1 - Plans and Coverage
Alltel finally appears to be gone. Rest of the material on this page is now for reference purposes.
Alltel prepaid was a pretty good deal, once you figured out their plans, but then they got bought out by Verizon and slowly seemed to disappear. However, their service was briefly reintroduced in select areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois.
Now Alltel has been merged into AT&T, and it is no longer a separate brand. There is a page that answers your questions about the transition if you were on a contract plan. Presumably all prepaid customers have to switch to GoPhone or another provider.
The information below is for historical reference.
Alltel offered both standard cell phone contracts as well as prepaid wireless service. They used to call their prepaid service AlltelU to avoid any confusion.
Earlier, Alltel bought out Simple Freedom, another prepaid cell phone plan.
You used to be able to tell the difference between Tracfone
and Alltel by looking at the pictures on their respective websites. On
Tracfone's site, there was a grown-up with a phone to her ear talking. On the prepaid home page, there was a smiling teenager looking at a cell phone in her hand.
Later, the AlltelU web site featured a grown man wearing a sweater and collared T-shirt talking on his phone while the Tracfone web site sometimes shows links to video of teenagers walking through their high school.
Alltel was eventually bought out by Verizon. However, you could still use their prepaid phones and add minutes to your account via airtime cards bought from stores or via an online account.
So let's go over if Alltel still might be right for U, uh, I mean, you.
If you peruse the old version of the Consumer Reports Guide to Carriers, you could see that Alltel got a good rating even though it used be one of the smaller full-fledged (i.e. they own their own network) carriers. Even then Consumer Reports mentioned that currently Alltel served only 26% of Americans while Verizon served about 87%.
The numbers for Verizon have gone up of course, but Alltel was still a good alternative when you couldn't get service from Verizon.
You can check the coverage map (link gone) here.
The roaming fee is 59 cents per minute on the pay-by-the-day and pay-by-the-month plans. There is no roaming fee specifically mentioned for the pay-by-the-minute plan, but I assume it's there.
You could once get Alltel phones at Walmart such as the Alltel U Prepaid R500 HUE by Samsung and 3 removable faceplates for $99.99, but you are now better off choosing from a large selection of online at their site. Another source for compatible phones is (was) from Cellular Country.
Alltel's rates are clear but hard to figure out whether they will fit in your budget. They charge a $25 activation fee which adds to your cost.
The Alltel Pay-Per-Minute plan charges by the minute.
Calls cost 15 cents per minute. Text messages cost 10 cents and picture messages cost 20 cents. There is a $25 activation fee. The minimum initial balance is $20. There used to be a $4 per month usage charge, but that seems to have been eliminated. The cost calculations are based on the previous rates as the expiration dates on the refill cards are not available on their new site.
Let's compare the cost to a double minutes (now triple) Tracfone, where a 1000 minutes (400 minutes 1-year card doubled plus 200 bonus minutes) costs $100:
One year of Alltel's pay-per-minutes service, using 400 minutes will cost at least $173.00.
This includes the activation fee ($35), the monthly usage fee ($48 = $4 per month x 12 months) and calling charges (400 minutes x $0.15 per minute). You pay more than that if you make roaming calls.
There are three levels of pay-by-the-day plans - 75 cents per day, $1.00 per day and $1.25 per day.
Anytime calls cost 10 cents per minute on all versions of the plans. There are four free calling options you can add to these plans - Nights and Weekends, Mobile to mobile, Favorite Number, and Free Text and Picture Messaging.
At the 75-cents-per-day level you get two options. At the $1-per-day level you get three options. Finally, you get all four options at the $1.25-per-daylevel.
So, how does it add up?
Still, the minimum cost for one year is $298.75 plus the actual cost of the number of daytime minutes.
This includes the activation fee ($25), the daily usage fee ($273.50 = $0.75 per day x 365 days), plus whatever number of daytime minutes * 10c per minute. Depending on how many daytime minutes you use, this can come out a little cheaper than a standard cell phone contract while still retaining the unlimited nights and weekends feature common in the standard contracts. You should consider this if you make a lot of night and weekend long distance calls.
The pay-per-month plan is like a standard cell phone plan without the long-term contract. Alltel has recently introduced a $45 per month unlimited monthly plan which seems like a pretty good deal. However, it has a slightly different coverage map than the rest of the other monthly plans. I checked out the map, and I couldn't really tell the difference visually, but it's something to keep in mind.
You get 300 daytime minutes and 1000 night and weekend minutes per month. If you go over this fairly generous allotment, you have to pay a whopping 35 cents for each additional minute.
The minimum yearly cost is $360 plus taxes.
There are also pay-per-month plans that cost $39.99 per month and $69.99
per month. You get more minutes, and you aren't tied down to a long term
This is really a compromise between a standard cell phone contract and a prepaid cellular service. It may be useful if you just want to avoid a credit check -- not necessarily a bad idea if it's true that even with good credit, each credit check reduces your credit score.
If you are curious about whether you will pass a credit check, go
to the official annual credit report site set up jointly by
the three main credit report companies. You don't need to buy any
additional services. You can get one report from one of the three
companies every four months to keep track throughout the year.