Best Cell Phone Plans Under $50

There’s a great, cheap cell phone plan out there for everyone. Yes, that means you.
  • Best Value
    Very affordable unlimited talk, text, and data plan
    Deprioritization
  • Best Unlimited Data Plan
    Unlimited data on Verizon’s network
    Deprioritization
  • Best International Plan
    Free international talk and text to 80﹢ countries
    Full-speed data cap
  • Best Family Plan
    Great data speeds, coverage, and perks
    Full-speed data cap

Yes, you could throw down $80 a month for a premium unlimited data phone plan. You could totally do that.

Or you could get a perfectly good unlimited data plan with plenty of perks and strong network performance for less than a single Ulysses S. Grant (you know, the beardy guy on the $50 bill).

In this article, we’ll compare cell phone plan prices, performance, and perks (did you see the alliteration there?) to help you find the plan that’s just right for your lifestyle and budget. For those who just want to cut to the chase, here’s a summary of our picks.

Sprint’s Kickstart Unlimited: Best value

It’s hard to find a better deal than unlimited talk, text, and data for $35 a month.

Pros

  • Very affordable unlimited talk, text, and data plan
  • Global roaming included
  • Great phone deals

Cons

  • Deprioritization
  • No hotspots and throttled streams
  • Poor rural coverage

What we like

Sprint may be one of the “big four” wireless carriers in the industry, but Kickstart Unlimited is priced more like a discount plan from a prepaid provider.

So, what’s the catch? We’ll talk about the downsides—throttled data, poor rural coverage, etc.—in a minute. First, let’s dive into the stuff we like about this plan.

Very cheap unlimited talk, text, and data

Sprint’s Kickstart Unlimited Plan is the cheapest way to get unlimited talk, text, and data. Period. Full stop. The end.

Just check out this comparison between Sprint and other cheap unlimited plan providers.

Sprint’s price clocks in at least $5 cheaper than other unlimited plans. Sure, there’s a $30 introductory fee that you won’t have to pay with prepaid providers, like Tello and Visible, but you’ll make up the cost after a few monthly bills.

And be aware: you do have to be a new Sprint customer to get this cheap plan.

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How much data do you actually need?
If you’re not a heavy data user, you can get a limited-data (or even a no-data) plan for 10 to 20 bucks. While that may be tempting, use our data guide to see how much 4G data you really need for streaming, gaming, Twitching, Tik-Toking, and all that other stuff the kids are into these days.

Global roaming included

Despite being a bare-bones plan, Kickstart Unlimited does manage to give you one nice perk: free data (at 2G speeds) and free text messaging in 185+ countries. Travelers, rejoice! You’ll be able to find your hostel on Google Maps after all.

Great deals on new phones

The best time to get a steep discount on a brand new phone is when you’re switching carriers or adding a line to your existing plan. And Sprint has some of the best deals in the industry on new devices. (Seriously, check them out on our regularly updated deals page.)

Are you an Apple junkie? Sprint’s got iPhones. Do you prefer Android? Sprint will hook you up. Do you want to relive the early 2000s with Motorola’s new edition of the Razr? Sprint’s got it. Here’s a look at some of the newest and best phones that Sprint sells.

What we don’t like

Any plan that’s cheaper than all of the competition, like Kickstart Unlimited, is sure to have some drawbacks. And drawbacks there are. Here’s a close look at all the things that might tick you off if you sign up for this Sprint plan.

Deprioritization

Cell phone networks don’t have unlimited bandwidth. So, when the network gets congested, the companies that own the networks will prioritize certain customers and, in turn, deprioritize others. Customers on the Kickstart Unlimited plan are in the latter category.

Deprioritization means slower data speeds. This will affect your ability to stream, scroll, post, and send funny memes to your bestie. Yeah, that unlimited data just became a bit less enticing.

However, you should only experience deprioritization when the network is overloaded: at big events, when you’re stuck in traffic at rush hour, or when you’re hitting a busy club on Friday night.

No mobile hotspots and throttled streams

Many unlimited phone plans come with nice extra perks, like HD video streaming and mobile hotspots. But not Kickstart Unlimited.

Sorry streamers, but your videos will be throttled to 480p quality, and you won’t get to use your phone as a mobile hotspot when you’re stuck at a random Greyhound station in Pierre, South Dakota.

Poor rural coverage

Speaking of random bus stops in rural areas: you’re not likely to have great coverage there. While Sprint is one of the biggest cell phone companies in the world, its network is rated as providing the least coverage of the major four carriers.1

So before you sign up for Sprint, be sure to check out how coverage looks in your area on this interactive map.

Alternative picks

If you’re into cheap unlimited plans, but Sprint and you just aren’t vibing, then check out these options from other providers.

