Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans

We picked our favorite prepaid plans for families, kids, anyone on a budget, and those looking for the freedom of unlimited data.

Overview

When it comes to prepaid plans you’ve got a multitude of options. Almost an overwhelming number of options, even if you’re shopping for a simple prepaid phone plan for your teenager to call home or want to skip the credit check.

Lucky for you, we spent hours trying to wrap our heads around all the features, prices, and contract options out there to create our list of the best prepaid phone plans. Here are the carriers that made the cut for our top five, plus some alternatives worth considering.

Best prepaid phone plans comparisons

Best forOur plan pickCost*Learn more
SimpleMobileOverall6 GB plan$37/mo.View Plans
FreedomPopBudget planBasic 500 plan$0/mo.View Plan
MetroPCSUnlimited data planUnlimited plan$50/mo. (includes taxes and fees)View Plan
Total WirelessFamily plan25 GB plan$95/mo. for 4 linesView Plan
View PlanKids’ plan500 MB plan$23.75/2 mos.**View Plan
AT&T PREPAID℠Family plan8 GB plan$160/mo. for 4 linesView Plan
Cricket WirelessBudget planTalk and Text plan$25/mo.View Plan
Boost MobileUnlimited planUnlimited data plan$50/mo.View Plan

* Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included unless otherwise noted.
** Cost per 60 service days.

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What are service days?

Some prepaid plans require you to pay monthly, while others list a number of service days. Normally, you’ll need to refill your minutes, texts, and data before your service days run out.

The difference between prepaid and post-paid plans

Besides paying ahead of time instead of after a month of using your phone, what’s the difference between a prepaid plan and a post-paid one?

One major difference we noticed was that most carriers that offer only prepaid plans don’t have the latest phone models. For example, the newest iPhone model offered by Boost Mobile is a certified pre-owned iPhone 7 Plus. (But hey, MetroPCS has a shiny new iPhone X. What up!)

Best overall—Simple Mobile

Offering the most plans, and often at the best prices, Simple Mobile clocks in as best overall.

What we like

simple mobile logo
Price*: $37/for 30 days
Features:
- Unlimited talk and text
- 6 GB of 4G LTE data (2G speeds after data cap)
- No contract
- Uses the T-Mobile network

Lots of data options

With Simple Mobile, you’ve got four different options for data: 1 GB, 2 GB, 6 GB, and unlimited. That’s a pretty good variety that lets you further customize your plan—and then you’re not stuck footing the bill for unlimited when all you wanted was enough data to check your email and get turn-by-turn directions to that new restaurant you discovered.

Trust us—variety is the spice of life when it comes to prepaid plans. Especially when compared to carriers like Virgin Mobile, which has only three different options for data: 5 GB, 10 GB, and unlimited.

More for your money

Your money goes further with Simple Mobile. Its single-line fees are cheaper than its closest competitor, Cricket Wireless. But while Cricket becomes cheaper with more lines, you’ll still get more data from Simple Mobile. That’s perfect for rewatching Arrested Development on Netflix in your spare time

We should also mention that while AT&T also offers a few different data options with its prepaid plans, its prices tend to be about $10 more (not including multi-line discounts).

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Get in the know

Simple Mobile uses the T-Mobile network, but what does that really mean? Take a peek at our full T-Mobile review to see how its network compares for coverage and speed.

What we don’t like

No low-usage plans

There’s one thing Simple Mobile lacks: Low-usage plans for people like my dad who hate carrying a cell phone but keep it around in case of an emergency. (And because my mom insists.)

Because all of Simple Mobile’s plans offer data and unlimited talk and text, you’ll find cheaper options from carriers like TracFone if you rarely use your cell phone and can’t imagine trying to surf the net on anything but a desktop.

Mixed messages on the unlimited data plan

We think Simple Mobile’s 1 GB, 2 GB, and 6 GB plans are great—but we can’t say the same for its “truly unlimited” plan. We scoured its site for information on how much data we could use before our speeds were slowed, but came up short.

