Best prepaid phone plans!
The best-prepaid phone plans are a good way to keep your wireless expenses down, even as prices rise all around you. A prepaid plan lets you lock in the cost of your wireless service, paying the same amount each month without unexpected fluctuations and you can usually get a plan for much less than what postpaid cell phone plans cost.
You need to make some tradeoffs when opting for prepaid service, but network reach isn’t one of them. You access the same network used by customers with postpaid plans. Your speeds may be slowed down if there’s too much traffic on a network. In some cases, you’ll even get 5G coverage as part of your service. Best of all, you don’t necessarily need to cut down on data to enjoy a lower rate. Sure, the less data you need, the less you’ll have to pay, but even the best-unlimited data plans can be surprisingly affordable from prepaid carriers.
That’s why turning to one of the best-prepaid plans is one of the top ways to save money on your smartphone bill. And as we’ve learned by researching your options, you can choose from a wide variety of prepaid plans with different data levels and prices that address your particular needs.
We mentioned some tradeoffs with even the best-prepaid phone plans, which don’t offer the same perks that come with more expensive plans from the big carriers. Forget about free subscriptions to streaming services included in your plan or using your monthly data allotment when you travel overseas. At most, you’re likely to get some hotspot data. And as noted above, you’re also subject to slower speeds if the network your prepaid carrier uses is clogged with traffic. Most importantly, if you need multiple lines, you may want to look elsewhere for the best family cell phone plan only a few of the options below offer discounts on extra lines.
Even with all that, though, there’s a lot to be said for a lower monthly bill, especially right now. And whether you’re shopping for a new phone and need a new wireless plan or just want to make sure that your current plan is among the best cell phone plans overall, it pays to consider the best-prepaid phone plans as money-saving options. You’ll find our picks below, followed by an explanation of what we look for when choosing the best-prepaid phone plans.
The best value prepaid cell phone plan:
Mint Mobile | 10GB | $20/month – Best value prepaid plan
Mint Mobile stands out as the best overall value prepaid plan available because it offers you a range of data plans between $15 to $30 a month that include generous amounts of data. The 20GB plan at $20 a month hits the sweet spot of data and price. You get that rate for the first three months, and then you have a decision to make paying for a year of service at Mint keeps your $20 monthly rate in place. If you’re looking to add multiple lines for a family plan, every line on your Mint plan will receive that same discount.
Pros: Very affordable price, free hot spot
Cons: Best prices require a longer commitment
Best prepaid plan for coverage:
Verizon | 15GB prepaid | $45/month – Best prepaid for coverage
Verizon is certainly not the most affordable way to go for prepaid cell phone plans, but it does offer the best coverage and speeds. Verizon’s best value option is its 15GB prepaid plan, costing $45 a month after a $5 discount for enrolling in autopay. You’ll get 5G coverage though not the fast Ultra Wideband coverage that’s about to expand dramatically and the ability to use your phone as a mobile hotspot. Plus, if you hold onto your plan for three months, Verizon will cut another $5 from the monthly price and an additional $5 after nine months. That means you can lower your monthly rate to $35 a month by sticking with Verizon.
Pros: Lots of data under current promotion, great coverage and speeds, bigger discounts the longer you stay, 5G coverage included
Cons: Not the cheapest prepaid around; Ultra Wideband 5G requires a more expensive plan
Best unlimited data prepaid cell phone plan:
Visible | Visible Plus| $45/month The best-unlimited data prepaid on a budget
Verizon-owned Visible offers a cheaper unlimited data plan that now costs $30. That’s the same as Mint Mobile’s unlimited plan, only without the year-long commitment. But we like the $45 Visible Plus plan for all the perks it includes. Visible Plus subscribers can access Verizon’s faster Ultra Wideband network for 5G coverage, and they can make calls to more than 30 countries from the U.S. at no extra cost. Visible Plus includes data roaming in Mexico and Canada too, and your speeds won’t be slowed when Verizon’s network is congested for your first 50GB of data use. The best Visible deals can help you save even more on your service.
Pros: Very affordable, 5G unlimited data
Cons: There are cheaper prepaid plans
An assortment of cheap prepaid options:
Tello Economy | 5GB | $19/month – Low-priced cell phone plans
Like Mint, Tello offers a range of plans at different prices and data allotments, especially now that Tello has expanded the number of plans available. While bargain hunters who don’t need much data will jump at Tello’s 1GB plan it’s just $10 a month most of us will find the 5GB plan to be enough data for our needs, at only $19 a month. Unlimited data costs just $10 more.
Pros: Wide range of plans including the cheapest option, unlimited calls, and texts
Cons: Limited phone selection
Great value from a major carrier:
AT&T | 16GB 12-month prepaid | $25/month – Great value prepaid on AT&T
Usually, the big carriers don’t offer much in the way of prepaid plans, leaving that to the MVNOs instead. However, AT&T has stepped up with this 61GB plan, which costs just $25 a month when you prepay for a full year. It’s also double the amount of data that AT&T used to offer at this amount. That adds up to $300 in upfront costs. AT&T’s plan offers some perks hotspot data, HD video streaming, and the ability to roll over unused data for a month. 5G service isn’t among them, though, as that only comes with the carrier’s unlimited prepaid plan.
