When it comes to finding the best cheap cell phone plans, the sheer choice in the market can feel overwhelming, especially if you are looking for a plan that satisfies Continue Reading

When it comes to finding the best cheap cell phone plans, the sheer choice in the market can feel overwhelming, especially if you are looking for a plan that satisfies your budget.

The perfect plan for you may vary depending on how much data you use each month, the time you spend chatting on the phone and whether you are a text-message aficionado or not.

Whether you are looking for a single plan or a family plan can have a significant impact on the plan price, too.

We’ve researched the best options on the market, comparing what cell phone plans would work best for those looking to rein in their spending and stick to a budget.

Our picks range in price from $8 to $65 a month and include everything from unlimited data to no data. Our top recommendation, Mint Mobile, is $30 a month for unlimited data.

How much you can save comes down to your data usage and which carrier provides the coverage you prefer.

The Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans

Plan Data Price
Mint Mobile Unlimited Unlimited $30/month
Tello Smart 5 GB $19/month
Visible Party Pay Unlimited $25/month
Ultra Mobile 2 GB Plan 2 GB $19/month
US Mobile Talk & Text None $8/month
T-Mobile Essentials Unlimited $60/month
AT&T Unlimited Starter Unlimited $65/month
Verizon 15 GB 15 GB $50/month

But First, How Are These Plans So Cheap?

Many of the best cheap cell phone plans in our guide are offered by mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), such as Mint Mobile and Tello Smart.

That means they lease time on a network from one of the major carriers in the United States — T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon — but don’t own the network.

Cell phone plans from MVNOs are priced lower since they don’t need to worry about building out and maintaining network infrastructure.

That’s the secret behind cheap cell phone plans and why you’ll pay more for service from a major carrier.

The downside is that customers on the major network always get priority, so during busy times of the day or in congested areas, your data speeds may be a bit slower than usual.

For some, the price savings with MVNO cell phone plans are well worth chancing slower speeds. For others who need high-speed 24/7, a plan from an MVNO may not be the best option.

Only you can decide whether an MVNO is the right solution for you, but if saving money is at the top of your list, this may be your best choice.

Mint Mobile Unlimited

The Best Cheap Cell Phone Plan
Key Features
  • Mix and match family plans
  • Mobile hot spot data
  • T-Mobile network coverage
Plan Name
Mint Mobile Unlimited
Talk & Text

If you want a cheap cell phone plan without any second thoughts, Mint Mobile is the solid choice for most consumers. Plans start as low as $15 a month for 4 GB of data.

Offering an outstanding unlimited plan for only $30 a month, you can enjoy using your cell phone thanks to the power of the T-Mobile network.

The unlimited plan offers unlimited talk and text, as well as 35GB of high-speed 5G data for browsing the web. After that, your speeds revert to a still-rapid 4G LTE connection.

The benefits of Mint Mobile extend beyond Ryan Renolds being the spokesperson and an owner. You’ll also find the ability to call relatives and friends in Mexico and Canada for no extra charge.

Additionally, Mint Mobile doesn’t regulate how you use your data, so feel free to use your unlimited plan to power a mobile hot spot the next time you are at a cafe with a poor Wi-Fi connection.

Pro Tip

A new carrier may mean a new phone — and the chance to bring in some cash with your old phone. Check out our tips to prepare and sell a cell phone.

Tello Smart

The Most Affordable Option
Key Features
  • Build your own plan
  • Referral program
  • No fees
Plan Name
Tello Smart
5 GB
Talk & Text

While Mint Mobile takes first place for offering the best overall experience and value, not everyone needs unlimited data. Tello takes second place with a capped data plan, also powered by the T-Mobile network.

If you occasionally check emails on the go, but don’t intend on streaming Netflix and YouTube while you’re out and about, then Tello’s Smart plan might be the perfect option.

Tello Smart offers 5 GB of data per month, as well as unlimited minutes and text messages so you can chat to your heart’s content.

Determining exactly how much data you need can be tricky if your plan or needs are shifting. To get an idea, check your existing cell phone bill to see how much you’ve been using each month. Look at usage only for your line if you’re on a shared plan.

If you’re really minimal on data, Tello also offers cell phone plans with as little as 500 MB of data for $9 a month, 1 GB for $10 and 2 GB for $14 with unlimited calling and texting.

You can save even more with extremely limited minutes and data, down to $6 for 100 minutes and 500 MB. Texting remains unlimited.

Visible Party Pay

The Best Option for Families & Friends
Key Features
  • Everyone pays their own bill
  • Group plan discount
  • Powered by Verizon’s network
Plan Name
Visible Party Pay
Talk & Text

As everyone knows, it isn’t fun until it’s a party. Visible has shown up with some well-priced plans to prove that point and make it on the list for best cheap, shared phone plan.

Using Verizon’s network, Visible offers a single-line, unlimited plan for $40 a month, but the deals really start to kick in with the Party Pay plan. Get at least four people to join a party and the plan drops to only $25 a month per line.

That’s right. Only $100 a month for unlimited data, talk and text — perfect for a family or a group of friends. And each person pays for their own service, no money juggling required.

Unlike services that limit group plans to the same address, Visible lets you add unlimited members to your Party Pay plan, whether they live with you or somewhere else — the more the merrier! You can even join a party with thousands of strangers.

Not only does Visible offer unlimited talk, text and data with its lone plan, but subscribers can also enjoy unlimited hot spot data, along with calling and texting to Canada and Mexico.

