Nowadays, it’s practically impossible to avoid a cell phone plan. But that doesn’t mean you’re limited to expensive contracts with major carriers. There are plenty of cheap cell phone plans available to keep you connected without overpaying.
Whether you’re looking for unlimited data, overseas calling or an affordable plan for talk and text, you have options. This guide will walk you through six low-cost plans on the market today. Keep reading for tips on how cheap cell phone plans work and how to find the best company for you.
Our Top Picks for the Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans
- Tello Economy – Best for Maximum Savings
- Visible Unlimited - Best for Unlimited Data
- AT&T Next Up – Best for Upgrades
- Mint Mobile Unlimited – Best for Pay-as-You-Go
- AT&T Prepaid – Best for Overseas Coverage
- Google Fi Simply Unlimited – Best for Multiple Lines
The 6 Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans Reviews
Most cheap cell phone providers are known as mobile virtual network operators or MVNOs. An MVNO cuts costs by leasing access to a major cell phone provider’s network. The main advantage of this system is that it’s more affordable for the customer, while still providing the same coverage as a major network. However, MVNO customers can be deprioritized in busy areas, and some budget cell phone companies offer fewer perks and upgrades than major providers.
So, is a budget-friendly cell phone plan right for you? That depends on what you’re looking for. The right low-cost service might provide all the covers and features you need while still helping you save. Below are six of the best cheap cell phone plans available today. Read on for an honest review of each, including pros, cons and why we chose it.
Why we chose it: Tello Economy is a cheap cell phone plan that's reliable and transparent. This is one of the best cell phone plans for people who don’t use a lot of wireless data.
- Super low-cost plan
- Allows international calls
- Unlimited talk and text
- No contract required
- Limited data allowance
- No discounts for multiple lines
Tello is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that runs on T-Mobile’s nationwide network, which provides 5G or 4G LTE coverage throughout 60% of the U.S.
At $10 per month, the prepaid Economy plan is Tello’s cheapest option. With unlimited calls and texts, it's ideal for someone who uses their phone primarily for talking and texting. Free international calls are also included.
Tello Economy offers 1GB of data per month. There is no fee if you use more than this, but your data speed will be significantly reduced to 2G. For reference, an hour of browsing social media uses about 156MB or 15.6% of 1GB. Watching Netflix, on the other hand, uses about 1GB per hour.
Alongside the Economy plan, Tello also offers a no-data plan for people who only use their phones to text and call. Tello’s other plans are also affordable — you can choose between 2GB, 5GB, 10GB or unlimited data, and you're able to customize the number of minutes per month you need.
Tello Mobile offers a 24/7 customer helpline and has overall excellent customer reviews, with a rating of 4.5/5 stars on one third-party review site. However, this isn’t the best plan if you do a lot of browsing, listening or watching. But if you want a simple, cheap plan for calling and texting, Tello Economy is one of the best on the market.
Why we chose it: Visible Unlimited is a low-cost plan with no contract and unlimited data. It's a good option for a family or individual that wants to save money without having to watch their data usage.
- Broad coverage through Verizon's network
- High-speed data with no caps
- Option to upgrade to Visible+ for more features
- No hidden taxes or fees
- Family plans aren't customizable
- No discounts for multiple lines
- Data can be slow in high-traffic areas
Visible is a prepaid cell phone plan that runs on Verizon’s nationwide network. Covering 99% of the populated continental U.S., Verizon has the most extensive coverage of all major carriers.
Visible customers have access to fast 5G data wherever they go. However, they will be deprioritized on the Verizon network in busy areas.
Monthly pricing for an individual is $25 per month, and $45 per month for Visible+. Visible also offers a $20 rebate when you refer a friend to the plan (your friend will also get $20 off their first bill). There are no caps on high-speed data for every member. Taxes and fees are included in the upfront cost.
Some of Visible’s extra features include an unlimited mobile hotspot, unlimited talk and text to (and in) Mexico and Canada, and spam protection. If you use an Apple Watch or other smartwatch, you can add it to your plan for an additional $5 per month.
Unfortunately, Visible doesn't have the best reviews for customer service. Online complaints on sites like the BBB report poor communication and difficulty contacting the company.
That said, there are no contracts, and you can cancel your plan at any time. As most customer complaints refer to device upgrades, we recommend connecting your own functioning phone to Visible's service.
This plan is best for someone who wants unlimited data and multiple lines with no long-term commitment.
