renew.
The chief benefit of post-paid cell phone plans is the option to purchase phones and other cellular devices at discounted rates. Because the customer signs a contract, the service provider can afford to lose some income on the front end.
For the first several years that I used post-paid cell phone plans, I never paid for a single device. I always chose the lower-end hardware, which is typically available for free. Users can choose more expensive phones at steep discounts, however.
It is also true that networks tend to be larger and more secure with companies that offer post-paid cell phones. Furthermore, certain types and brands of phones are sometimes offered exclusively through one of these larger providers. This means that customers get access to those devices before everyone else.
Types of Plans
There are several different plan models for post-paid cell phones. Some offer a specific number of minutes and/or text messages each month, while others provide unlimited services for a flat monthly rate. If your minutes, text messages, or data consumption are limited, you are charged fees for any overages.
If you purchase a smart phone, you may be required to pay an additional fee each month for data. This allows you to surf the web, download apps, stream music, or even watch videos. If you aren't interested in those services, it is important to avoid purchasing a plan that includes them.
Online retailers like RadioShack allow you to sign up for post-paid cell phone plans online. This is often the least expensive option because web-only deals tend to be cheaper than the ones offered at mall kiosks and retail locations.
Central to the post-paid cell phone plan is the contract, which you must sign prior to initiating service. This locks in your plan fees for the contract term, which could be anywhere from one to four years. Make sure to read the contract prior to signing so you'll know what to expect from your service provider.
One major benefit to shopping through a retailer like RadioShack is the ability to compare different providers. You can look at the available phones, the contract specifications, and the plan offerings to determine which best fits your lifestyle.
If you already subscribe to a cell phone service, you can also upgrade your phone through RadioShack. This is recommended when your contract runs out, because this is the time when phones are the least expensive.
Post-paid cell phone plans continue to rise in popularity as devices become more sophisticated and the market becomes more competitive. Pay attention to the trends in cellular plans so you know you're getting the best deal for your money.