Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans
For folks who only need a basic wireless plan or don’t like the idea of signing a two- or three-year contract, finding the best prepaid cell phone plans might suit your needs. They offer plans that are not only flexible but allow you to pay for the service on a month-to-month basis.
I’ve examined the top prepaid phone plans in the industry to make your search a bit easier and evaluated them on their phone selections, types of plans, and these other characteristics. But first, let’s look at the basics of cellular service.
These days having a cell phone is just another one of life’s basic necessities. Knowing all-too-well about our reliance on these devices, cell phone providers are able to charge high prices for monthly plans, data packages, and all the other extras.
The 8 Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans Available in 2019
Almost all prices are susceptible to change so please check the service plan website for current information details.
Tello is a prepaid carrier providing cheap cell phone plans allowing to choose exactly how many minutes how many texts and how much data you need each month in your plan with their customizable plans.
After building your own plan you click on I want this deal then you can either sign in or create an account if you new and you can also connect to Facebook or Google.
Once you have your account created you’ll be brought to your order review page you can see your custom plan and you can choose to select the phone or they keep your old phone.
If you decide to keep your phone all you need to do is to enter your device ID which is an IMEI to check if your phone is compatible with their network and then you can select a sim card which cost $10, then you will be brought to order status page where you can see your work is done and Tello has an application so you can manage your account from your mobile device.
Once you get your sim card all you need to do is pop it into your device and head on over to your tell account and click activate you then enter the ICCID and you should be good to go.
- $11/month: unlimited talk and text plus, calls to Canada, Mexico & China are included.
- $14/month: unlimited talk, text and 1 GB plus, calls to Canada, Mexico & China are included.
- $19/month: unlimited talk, text and 2 GB plus, calls to Canada, Mexico & China are included.
- $24/month: unlimited talk, text and 3 GB plus, calls to Canada, Mexico & China are included.
- $39/month: unlimited talk, text and 10 GB plus, calls to Canada, Mexico & China are included.
Twigby phone service allows its customers to create their own affordable plan based on monthly usage with no contracts or activation fees. Each of Twigby’s plans is prepaid with no contracts and comes with free unlimited text messages, so you don’t have to worry about paying extra for texting. Their plans start at just $12 for free unlimited texting, 200 minutes and 150MB of data. Twigby plans are good for those who don’t need a ton of data, as they do not offer an unlimited high-speed data option.
Note: Twigby is giving its new customers 25% off on their first 6 months of service.
- $9.75/month: unlimited talk and text
- $14.25/month: unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of data
- $17.25/month: unlimited talk, text, and 2GB of data
- $21.00/month: unlimited talk, text, and 3GB of data
- $24.75/month: unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of data
Verizon Wireless is one of the Big Four wireless carriers in the U.S. It consistently tops the charts in terms of network coverage, reliability, and speed.
The range of plans Verizon offers its prepaid customers is nice. Data is available in 500MB, 3GB, 8GB, and Unlimited data, so there’s an option for any type of data usage. The limited plans are nice alternatives to the family data bucket-style postpaid plans Verizon offers, which don’t allow a lot of data per line and cost about the same. Even on limited data lines, you can’t use your high-speed data allowance for hotspot tethering. Video streaming quality is also limited to 480p or DVD quality.
Verizon’s prepaid plans are a good value if you compare them with similarly-priced Verizon postpaid plans, but they’re expensive for prepaid. Still, Verizon is the best network in the U.S., so if you need the best coverage the prepaid plan options can save you some money.
Note: Verizon offers a $5 discount per month for Auto Pay.
- $30/month — Unlimited talk, text, and 500MB of LTE data + 4G hotspot access
- $40/month —Unlimited talk, text, and 3GB of LTE data + 4G hotspot access as well as unlimited messaging to Mexico, Canada, and over 200 countries
- $50/month — Unlimited talk, text and 8GBof LTE data + 4G hotspot access as well as unlimited messaging to Mexico, Canada, and over 200 countries with Unlimited talk to Mexico and Canada
- $70/month — Unlimited talk, text and unlimited LTE data + 4G hotspot access as well as unlimited messaging to Mexico, Canada, and over 200 countries with Unlimited talk to Mexico and Canada
- $40/month – 3GB — $30 for each additional line
- $50/month – 8GB — $35 for each additional line
- $70/month – Unlimited — $50 for each additional line
Republic Wireless is unique amongst its competitors with the institution of Adaptive Coverage to reduce the monthly service cost. Adaptive Coverage represents a cell phone’s ability to switch seamlessly between Wi-Fi and a wireless network. This means that when Wi-Fi is available, the phone will use it – without you doing anything – only resorting to the network if no Wi-Fi is detected. This feature even works for calls and text messages, with no interruption to your service.