Why we chose it: AT&T Next Up is one of the cheapest ways to upgrade to the newest smartphone. With this plan, you can upgrade your phone every year as long as you've paid off 50% of your current device.
- No upgrade or activation fees
- Get a new device every year
- Works with all AT&T data plans
- More expensive than other plans
- Customers must meet certain credit requirements
- No pay-as-you-go option
If you’re the kind of person who always wants the latest tech, you might want to consider AT&T Next Up. With this program, you get a 36-month contract to pay off your new phone. Once you’ve made 50% of the payments, you have the option to trade it in for an early upgrade or keep paying it off.
Most new phones are available through Next Up, including the iPhone 14, Galaxy S23+ and Google Pixel 7. There is no fee to upgrade and activate your new device, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely free. You’ll still have to pay taxes on the full retail price of the new phone.
AT&T Next Up isn’t a prepaid plan or MVNO — it isn’t as budget-friendly as some of the other options on this list. But it is a good way to save on your device upgrades. The plan lets you bundle your cell phone service and device payments. For example, if you upgrade to a device with a retail price of $799, you can pay $22.22 per month for the device, plus a $6 monthly Next Up fee on top of your postpaid cell phone plan.
As a major provider, AT&T offers widespread coverage and 24/7 customer service. Some customer complaints on the BBB report a lack of transparency in device upgrade pricing and contract length requirements.
Keep in mind that the AT&T Next Up plan is limited to existing customers or new customers in good credit standing. If you’re working on your credit, a prepaid plan might be best, but if you enjoy regular device upgrades, AT&T Next Up could be a good option for you.
Why we chose it: Mint Mobile Unlimited stands out from the other pay-as-you-go plans for its low cost and flexibility. You can pay in advance for a three, six or 12-month period, as well as choose a data amount that best fits your needs.
- Choose your pre-paid period
- Low cost for unlimited data
- No hidden fees or charges
- Option to add data as you use it
- Needs to be paid in advance
- Data speeds slow down if you overuse
- No month-to-month option
Mint Mobile is a prepaid coverage provider owned by T-Mobile. While Mint Mobile doesn’t offer a month-to-month prepaid plan, the Unlimited option is our top pay-as-you-go plan. Its low cost and offers up to 40GB of high-speed data per month, plus unlimited texts and calls. If you use more than 40GB in a month, your data will slow down but is still unlimited.
Mint Mobile's Unlimited plan is normally $30 per month for 12 months paid in full. However, all plans, including the unlimited plan, have been reduced to $15 per month for a three month contract. After the promotional period, plans return to their regular rate. You can access discounted rates through the Family plan starting with just two lines (the exact discount per line varies depending on each user’s plan). You can connect your own phone to Mint’s service or buy a new one through the provider.
Mint Mobile has 3.5/5 stars out of over 10,000 reviews on one popular third-party online review platform, with customers reporting helpful live chat support and reliable customer service. However, it's rated 1.18/5 stars from just 371 customers on the BBB. That low score may be due to a history of old or outdated complaints, as Mint is still a growing company, but it's an important consideration.
Mint cell phone plans are transparent and don’t come with any fees or taxes. This provider is best for a customer who wants cheap data coverage and is willing to pay upfront.
Why we chose it: Unlike other AT&T contracts, you can renew this prepaid plan monthly. It’s a cheap way for travelers to call and text from overseas without a contract.
- Low monthly fee
- Multiple payment tier options
- Expansive coverage in Europe
- Unlimited texting on all plans
- Limited coverage outside of Europe
- No unlimited data
- Reduced minutes on the cheapest plan
AT&T Prepaid offers add-ons for international travelers or people who have friends and family abroad.
- International calling - For a $10/month charge, you can add 250 minutes of free international calling to 70 countries and unlimited international texts to your prepaid plan. With an additional $5 per month, you’ll get unlimited international minutes and can extend your coverage to over 230 countries, 85 of which are unlimited.
- International travel add-on - AT&T’s international travel add-on is another bonus feature you can add to your prepaid plan if you want to call, text and use your data while you’re traveling. For $35, you’ll get unlimited talk and text, plus 5GB of international data for 7 days. Roaming coverage with this add-on is best in Europe, as AT&T has the most partner networks in that region. If you’re traveling outside of Europe, coverage can be spotty, but it’s still an affordable option for texts and emergency calls.
In addition to those add-on options, all of AT&T's prepaid plans include unlimited talk, text and roaming data to Mexico and Canada, as well as unlimited texts to over 230 countries.
