Most Americans have a cell plan from one of the major carrier brands—AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless—or the slightly-less-popular UScellular. However, many more choices are available to US customers looking for a bargain. Dozens of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and prepaid carriers offer significant discounts by piggybacking on the major networks to deliver lower prices.
Pay attention to these providers' reputations for customer service and which networks they use. Some MVNOs allow you to choose between different networks, whereas others are tied to a single provider. One company, Google Fi, uses T-Mobile's and UScellular's networks interchangeably on some phones, but for the rest, you have to choose which network you want when you buy your SIM card.
We order our picks by their respective monthly prices so that you can compare the best options within your budget. Remember, these recommendations are for a single line of service. Bundling two or more lines on the same account may help reduce monthly costs on some of the below plans. For the best carrier service where you live, check out our stories on the best mobile networks in the US and Canada.
Editors' Note: These prices and plan details are accurate at press time, but they change frequently. We plan to update this story often.
Which Phones Work With Cheap Plans?
Some of the smaller carriers do not sell phones at all, or they might limit their selection to low-end phones that work only on their network. Therefore, we recommend purchasing a cheap, unlocked phone that is compatible with multiple carriers (check out our list of the best phones for seniors if you're looking for something simple). Even if a phone is listed to work with all major carriers, you should still verify that your carrier supports the phone before you buy it: With the growing popularity of 5G, some MVNOs are being fussy about supported devices.
Most unlocked phones are by default compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile and should work with any MVNO or prepaid carrier that uses those networks. If you're looking for an unlocked phone that works on all three major US systems, consider any factory-unlocked iPhone that's of the 2018-era XR or later; the Samsung Galaxy S9 or later; the Google Pixel line; or the Moto G series. Or, take a look at our list of the best unlocked phones.
Unlocked Phones to Suit Any Plan
4.0 Excellent 4.5 Outstanding 4.0 Excellent 4.5 Outstanding 4.0 Excellent 4.0 Excellent 4.0 Excellent 4.5 Outstanding
What Cheap Phone Plan Has the Best Customer Service?
In general, the less-prominent carriers do not provide the same level of customer service as the major networks. The issues we hear about most involve new service activations and billing. Because there are few or no retail stores for some smaller carriers, you must resolve any problems via a call center or online help desk. Often, agents don't have the knowledge or resources to correct some issues. We've done our best to research our recommendations closely, but you should check them out yourself before you pull the trigger.
If good customer service is a concern, check out Consumer Cellular or Mint Mobile. Our readers rated those carriers most highly. You can also turn to the wholly owned brands of the big carriers, which have a network of physical stores: AT&T's Cricket and T-Mobile's Metro. Verizon's Visible doesn't have any stores, but Verizon still backs it. In some cases, these big, carrier-backed prepaid brands cost a bit more.
The Best Free Cell Phone Plans
Let’s be honest: You can’t get much for free nowadays. However, if you’re looking to do only fundamental things with your phone, two decent free smartphone plans are available.
FreedomPop(Opens in a new window) offers 10 minutes of phone calls, 10 text messages, and 25MB of high-speed data per month. You don't get 5G or any other bells and whistles but, if you’re home and connected to Wi-Fi most of the time, you should be able to get by with FreedomPop’s free offering.
The TextNow(Opens in a new window) starter plan is another option. You get unlimited talk and text with no data but, because nothing is truly free, you have to deal with ads in the app that enables those calls and texts. You must pay $1 upfront for an activation kit, including a SIM card, but that’s the only money you need to spend.
The Best Cell Phone Plans for $10 or Less Per Month
Although it's possible to get mobile service for $10 per month or less, the number of carriers that offer such deals is dwindling rapidly. Even when plans come in at the $10 mark, most do not include taxes and other fees that can vastly increase the price, depending on where you live. Right now, we recommend three carriers that offer reliable service at a rock-bottom price.
