Best Cell Phone Plans of 2021
Best ValueCheapest unlimited planT-Mobile's network
Best Unlimited planFastest data speeds$60 Unlimited plan
Best CoverageMost 4G coverageReliable data speeds
Best Family Plan$25 each line (4 lines)Unlimited data for all lines
Best Prepaid FamilyAffordable family plansUnlimited data
Cell phone providers constantly jockey for position to offer the most reliable coverage, highest-value prepaid plan, or most budget-friendly cell phone plans. Here’s how the best cell phone plans of 2021 stack up:
- Mint Mobile blindsided the whole wireless community when it announced its $30 unlimited plan. For now, Mint Mobile’s $30 unlimited plan is the best value in the business.
- T-Mobile offers the most affordable unlimited plan amongst the big three carriers (AT&T and Verizon being the other two), and offers the fastest download and upload speeds to boot.
- Verizon offers the most reliable coverage out of all the wireless providers.
- Visible Wireless kills the prepaid wireless game with an unlimited plan that costs $40 a month. You also get an awesome discount for additional lines you add as a family plan.
- Metro by T-Mobile currently offers the best value for family prepaid plans.
There’s lots of nuance between cell phone carriers and cell phone plans, and we’re going to dive into the details. Let’s make sure you’re getting the best cell phone plan for your wireless needs.
Any good phone deals going on right now?
*As of 1/13/2021, not including upfront costs, taxes, or fees.
If you’re ready to switch cell phone companies but want to avoid the head-spinning blast of information, this guide is for you. It includes recommendations for cell phone plans based on price, data limits, coverage, and speed—and perks. Don’t forget the perks.
Oh, and you get unlimited talk with all of these data plans as well.
|Provider||Best for||Our plan pick||Learn more|
|Mint Mobile||Value||$30 Unlimited Plan||View Plans|
|T-Mobile||Unlimited data||T-Mobile Essentials||View Plans|
|Verizon||Overall coverage||Verizon Do More Unlimited||View Plans|
|Visible||Family||$25 Unlimited Per Line||View Plans|
|Metro by T-Mobile||Prepaid family||$50 Unlimited Plan||View Plans|
Mint Mobile: Best value plan
$30 a month for an unlimited plan is nuts
- Cheapest unlimited data
- Uses T-Mobile's awesome network
What we like
When Ryan Reynolds and Rick Moranis shared the news that Mint Mobile would offer a $30 unlimited plan, it was clear there’s a new wireless sheriff in town.
Cheapest price for unlimited data
Mint Mobile currently offers the best wireless deal at $30 a month for unlimited data, and it’s honestly not even close. For context, the next cheapest unlimited cell phone plan costs $37 a month—an extra $7 a month, or as I like to think about it, an extra Netflix subscription a month. Check out how Mint Mobile’s unlimited plan stacks up against the competition.
Mint Mobile charging $30 a month is like if In-N-Out started charging 99 cents for its double-doubles. Seriously, Mint Mobile undercuts its wireless competition in a huge way, which makes it an easy recommendation for best value.
Uses T-Mobile’s network
Mint Mobile is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), which is a fancy way of saying that Mint uses the network from a major provider to offer wireless service. In this case, Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile’s network to provide coverage and data, which is certainly good news.
T-Mobile covers 62% of the United States with 4G coverage, which isn’t the best coverage overall, but its not terribly far behind. Where T-Mobile’s network shines is with its data speeds. On average, T-Mobile’s network produces a 32.7 Mbps download speed, and a 12.9 Mbps upload speed, making it the fastest horse in the race when it comes to data speeds.
When you use Mint Mobile, you use T-Mobile’s network. Of course, there has to be a catch, otherwise why would anybody use T-Mobile over Mint Mobile? The catch, my friends, is deprioritization.
What we don’t like
Mint Mobile is subject to being deprioritized on T-Mobile’s network. In other words, your service on Mint Mobile can dramatically drop out of nowhere during peak usage periods. You might notice your wireless signal dropping in crowded areas, or during your commute back home.
Let’s say you’re at a college football game and Mint Mobile user. Usually you get consistent service, but for whatever reason, you can barely get a text out while in the arena. Meanwhile, your friend who’s a T-Mobile user has no problem posting on their Instagram story. If you’re both on the T-Mobile’s network, shouldn’t you have the same exact coverage? Unfortunately not. Mint Mobile users can experience poorer service in crowded areas because T-Mobile is favoring its own customers.