As one of the “Big Three” cell phone providers in the U.S., AT&T has extensive coverage. AT&T Prepaid lets you access that coverage without an expensive contract. You’ll also get a free SIM card when you bring your own phone.
AT&T has 24/7 customer service but mixed reviews from customers. Some reviews on popular third-party online review sites reflect difficulty getting a hold of customer service and a lack of transparency in contracts.
Why we chose it: With Google Fi Simply Unlimited, every line gets unlimited talk, text and data, plus 5GB of hotspot data for a monthly fee. While this isn’t the cheapest prepaid plan for an individual, it’s one of the most affordable group plans on the market.
- Extensive coverage through T-Mobile and UScellular
- Unlimited talk, text and data
- Affordable for groups of four
- Free roaming in Canada and Mexico
- Better value for groups than individuals
- Limited selection of phones designed for the service
Google Fi Simply Unlimited offers a low-cost family bundle. Each new line added to your bundle costs $20, up to six lines (excluding any add-on features). The service includes free roaming in Canada and Mexico. This plan limits discounts to six people, so any additional lines will be charged the standard rate of $50 per person.
Google’s cell network uses T-Mobile and UScellular, which means you'll get coverage pretty much everywhere. You can bring your own phone to Google Fi — both Android and iPhone devices can access 5G coverage. However, Google's “designed for Fi” phones can automatically switch between networks for optimal coverage. The current selection of “designed for Fi” phones is limited and doesn’t include iPhones.
This is one of the best family cell phone plans with no contract. It’s fairly easy to manage and comes with 24/7 customer support over the phone or through live chat. Reviews for the Google Fi app on the Apple App Store and Google Play report some data connectivity issues, but fair pricing and transparent customer service.
This plan is ideal for an Android user who wants to bundle multiple lines without the hassle of a contract.
Other Cheap Cell Phone Plans We Considered
With discounts for AARP members, Consumer Cellular is one of the best prepaid cell phone plans for seniors, but only for those who don't use much data. It doesn’t offer any unlimited plans and can be expensive for an individual line.
- Simple, straightforward plans
- Discounts for AARP members
- Multiple data plan options
- No smartphone upgrades
- Can get expensive
Cricket Wireless, an MVNO operated by AT&T, is a popular alternative to major carriers. The Unlimited plan offers a decent family package with unlimited data. It has good coverage through AT&T's network but is pricier than other prepaid options.
- Good deal for families of four
- Unlimited hotspot data
- Taxes included in the price
- Expensive for a prepaid plan
- Not the best value for individuals
Boost Mobile offers a low-cost 1GB plan for people who don’t use much data. This 12-month plan has no contract, but you must pay the full year upfront to get the best deal. Unlike Mint Mobile's 12-month prepaid plan, Boost Mobile's cheapest plans don't include unlimited data.
- Unlimited talk and text
- No charge for overusing data
- A low-cost option for individual lines
- Only 1GB of data per month
- Has to be paid annually
Cheap Cell Phone Plans Guide
If you’re shopping for affordable cell phone plans, keep your priorities in mind. Do you need multiple lines, unlimited data or overseas usage? Do you want to pay as you go, prepay or lock into a contract?
Even the best, cheap no-contract cell phone plans require some commitment. This guide will cover what you need to consider when searching for the best plan for you.
Types of cell phone plans
The key factor that sets different types of phone plans apart is how you pay for them. You can choose to pay in advance or set up a contract and pay your bill monthly.
In general, prepaid and pay-as-you-go plans are more affordable than contract plans, but that isn’t always the case. Contracts can be helpful for families who want to bundle multiple lines, device upgrades and other services into one monthly bill. Here’s a more detailed look at each plan type.
A pay-as-you-go plan is exactly what it sounds like. You pay for a certain time period or allotment of data, and when it’s up, you can choose to pay again or switch to another provider.
Pay-as-you-go might be best if you:
- Want to test out a service before you sign up for a contract
- Are on a tight budget
- Only need limited data
- Need the service for a short time (like when you’re traveling)
Prepaid plans differ slightly from pay-as-you-go because you prepay for a certain time period, not usage.
If you overuse data on your prepaid plan, you might be charged a fee or have to deal with slower data until the next payment period (your provider might limit you to 2G or 3G data). Some plans come with unlimited data for a slightly higher rate. These are no-contract plans, so you can cancel your service at any time.