Cheap unlimited data plans

Visible Wireless’s Unlimited Plan: Best unlimited plan

Get unlimited data on Verizon’s premium network for $40.

Pros

  • Truly unlimited data
  • Great coverage
  • Cheap family plan

Cons

  • Deprioritization
  • Limited phone compatibility

What we like

Traditional cell phone companies, like T-Mobile and AT&T, are starting to see more and more competition from mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), like Visible Wireless. These MVNOs piggyback on major carriers’ networks but offer discounted plans.

With Visible Wireless, you’ll get access to unlimited data on Verizon’s powerful network for a bit less than $50 and way less than Verizon’s cheapest unlimited plan, which costs $70.

We like this plan a lot, and we’re about to tell you why.

Truly unlimited data

While most unlimited plans come with caps on high-speed data (usually around 50 GB), Visible Wireless offers truly unlimited data. While this data can be slowed down during times of congestion (more on this in a second), you won’t ever hit a hard ceiling.

So go ahead, binge the entire first season of The Witcher during your ridiculously long layover in Denver.

Great coverage

Visible Wireless is like your good buddy who sneaks you into the hottest club in town without paying the cover charge. In this case, the club is Verizon Wireless’s network.

Verizon’s network offers, in our humble opinion, the best coverage in the nation (other experts agree, too).1 Check out all the sweet, sweet coverage.

This coverage makes Visible Wireless an awesome choice for all the outdoor adventurers, rural homesteaders, and small-town dwellers out there who want a cheap phone plan that will still get them full bars.

What we don’t like

Sure, we love Visible Wireless. But we don’t let our love cloud your judgement. We’re professional reviewers, after all. Here’s a look at the ways Visible comes up a bit short.

Deprioritization

As with Sprint’s Kickstart Unlimited plan, Visible’s Unlimited Plan is subject to network deprioritization during times of peak use.

What exactly does that look like? Imagine that you’re out on the town on a Friday night, and you’re trying to show your buddies that hilarious video of a goose chasing a small child, but it won’t load. So now some of your friends think you made up the video. Awkward.

All joking aside, deprioritization can be a hassle if you’re a big gamer, streamer, or social networker.

Limited phone compatibility

Visible Wireless used to work with only a very short list of phones. But now that list has expanded a bit.

Anyone using a newer model of the iPhone, Galaxy, or Pixel should be fine switching over to Visible. But if you’re still rocking an iPhone 5 or a Galaxy S7, you better find another carrier.

Of course, you can always buy a new phone when you sign up for Visible. Here’s a look at some of the most popular devices the company sells.

Alternative picks

Visible Wireless is pretty awesome, but just because all the cool kids are doing it, that doesn’t mean you have to. Here’s a look at some other similar plans from other carriers.

Cheap unlimited data plans

Ultra Mobile’s Unlimited Data 3-Month Plan: Best international plan

An unlimited data plan for those who like to keep in touch over long distances

Pros

  • Free international talk and text to 80+ countries
  • Good coverage and data speeds

Cons

  • Full-speed data cap
  • No family plans

What we like

Ultra Mobile is another MVNO that found its way into our lineup for the best phone plans under $50. It earned its place by offering amazing international benefits on top of a decently priced unlimited data plan. Here are the details.

Free international talk and text to 80+ countries

When was the last time you talked with your cousins in South Korea? Or maybe it’s your friend who moved to the United Kingdom or your favorite tia in Mexico that you’ve lost touch with. Either way, Ultra Mobile can help you get reconnected.

Ultra’s plans include unlimited talk and text to nearly 100 countries and reduced rates for many more. Check out Ultra’s website for a complete list of countries.

Plus you’ll get on Ultra’s “Call Me Free” program, which makes it so that people can call you from anywhere in the world and it will only cost them their local calling rate.

Good coverage and data speeds

Ultra customers are actually on the T-Mobile network, which is good news if you like fast data speeds for streaming, gaming, and scrolling. T-Mobile ranks first or second place for data speeds, depending on the metric.1

T-Mobile’s network will also give Ultra customers decent coverage in most of North America. Check out this dynamic coverage map if you don’t believe us.

You’ve probably noticed some service gaps in the map, especially in the rural West, like Wyoming and Montana. If that doesn’t cut it for you, you might want to check out another network. While no cell phone company offers 100% coverage, Verizon gets pretty close.

What we don’t like

Ultra’s Unlimited Data 3-Month Plan is one of the best plans for globetrotters and international families alike. But there are a few things to watch out for before you sign up.

Full-speed data cap

Unlike some providers, like Visible Wireless, Ultra Mobile’s unlimited data plan comes with a hard cap on your high-speed data. That cap is 50 GB.