Tello(Opens in a new window), which piggybacks off T-Mobile's network, provides the most bang for your buck. On its website, you can create a custom plan with unlimited calls, texts, and 1GB of data for $10 per month. It's a solid deal if you have an old phone or are looking to buy an unlocked phone that works on multiple carriers.
RedPocket's(Opens in a new window) basic plan comes in at $10 per month and gives you 500 minutes of talk time, 500 text messages, and 500MB of data. It's also the only MVNO in this price range that has relationships with all the major carriers so that you can select the option with the best service in your area.
When it comes to maximizing the amount of data you can get for $10 or less, Unreal’s(Opens in a new window) 2GB plan is the best option, though to get 2GB for $10 per month, you need to pay for a year upfront. This plan relies only on the T-Mobile LTE network, so make sure the coverage is good where you live. You also get unlimited calls and texts, which is great for the price.
The Best Cell Phone Plans for $11-$20 Per Month
Though it may be a little more expensive than other small carriers, Consumer Cellular(Opens in a new window)'s simple, senior-focused plan comes with excellent customer service and it’s one of our readers' favorites. With AT&T and T-Mobile as its backbone, you can expect solid coverage around the country. Its lowest-cost plan offers unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of data for $20 per month. You won’t need a landline anymore because you can make all the calls you want with this plan.
US Mobile(Opens in a new window) is by far your best choice in this price range. The carrier offers unlimited talk and text, plus 15GB of data for just $20 per month. The plan even includes 5G and international roaming at no extra charge. You can also get a 5GB play for $15 per month if $20 is more than you're comfortable with.
Mint Mobile(Opens in a new window) offers an introductory plan with unlimited calls, unlimited text, and 4GB of data for $15 per month. However, it requires a three-month commitment and an upfront payment. If you want to keep the rate once the introductory period is over, you need to pay for a full year of service. It's a good deal, but you need to shell out a large sum upfront to get the T-Mobile network-backed deal.
The Best Cell Phone Plans for $21-$30 Per Month
If you’re looking for an unlimited plan or one with a lot of data, this is the price range for you. We're getting to the point of not being "cheap" anymore, but these are still far more affordable than typical plans from the big three.
Tello offers unlimited data, calls, and texts on T-Mobile's network for $29 per month. That’s as good as it gets for $30 or less. Of course, there are limitations—data speeds after the first 25GB of 4G LTE/5G data (depending on where you live) will be much slower. On the bright side, unlike the next option, you don’t need to pay for a year upfront.
Mint Mobile is another solid choice if you want fully unlimited data. For exactly $30 per month, you get all the talk, text, and data you want on T-Mobile’s network. However, you need to pay for one year upfront, which is how Mint can keep the price down.
If you’re not looking to spend $30 per month and you’re comfortable with slightly less data, you can get US Mobile’s 25GB plan for $25 per month without having to pay upfront. For most users, 25GB is more than enough and it’s hard to beat a price of $25 per month.
The Best Cheap Tethering Plan
Not all cheap phone plans support tethering because users who tether tend to consume much more data. If you want an affordable option that includes tethering and a large quantity of data, RedPocket’s 10GB for $30 per month is the one to choose. It works with all the major carriers, so you can pick the one that gets the best coverage in your area during signup.
Recommended by Our Editors
The Best Cheap Phones for 2023
9 Tips to Get the Best Price on a Cell Phone
Best Mobile Networks 2022
The Best Cheap Phone Hotspot Plan
If you’re looking for data only, StraightTalk(Opens in a new window) offers the best option. For $25 per month, you get 4GB of data to use on your tablet or mobile hotspot. Part of what makes StraightTalk a good option is that it uses all of the major carrier networks. That means you won't ever need to worry about your device not having an adequate connection.
The Best Cheap Family Phone Plans
In the world of cheap smartphone plans, the best way to save even more money is by grouping with your family. Some of the best MVNOs and carriers offer huge discounts when you add more lines.
