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Pay-as-you-go cell phone plan gaining in popularity

OKALOOSA COUNTY -- Owning a cell phone without a contract.
Its becoming a more popular option for budget-conscious cell phone users, but how does it compare to a traditional plan with a 2-year contract?

For Margaret Ackley-Shirley, once she realized her monthly cell phone bill was higher than her electric bill she knew it was time to crunch the numbers.

"I'm stuck with a 200 dollar bill, every month, and my electric bill is only a 150 so why am I doing that" said Margaret Ackley-Shirley, cell phone user.

Margaret was on a contract plan for a total of 4 years.  $200 a month became too much.  She made the switch to a pay as you go, no contract plan so she can tailor the plan to her needs.

"Thousand phone minutes, thousand text messages, and I have a web browser, that's no extra charge" said Ackley-Shirley.

Like Margaret, millions of others made the switch.

"It's cheaper and if you don't want a certain type of plan you can just pay for that month and be done with it" said Chris Rudolph, no contract plan.

As of 2012, 76 million people were on a pay as you go plan.  That is up 4 million from 2011.  No contract plans are generally cheaper month to month and there is no credit check.

You can get just about any type of phone you desire without a contract plan, but they typically cost more.
Take this I-Phone 5 for example.  It cost around $200 dollars with a contract, compared to $600 dollars or more without.

With a contract, phones are subsidized a cheaper rate and the actual cost of the phone is built into the monthly cost throughout the contract term.  If customers opt out of the plan early, theyre usually slapped with an early termination fee so the carrier can recoup some of the subsidy cost.
Jenni Stucker and Mury Goldstein both enjoy being under a contract.

"Once you're done with the two years, if you keep your phone that long, then you get a cheap upgrade" said Jenni Stucker, contract plan.

"I don't like the Pay as You Go and keeping up with it and having to bill every month, especially moving around and having different addresses so it's easier to just have it deducted, and I get better coverage too with the coverage with the two year contracts" said Mury Goldstein, contract plan.

Also important to remember network coverage areas vary.  Some pay as you go plans have smaller coverage areas compared to traditional contract plans, but for Margaret, the savings are worth it.

"I'd say a 150 a month, actually a 170 a monthcompared to the price of an electric bill, it's amazing" said Ackley-Shirley.