We also asked two different reps and got two wildly different answers, leading us to believe “truly unlimited” doesn’t exist. We’re guessing there is a cap but Simple Mobile just isn’t transparent about what it is.

Want to bring your own phone to Simple Mobile? Check your phone’s compatibility here.

Alternative picks

If Simple Mobile doesn’t quite meet your needs, here are a few alternatives that are similar but didn’t quite make our list.

Plan namePrice*Learn more
Cricket Wireless 5 GB plan$35/mo.View Plan
AT&T PREPAID℠ 8 GB plan$40/mo.View Plan
Straight Talk 10 GB plan$44/mo. View Plan

* Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included.

Best budget plan—FreedomPop

When it comes to price, you can’t beat Freedom Pop’s free (but somewhat limited) plan.

What we like

Price*: $0/mo. for 1 line
Features:
- 200 minutes
- 500 texts
- 500 MB of 4G LTE (FreedomPop phones only)
- Uses AT&T and Sprint networks

A zero-dollar phone bill

What can we say—there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to the price of Freedom Pop’s Basic 500 plan. It really does cost you nothing each month. In Freedom Pop’s own words, it’s a “free Monthly Phone Plan. . . at no cost to you.”

Even if you prefer to upgrade to more data plus unlimited talk and text, cheap is the name of the game here. The next level of prepaid plan costs $24.99 per month—and you get a bigger discount for prepaying up to 12 months ahead of time.

If you’re thinking “What’s the catch?” you’re not alone. We thought this zero-dollar plan was too good to be true too.

Other carriers’ prices didn’t come close to that zero-dollar cost—except TracFone’s $118 plan that covers 365 service days. Break that down, and you’re still paying about $9.83 per month.

If you’re thinking “What’s the catch?” you’re not alone. We thought this zero-dollar plan was too good to be true too. While it really does cost you nothing per month for cell phone service, Freedom Pop’s Basic 500 plan doesn’t offer a free phone—even bringing your own costs money. Also, you might be stuck paying overage charges if you creep up over that very limited amount of data, talk, and text.

Wi-Fi Calling is calling your name

With such low caps for talk, text, and data, you’ll meet your max quickly on Freedom Pop’s free plan—unless you rarely use your cell phone. But one great feature about Freedom Pop is that it offers Wi-Fi Calling.

This means you can use a Wi-Fi network to place calls, send texts, and roam the web. So save your minutes for a rainy day—or emergency—instead.

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Watch out for automatic data top-ups

While this Freedom Pop plan is truly free, you’ll want to read the fine print to avoid any surprises. FYI, automatic top-ups are defaulted to “on” and will cost you at least $15 if you go over your data limit. Turn them off to keep those bills out of your mailbox.

Want to bring your own phone to Freedom Pop? Check your phone’s compatibility here.

What we don’t like

Full-price phones

If you prefer paying a little for your phone each month, Freedom Pop may not be for you. Since there are no installment plans offered, you’ll pay the full price up front for that shiny new (or refurbished) phone.

There is a silver lining, though. Most of Freedom Pop’s phones are priced much lower than you’ll find elsewhere—and Freedom Pop also offer steep cuts on refurbished and used options too.

Limits to the free plan

If that free plan sounds too good to be true, it might just be. If you planned on bringing your own phone to Freedom Pop, you’ll get 300 fewer MB of 4G LTE data each month, or 200 MB total instead of 500 MB.

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Get the full reviews

Freedom Pop uses AT&T’s and Sprint’s networks, but what does that mean? Check out our AT&T review and Sprint review to find out.

While your talk and text amounts remain the same no matter which phone you use, there’s no getting around the fact that those are some pretty low talk, text, and data caps. We’re talking limbo low.

And while you can save those minutes with Wi-Fi Calling, such low caps don’t work well unless you place a call on your cell only once in a blue moon.

Alternative picks

If Simple Mobile doesn’t quite meet your needs, here are a few alternatives that are similar but didn’t quite make our list.