Pro Tip

With inflation at a 40-year high, paying less for your cell phone is just one way to save. Here are 32 other ways to beat inflation.

Honorable Mentions 

Ultra Mobile 2 GB Plan

Another excellent option running on the T-Mobile network is Ultra Mobile.

While Ultra Mobile doesn’t offer the best deal for unlimited data at $49 a month, it does present a decent offering with its 2 GB plan for only $19 a month.

The plan includes 2 GB of high-speed data, but you can continue surfing after you reach your limit at reduced speeds. You also get unlimited talk and text and hot spot support with your Ultra Mobile cell phone plan.

US Mobile Talk & Text

If you just need the basics of talk and text to get through your day, you may want to consider the US Mobile Talk & Text plan.

Unlike our other picks, this plan doesn’t include data. It takes you back to the old days with only text messaging and calling — perfect for a cheap feature phone.

At only $8 a line per month (or as low as $6 a line per month with three or more lines), it’s the cheapest recommendation in our roundup.

Pro Tip

Is your cell phone plan worth the money? There’s nothing wrong with paying more for good service that works for you but if it’s lifestyle creep, you may want to re-evaluate.

Best Cheap Plans from Major Carriers

Plan Name Data Talk & Text Contract Price
T-Mobile Essentials Unlimited Unlimited No $60/month
AT&T Unlimited Starter Unlimited Unlimited No $65/month
Verizon 15 GB 15 GB Unlimited Up to you $50/month

Going with a smaller carrier’s cell phone plan has its benefits, but you’re always subject to possible data slowdowns during busy times or in congested locations. (Remember: Your carrier is leasing time on a network from a major carrier that has its own customers.)

While these may not be the cheapest options, they are the cheapest options available from each major carrier — T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon.

T-Mobile Essentials

The T-Mobile network has the most expansive high-speed 5G service in the country, making it a great choice for those who love watching TV shows and movies or playing multiplayer video games.

The cheapest option with T-Mobile is the Essentials plan at $60 a month, which includes 50 GB of premium high-speed data, plus unlimited calling and texting.

The price of the Essentials plan drops rapidly when you add lines, down to $27 a month per line for five subscribers — making it ideal for groups.

AT&T Unlimited Starter

If AT&T has the most coverage in your area, considering the AT&T Unlimited Starter plan might be a good option.

The Unlimited Starter plan comes in at $65 a month for a single line and provides you with unlimited data, text, and talk on AT&T’s 5G network. With up to five lines, the price per line drops as low as $30 a month.

AT&T does offer a cheaper plan at $50 a month, which we don’t recommend as it deprioritizes your data and is limited to a single person. In that case, you might as well select one of our top cheap cell phone plan recommendations.

Verizon 15 GB

Verizon does offer an unlimited plan at $65 a month — quite a nice deal for the network with the most US coverage. However, our top recommendation for Verizon on a budget is the 15 GB prepaid plan, which offers plenty of data, along with unlimited talk and text for $50 a month.

The best part of the deal is that customers save $5 by setting up auto pay, another $5 a month after three months and $5 more a month after nine months — $40 a month isn’t a bad deal at all.

Pro Tip

If you want to go with a major carrier, check out the prepaid plans, too. There may be small trade-offs in service but you could see big savings.

How We Picked the Best Cheap Phone Plans

To determine our recommendations, we gathered data on all of the available cell phone plans. Then we looked at the most affordable plans, analyzing pricing, the amount of data included, and whether or not unlimited nationwide talk and text were offered.

We also analyzed how each plan’s pricing changed when additional lines were added or customers opted for a contract.

Finding the best cell phone plan to fit your budget is important. Here’s what you should keep in mind when comparing cell phone plans.

  • Price. Bottom line, how much will you pay and what will you get for that price?
  • Data. Most plans offer unlimited nationwide talk and text, so focusing on the amount of data is critical. Figure out how much data you need by looking at your current phone bills.
  • Discounts. Does the price drop with more lines, auto pay or a contract?
  • Coverage. Lastly, check each provider’s website to ensure solid coverage in your area. A super cheap plan isn’t much good without service.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is the Cheapest and Most Reliable Cell Phone?

We reviewed the best budget smartphones on the market and picked the Apple iPhone SE for Apple users and the Google Pixel 5a for Android fans. 

If you’re truly looking for a less spendy smartphone, check out the OnePlus Nord N20 5G for under $300 or the incredibly cheap BLU G51S for less than $100.

Which Cell Phone Carrier Has the Cheapest Plans?

In our roundup, Tello offers the cheapest rates for cellular phone service. We recommend the Tello Value Smart plan with 5 GB of data and unlimited talk and text for only $19 a month. 

If you don’t mind having limited data, Tello also offers the Economy plan with 1 GB of data for only $10 a month.

Is AT&T Cheaper Than T-Mobile?

When you compare AT&T and T-Mobile’s cheapest unlimited plans without data prioritization, T-Mobile comes out $5 cheaper a month than AT&T

However, if you don’t mind slower data speeds during peak hours, AT&T offers a lower-priced plan for $50 a month, but it is limited to a single line.

Who Is the No. 1 Cell Phone Carrier?

Verizon and T-Mobile are the best major networks. Verizon offers the best overall nationwide coverage, while T-Mobile offers the best 5G coverage. Both carriers offer competitive phone plans. 

If you are looking outside the major carriers, Mint Mobile is our top recommendation for excellent pricing and powered by the T-Mobile network.

Michael Archambault is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder specializing in technology.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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