Pros: Outstanding amount of data for price
Cons: Requires you to prepay for a full year, no 5G coverage
Low cost-plan from T-Mobile:
T-Mobile Connect | 3GB data | $15/month – Low-cost cell phone plan from a big-name carrier
The amount of data in the T-Mobile Connect plans keeps growing, even as the price remains fixed. Right now, for $15/month, you can get 3GB of data, with the promise of another 0.5GB being added to your plan next year. If you can get by with less data, you can drop your bill to $10/month with the 1GB plan, while the $25 monthly plan now features a generous 6GB. Just be aware that once you use your data for the month, you have to wait until the next billing cycle for more data; other prepaid plans usually just slow down your speeds when you hit your cap.
Pro: Low costs, 500MB data boosts annually
Con: Out of data once you hit your cap
A plan worth a second look:
Cricket | 10GB | $40/month – No more speed caps on data
It was hard to recommend Cricket Wireless in the past, even though the carrier benefits from using the network of parent company AT&T. Cricket slapped speed caps on every plan but it’s the most expensive unlimited data plan. Those caps are gone now, making the 10GB plan for $40/month much more attractive than before. Even better, 5G coverage comes with the plan and you can knock $5 off this plan by enrolling in autopay.
Pros: No more speed caps, save additional money with autopay
Cons: Few perks
Most flexible prepaid for families:
Boost Mobile | Unlimited data | three lines | $90/month – Flexible family plans from Boost
Bring your own phones to Boost Mobile, and you can get three lines of unlimited data for $30 each. That translates to $90 a month, which is a good value for unlimited talk, text, and data. The offer is available to new customers only and takes effect after you make your first payment of $100. Just be aware that Boost customers may see slower speeds when traffic is heavy on its parent network Boost is in the middle of moving its service from T-Mobile to AT&T.
Pros: Flexible options for added lines, affordable prices
Cons: May face slower speeds when T-Mobile’s network is congested
Best free prepaid plan:
TextNow | 0GB | Free – Free calling and texting
It’s hard to beat a monthly fee of zero dollars, but that’s what you’ll pay for unlimited calling and texting with TextNow. You will need to pay 99 cents for a SIM card and download an app for your iPhone or Android device, but once you do, you’ll be able to call or text using T-Mobile’s network. There are some additional caveats the app features ads, and if you want data, that costs extra. But data costs are fairly reasonable with 1GB of data costing $8.99 a month. You’ll pay $15.99 for 2GB, but at that tier, TextNow gets rid of the ads in its app. The service won’t be for everyone, but bargain hunters can use it to stay connected for cheap.
Pros: No charge for unlimited talk and text
Cons: App features ads, data costs extra
A prepaid plan with perks:
Verizon | Unlimited data | $70/month – Verizon’s perk-filled prepaid plan
Here’s one prepaid plan where you don’t have to sacrifice perks but you do have to pay a monthly rate. Verizon’s Unlimited Plus prepaid option costs $70/month after an auto pay discount; stick with the plan and you’ll see additional $5 discounts at the 4- and 10-month mark, reducing the cost to $60. In exchange, you get unlimited data and 5G coverage including from Verizon’s fast Ultra Wideband network. Verizon now includes six months of Disney Plus with this plan, and you get unlimited hotspot data, too. A cheaper prepaid plan at Verizon drops the hotspot data and the Ultra Wideband coverage but keeps the Disney Plus perk.
Pros: Six months of Disney Plus, Ultra Wideband 5G, unlimited hotspot data
Cons: One of the more expensive prepaid options even after discounts
When shopping for a prepaid phone plan, price is paramount. That’s because prepaid plans don’t often come with the kind of benefits postpaid cell phone plans offer. That said, some carriers such as Metro By T-Mobile and Boost do work in a few perks, so be aware of those when picking your plans.
You’ll also want to pay attention to discounts and special offers. Often, larger carriers like AT&T and Verizon will increase the size of their autopay discount, which can make a pricier plan more attractive. Metro by T-Mobile has been known to increase the size of the discount when you add multiple lines of data.
Besides price, one of the most important things to consider is what carrier offers the best coverage around your home and workplace. That’s true even if you look beyond the Big Three carriers for service. Other wireless services known as mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs use the cellular networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon for their coverage. Some MVNOs turn to multiple carriers. So if Verizon’s network is particularly strong where you are, for example, MVNOs that use Verizon’s network for coverage will perform well, too. Just be aware that MVNOs can see their traffic slowed if a carrier’s network gets too crowded.
5G coverage is now a part of what some MVNOs offer. Metro subscribers can access T-Mobile’s 5G with an eligible phone, as can Mint Mobile customers. Visible has added 5G access on Verizon’s network to select phones, while both AT&T prepaid and Cricket customers can get on 5G with the most expensive prepaid plans at each carrier.
For more on MVNOs, read our guides to AT&T MVNOs, T-Mobile MVNOs, and Verizon MVNOs we’ll tell you which discount carriers use which parent networks.
Finding the best-prepaid phone plans means widening our search beyond the major carriers, though AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all have prepaid offerings. We’re also researching plans from smaller carriers who use the Big Three’s cellular towers to provide their coverage. As smaller carriers usually offer their service at a discount, they make up a majority of the candidates that we consider for the best-prepaid phone plans.
When we pick the best plans, we put a premium on the monthly price, though we also pay attention to how much data comes with that plan. After all, a carrier may not charge you a lot for data, but it also may not provide enough data for your needs. We’re picking plans that offer the best mix of cost and data. We also consider a wide variety of data allotments, since some people can get by very happily using just a couple of gigabytes of data each month, while others need an unlimited plan.
As noted previously, prepaid plans don’t offer much in the way of perks. That said, we do take note of any special add-ons included with the best-prepaid plans, as those can add value to a plan above and beyond its monthly cost.