You might want to sign up for a prepaid plan if you:
- Want unlimited data without a contract
- Want to include multiple lines in your plan
- Already have a phone
- Have a low credit score or no credit
A postpaid plan, or contract plan, is the typical cell phone plan that comes with a monthly bill. These plans tend to be a little pricier on the surface than prepaid plans, but if you bundle multiple services, you might save money in the long run.
One important thing to consider is that contract cell phone plans can affect your credit, especially if you’re paying off a new device with your provider. If you miss a payment or end your contract early, it will hurt your credit score.
Postpaid plans can be paid automatically and don’t require much maintenance once the contract starts. A postpaid cell phone plan might be worth the cost if you:
- Want to include multiple lines
- Regularly upgrade your phone and want the best deals
- Are interested in discounts on accessories and streaming services
- Don’t want the hassle of monthly prepayments
- Are in good credit standing
What to consider when choosing a cell phone plan
Here are a few key factors you’ll want to keep in mind before you sign up for a new plan, including the cost, number of lines and usage features.
The cost of cell phone plans can vary dramatically, from as cheap as $10 per month to well over $200 per month for multiple lines. Keep in mind that low-cost cell phone plans might not come with the best coverage. The cheapest plans have limited minutes and data. Plus, users may be deprioritized on the network they're using, meaning they'll get slower service in busy areas.
Prepaid plans are almost always more affordable than contract plans. They also allow you to upgrade at any time. If you pick the cheapest plan and realize you need more text, calls or data, you can always switch to a higher-priced tier in your next pay period.
Number of lines
If you want to bundle multiple lines, keep an eye out for the best cheap family cell phone plans. With these plans, the cost for each line is reduced as you add more people. Most family plans have a cap on discounts, though.
Many prepaid and postpaid plans offer family discounts. The exact discount rate depends on your carrier, but it’s almost always cheaper to bundle your lines than to pay each one individually.
Also, you don’t have to be a family to get in on these deals. You can bundle your cell phone plan with friends, partners or roommates to save money.
Typical data usage
How much data do you use per month? Is unlimited data a necessity, or can you get by with 5GB or less? The best cheap cell phone plans with unlimited data are often prepaid plans. However, it is possible to get a cheap unlimited plan with a contract, especially for multiple lines.
If you’re not sure how much data you typically use, look at the settings on your current phone. You should be able to see how much data you use per month — that will give you an idea of what you can cut down on and how much you really need.
Do you regularly travel or contact people overseas? If so, look for a plan that offers free or cheap international coverage.
Overseas calls and texts aren’t as expensive today as they used to be. Plenty of prepaid and postpaid cell phone plans include free or cheap international minutes. Data, on the other hand, can get expensive while you’re traveling. If you want to use your data while you’re overseas, talk to your provider about the cheapest offers.
How to switch cell phone plans
If the monthly cost of your phone plan is too high or you aren’t happy with the service, it might be time to switch cell phone plans. With a prepaid plan, switching is fairly easy. Just find another provider you like and switch once your payment period is up. There shouldn’t be any fees for canceling.
Contract plans can be a little more complicated. Canceling your service might come with a small fee, especially if it’s in the middle of an annual or monthly payment period. Read over the details of your contract carefully and contact your provider’s customer service to learn more.
Before you switch from a contract to a prepaid plan, make sure all your devices are completely paid off. You might be charged for the remaining retail price of your phone plus fees if you end a contract early.
Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans FAQ
What is data in cell phone plans?
Data is measured in gigabytes (GB). Some plans come with a limited amount of gigabytes per month, which limits how much browsing you can do while you're not on Wi-Fi. Unlimited plans are best if you need to connect to the internet regularly while you're on the go.
How much are taxes and fees on cell phone plans?
Some of the best cheap prepaid cell phone plans include taxes and fees in the upfront cost. Others charge them separately.
What is the best cell phone plan for kids?
What is the best cell phone plan for seniors?
How We Chose the Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans
We looked into a few key factors to determine the best affordable cell phone plans. Aside from the cost, we also considered the following features:
- Broad coverage and network reliability - The best cheap phone plans shouldn’t compromise the quality of your coverage.
- Variety of plan options - We looked for providers that offer multiple plans, so you can upgrade as your budget (or family) grows.
- Transparency and hidden fees - We read the fine print and looked into customer reviews to make sure the phone plans on this list are really as affordable as advertised.
- Helpful customer service - A lot of MVNO providers don’t have stores for in-person customer service, so a responsive live chat service or customer helpline is crucial.
- Positive customer reviews - The best cheap cell phone providers receive positive reviews on neutral third-party platforms, as well as limited complaints on sites like the BBB.