Plan namePrice*Learn more
Cricket Wireless 5 GB plan$35/mo.View Plan
AT&T PREPAID℠ 8 GB plan$40/mo.View Plan
Straight Talk 10 GB plan$44/mo. View Plan

* Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included.

Best unlimited plan—MetroPCS

With a generous data cap and a competitive price, MetroPCS kicks some serious tail with its unlimited data plan.

What we like

Price $50/mo.
Features:
- Unlimited talk and text
- Unlimited 4G LTE data
- No speed-throttling until 35 GB of data used

No speed throttling until 35 GB

Most unlimited data plans come with a “soft data cap,” which means your speed may be slowed during times of congestion.

Usually this soft cap sits around 22 GB, meaning once you’ve used 22 GB of data in the month, you might encounter some slower streaming or browsing.

MetroPCS, on the other hand, offers a pretty generous soft cap of 35 GB.

MetroPCS, on the other hand, offers a pretty generous soft cap of 35 GB. That’s roughly a day’s worth of adorable baby animal videos on YouTube or about 12 hours of streaming The Crown on Netflix.

We should add that while MetroPCS uses T-Mobile’s network, T-Mobile offers its users a mind-boggling 50 GB soft cap. So if you gobble up data, you may want to consider a T-Mobile ONE unlimited prepaid plan instead.

Unlimited music streaming

Feel the heat with Camila Cabello’s “Havana” or power up with Drake’s “Nice for What.” Whatever your jam is, you can stream your music on your favorite app without using up your high-speed data.

That means getting down with your favorite artist’s new album won’t get you closer to that 35 GB soft data cap. Nice.

Want to bring your own phone to MetroPCS? According to MetroPCS, you’ll need to check with your local store and purchase a universal SIM card kit.

What we don’t like

SD streaming woes

Call us spoiled, but we cringe when we watch video in 480p. Sadly, MetroPCS’s cheaper unlimited plan offers only SD quality video streaming, not the crisp, clean quality of HD.

If you can’t stand blurry, patchy video, you’ll need to pay $10 more each month for the next-highest unlimited plan to get the full HD streaming experience in all its 1080p glory.

Granted, this is a pretty common issue with almost every carrier and lower-tier unlimited plans. So pay close attention to the features when you sign up and make sure you’re getting exactly what you want.

No mobile hotspot

If you travel a lot for work or use your cell phone as a hotspot to overcome patchy satellite internet service, you’ll be sad to hear this plan doesn’t include a mobile hotspot. (We know, we know.)

You can get a 4G LTE mobile hotspot on the next unlimited plan tier, but it will cost you $60 per month instead of $50. On the other hand, Boost Mobile offers a hotspot with its lower-tier $50-per-month unlimited plan. Hmm.

Alternative picks

Not all unlimited plans are equal, but we think these come pretty close to being the best.

Plan namePrice*Learn more
Cricket Wireless unlimited high-speed data plan$55/mo.View Plan
Boost Mobile unlimited data plan$50/mo.View Plan
T-Mobile ONE prepaid$75/mo. for 1 lineView Plan

* Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included.

Best family plan—Total Wireless

Total Wireless gets you a handful of high-speed data for the family without costing more than a Benjamin.

What we like

Price $95/30 days for 4 lines
Features:
- Unlimited talk and text
- 25 GB of shared data with speeds up to 4G LTE
- Uses Verizon network

Low price for lots of data

Total Wireless’s four-line plan costs just $25 per line for a grand total of $100 every 30 days—that price drops to $95 every 30 days when you enroll in autopay. That nets you 25 GB of shared data, which comes in at 6.25 GB of data per family member if you divide it equally. (We know this isn’t likely if you have kids who love to watch YouTube or play Angry Birds.)

Sure, a four-line family plan with unlimited data from Cricket Wireless costs the same ($100 each month or so), but your data speeds are limited to 3 Mbps right off the bat.

To put that in perspective, the 4G LTE speeds you get with Total Wireless range from 5–12 Mbps (until you hit that 25 GB soft cap).

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Should I just go with Verizon?

