Best Cell Phone Plans Under $20
Believe it or not, you can find some surprisingly robust cell phone plans under $20. Sure, you won’t get unlimited high-speed data or tons of perks, but you can get unlimited calls, texts, and even a nice chunk of data for less than $20 a month. It’s kind of like getting into a fancy buffet, except you don’t pay for all the expensive wine.
We’ve narrowed down the three best cell phone plans under $20 that will give you the most bang for your buck.
Mint Mobile: Best value
Unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 3 GB of mobile data
- Only $15 a month
- Solid network
What we like
It’s tough to find a cell phone plan that gets you unlimited talk, unlimited text, and some data to mess around with every month. Mint Mobile hooks you up with all three things on T-Mobile’s reliable network and keeps your monthly bill to a tidy $15 a month.
Just $15 a month
Mint Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) on the T-Mobile network. Translation: Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile’s network but charges way less than your typical T-Mobile cell phone plan. Think of it as the generic brand version of mobile wireless—the Kirkland of T-Mobile, if you will.
Now that we got all the jargon out of the way, let’s get to the good part. With the Mint Mobile Small plan, you get all of this stuff for $15 a month:
- Unlimited talk
- Unlimited text
- 3 GB of data
You can text and call as much as you want, and you still get enough data to use your GPS and check Instagram. That being said, with 3 GB of data, you probably can’t stream constantly or do a ton of online gaming on your wireless connection. But hey, you can always use a Wi-Fi connection for those things.
Mint Mobile offers more data plans if you’d like to increase your data allotment every month, but you’ll inevitably cross the $20 threshold if you want that firepower. But if you know you can keep your data usage to a relative minimum, you can easily get away with the $15 a month plan.
Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile’s network to offer wireless coverage, which just so happens to be the second-best coverage network in the country.1 As it stands right now, T-Mobile covers around 59% of the country and specializes in offering reliable coverage in more urban areas. Before you think about signing up for Mint Mobile, check your area in the map below and make sure it looks covered:
Mint Mobile/T-Mobile coverage map
Mint Mobile provides the same coverage to its customers with a caveat: deprioritization.
What we don’t like
For all of Mint Mobile’s perks, it’s still an MVNO, which means deprioritization can mess up your day. No one likes their data speeds slowing down out of the blue.
The catch with all MVNOs is that your data speeds can be deprioritized and throttled at any time. That’s because the network your MVNO uses will prioritize its own customers over the MVNO customers. While it’s awesome to be on a bigger provider’s network and pay a fraction of the price, you still might have your speeds throttled.
Let’s say that you (a Mint Mobile user) and a friend (a T-Mobile user) attend a concert together. You take a rad video of yourself crowd-surfing, but your phone suddenly can’t get a signal strong enough to post the moment to your Instagram story. Meanwhile, your friend already posted the video of their crowd-surfing exploits.
You’d think that since Mint Mobile shares T-Mobile’s network, you would both enjoy the same coverage. Wrong! You were deprioritized on T-Mobile’s network so that your friend could have all the data to post their story. That’s so nice of you.
Deprioritization tends to rear its ugly head in more crowded and congested areas. Hopefully, it won’t be something that you experience too often, but deprioritization has a habit of showing up at the most inconvenient times.
Alternative value picks under $20
Here are some other wireless providers under $20 that give you a fairly balanced amount of data, calls, and texts.
US Mobile: Best unlimited talk, text, and no data plan
Unlimited talk and text on the best network
- Best coverage network
- Unlimited talk and text
- No data
What we like
If you know you just want unlimited talk and unlimited text without any data, you’ll get the most value out of US Mobile. You get on Verizon’s network for $12 a month, which means you can make calls and get texts out from basically anywhere.
Best coverage network
For those of you who can live without monthly data (honestly, good for you) but still want unlimited talk and text, we recommend getting on the best network. US Mobile is an MVNO that operates on the Verizon network—by far the most reliable network in the country. Here’s how the rankings break down for best coverage in the country, if you’re curious:
- Verizon: 70% 4G coverage
- T-Mobile: 59% 4G coverage
- AT&T: 58% 4G coverage
- Sprint: 27% 4G coverage1
Verizon offers 21% more coverage than second-place T-Mobile. That’s basically a whole extra fifth of the country covered on US Mobile/Verizon. This network really shines in more rural areas, so if you’re an avid camper, you can count on getting calls and texts whilst in the wilderness.
