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What is Prepaid Internet?

Prepaid internet is internet service that you pay for before you use it. It’s just like prepaid cell phones, except instead of paying for minutes, you (usually) pay for the amount of data you want to use. However, in some cases there is the option to prepay for internet on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

How Does Prepaid Internet Service Work?

It’s simply, really.

The first step is to choose a wireless carrier. There are several internet providers you can choose from, including the big name companies like AT&T, Verizon or Virgin. With a little bit of searching you can find smaller companies that offer prepaid internet, too.

The next step is to determine how much data you need. Different companies will offer different amounts, but you should be able to prepay for as much as 20 GB. When deciding on how much data you want, keep a few things in mind:

  • Data is much more expensive prepaid. For example, 5GB is $80 at Verizon, but you can get 10 GB for the same price (at Verizon) if you go with a monthly (non-prepaid) plan.
  • Your data may expire. You’ll want to ask your prepaid provider about that, or be sure to read the plan and the terms and conditions. The reason why this is important is that if you don’t use up all of the internet before your time runs out, it’ll go to waste and you’ll be out money.

Once you’ve chosen your carrier and data plan, you’ll then need to get your equipment. The equipment you’ll need depends on the carrier. With some companies you’ll rent your equipment, such as a modem or USB, while with other internet providers you’ll need to buy that stuff. The bigger companies (usually) make you buy your own equipment. You can choose from a USB, hotspot modem or pc card. Prices for equipment will range from $25 to $125, so it can get expensive quick.

There are starter packs that you can buy too. These will come with everything you need to get going, including a software disc (if needed), your USB or pc card.

After that you’ll need to get setup. It’s usually a matter of visiting the companies site and entering in serial numbers and activation codes on the back of the packaging.

From there you should be able to access your internet. You’ll want to keep an eye on your usage and top off your account as needed to avoid being disconnected. One thing to keep in mind is that for some prepaid services, you can’t top off until you have used so much of your data up. And when you do top off it’ll replace what you have left. So if you have 20GB of data left, you might want to wait to top off until you have much less, say 5GB, because 20GB is worth about $200-$300, and replacing that (without using it) would be costly.

Pre Paid Internet Pros

  • Use as little or as much internet as you’d like.
  • There are no bills or contracts.
  • No hidden fees, data overages or other expensive surprises.
  • Doesn’t require credit (credit checks) to get service.
  • No termination fees. Switch providers as often as you’d like.

Pre Paid Internet Cons

  • If you don’t keep track of your data (or time), you can run out of internet service.
  • Data plans can expire, so it can become very expensive if you miscalculate how much you’ll use, and get more than you need.
  • Topping off can be expensive, too, if you don’t use your previous data beforehand.
  • Equipment can be expensive — $25 to $125+.
  • No the best solution for gamers.