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 on a monthly basis.
Which Phones Work With These Networks?
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. 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. If you're on a fixed income, something on our list of the best phones for seniors might be a good fit. You can also check with the carrier to see if your current phone works on its network.
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
4.5 Outstanding 4.5 Outstanding 4.5 Outstanding 4.5 Outstanding 4.0 Excellent 4.0 Excellent 4.0 Excellent 4.5 Outstanding
What About Customer Service?
In general, the less-prominent carriers do not provide the same level of customer service that the major networks do. 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. For nine years, our readers have chosen Consumer Cellular as their favorite carrier in this regard. 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’s Freemium(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 starter plan(Opens in a new window) 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 used to make calls and send texts. You must spend $1 up front for an activation kit, including a SIM card, but that’s the only amount you need to pay.
The Best Cell Phone Plans for $10 or Less Per Month
Although it's possible to get mobile service at $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. To get 2GB for $10 per month, you need to pay for a year upfront, which could be a pretty serious drawback for some users. This plan relies only on the T-Mobile LTE network, so make sure the coverage is good where you live.
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 12GB of data for just $20 per month. The plan even includes 5G and international roaming at no extra charge.
Mint Mobile 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. Mint Mobile is our Readers' Choice for smartphone plans, so it’s definitely worth the commitment.
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 a 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 18GB plan for $25 per month without having to pay upfront. For most users, 18GB 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.
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The Best Cheap Hotspot (Data Only) Plan
If you’re looking for data only, StraightTalk 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 by Verizon 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 are optimized for specific carriers. That means if you decide to switch carriers, your phone may offer limited 5G access or no 5G access 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(Opens in a new window) offers the best affordable 5G plan on Verizon's network. For $40 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(Opens in a new window) 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 $25 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 slightly more expensive. Unlimited plans with 5G access come in at $50 per month. It’s an excellent deal if you’re in an area with solid 5G coverage on T-Mobile. The price includes 5GB of hotspot data, 100GB of Google One storage, and an unlimited streaming music feature that works with more than 40 different services. 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 our 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.
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$15 A Month Prepaid Unlimited Talk, Text & Data Phone Plan - SpeedTalk Mobile Wireless.Who's cheaper 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.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.Who is the #1 cell phone provider? ›
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.Which phone is best with price? ›
- ₹ 41,650. ₹41,650 ❯ Croma. ...
- ₹ 57,900. ₹57,900 ❯ Croma. ...
- ₹ 57,900. Croma. ₹57,900 ❯ ...
- ₹ 59,000. Samsung Galaxy S10e. Samsung Exynos 9 Octa 9820 Processor. ...
- ₹ 55,999. ₹55,999 ❯ Samsung Galaxy Note 20. ...
- ₹ 52,990. Croma. ₹52,990 ❯ ...
- ₹ 43,999. ₹43,999 ❯ Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. ...
- ₹ 50,999. ₹50,999 ❯ Croma. ₹54,999 ❯
The iPhone SE is the absolutely cheapest iPhone you can buy new at $429. Despite rocking an old design that's been around since the iPhone 6, this handset features Apple's latest A15 Bionic chip. That means this phone is lightning-fast, can play every Apple Arcade game with ease, and will connect to 5G networks.How can I get a free phone? ›
Through the government's Lifeline program, eligible low-income people can acquire a free Android phone and phone plan. Anyone enrolled in one of the following programs is eligible to get a free phone from the government: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Supplemental Security Income (SSI)How much is T Mobile's cheapest 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.Does Straight Talk have a $10 plan? ›
$10 Remote Alert Plan - 30 Days | Straight Talk.Does T Mobile have a $25 a month plan? ›
T-Mobile Prepaid's 6GB plan is $25 per month. It includes Unlimited minutes, Unlimited texts and 6GB of data per month. The data is shut off after you reach your high-speed allotment.
T-Mobile has faster 5G and more "premium" data than Verizon for a lower monthly cost. However, Verizon tends to have better coverage, especially in rural areas.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&T overpriced? ›
AT&T's plans are a little too pricey for what it currently offers. Even with the company's fast download speeds and high data caps, we would expect even better coverage and more perks for an unlimited plan that starts at $65 a month. Let's compare AT&T with the competition to prove its overly priced nature.Is it worth switching from ATT to T-Mobile? ›
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|
Overall, AT&T has better coverage than T-Mobile, thanks to its superior 4G LTE network. However, T-Mobile does beat out AT&T with its 5G coverage.What are the 3 main cell phone carriers? ›
In the US there are three major networks: AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. All three offer services directly and have robust nationwide networks that offer 4G LTE (fast) and 5G (really fast) data.How much is a phone bill for one person with Verizon? ›
$60 1 GB and $75 2 GB Smartphone Single Line Plan FAQs.What is the #1 best phone? ›
- #1 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3.
- #1 Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3.
- #3 Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
- #3 Apple iPhone 13.
- #5 Google Pixel 5a.
- #5 OnePlus 10 Pro.
- #7 Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max.
- #7 Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus.