If the slightly lower coverage is a deal-breaker for you, or if you live in a more rural area, the next best option is Visible wireless. It costs $40 a month, so its a bit more pricey than Mint Mobile, but Visible uses Verizon’s network, which offers the best coverage in the country. You still will run into deprioritization with Visible, but your coverage will definitely be more reliable than Mint Mobile.
T-Mobile Essentials: Best unlimited plan
The cheapest unlimited plan from one of the best networks
- Fastest data speeds
- Slightly lower coverage
Fastest data speeds
We sampled tens of thousands of wireless users and the data doesn’t lie—T-Mobile offers the fastest wireless data speeds in the country. T-Mobile averages download speeds of 32.7 Mbps, and upload speeds of 12.9 Mbps. Check out how those numbers compare to the other two major networks, AT&T and Verizon.
T-Mobile leads in both data speed categories, which is a huge deal for those of us who use the internet from time to time. So, you know, all of us. T-Mobile users can expect a smoother experience streaming, opening websites, and scrolling through social media, compared to other wireless providers.
Affordable unlimited plan
T-Mobile’s Essentials plan is currently the cheapest unlimited plan you can buy from a major provider. The Essentials plan undercuts AT&T and Verizon basic unlimited plans by $5 and $10 a month respectfully. Here’s how the prices compare.
In summary, you get the fastest data speeds on the cheapest unlimited plan from the three major networks. Pretty good deal.
What we don’t like
Where T-Mobile drops the ball slightly is with its coverage. T-Mobile covers 62% of the country with 4G coverage, trailing behind AT&T (68% 4G coverage) and Verizon (70% coverage).1 So for folks in more rural areas of the country, you might have super spotty coverage on T-Mobile’s network.
Verizon Do More Unlimited: Best coverage
The best coverage in the country
Verizon Do More Unlimited plan features
- Best coverage
- High data caps
- Still pricier than comparable plans
What we like
Verizon has the most reliable coverage in the country. It’s your best bet for getting calls and texts through wherever you roam.
Check out any well-known wireless performance ratings, and you’ll see Verizon at or near the top for coverage (offering 70% 4G coverage across the country), speed, and overall performance.1
Case in point: my friend’s Verizon phone was the only one with a signal out in the Utah desert. My AT&T signal showing zero bars might as well have been replaced by skull and cross bones symbol. As a rule of thumb, if you’re traveling, you’d be wise to bring along a Verizon user, just in case.
Check out the Verizon coverage map below to get an idea of what the best coverage in the country looks like.
Verizon coverage map
High data cap
Another downside to many cheaper unlimited data plans like Verizon’s Go Unlimited (and AT&T’s Unlimited & More℠) is that Verizon is allowed to slow, or throttle, your speed at any time if you use too much data.
The Do More Unlimited plan lets you avoid those slower speeds with 22 GB of unthrottled data each month. (Above that cap, though, you’re on your own.) That means you can go (a little) wild with live Twitch streams or uploading photos to Instagram.
It also comes with 15 GB of unthrottled mobile hotspot data that zooms along at 4G LTE speeds. So if your internet goes down in the middle of a work project, you can just hop onto your Wi-Fi hotspot and pick up where you left off.
Sadly, the old “Sorry boss, can’t work today, my internet is down” won’t really work anymore. (It was nice while it lasted.)
What we don’t like
Verizon’s amazing coverage and speed come at a price. If you’re looking for a cheap unlimited cell phone plan, you might have to do a trade-off. Here’s how the price of the Verizon Do More plan compares to other unlimited plans.
Verizon Do More Unlimited price comparison
Want a higher data cap? Get an upgrade.
If you’re maxing out every month and don’t feel like you can cut back, don’t worry. You can upgrade to Verizon’s new Get More Unlimited plan and get a mind-boggling 75 GB of unthrottled data each month instead of 22 GB of 4G LTE data. Somewhere, all the old flip phones are crying.
Of course, you’ll pay a little extra each month for Get More Unlimited compared to Do More Unlimited. But if waiting for your favorite Hulu shows to buffer makes you want to throw your device across the room, it just might be worth it.
If Verizon’s prices are little too high, you can still get reliable coverage with AT&T. It’s only a 2% difference between AT&T and Verizon’s overall coverage, and AT&T’s plans cost about $5 less a month than Verizon’s cell phone plans.
Visible $25/line: Best family plan
Families who save together stay together.
- Affordable family pricing
- Awesome network
What we like
You can get down to $25 a line for unlimited data on an awesome network. You really can’t beat that.
