The chief advantage of prepaid Internet is that you can use it as little or as much as you like. If you're a light Internet user -- only logging on occasionally to check e-mail or the weather -- then you've no need for unlimited monthly minutes.
If you use the Internet sporadically -- a lot one month, almost never the next month -- you can buy the appropriate minutes for your usage habits.
Or maybe you have broadband at home, but you're looking for a "plan B" if you unexpectedly lose cable or DSL Internet access. Most prepaid Internet cards are good for a year. You can invest in one $10 card a year and keep it in a drawer as a backup.
Prepaid Internet also is helpful for travelers. Most prepaid Internet providers come with tens of thousands of local access numbers, national and international. Wherever your travels take you, all you need is a phone line to access the Internet. If there's no local access number available, most plans also come with toll-free access numbers that are charged at a higher per-minute rate.
Even if you don't have access to a landline telephone connection, you can use your cell phone as a modem. Here's how it works:
- Make sure that your cell phone service provider supports something called CSD (circuit switched data). Call your provider for details.
- Establish a connection between the cell phone and your computer using either Bluetooth or a special USB cable.
- In your computer's Internet settings, identify your cell phone as a new modem.
- Enter the telephone access number and establish an Internet connection.
Prepaid Internet is also good for people with credit problems. Most monthly Internet service plans require a credit card for billing. Prepaid Internet cards, however, can be bought with cash [source: Phone+].
Finally, prepaid Internet can be a good way for parents to control their children's Internet usage [source: Phone+]. If a kid is given one $10 card a month, then he can only use that many minutes.
Now let's look at a few drawbacks of prepaid Internet.