Most people won’t use this much high-speed data. (It’s about the equivalent of watching 100 hours of Netflix on your phone in a single month.) But those who do—social media influencers, serious gamers, YouTube lovers—will see their data speeds plummet after hitting the cap.

No family plans

When you love something, you want to share it. Unfortunately, no matter how much you love the unlimited data and international perks of this phone plan, you won’t be able to add any extra lines for your family members.

Okay, technically you can add lines, but each line will cost you the same, full price that you’re paying for the first line. So if you’re looking to save money by bundling your phone plan with others, check out T-Mobile’s family plan below (or these other family plans).

Alternative picks

If you’re thinking that Ultra Mobile may not be so ultra after all, then take a gander at what the competition has to offer. Here’s a look at how the Unlimited Data 3-Month Plan compares to other plans with good international perks.

Cheap international cell phone plans

T-Mobile’s Magenta Family Plan: Best family plan

For $40 a line, you and two others will get access to unlimited, super-fast data.

Pros

  • Great data speeds and coverage
  • Free Netflix and other perks

Cons

  • Full-speed data cap

What we like

If you’re looking for a cheap phone plan, your options will be greatly increased if you’re able to bundle together into a family plan. T-Mobile’s Magenta plan is a perfect example of this: it’s $70 a month with a single line but just $40 a month when you’ve got three lines.

Let’s dive into all of the red-purple-colored details.

Great data speeds and coverage

While some folks may be able to live with a shoddy cellular network, most of us rely on our phones too much to risk losing service or having poor data speeds. T-Mobile is a great choice for those who need a reliable and fast network.

T-Mobile offers some of the fastest data speeds in the industry and should give you reliable coverage in about 94% of the country.1 See if your area is covered with this interactive map.

Tons and tons of perks

Normally a cell phone plan’s perks seem like a bit of an afterthought—“I get $2 off when I enroll in autopay. Cool, I guess”—but with T-Mobile’s Magenta plan, you and your family will get a treasure trove of extra features, free subscriptions, and cool benefits.

Here’s a list of some of the perks you’ll see on T-Mobile: 

  • A free, 1-screen Netflix subscription (when you have 2+ lines)
  • Free low-speed data in 210+ countries and 4G LTE speed data in Mexico and Canada
  • 3 GB of full-speed hotspot data, then unlimited hotspot data at 3G speeds.
  • Discounts for military
  • Get one hour of Gogo Air per month for in-flight texting
  • Enter free giveaways every week with T-Mobile Tuesdays

What we don’t like

T-Mobile’s Magenta plan packs a punch when it comes to data speeds and perks, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Here’s what we don’t love so much about this plan.

Full-speed data cap

So, you’re paying for unlimited high-speed data, right? Well, technically, no. You’re paying for up to 50 GB of high-speed data. After you hit that cap, all bets are off (but most likely you’ll just notice occasional slowdowns of your data speed when the network is busy).

Don’t worry, each line in your family plan will have its own 50 GB. And that’s a lot of data. Average users shouldn’t have an issue staying below that threshold.

But if your smartphone is permanently attached to your palm, you might want to check out Verizon’s Get More Unlimited plan, which comes with 75 GB of unthrottled data.

Alternative picks

Of course, it can help to compare cell phone plans before signing up. Look at how these other cheap family plans stack up against T-Mobile’s Magenta plan.

Unlimited family plan with three lines comparison

Recap: You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great plan.

Premium unlimited data plans can cost $70, $80, or even $100. But for most people, there’s a perfectly good cell phone plan under $50 that will fit their needs. Save yourself some cash and pick up one of these more affordable unlimited data plans.

  • Best Value: Sprint’s Kickstart Unlimited plan is simply the cheapest way to get unlimited talk, text, and data. Just watch out for data deprioritization and coverage gaps.
  • Best Network: Visible’s Unlimited Plan gets you on Verizon’s best-in-the-nation network for just $40 a month. It’s an unbeatable deal, as long as you don’t mind occasional data slowdowns.
  • Best International Plan: Ultra Mobile’s Unlimited Data 3-Month Plan will get you unlimited talk and text to 80+ countries. It’s perfect for staying in touch with your family and friends abroad, if you can handle a 50 GB full-speed data cap.
  • Best Family Plan: T-Mobile’s Magenta Family Plan will get you and the whole family connected with lightning fast data speeds. The more lines you add, the cheaper it gets. Plus there are about a billion cool perks. The main catch is the 50 GB high-speed data cap.

Hopefully, this article has helped you save some dough for the things that really matter (your kid’s college fund, Xbox One games, scratch tickets). Let us know what plan you choose in the comment section, and check out the best plans under $30 if you want to save even more.