How much you’ll save depends on your needs and the plan you choose. The lowest tier costs $15 a month and gives you unlimited talk and text on the T-Mobile network, with data only when Wi-Fi is accessible. $20/month gets you 1GB of network data, and unlimited talk, text, and Wi-Fi data. The most expensive plan includes 10GB of data for $90/month.
The upsides to Republic Wireless are the simplicity and pricing options. The downside is that there are only 12 phones that work with their Adaptive Coverage. You can buy a phone outright from the website, with prices ranging from $179 to $799, or you can opt for monthly payments. You can also bring your own as long as it’s one of the models the provider carries or one of Google’s two new Pixel phones.
- $15/month: unlimited talk and text
- $20/month: unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of data
- $25/month: unlimited talk, text, and 2GB of data
- $30/month: unlimited talk, text, and 3GB of data
- $65/month: unlimited talk, text, and 10GB of data
Originally a joint venture with Nextel Communications, Boost Mobile was introduced to the United States in 2001. Currently, Boost Mobile boasts a number of prepaid cell phone options to accommodate nearly any budget.
Boost Mobile offers three unlimited prepaid phone plans. All of the plans come with unlimited talk and text, unlimited music streaming if you use one of their music partners, and mobile hotspot, in addition to optional add-ons like boostTV. Unlimited Starter costs $30/month for 1GB of 4G LTE data. Unlimited Family allows you to add additional lines to Starter for $30 each. Extra lines come with the same package as the original line. Unlimited Unhook’d runs $50/month and comes with unlimited everything, including 4G LTE data.
Along with the monthly service you get free caller ID, call waiting, and 411 assistance. Once you’ve reached your maximum 4G LTE data limit, speeds reduce to 2G. Boost Mobile boasts one of the best no contract cell phone plans, simply because it’s a challenge finding truly unlimited 4G data no matter which company you’re looking at. In addition, the provider claims some of the best prepaid cell phone coverage at 99%. These factors definitely put Boost in the top five in my prepaid phone plans comparison.
Note: Boost offers a $5 discount per month for autopay.
- $35/month: Unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB of data with mobile hotspot.
- $50/month: Unlimited talk, text, and data with 12 Gigs Mobile Hotspot plus streaming Videos, Gaming & Music.
- $60/month: Unlimited talk, text, and data with 30 Gigs Mobile Hotspot & HD Streams up to 1080p.
- $80/month: Unlimited talk, text, and data with 50 Gigs Mobile Hotspot & HD Streams up to 1080p.
Mint Mobile is unique among MVNOs as it doesn’t operate with traditional contracts. You pay upfront for your term, which can be 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months, with “buying in bulk” saving you more money in the long run. It’s owned by Ultra Mobile and uses T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network.
All plans include unlimited nationwide talk, text, and data, though you only get so much 4G LTE per month. Unlimited international texting is included in all plans. Extra data can be added to your account on a per month basis at $10 for 1GB or $20 for 3GB.
Mint Mobile lets you bring your own phone as long as it’s compatible with T-Mobile’s network.
- $15/month: unlimited talk, text and 2GB of data. ($45 per 3 months)
- $20/month: unlimited talk, text and 5GB of data. ($60 per 3 months)
- $25/month: unlimited talk, text and 10GB of data. ($75 per 3 months)
MetroPCS has a number of prepaid cell phone plans and affordable monthly rates customers can take advantage of.
MetroPCS has unlimited talk, text and data plans ranging from $30 to $60 per month. The plans are pretty simple, making this one of the best prepaid cell phone carriers. $30 gets you 1GB 4G LTE data per month, $40 gets you 3GB, $50 is the 5GB level, and $60 per month is the rate for unlimited LTE data. It’s important to note that the unlimited 4G data on the highest tier plan applies only to your handset. This means that if you’re using your phone as a mobile hotspot, the other devices that are connected to it will not have 4G data.
The one drawback with MetroPCS is that has limited coverage in some areas across the west coast. I have found in my research that it’s important to keep in mind that MetroPCS tends to change their prepaid cell phone deals fairly often. This applies to both their sales on actual phones, but also the promotional rates they run. Your best bet is to check the website for current deals before going ahead with your decision.
- $30/month: unlimited talk; text and 2 GB of data.