- Our pick: OnePlus Nord N20 5G. Photo: Ryan Whitwam. Our pick. OnePlus Nord N20 5G. ...
- Runner-up: Samsung Galaxy A13 5G. Photo: Ryan Whitwam. Runner-up. Samsung Galaxy A13 5G. ...
- Upgrade pick: Google Pixel 6a. Photo: Ryan Whitwam. Upgrade pick. ...
- The cheapest usable phone: Samsung Galaxy A03s. Photo: Ryan Whitwam. Budget pick.
- Runs on the T-Mobile network including 5G.
- Plans range from 1 to 12GB for data for $10-$35/month.
- Speeds only throttled after 50GB of monthly data.
- No contract or credit check.
USA. The USA market is ubiquitously the least expensive for any iPhone in the world. Starting with the iPhone 14, you can get it in the US starting at around Rs 66,000. The iPhone 14 Plus starts at around Rs 73,500, while the iPhone 14 Pro starts at around Rs 79,900.Why are iPhones so expensive? ›
Compared to Android flagships, Apple's A-series chips for its iPhones perform better. Since it's custom-made for the iPhone, it can deliver an uninterrupted and smooth experience. It incorporates expensive and top-tier parts, making it super efficient and fast.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.Who is offering free 5G phones? ›
Free 5G government phones are available from some companies for those eligible for ACP or Lifeline. These companies include StandUp Wireless, SafeLink, Assurance Wireless, and Cintex Wireless. Not all companies offer services of 5G phones in every state.What phone company 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.Is T-Mobile cheaper than Verizon? ›
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.What is T-Mobile's cheapest single line plan? ›
The T-Mobile Magenta plan starts at $70 for a single line, including all taxes and fees. It includes 100 GB a month of “Premium Data,” after which your connection may be slowed if T-Mobile's network gets congested, and 5 GB of mobile hotspot use, after which you can only share your bandwidth via Wi-Fi at 3G speeds.How can I lower my bill at T-Mobile? ›
Here are a few tips to cut costs on your smartphone bill. Opt for autopay or paperless billing: Many wireless carriers offer discounts ranging from $5 to $10 per line each month when you enroll in paperless billing and automatic payment programs with qualifying bank accounts or credit cards.
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.How long does the $35 Straight Talk plan last? ›
Our $35 Unlimited Talk and Text plan includes 5 GB of high-speed data per 30-day cycle. After the 5 GB, your data speed will be reduced to as low as 64 kbps for the remainder of the 30-day cycle.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.What will $30 get me on T-Mobile? ›
For just $30/month, get Metro by T-Mobile's top plan with unlimited talk, text and high-speed smartphone data; up to 15GB of high-speed hotspot data; 100GB Google One cloud storage and an Amazon Prime subscription ($12.99/month value).How much is T-Mobile's monthly plan? ›
|Essentials T-Mobile's best price plan||Magenta MAX T-Mobile's premium plan|
|Line 1||$60/mo.* Taxes and fees additional.||$85/mo.*|
|Line 2||$30/mo.* Taxes and fees additional.||$55/mo.*|
|Add-a-line||$15/mo.* Taxes and fees additional. (6 lines maximum. 7+ lines not available)||$30/mo.* (3−8 lines) $40/mo.* (9−12 lines)|
T-Mobile doesn't have a specific credit score requirement. Most carriers require a credit score of 650 or higher to qualify for postpaid plans. So, if your score is below 650, it's unlikely that you will be approved for a postpaid plan from T-Mobile.Is Tmobile cheaper than Verizon? ›
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.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 cell phone carriers are offering 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 phone carrier has the best signal strength? ›
Verizon has the best cell phone coverage overall, spanning 70% of the country with its 4G LTE service. AT&T comes in second with 68%, and T-Mobile slides in at third with 62%.
Connect by T-Mobile prepaid plans range from the super affordable $10 plan to a $35 plan for those who want more data.What is the cheapest cell phone plan for Verizon? ›
Verizon's cheapest plan is the Verizon Basic Phone 500 MB plan. It costs $30 per month, postpaid. It has just 500 MB of data per month, making it an option for users who use very little data. It also comes with unlimited talking and text time.How much is the cheapest Verizon line? ›
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.How expensive is Verizon per month? ›
|Monthly price comparison||1 line||2 lines|
|Metro by T-Mobile||$50||$80|
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.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.How can I get a new phone for free without paying? ›
- SNAP (formerly known as food stamps)
- Supplemental Security Income.
- Federal Public Housing Assistance.
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit.
- Tribal Programs (for residents of federally-recognized Tribal lands)
|Rank||Company||No. of towers owned in U.S.|
|1||Crown Castle Int'l Corp.||22,321|
|2||American Tower Corp.||20,594|
|4||SBA Communications Corp.||8,588|
- #1 Xfinity Internet.
- #2 Mediacom Internet.
- #2 AT&T Internet.
- #4 Verizon Internet. #5 Frontier Internet.
Overall, AT&T has better coverage than T-Mobile, thanks to its superior 4G LTE network. However, T-Mobile does beat out AT&T with its 5G coverage.