Check out the coverage map below to see what we’re talking about:
Verizon/US Mobile coverage map
Unlimited talk and text
You need not worry about going over your limits for calls or texts—you get unlimited talk and text for your $12 a month. US Mobile makes perfect sense for folks who know they just want to make calls and texts and not use any mobile data. You can call and text to your heart’s content and not worry about any extra charges.
What we don’t like
You won’t be able to check Instagram, download apps, or online shop without a Wi-Fi signal. Maybe that’s a good thing for some of us, but if I didn’t have my GPS app, I would get lost going to the grocery store.
No online mobile data
This US Mobile plan doesn’t come with a single ounce of data, so you won’t get much use out of a smartphone. Most apps, like GPS, online shopping, social media, and online gaming, require mobile data to work at all. You’ll need to live life in the good ol’ days before mobile data when we used stuff like Mapquest.
Alternative unlimited text, unlimited call, and no data plans
You can find even cheaper mobile plans with unlimited talk and text, but they won’t be on the Verizon network. But if you live in a city with generally reliable coverage, you can get away with one of the plans below:
Tello: Best data plan under $20
Get the most data you can under $20.
- 4 GB of data every month
- No overage charge
- Poor coverage
What we like
This plan from Tello was the most high-speed data we could find for under $20 a month. You won’t find a better price for 4 GB of data every month.
4 GB of data every month
For those of you who want as much data as possible and still pay below $20 a month, the Tello Smart Plan is your best option. You get 4 GB of high-speed data a month with this plan, which means you can do a lot more streaming, posting on social media, and online gaming on the go.
No overage charges
Even if you pass your 4 GB of high-speed data threshold, you won’t be charged any overages with Tello. Instead, your data will slow down dramatically to the point where you can’t really do anything on the internet, but hey, at least you won’t owe any extra money.
In a sense, you have unlimited data with Tello, but you only have a certain amount of high-speed data. Don’t plan on being able to comfortably use your GPS app or scroll through Instagram after you pass that 4 GB of high-speed data, but you should be able to open up a web page with some patience. Remember, you can always use Wi-Fi to save your high-speed data.
What we don’t like
With such low prices, there had to be something behind the curtain with Tello. In this case, the dirty secret is poor coverage due to Sprint’s network
Tello uses the Sprint network to provide coverage for its customers, and sadly, Sprint is the worst network of the big four providers. Sprint only covers around 27% of the country with 4G coverage.1 If we were handing out grades for coverage, we would give Sprint a big fat F. Not only do you need to worry about your data being deprioritized in crowded areas with Tello, but you also need to worry about the poor Sprint coverage.
Find your place of residence in the map below and make sure it looks covered before you think about Tello:
Sprint/Tello coverage map
Alternative data plans under $20
You won’t find any carriers that give you more than 4 GB of data for under $20 a month, but there are plenty of providers that will give you 3 GB of data for a similar price with a better network.
Recap: What are the best cell phone plans under $20?
There are a surprising number of cell phone plans that cost less than $20 a month. But if you want to keep your monthly cell phone bill that cheap, expect to make some sacrifices. You won’t have unlimited high-speed data or tons of perks, but you’ll certainly save some money every month with these cell phone plans.
- Best value plan: Mint Mobile offers 3 GB of data and unlimited talk and text on a reliable network. Somehow it all costs $15. All that value easily makes it our top recommendation for a cell phone plan under $20.
- Best unlimited talk and text plan: US Mobile offers a super affordable unlimited talk and text plan on the best wireless network. You should have no problem getting calls and texts out wherever you roam.
- Best data plan under $20: Tello mobile hooks you up with 4 GB of data every month for under $20. You won’t find a plan that beats 4 GB data at that price.
What cell phone plan under $20 has you the most intrigued? What do you care about the most, unlimited talk, unlimited text, or unlimited data? Let us know in the comments below.