Over the past few years, several low-cost carriers have stepped up to offer competition and cheapest prices to customers looking to cut down their monthly bills. In some cases, they are able to offer comparable plans for just a fraction of the cost and often with the same high quality of service offered by the big players within the industry.
Looking for a low-cost alternative to your pricey cell phone plan? These five options offer a lot of bang for your buck while providing almost the same service as the big guys:
One of the cheapest cell phone plan options is to go the prepaid route. Prepaid phones are where you pay a certain amount for the phone plus the minutes, text and data. Once you go use up the prepaid amount, then you have the option to buy more, or stop using the phone.
There are also prepaid plans where you can use the current phone you have you simply prepay for the amount of talk, text, and data. Normally, people like to estimate the amount they will need for that month and pay for just that amount.
This is a great way to ensure that you are not overpaying for your cell phone service. When you have a contract deal, you agree to pay a certain amount per month. This means that if you don’t use all the text, talk and data, it doesn’t matter –you still have to be that agreed amount. Some people are frustrated with this structure and that is why they turn to prepaid plans. You can read real-life testimonials online from people who have used prepaid plans to learn more about them and see if they are something you are interested in.
The Best Cheapest Cell Phone Plans Available in 2018
Tello is a lesser-known MVNO that uses the Sprint network. One of Tello’s best selling points is their Build Your Own Plan feature, which lets you choose your own monthly voice, text and data minutes.
They also offer predefined plans, which get expensive once you get to higher 4G data allowances. Tello has some of the best pay-as-you-go phone rates around, as well. Tello could be an excellent choice for those who frequently call Mexico or Canada — all of your voice minutes work in all of North America.
When compared with similar other cheap cell phone plans and higher data plans, Tello falls short on all fronts. They charge more for less than all comparable carriers.
- Economy plan: 100 minutes, unlimited text and 500 MB for $11/month
- Value plan: unlimited talk, text and 1 GB for $19/month
- Smart plan: unlimited talk, text and 3 GB for $29/month
- Data plan: unlimited talk, text and 5 GB for $39/month
The best cheap cell phone plan on our list comes from Mint SIM. The company offers plans that start at just $15 per month with a three-month commitment. The big difference in how it operates is the fact that Mint SIM sends you a SIM card in the mail so you can set up your new phone service yourself.
While Mint SIM has a super low starting price point, you get quite a bit for $15 per month. This basic plan includes unlimited talk, text, and data delivered on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network, 2GB of 4G LTE data per month and unlimited data thereafter, a prepaid SIM card in standard, micro, and nano sizes, and a Smartphone Mobile HotSpot (SMHS) that allows you to turn your device into a WiFi hotspot.
The pricing on these plans lets you pick how much high-speed data you want, and you never have to commit for more than three months at a time. For that reason, we think this is a solid option for people who live within T-Mobile coverage areas.
- $15/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 2 GB of 4G LTE data.
- $20/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 5 GB of 4G LTE data.
- $25/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 10 GB of 4G LTE data.
US Mobile’s best cheap cell phone plan offers 100 minutes and 100 texts, PLUS 100MB of data for just $9. That’s right, a $9/mo cell phone plan with data. That makes this one not just a “best cheap cell phone plan” but actually a best cheap smartphone plan. The plan piggybacks on the T-Mobile 4G LTE network. It uses only T-Mobile compatible phones.
The image above is actually a screen grab from US Mobile’s website. Just go there and click the boxes to build the plan you want. Get their best cheap cell phone plan by clicking the three boxes on the left. That gives 100 minutes of talk, 100 texts and 100 MB of data for $9. Or build a different plan by clicking the other boxes. So simple and actually kind of fun. As you click the boxes, the monthly price changes before your eyes. No surprises anywhere. It’s like Build-a-Bear for cell phone plans.
- $19/mo: 500 minutes, 500 texts and 300 MB of data
- $25/mo: 500 minutes, 500 texts and 1 GB of data
- $28/mo: 1000 minutes, 1000 texts and 1 GB of data
- $33/mo: 1000 minutes, 1000 texts and 2 GB of data
Page Plus Cellular—which like Net10 and Straight Talk is owned by Tracfone—is a very basic MVNO that provides monthly plans and pay-as-you-go minutes. It’s best as an option for people still using a feature phone: Pay-as-you-go credit lasts for 120 days and rolls over so long as you renew within that four-month window.
Smartphone users seeking a Verizon-based MVNO should look to more cost-effective options from Straight Talk, Tracfone, or Verizon’s own prepaid plans, however. Monthly service starts at $12, but you don’t get much in the way of data. Nothing substantial kicks in until you reach the $29.95-per-month plan, which offers 1GB of data. Modest autopay discounts are available.
Page Plus supports domestic roaming for voice calls at 0.20 cents per minute. There are also incoming and outgoing charges for texts while in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. International roaming is not supported.
Page Plus sells phones on its site. They are mostly low-cost smartphones, but it does have some higher-priced phones that are available for straight purchase or leasing via SmartPay.
- $12/mo: 500 minutes, 500 texts and 100 MB of data.
- $30/mo: Unlimited talk with $10 international calling credit and unlimited national & international texts and 2 GB of data plus $10 international calling credit.
