In principle, you can choose between postpaid and prepaid services. Signing up for a Postpaid SIM card means that you are, in fact, entering a contract with a mobile service provider for a specific period (often 12 to 24 months), and you usually pay a certain amount of money each month. The prepaid SIM cards are those you buy credit for- you can make calls, send messages and surf until your credit ran off.
Contracts which run through a specific period are often cheaper at first glance. But when you sign a contract, you are less flexible, and you cannot just switch to a more appropriate or less expensive deal. Before you go for a mobile communication contract, you should calculate the basic fees you will be charged during its runtime. Many offers may look affordable at the start, but their basic fee increases after a few months and you have to pay more for the rest of your contracts' period.
In addition, many providers have offers in which you are sold a new smartphone along with the contract and pay the price of the smartphone in monthly instalments. These contracts are often very tempting; but before opting for such an offer, check if it is not cheaper to buy the contract and the smartphone independently.
Please note: Providers often try to sell you a mobile phone insurance package along with a new smartphone. Contemplate this offer well before opting for it. In principle, such insurance packages are not worthwhile. You can learn more about them in our chapter "Supplementary insurances".
With both postpaid and prepaid service, you have the three following options to choose from:
- With a flat rate, you can make unlimited phone calls, text messages and surf up to a specific data volume. Initially, you often benefit from high-speed internet (3G or LTE) until you use up your data volume. Then, your internet connection will slow down (GPRS) until the end of the month when you can surf with high-speed internet again.
- With an inclusive package, you have a fixed quota of units for calls and texts and a fixed volume of data for surfing- and you pay a fixed price. When your package is used up, you can book additional units or data volume, and you usually have to pay extra for it. Attention: Many providers, automatically assign you additional data volume as soon as your's is used up and then charge you for it. Keep in mind that such extra data volume can cost a lot of money. Make sure to switch off the automatic booking of data volume ("Datenautomatik"). You can do so via the online customer portal or the hotline of your provider and obtain a confirmation for the cancellation of automatic data booking in writing.
- You can also choose to pay for every call, SMS and every minute of surfing separately. This option is usually more expensive than a flat rate or an inclusive package, but you only pay for the services you actually use. And there are no hidden costs.
There are many websites aimed at helping people find the best service rate. In particular, the Vergleichsportal Check24 is quite popular. On the website of the Consumer Protection Center website ("Verbraucherzenterale"), you can find a Mobile service Checklist that will help you to clarify all the significant issues in advance.