Finding the best cell phone plan can take on more urgency at the end of the year, especially if you grab a new phone for the holidays. After all, you’ll be on that plan for a while and want to make sure it offers as much value as the phone you just added.
Even if you’re not going to switch phones anytime soon, it’s worth seeing how your current wireless services stack up against the best cell phone plans. Maybe you can start the new year by changing plans and saving yourself some money.
Of course, choosing the best cell phone plan involves more than just selecting the cheapest option. Beyond dollars and cents, you need to consider which phones are compatible with which wireless service providers and what coverage and data speeds are in the area where you will use your phone the most. It also helps to get a plan from one of the best phone carriers so that their service has some solid benefits.
To make the decision easier, we’ve reviewed the plans of the major wireless service providers and smaller discount providers to create a list of the best cell phone plan for all kinds of different needs. You’ll find our top picks and some helpful tips on choosing the plan for you.
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Just want a cell phone plan on a budget? There are many carriers that can offer you a cheaper plan if you don’t mind sacrificing your data limit a bit.
If you’re the type of person who occasionally uses social media and essential apps like Google Maps, WhatsApp, or general internet browsing, you could get away with a plan that offers between 1GB and 4GB of data each month. Depending on the wireless service provider you use, you can cut your costs by $ 10 to $ 15. In fact, three of the four plans below hit that price range, with the fourth becoming less expensive the longer you stick with it.
- Cheap cell phone plans: Use our comprehensive guide to see all your available options
At the opposite end of the spectrum from budget plans above, unlimited cell phone plans will often be among the most expensive on the market. But if you’re glued to your phone to stream Netflix on the go, scrolling through Facebook, and using a lot of data each month, the added cost of an unlimited plan might well be worth it.
Realistically, you should expect to pay at least $ 30 here, although the larger carriers charge $ 60- $ 90 a month for unlimited data. Those more expensive plans include more benefits, like free subscription to the streaming service, increased data for access points, and more. Unlimited plans often include 5G coverage as well.
- Unlimited data plans: Use our comprehensive guide to see all your available options
When buying a family plan, cheaper is not always better. The more expensive options tend to have larger data limits (or unlimited data), better coverage, and more benefits.
The best value tends to be around the four-line mark, but there are also plenty of two-line plans if that suits you better. Realistically, for four lines of data, you should expect to pay more than $ 100 and up to $ 200 depending on the plan and provider.
- Family cell phone plans: Use our comprehensive guide to see all your available options
For many people, prepaid phone plans will be the best option. They are often some of the most affordable plans out there, offering flexible contracts that generally don’t have contracts or credit checks.
If you don’t want to be tied to a contract, that flexibility to cancel at any time will be a great advantage. While these plans tend to focus on lower, more affordable data contracts, you can also get unlimited data plans or slightly more expensive options with more benefits.
- Prepaid phone plans: Use our comprehensive guide to see all your available options
Price is an important consideration when looking for the best cell phone plans, especially if you get more than one line for other members of your family. Most carriers offer ever-increasing discounts as you add lines, so you’ll want to compare the total cost of your plan based on the number of lines that require service.
However, cell phone plans are more than just the amount on your bill each month. You should also consider who offers the best coverage in your area and if they are compatible with the phone you want to use. Our guide to the best telephone operators You may be able to answer some of those questions, but you’ll also want to ask your friends, neighbors, and co-workers what a specific carrier’s coverage looks like in your home and office, if you’re looking to switch wireless carriers.
Speaking of changing operators, the major operators are willing to bear part of the cost for you to change. These promotions may change over time, so we suggest you keep an eye out for new carrier offers when considering a change, as you may find additional ways to save money.
Wireless carriers have spent the last few years developing their 5G coverage, and if you have the right 5G phone, you can benefit from faster speeds if an carrier offers 5G service in your area. T-Mobile includes 5G coverage with its Magenta Plan, and Metro By T-Mobile customers with unlimited plans can also access T-Mobile’s 5G towers with a compatible smartphone. AT&T had asked you to sign up for their most expensive unlimited data plan options for 5G, but now any unlimited plan qualifies for coverage. Verizon includes full 5G coverage on three of its four currently unlimited plans, but the cheapest plan, Start Unlimited, lacks 5G ultra-broadband coverage. Both AT&T and Verizon have extended 5G coverage to prepaid customers with unlimited data plans.
- What is 5G? The Definitive Guide to What Wireless Service Providers Are Doing
Unsurprisingly, there is no simple answer to this and the question is more about what is the best plan for you. Obviously, this will depend on a wide variety of factors.
For those on a budget and looking for some flexibility, a prepaid cell phone plan will be a great way to go. These are often the cheapest options and the lack of contracts will be a huge advantage, especially if you want to change operators frequently.
If you frequently stream Netflix on the go, like to play games on your phone, or just drain your data at impressive speeds, an unlimited plan is a great way to go, especially as 5G becomes more common.
|Best cheap carrier||Best for coverage||Best for unlimited||Better family plans||Best prepaid operator|
|Conveyor||Mint Mobile||Verizon||Visible||T-Mobile||Mint Mobile|
|Best plan||4GB – $ 15||Unlimited Do More – $ 80||unlimited plan – $ 40||T-Mobile Magenta – $ 140||10GB – $ 20|
Family cell phone plans are a great way to save money, especially since many carriers offer discounts as you add more lines to your plan. It will come as no surprise that this is the way to go for the average family.
If you’re just looking for the lowest price possible, carriers like Mint Mobile and Tello can offer you really low costs if you don’t mind sacrificing some data.
Realistically, cell phone plans tend to fall into one of these categories: cheap, prepaid, family, unlimited, for kids or seniors. If you figure out which one is a better fit, you can narrow your search drastically.
MVNOs are a bit of an odd concept, but they offer a great way to get a cell phone plan on a budget. So what are they and how do they differ from the major carriers?
First of all, it is important to consider the main operators. These are: AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, which absorbed Sprint in 2020. You can also include US Cellular in that group, although its coverage remains regional compared to the three big carriers. These brands use their own technology and operate their own regional cellular networks.
MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), on the other hand, are brands that do not own or operate their own technology and instead take advantage of the services of one of the earlier brands. This allows them to be much cheaper than the major carriers, but it means that they are the first to be restricted during peak usage periods and do not have access to as many additional benefits.
MVNOs used to have limited 5G coverage, although that appears to be changing as carriers expand their coverage. We explain more about this in our MVNO guide, but the main players are:
- Mint Mobile: Works with T-Mobile
- Metro by T-Mobile: funciona con T-Mobile
- Cricket Wireless: funciona con AT&T
- Visible – runs on Verizon
- Boost Mobile: Works with T-Mobile and is in transition to AT&T