Google Fi is one of the best plans to go with if you plan to add additional lines because Google drops the price for each person substantially. With four lines, Google’s Simply Unlimited plan drops from $50 per line to $20 for each one. For three lines, the price is $25 per month per line. You get 5G on T-Mobile and UScellular, so the connection is fast and reliable.
Visible(Opens in a new window) also offers discounts for each person you add. And those people don’t need to be in your household—any of your friends can join. The normal cost for an unlimited line is $40 per month but, if you have four or more people, the price drops to $25 per line, which is hard to beat for an unlimited plan on Verizon’s network.
The Best Cheap 5G Plans
Ready for the next generation of mobile connectivity? Before you jump head-first into the 5G pool, read our in-depth primer on the next generation of cellular technology. 5G is a very different beast than previous connectivity standards and, in the US especially, most 5G smartphones work best on a specific carrier. That means if you decide to switch carriers, your phone may offer limited 5G access or none at all. Check out our list of the best 5G phones we recommend right now, but make sure to check out the 5G connectivity standards for each carrier before you commit to a plan.
Most small carriers offer a 5G plan, but it's essential to pay attention to the fine print. For example, it's common for carriers to restrict 5G plans to sub-6GHz, cap speeds, or even limit the amount of data you get in "unlimited" plans. For this reason, we think Metro and Visible are your best bets.
Visible offers the best affordable 5G plan on Verizon's network. For $45 per month, you get unlimited calls, text, and 5G data capped at 200Mbps. If you're looking to save even more money, Visible's Party Pay plan is an excellent option. You can add up to three additional family members, friends, or roommates and knock $5 off your monthly bill for each additional line. The savings apply to all lines, so a Party Plan with four lines costs just $30 per month per line. You don't have to worry about collecting Venmo payments for everyone's portion of the bill either; Visible bills each member separately.
Metro(Opens in a new window) is another great option. Unlimited plans with 5G access come in at $40 per month. It’s an excellent deal if you’re in an area with solid 5G coverage on T-Mobile. For $50, you get 5GB of hotspot data and 100GB of Google One storage. Although T-Mobile prioritizes its main customers over Metro subscribers when the network is congested, this behavior is unlikely to significantly affect your network speeds if you have a good 5G connection.
If you’re not concerned about having unlimited data and just want a reliable 5G connection on T-Mobile’s network for as little dough as possible, you should consider Mint Mobile's 4GB plan, which gives you 4GB of 5G data as well as unlimited talk and text.
Finally, for more on how to get a good deal, check out our top tips to get the best price on a cell phone.
Like What You're Reading?
Sign up for Fully Mobilized newsletter to get our top mobile tech stories delivered right to your inbox.
Thanks for signing up!
Your subscription has been confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox!
Sign up for other newsletters
Is there a $30 dollar a month unlimited cell phone plan? ›
If you want an unlimited plan for cheap, Mint Mobile offers the cheapest unlimited plan in the industry. For $30, you'll get unlimited everything. Plus, it's owned by Ryan Reynolds. That's right, Deadpool (or Green Lantern, if you prefer), owns Mint Mobile.What phone service is $15 a month? ›
Mint Mobile is a cellular service provider. They were established in 2016 in Costa Mesa, CA and were the first company to sell premium wireless service online-only.Is there a $10 a month phone plan? ›
Prepaid plans with talk, text, and high-speed data starting at just $10/mo. Plus taxes and fees. Domestic use only. During congestion, the small fraction of customers using >50GB/mo.What's cheaper AT&T or T Mobile? ›
T-Mobile is less expensive overall while providing more "premium" data that isn't slowed down. T-Mobile also delivers faster data speeds than AT&T. You could justify paying more for AT&T for better coverage in rural areas.Who's cheaper AT&T or Verizon? ›
Verizon vs AT&T: Price
With that pricing between Verizon and AT&T is very close. Verizon is cheaper for the basic unlimited plan and AT&T is a touch cheaper for the premium unlimited plan. Keep in mind these prices can change based on how many lines you need.