- $40/month: unlimited talk, text and 5 GB of data
- $50/month: unlimited talk, text, and data plus 5GB of Hotspot
- $60/month: unlimited talk, text, and data plus 15GB of Hotspot and amazon prime included
Cricket offers five rate tiers, from $30 a month for 1GB high-speed data, and unlimited talk and text within the United States, to the $70 unlimited option. The truly stand-out feature of the higher tier plans is that with these, you also get unlimited international texting in 38 countries, and data access plus unlimited talk and text in Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
All plans from the Basic upward are also eligible for the Group Save Discount. Group Save gives you a $10/month discount on your second line, a $20/month discount on the third line, and so on up to a maximum $100 discount on your monthly bill.
The one caveat my analysis revealed is that AT&T caps high-speed data for the Cricket network at 8Mbps (20Mbps is the maximum of which 4G is capable). This typically only poses an issue if you frequently stream HD content while away from your Wi-Fi network. Otherwise, it shouldn’t be a problem for normal data applications.
- $25/month: unlimited talk and text
- $30/month: unlimited talk, text, and 2GB of data
- $40/month: unlimited talk, text and 5GB of data
- $55/month: unlimited talk, text, and data plus Unlimited international texts with unlimited calls, texts Mexico and Canada.
- $60/month: unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data plus Unlimited international texts with unlimited calls, texts Mexico and Canada.
How the Best Prepaid Phone Plan Keeps You on Budget
If budgeting is a constant challenge, pay as you go cell phone may be just the solution. Because you don’t accrue charges and don’t typically have to worry about unexpected or unauthorized fees and overages, you know exactly what you’re going to pay. Find out more about how this option is great for your financial health here.
As with any cell phone provider, coverage is crucial. First and foremost, make sure the provider’s service is available in your area.
BYOD: BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device. This term means just what it sounds like – you get to bring your phone to a prepaid sim card carrier, thus allowing you to keep your own phone number. Not all pay as you go phone plans let you BYOD, but some do. You can choose a new phone through the carrier if you prefer, though there might be limited options. If you decide on BYOD, be sure to check out our guide on how to unlock your phone for your new carrier.
No Contract vs Prepaid: Prepaid and no contract cell phone plans may sound similar, but they are not the same.
Prepaid cell service typically comes in the form of top-up cards that give you a certain number of minutes and data that can be used past one month from purchase. If you exceed your number of minutes or go over on data, it’s easy to simply purchase more. The biggest perk of prepaid service is that you won’t have a bill to pay at the end of the month (Assuming you didn’t pay the full price of the phone upfront). With a no-contract plan, however, you will have a monthly bill to pay, but these plans tend to offer more for your money with unlimited talk and text.
With a no-contract plan, however, you will have a monthly bill to pay, but these plans tend to offer more for your money with unlimited talk and text. Signing up for a no-contract plan under the top four cell phone providers provides access to their nationwide coverage as well. Many carriers will offer both prepaid options and no-contract plans.
When it comes to comparing the top prepaid phones, it’s important to keep the following components in mind:
- Budget: If you’ve opted for a prepaid cell phone it’s most likely because you want to skim the excess off of your monthly bill. You’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly one in five Americans see their smartphone as a financial burden. Before even browsing the plans available, determine the amount you can afford to spend based on your overall budget.
- Plans: On average, what does your cell phone usage consist of? Do you spend the majority of your time texting friends and family? Or do you use your phone mostly to surf the web and check emails? Determine exactly what portion of your time you spend talking, texting, and using data. If you find that you lean heavily in one area over the other, a pay-as-you-go offer might be your best bet.
- Coverage: As with any cell phone provider, coverage is crucial. First and foremost, make sure the provider’s service is available in your area. You can find a map detailing the coverage areas on the company’s website. You want the best prepaid cell phone coverage, and fortunately, market growth in the industry has led to extremely competitive coverage levels.
- Phone Selection: Traditional (non-prepaid) cell phone carriers generally run promotions which entitle you to the newest cell phones at a discounted or nominal rate. By charging higher monthly fees and enrolling you in a set-term contract they’re able to recoup the price of the phone. Since many prepaid cell providers operate without contract terms and do offer a lower monthly rate, you’ll likely pay more up front for a smartphone.
As cell phones continue to shape the way many of us communicate, shop and access information, finding budget-friendly alternatives for these is a great way for you to save money. Prepaid cell phones are an attractive option because they can help you control costs and are a better choice than what contract phones can offer.
Boost Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Tello, Cricket Wireless, and Republic Wireless are all great providers in the prepaid wireless sector. Before browsing the plans and phones available, be sure the carrier services your region by conducting a ‘coverage search’. They all have their pros and cons but it’s ultimately up to you to decide which one suits your monthly budget.