- $40/mo: Unlimited talk with $10 international calling credit and unlimited national & international texts and 5 GB of data
- $55/mo: Unlimited talk with $10 international calling credit and unlimited national & international texts and unlimited data.
Republic Wireless starts at $10/month for unlimited talk and text, with no data, on the Sprint network. Republic’s secret is that it desperately hopes you’ll do most of your calling, texting, and data usage over Wi-Fi, keeping its costs down. While its 1GB plan for $25 is also a pretty good deal, its higher-usage plans are much more expensive and less appealing. All plans also include unlimited free Wi-Fi calling from anywhere in the world, which is useful for international travelers. Republic offers three midrange Motorola smartphones, the 2014-era Moto X, at $249, is a very good price for a very good phone.
- $15/mo: Unlimited talk and text
- $20/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 1 GB of data
- $25/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 2 GB of data
- $30/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 3 GB of data
Red Pocket runs on several different networks and has a range of plans, but what we’re focused on here are its one-year pay-as-you-go talk cards. There’s a 1,000-minute card for $100 that runs on the AT&T network, and a 2,000-minute card for $100 that runs on the Sprint network (yes, Red Pocket has decided that AT&T’s coverage is worth twice as much as Sprint’s.) Texts “cost” one minute per text. You can use Red Pocket with an unlocked, AT&T-compatible device or with a used Sprint LTE phone.
- $10/mo: 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 500 MB of LTE data
- $15/mo: 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 1 GB of LTE data
- $19/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 500 MB of LTE data.
- $25/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 1.5 GB of LTE data.
- $30/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 3 GB of LTE data.
- $60/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 10 GB of LTE data.
This T-Mobile based carrier, run by TracFone, has a great heavy data deal at 10GB for $55/month. That comes with unlimited talk, unlimited text, and unlimited international text, and it undercuts T-Mobile’s own 10GB plan ($80) in a big way. You can use any T-Mobile-compatible phone with the service.
- $25/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 1 GB of data
- $30/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 2 GB of data
- $40/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 6 GB of data
- $50/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE speed with videos streaming.
- $60/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE speed with Videos streaming plus 10 GB for hotspot
TracFone’s system of airtime cards can be as confusing as a Vegas craps game, with various “double minutes” promotions constantly messing with the math. But you can’t deny that its one-year airtime cards are a great deal for voice-only service. You get 400 minutes for $100 or 800 minutes for $120, coming out to $8-10/month for the year. There’s no texting and no data, but for a pure safety or emergency phone, it’s a great deal. Most TracFone devices run on the AT&T network.
- $15/mo: 200 minutes, 500 texts and 500 MB of data (30 service days)
- $20/mo: 300 minutes, 1000 texts and 1 GB of data (30 service days)
- $25/mo: 300 minutes, 1000 texts and 500 MB of data (60 service days)
- $35/mo: 750 minutes, 1000 texts and 1 GB of data (60 service days)
- $45/mo: 750 minutes, 1000 texts and 1.5 GB of data (90 service days)
- $50/mo: 750 minutes, 1500 texts and 2 GB of data (90 service days)
- $125/mo: 1500 minutes, 1500 texts and 1.5 GB of data (365 service days)
Tracfone’s Straight Talk brand offers access to both AT&T’s and Verizon’s networks (although with different phones). Its $45, 5 GB plan is the best deal, and it works with iPhones, all existing AT&T-compatible phones, and some used Verizon phones. The carrier also sells a bunch of somewhat unusual, low-end Android phones for under $100 each—make sure the phone is LTE-compatible before putting your dollar down.
- Basic ($30/mo): This plan includes 1500 minutes talk and unlimited texts plus 100MB of data
- Unlimited Nationwide ($45/mo): This plan gives you unlimited calls and texts, 5GB of data at high speed, and unlimited data at 2G thereafter.
- Unlimited Nationwide ($55/mo): This plan gets you unlimited voice and text, and 10GB of high-speed data.
- Unlimited International ($60/mo): This plan offers you unlimited calls and texts within the U.S., plus unlimited talk time and text messages to selected international destinations. You get 5GB of data at high speed and unlimited data at 2G. You also get unlimited calls (mobile-to-mobile) to numbers in China, India, Mexico, and Canada.
With Giv Mobile now out of business, Credo Mobile reigns as the remaining charitable wireless option. Sign up for this Sprint-based provider and a portion of your bill will go to charities like Planned Parenthood, Doctors Without Borders, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Credo only donates to leftist causes, and it’s proud of that stance. Its plans aren’t stunningly cheap: 2GB costs $65/month if you bring your own phone or pay on an installment plan. But if your politics agree with Credo’s, you’ll sleep well at night with this service.
- $30/mo: Unlimited talk, texts, and 1 GB of data
- $45/mo: Unlimited talk, texts, and 3 GB of data
- $60/mo: Unlimited talk, texts, and 6 GB of data
- $65/mo: Unlimited talk, texts, and data
With so many low-cost options, it’s hard to believe that anyone would shell out $120 or more for their monthly cell phone bill. However, it may only be a matter of time until prices have to come down across the board in order for companies to stay competitive. In the meantime, do some research to see if any of these low-cost alternatives are offered in your area. Once you see how much you can save, you’ll likely be glad you did.