Help me buy a prepaid phone!

Hello hivemind! I didn’t see a thread on here, so I figured I’d turn to you for halpzorz.

I am looking to purchase a prepaid cell phone, but the options and the cryptic language in which the packages are described are making my eyes cross. Valuing my vision the way it is, I figured I’d see if anyone had a recommendation for an inexpensive, simple, frill-free phone meeting the following criteria:

-Must be on a network that has service in the DC Metro. That basically leaves Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. I know TMobile says they have service down there; they’re lying.
-I don’t need a data package. Seriously, I use my phone for calling, texting, telling the time, and that’s it. I don’t need any extra functionality to allow me to check my email and play music on the go. :P
-As inexpensive as possible, please, without being some North Korean knockoff. I’m a broke twentysomething. :/
-I’d really prefer a pay-as-you-go package rather than a monthly package, but some phones seem to require both? I’m confused. AT&T’s GoPhones are horrible offenders in this regard. :P

So, um, hoping that wasn’t too picky, does anyone have any sage advice to offer? Please? :)

I’ve got a cheapo phone from Samsung serviced by Virgin Mobile (got it at the Sprint store). I have to refill my minutes every 3 months for $20 so basically this phone costs me ~$7 a month. The phone was $39 or something to get started…

It all depends on how much you will be using the phone. Are you going to talk a lot and/or text? It matters because different pre-paids are geared towards different types of users. For example, Tracphone, Net 10, and Straight Talk are all the same company but with different “brands” aimed at different needs.

Don’t they have “burners” just lying about on the street over there? Ask the guy with all the hats if he has one.

I’m trying to avoid buying one on the street or from the sketchy convenience store. >.>

Also, talk and text are about equally important, but data is not.

I’ve got the same – very cheap and easy.

Right, but how much? I ask because there are several pre-paids that offer monthly unlimited in the $45-50 range and one that offers 1000 minutes/1000 texts for $30. But you can go lower if you don’t need that much.

In other words, what pre-paid makes the most sense for you depends on how much you use talk and text. For example, I have a pre-paid that cost me $30 for the phone and I pay $15/mo. But I only use about 100-150 minutes a month talk and hardly text, so that works best for me. I would need a different phone/plan if I was using 500 minutes a month.

Gotcha. Let’s estimate 500 minutes and texts a month, each.

Off the top of my head, then, I’d say look at Virgin Mobile or Straight Talk.

I was using an AT&T GoPhone on their 10-cents-a-minute plan. If you deposit $100 into the account, it’s valid for 365 days. I think you get 90 days to use up $25 worth of credit, and 30 days for any amount under that. Something along those lines, anyway. The coverage and call quality was quite satisfactory.

But that was with about 90 minutes of talk per month. Still, the service was okay.

Now I’ve switched to Virgin Mobile. $35 a month for 300 minutes of talk, plus unlimited texting and data, on an Android phone (the LG Optimus V). I love it so far, but the Sprint network (Virgin hops on their towers) coverage is awful up here, so if/when I’m not in Burlington, my connectivity is a bit spotty.

Straight Talk uses the Verizon network and offers 1000 minutes/1000 texts (plus some date) for $30. Their cheapest phone is $30.