AT&T PREPAIDSM monthly plans have no annual contract and no credit check. Enjoy the freedom of unlimited talk and text starting at $30 a month and unlimited data on the $85 or $65 Monthly Plan.What cell phone plan gives you a free phone? ›
Lifeline is a government assistance program. The Assurance Wireless offer provides eligible low-income customers free monthly data, unlimited texting, and free monthly minutes. Plus a free phone.What are the best unlimited phone plans? ›
- #1 Mint Mobile Unlimited.
- #1 Visible Unlimited Plan.
- #3 Verizon Do More Unlimited.
- #4 Verizon Play More.
- #5 Consumer Cellular Unlimited Talk & Text.
- #6 Verizon Start Unlimited. #7 Google Fi Simply Unlimited.
T-Mobile's most affordable plan is the $15/month Connect Unlimited Talk & Text With 2.5GB data plan. This plan gives you unrestricted calling and messaging with 2.5GB of data at up to 5G speeds.Does AT&T have a 25$ plan? ›
Multi-Month Prepaid Plans, from $25/mo. I AT&T PREPAID.
How much is AT&T phone bill every month? ›
A one-person AT&T Wireless plan costs between $50 and $85 per month. AT&T's cheapest plan is AT&T 4 GB ($50 per month), and its most expensive plan is AT&T Unlimited Premium ($85 per month).Can you get a phone plan for free? ›
You can qualify for free cell phone service by participating in government benefit programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and SSI. You may also qualify by income. What is Lifeline? Lifeline is a government benefit program that offers eligible customers FREE cell phone service every month.Does Verizon have a $10 plan? ›
5G Unlimited plans: $10/mo account discount applied to single line; $25/mo account discount applied to 2-3 lines; $20/mo account discount applied to 4+ lines.How can I get the lowest phone bill? ›
- Use Wi-Fi when you can. ...
- Limit your background data use. ...
- Cut the insurance. ...
- Sign up for automated payments or paperless billing. ...
- Take advantage of your employee discount. ...
- Buy no-contract phones. ...
- Keep your phone longer. ...
- Don't do a payment plan for your phone.
In most cases, yes. T-Mobile and AT&T's plans tend to be pretty similar when it comes to features, but T-Mobile's are usually about $5 cheaper while offering higher data caps. And you'll save even more with T-Mobile if you bundle up in a family plan.What phone carrier is better than T-Mobile? ›
Verizon and T-Mobile are the two of the biggest and most reliable carriers in the U.S. While Verizon boasts the nation's best 4G LTE network, the Un-carrier touts the widest 5G footprint. Generally speaking, Verizon gets you better urban and rural coverage, whereas T-Mobile delivers 5G in more places.How much is an average T-Mobile plan? ›
|Monthly price comparison||1 line||2 lines|
Verizon Wireless is our best cell phone provider for 2021, and has been at the top of our guide for the past three years. Why? It's one of the biggest, sure, but it gets superior scores for reliability, speed, and network coverage.How much is the lowest Verizon plan? ›
Verizon's cheapest plan is the Verizon Basic Phone 500 MB plan. It costs $30 per month, postpaid.Is AT and T better than Verizon? ›
Broadly speaking, Verizon offers better 4G LTE coverage, while AT&T currently has the edge when it comes to 5G (for the moment anyway). AT&T's prices are lower, and the company includes more high-speed cellular data with its unlimited plans. However, Verizon arguably offers better perks.
What is the cheapest unlimited plan for AT&T? ›
What is AT&T's cheapest unlimited? AT&T's cheapest unlimited plan is its Unlimited prepaid plan at $50/month. However, the prepaid Unlimted Plus plan can also be reduced to $50/month when you sign up for autopay. AT&T's cheapest postpaid unlimited plan is its Unlimited Starter plan at $65/month.How can I get AT&T to lower my bill? ›
- Shop for a cheaper cell phone plan. ...
