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We Help You Decide: Emergency Only

One enormous advantage of prepaid is that you only pay for the minutes you use. This makes it perfect if you only use your cell phone for emergencies. Instead of paying $25 per month -- that's $300 per year! Not to mention you're locked into an agreement if you have a postpaid rate plan.

Unfortunately, pay-as-you-go minutes do expire, so that will be an important consideration when picking an emergency phone. Since you won't be using many minutes (we'll figure on 50 a month, and even that may be overestimating), the per-minute rate isn't paramount. However, if the minutes expire after, say, 30 days, you'll have to spend more to keep the minutes on your phone.

Read the Full Virgin Mobile Review
We can immediately get rid of the rate plans and the 40-cents per day access fee, since they're of little use to someone who uses 50 minutes per month. So now we're at the 30 cents per minute, or $15 per month. Ah, but the $15 top-up card last for 45 days, which means you only need to top-up eight times per year, totaling $120. As you'll see, this is on the low-end.

Read the Full Telus Pay and Talk Review
Sometimes it's more worth it to fork over money up front. Many carriers will extend the expiration for higher denomination top-ups. Telus is the opposite case. The $10 top-up card lasts 30 days, and provides you with 25 minutes (40 cents per minute). Over the course of a year, this will cost $120 -- as long as you can live on 40 minutes per month. On the other hand, if you buy the $25 airtime card, you get 75 minutes (33 cents per minute), and the minutes expire in 60 days. So over the course of a year, you'll have to spend $150 on the phone. It pays to go cheaper with Telus.

Read the Full SaskTel Review
SaskTel makes these calculations easy. All of their top-up cards expire in 60 days, meaning you'll only have to refill roughly six times per year. The $20 card will get you plenty of minutes, since calls are 25 cents for each of the first two minutes, and 15 cents per minute thereafter. So twenty dollars, six times per year, is $120. We'd take it.

Read the Full NorthernTel Review
NorthernTel also gives you plenty of minutes when you top-up: 30 cents for each of the first two minutes, and five cents per minute thereafter. Since the $25 card expires in 60 days and the $15 card expires in 30 days, it makes more sense to purchase the $25 card. That means, as it did with Telus, you're in for $150 for the year -- but it would be $180 if you went with the $15 cards once a month.

Read the Full Rogers Wireless Review
Rogers has a plan that looks like it's just for emergency users: The Anytime Plan, which offers all calls at 40 cents per minute. Once again, because of the minute expirations, we're not too concerned with rates. Most Rogers plans require a $20 top-up, but the Anytime Plan lets you put on $10 at a time -- and they expire in 30 days, just like a $20 or $30 top-up. So this means $120 per year. But, if you put $100 on, the minutes are good for a year. This would give you only 250 minutes for the year, though -- so you'd have to reserve it for real emergencies.

Read the Full MTS Evolve Review
You're best off topping up with $15 cards that expire in 30 days, since $30 cards expire in 60 days (so its a wash), and the $60 cards expire in 90 days, meaning that you'd be paying $60 every 90 days, rather than $45 every 90 days, which you would with the $15 cards. So you're out $180 for the year. This isn't the cheapest deal out there, it appears.

Read the Full Fido Review
Fido has a prepaid offering of 30 cents per minute, which can be filled only with a $10 refill card -- which expires in 30 days. That only gives you 33 minutes per month, though. But it works out to $120 per year, which is nice. If you need a few more minutes, you can move to the 20 cents per minute plan, which should be refilled with $20 refill cards (also expiring in 30 days, but a better value than the $50 card, which expires in 60 days). This, of course, is not friendly for the wallet, as you'll be out $240 for the year. This makes it an especially tough call, since you're talking double the price for the latter plan.

Read the Full Bell Mobility Review
There is no problem with Bell's rate: 30 cents for each of the first two minutes of a call, five cents per minute thereafter. So you can definitely get enough out of a small top-up. You're best off with the $25 card, which expires in 60 days (as opposed to the $15 card, which expires in 30 days). So you're out $150 for the year. As we've seen, this isn't the worst option out there -- though there are a few that are certainly better.

Read the Full Cityfone Review
Unfortunately, Cityfone only offers contract-mimicing monthly plans, so it's tough to find a good plan for emergency-only users. They do offer a plan for $19 per month, meaning you're out $228 for the year. Though as we've seen, this is far too much. Cityfone may be good for other services, but it just doesn't fit as an emergency-only phone.