Affordable pricing for the whole family
Honestly, if you’re not on a family cell phone plan, you’re kinda doing it wrong. You can dramatically decrease your bill by bundling plans together—you don’t even need a family to do this! You can make a family plan with your roommates, your friends, your coworkers, whoever. If you can get at least four folks to go in with you, your unlimited plan with Visible Wireless will go down to $25 a month instead of the usual $40 a month.
Visible Wireless is owned by Verizon, which just so happens to offer the best network in the country. Verizon’s network especially shines when it comes to rural coverage, so you can rely on your cell phone likely working while camping and hiking.
What we don’t like
Since Visible Wireless is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) it can be subject to slow downs during peak-usage periods. In other words, your signal could drop when tons of people are using the Verizon network at the same time. It’s possible, for example, for your signal to drop commuting home during rush hour or walking around a crowded amusement park.
If you like the sound of Mint Mobile more than Visible, you can always opt for Mint Mobile awesome $30 unlimited plan. It’s technically not a family plan, but you can get one for everyone in the family and still get a sweet deal.
Metro by T-Mobile $50 Unlimited Plan: Best prepaid family plan
With unlimited data, Metro is a budget-friendly pick with good coverage.
$50 Unlimited Plan
- Unlimited data
- Affordable plans
What we like
You can get your entire family sharing an unlimited data plan and save some money every month while doing it.
Have you ever gotten that ominous text from your carrier saying you’ve nearly reached your data limit? Well, you know what happens next. It becomes the family blame game to find out who used all the data. Not a problem with unlimited data.
There’s probably no statistic to back this up, but it feels like unlimited data plans reduce family stress and build togetherness. This is especially true if you have teenagers.
$30 a month for each additional line
The base price for Metro by T-Mobile’s unlimited plan isn’t anything super special at $50 a month, but the value comes in when you add extra lines. Every line you add to your family plan costs $30 a month instead of $50 a month. Those additional lines get all the same perks as if they were paying full price for the $50 plan.
What we don’t like
Metro by T-Mobile is technically a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) and will suffer from deprioritization from time to time. In other words, you may notice your data speeds throttling in congested areas or during peak-usage periods (like when driving home from work). But on the bright side, since Metro is owned by T-Mobile, you probably won’t be as deprioritized as you would be on an MVNO that isn’t owned by the network.
Performance makes a big difference with your wireless experience, and it can all be boiled down to your average download speeds and upload speeds. In a nutshell, the faster your download speeds, the faster you can Google things, stream YouTube videos, and scroll through your TikTok feed. Upload speeds, on the other hand, determine how quickly you can post your own Instagram stories and Twitter updates.
- Average download speed: 28.9 Mbps
- Average upload speed: 9.4 Mbps
- Average download speed: 32.73 Mbps
- Average upload speed: 12.9 Mbps
- Average download speed: 32.2 Mbps
- Average upload speed: 10.0 Mbps
Currently, T-Mobile holds the championship belt for both the fastest download and upload speeds. If your phone constantly hangs when opening refreshing Twitter or YouTube videos take forever to buffer, you might want to consider a switch to T-Mobile.
T-Mobile cell phone plans
You’ll probably notice that AT&T did not make the cut for any of our top recommendations. That’s not to say that AT&T is a bad choice, in fact, I’m still on my family’s AT&T plan for a reason.
AT&T feels like the middle-child between T-Mobile and Verizon right now. It costs a little less than Verizon, but its coverage isn’t quite as reliable. On the other hand, AT&T costs a little more than T-Mobile, but its data speeds aren’t quite as fast. Classic middle-child situation.
Still, if you know AT&T has reliable coverage in your area or you want to switch for whatever reason, we’d recommend the AT&T Unlimited Starter plan.
- Best value: Mint Mobile’s $30 unlimited plan is the best deal in the wireless world right now. It’s way cheaper than any other unlimited plan.
- Best unlimited plan: T-Mobile’s Essentials plan is the most affordable unlimited plan amongst the major wireless networks. It also offers the fastest wireless data speeds around.
- Best coverage: The Verizon Do More Unlimited plan offers the best coverage in the country and 22 GB of unthrottled 4G LTE data each month to go along with it.
- Best family plan: We recommend Visible wireless for family plans because of its multi-line discount. You can get down to $25 a line for unlimited data on an awesome network.
- Best prepaid family plan: Metro by T-Mobile unlimited plan costs $50 a month, but it costs $30 a month for every additional line you add. The bigger the family, the more value you get.
The best cell phone plans are always changing with new data plans and features. Check back here to get the latest updates on the best cell phone plans.