- Sign up for AutoPay. ...
- Shop for cell phone plans with extra features. ...
- Add your family to your plan. ...
- Get additional discounts. ...
- Skip the activation fees: If you sign up online for AT&T PREPAID, there is no activation fee.
Thankfully, AT&T is offering a free replacement phone (via Android Police) for those who want it. That's an AT&T RADIANT Core, a budget phone from 2019 that was first introduced as a reasonable option for AT&T's prepaid customers. It usually retails for $70, but it's currently available at a 50 percent discount.Which carrier pays you to switch? ›
All three major cell phone carriers—Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T—pay you to switch to their network.Will Verizon give me a free phone? ›
Get more 5G, more entertainment and a free 5G phone, on us, with select trade-in and select 5G Unlimited plans.How can I get a new phone for free without paying? ›
- Lifeline Support. Lifeline Support is a government-funded program that helps to reduce the cost of cell phones for people who qualify. ...
- Assurance Wireless. ...
- SafeLink Wireless. ...
- Craigslist. ...
- OfferUp. ...
- NextDoor. ...
- 7. Facebook Marketplace. ...
- Buy Nothing Groups.
T-Mobile pricing and plans. Verizon offers the biggest bang for your buck, but T-Mobile is the cheaper of the two. Let's start this comparison with the cheap stuff and work our way up. If you're looking for a no-data, no-frills talk and text plan, then T-Mobile has you covered for just $20 a month.Which phone plan has the most coverage? ›
Best overall coverage
Verizon's network offers objectively excellent coverage. In 2022, Verizon's network gets you 4G coverage in 70% of the U.S.1 That's better than any other carrier. This superior coverage won't matter as much to those who live in major metropolitan areas, where every carrier has good coverage.
|Pricing by line||AT&T Unlimited Premium||AT&T Unlimited Starter|
Eligible customers can receive up to 50% off of their first two lines. Before you switch your plan to take advantage of T-Mobile's discounts or special pricing, be sure that you understand what the terms are. If you aren't eligible for the discount, you can find yourself owing a lot of money.
Does AT&T offer 50% discount? ›
It starts with a voicemail that states, "I'm calling you from AT&T/DirecTV to let you know that your existing account qualifies for 50%..." While this voicemail sounds like a great deal, it's actually a scam call that is making the rounds again. AT&T confirms these calls are a scam and the company is not behind it.Does AT&T still have the $2 a day plan? ›
We can answer your question about switching back to the Daily Plan. We want to advise that effective January 5, 2022, $2 Daily Plans have been retired as part of the 2022 AT&T PREPAID simplification project.Does AT&T have a $2 a day plan? ›
As part of the 2022 AT&T PREPAID simplification project, the $2 daily plan and the $. 25/minute pay per use (PPU) plan had retired effectively on January 5, 2022. Existing customers will be grandfathered and remain on their current plan until they change their plan or the plan expires.Does ATT have a $10 dollar plan? ›
AT&T PREPAIDSM Unlimited1 plan gives you unlimited data, talk, and text to more than 230 countries, plus 5G access2. You can also buy a $10/5GB mobile hotspot as an add-on.Why is AT&T bill so high? ›
Charges on your bill
Here's why your first bill can be higher than average: It has one-time activation fees and equipment charges. We bill you for your first full month of service in advance. If you start service in the middle of a bill period, you'll have charges for the days you used the service.
