Top 10 reasons to use a prepaid cell phone (even if you’re not a drug dealer)

I get it… prepaid cell phones still have a bit of a “reputation” with some people. They’re thought of as “burner” phones, the kind of things that a dicey character from a TV show would speak 5 words into and then smash underfoot. The truth is, though, that there are a lot of great reasons why even an upstanding member of society would want a prepaid phone. Prepaid phones have come a long way from the days when only the underprivileged and criminal elements wanted them, and here are ten reasons you might want one too.

1. It’s your kid’s first cell phone.
There are plenty of communities in this great nation where if your kid doesn’t have a cell phone by age 8, he or she is behind the curve. What once was a luxury for adults is now something everyone needs. You will eventually give your kid a cell phone, and their first phone should be a prepaid one. Why? You control how much they spend, you control their data, and most importantly, these phones can be replaced easily and quickly if your darling little angel drops it (and they will.) Pull out the SIM card, put it in another phone, and they’re back in business.

2. You’re going somewhere your carrier doesn’t reach. Sure, many Americans are with AT&T or Verizon now, and their signals carry pretty much everywhere. But if you’re with another, smaller carrier, you may not get service when you vacation. Or, you could pay high roaming charges. Choose a pre-paid cell when visiting friends out of town to make sure you’re not totally disconnected.

3. You just got a $1,000 phone and you’re going on vacation.
Yep, that iPhone X is a real beauty but it’s also a target for theft. Don’t take your super-expensive phone on vacation only to leave it behind in someone else’s hands. Take a prepaid phone instead. Even the cheapest ones will take pretty decent pictures, all of them can be locked and have some sort of “find my phone” functionality that will let you remotely erase it if you’ve signed in with your Google account or have other private info there.

4. Your carrier doesn’t have great reception in the forest, desert, mountains, or whatever.
Once you get out to the fringe areas, you really start to see the difference between carriers. In large open areas, AT&T’s technology will often win out while in mountainous areas Verizon’s tech takes the cake. No matter which carrier you have, an outdoorsy type will get to the point where his or her cell isn’t going to cut it. A prepaid cell from “the other” carrier guarantees you’ll stay safe and connected.

5. You’re waiting for the next big thing but you keep cutting your fingers.
The Apple faithful waited almost four years for a phone that was measurably different from the iPhone 6. In that time, a lot of people dropped their phones and a lot of people cut their fingers. If you know the next big thing is coming in a month or so when you shatter that front glass, take a chance on a prepaid phone. It may just outperform your old phone and for sure your fingers will appreciate it.

6. You want to see how the other half lives. Always been an iPhone gal? Does your heart belong to Galaxy? If your friends have been laughing at you for your devotion to one tech or the other, why not see what they’re talking about? Buy a used iPhone or Galaxy, pop a SIM into it, and if you don’t like it, resell it. Chances are the whole experiment won’t cost more than $20 or $30 net and you’ll have a chance to figure out what your friends have been talking about.

7. Incredible action photography, no risk.
Sure you could get a goPro or some sort of other action camera, but there’s a lot to that stuff. If you’re dabbling in extreme sports, put that prepaid phone in a clear plastic bag and tape the bag to your clothes or helmet. You’ll get great footage plus you’ll be able to share it instantly, unlike a GoPro which records to a memory card which you then need to dump down to your computer. The phone gets smashed? Oh well, you’re only out a few bucks.

8. You want to test cell signal strength but you have an iPhone.
That’s why I got a prepaid phone honestly. Apple took away the ability to measure cell signal strength and I needed it for a video. There are plenty of great free Android apps for measuring cell signal and absolutely zero of them work with iPhone.

9. You want a waterproof phone and you don’t have one.
A lot of older phones have no water resistance at all. Whether you’re going rafting or just planning on being outside a while, get a cheap prepaid phone. The new ones are almost all waterproof and again, who cares if it breaks after a while.

…and of course…

10. You just don’t want people knowing where you are.
There are a ton of perfectly legal reasons why you might not want to be tracked. Just remember that if you do use a prepaid phone for that purpose, never sign in with your Google or Apple account, never put anything personal into it, and pay for your airtime with refill cards. It’s your life, I’m not judging.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.