A hybrid cell phone plan provides a third option for those who don't quite fit into the standard monthly rate plan or the pay as you go plan. A hybrid plan has some advantages from each that just might suit you better than either of the other two.
The main advantage of a hybrid plan is that the subscriber does not need to enter into a contract, go through a credit check or supply a deposit. In this way it is similar to the prepaid pay as you go cell phone plan. However, the hybrid plan requires a monthly top-off, or payment towards the plan's minutes. This is commonly US$30-$40, which can be purchased one of several ways. The monthly required payment makes the hybrid plan similar to a standard plan, but yields less minutes on the dollar than a standard contractual plan —- though more minutes than a pay as you go plan.
To further reduce the cost of minutes on a hybrid plan, some carriers offer the option of purchasing up to a year's worth of minutes at once. For example, one might buy 3000 minutes for $300, making the phone active for one full year, or until the minutes run out.
If minutes do run out on a hybrid plan, the phone will become inoperable for making or receiving calls until the account is "recharged." Some carriers immediately disable the account if this happens, causing the customer to lose his or her phone number. Other carriers offer a grace period during which the phone number and account information is frozen. Still others automatically deduct the monthly payment from a credit or debit card and allow the customer to add more money manually to the account if minutes run out between the billing cycle. Alternatively, the customer may not use the phone until the next billing period when it is automatically refilled. This latter hybrid plan can be a good choice for parents who want to provide a cell phone for a son or daughter, but want to stay on a controlled cellular budget.
The hybrid plan might also have other advantages over pay as you go plans, such as offers of reduced or even free nighttime or weekend minutes, similar to the perks offered with standard plans. Mobile to mobile minutes might also be reduced or free. The coverage area might also be greater than that of pay as you go plans offered by the same carrier.
A credit check is not required on a hybrid cell phone plan because the plan is prepaid. A deposit is also not required because the cell phone is typically purchased at full price, as with pay as you go cell phone plans. Standard contractual plans give phones away for free, or deeply discount them, then require a deposit and subsidize the loss by mandatory long-term contracts and early termination penalties.
Hybrid cell phone plans fill a niche market, more cost-efficient than a pay as you go plan, without the long-term commitment, credit checks or deposits required by a contractual plan. They also offer a way for parents to control the cellular spending habits of their children, providing the top off card is off limits! However, if you have no objections to a credit check and contract, and you use your cell phone more than 120 minutes per month, you will probably find that a standard cell phone plan offers the best value.