The average American cell phone bill is $70 for a single user, according to JD Power. That adds up to $840 per year, which is basically the same as buying a used car. But by taking a few simple steps, you can lower your phone bill significantly.What carrier is offering a free iPhone? ›
Switch to Verizon on any one of the One Unlimited, Get More, Do More, or Start plans and get the Apple iPhone 13 free. Plus, you will also qualify for a free Apple Watch Series 7 when activating a new line, and if that wasn't enough, you can also get a $200 Verizon gift card.Why is Verizon giving away free phones? ›
Verizon plans to shut down its old 3G CDMA network by the end of 2022, which means 3G devices won't be able to make or receive calls.Is it cheaper to have your own phone plan? ›
Do family plans save money? The initial price of a family plan can be shocking because the overall cost will be higher than an individual plan. However, when you look at the cost per line, it is cheaper. And as you add more lines, the cost per line usually decreases, ultimately saving money for everyone on the plan.Does Verizon have a $20 plan? ›
If you're currently making monthly device payments or own the phone, the monthly access charge will be $20.
How much is a Verizon plan for one person? ›
Verizon Start Unlimited Plan: 1 line: $70/mo. = $80 account access fees less $10 Auto Pay enrollment discount. Verizon Play More Unlimited Plan: 1 line: $80/mo. = $90 account access fees less $10 Auto Pay enrollment discount.Is Verizon cheaper than straight talk? ›
Compared to Verizon's 5G home internet plans, Straight Talk's home internet is less expensive in most cases. Verizon's 5G Home service is $50 a month with autopay and $60 without, and its 5G Home Plus tier is $70 with autopay and $80 without.Which company has the cheapest phone bill? ›
- #1 Tello Economy.
- #2 Mint Mobile Unlimited.
- #2 Visible Unlimited.
- #4 Mint Mobile 10 GB Plan. #5 Consumer Cellular Unlimited Talk & Text.
Verizon's Welcome Unlimited plan is its most cost-effective unrestricted data package. You'll enjoy prices as low as $30/month for four lines, or $65/month for a single-line plan. Welcome Unlimited inlcudes unlimited talk, text, and data. There's even select international roaming in Mexico and Canada.What's the least expensive T-mobile plan? ›
T-Mobile's most affordable plan is the $15/month Connect Unlimited Talk & Text With 2.5GB data plan. This plan gives you unrestricted calling and messaging with 2.5GB of data at up to 5G speeds.Who is better AT&T or Verizon? ›
Broadly speaking, Verizon offers better 4G LTE coverage, while AT&T currently has the edge when it comes to 5G (for the moment anyway). AT&T's prices are lower, and the company includes more high-speed cellular data with its unlimited plans. However, Verizon arguably offers better perks.Who has the best cell coverage? ›
Without question, Verizon's 4G LTE network has the best coverage, with 70% nationwide coverage, followed by AT&T with 68%, T-Mobile with 62%, and Sprint with 30%. Because of Verizon's robust network coverage, Let's Talk ranks Verizon as the winner, with the most coast-to-coast coverage.What carrier gives free phones? ›
Several carriers offer free phones through the government's Lifeline program. These carriers include Assist Wireless, Assurance Wireless, enTouch Wireless, and True Wireless, among others. Many other carriers—like Verizon, Metro by T-Mobile, and Cricket—offer free phones to new customers.What cell service gives you a free phone? ›
Lifeline is a government assistance program. The Assurance Wireless offer provides eligible low-income customers free monthly data, unlimited texting, and free monthly minutes. Plus a free phone.What cell phone companies pay you to switch? ›
All three major cell phone carriers—Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T—pay you to switch to their network. With monetary incentives for hopping mobile service providers and sweet device savings, rival companies constantly jostle to tempt new customers.
How expensive is Verizon per month? ›
|Monthly price comparison||1 line||3 lines|
|Metro by T-Mobile||$50||$110|
Verizon acquired Straight Talk through its more than $6 billion purchase of TracFone Wireless last year. Of TracFone's 20 million customers, Straight Talk accounted for about half, or 9.5 million. The Straight Talk Home Internet service is a prepaid, no contract and no credit check service.How is Straight Talk so cheap? ›
Read our disclosure policies to learn more. Straight Talk is a no-contract, prepaid cell phone plan and one of the cheapest prepaid carriers out there. Straight Talk keeps its prices down by using existing cell towers from other companies.