Maybe. While Total Wireless uses the Verizon network, there are definitely perks to rolling with “Big Red,” a.k.a. Verizon. Check out the pros and cons in our full Verizon review.

Want to bring your own phone to Total Wireless? Check your phone’s compatibility here.

What we don’t like

International texting is a bust

While you can add global calling to your Total Wireless plan for an extra $10, you won’t be able to text family and friends living outside the US.

It’s a small limitation, but a limitation nonetheless. And we’d like to see Total Wireless at least offer the option to add international texting as an add-on. MetroPCS does this—you can add Mexico Unlimited or Canada Unlimited service to your plan for $5 more per month.

The unlimited data is missing

If you’re looking for wide open spaces and the freedom of unlimited data, Total Wireless comes up short. It currently offers only plans with hard data caps.

If unlimited data is a must-have for your family, we recommend checking out the $50 per month unlimited plan from MetroPCS. It totals up to $140 per month for four lines, or $40 more per month compared to four lines with Total Wireless. But it’s still a cheaper option than unlimited plans from Straight Talk and Cricket Wireless.

Alternative picks

If this Total Wireless prepaid family plan doesn’t excite you, you might want to check out these alternatives.

Plan namePrice*Learn more
Cricket Wireless unlimited data plan$100/mo. for 4 linesView Plan
MetroPCS 5 GB plan$130/mo. fro 4 lines (includes taxes and fees)View Plan
AT&T PREPAID℠ 8 GB plan$160/mo. for 4 linesView Plan

* Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included.

Best plan for kids—TracFone

TracFone’s limited plans offer just enough minutes and data to make wary parents more comfortable

What we like

Price $23.75/60days
Features:
- 500 minutes
- 1,000 texts
- 500 MB of data
- Uses AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon networks

A price that won’t shock you

What really impresses us about this TracFone plan is the price. With minutes, texts, and data for 60 service days, that means you’re paying about $11.88 each month.

Sure, you could also go for the $15 ($14.25 with autopay) plan, but it comes with 300 fewer minutes and 500 fewer texts—and only lasts for 30 service days.

Talk, text, and data that’s just right

While some of us can still remember a time when landlines were the hip way to call your friends, cell phones are becoming the norm for kids these days.

A limited talk, text, and data plan like this one may be just the solution for a child who wants a cell phone just like all their friends. With 500 minutes and 1,000 texts, that’s just enough for emergencies or calls to mom for a ride home from practice. And 500 MB of data means they won’t spend hours on end glued to YouTube when there’s homework to do.

Want to bring your own phone to TracFone? Check your phone’s compatibility here.

What we don’t like

No large data options

Depending on how much you download, stream, and game, TracFone’s maximum of 2 GB of data may not go very far. And to top it off, that 2 GB of data is offered on only one plan—the rest come with 500 MB to 1.5 GB.

Other carriers offer much larger data caps ranging from 2 GB all the way up to unlimited. If data is something you need a lot of, TracFone likely isn’t for you.

Limits on talk and texts

If you’re shopping for a cell phone plan that keeps your teenager off the phone during class, TracFone’s limits on talk and texts probably aren’t a big deal. (To you, that is. We’re sure your teen would say otherwise).

But if your child needs to call home often for rides to and from school, practice, after school, or a friend’s house, you may sleep better at night knowing they have an unlimited number of minutes and texts at their disposal.

Rest easy, mom and dad. There are options to give your child unlimited talk and texts with no data, like the $25 per month ($23.70 with autopay) unlimited talk and text plan from Total Wireless.

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Get the full TracFone review

Get our full take on the good, the bad, and the (not so) ugly in our full TracFone review.

Alternative picks

If a TracFone plan is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole when it comes to your kid’s needs, check out these three alternatives we think are great.

Plan namePrice*Learn more
Total Wireless unlimited talk and text$23.70/30 daysView Plan
Cricket Wireless unlimited talk and text$25/mo.View Plan
AT&T PREPAID℠ 1 GB prepaid plan$30/mo.View Plan

* Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included.

Recap

Best OverallBest BudgetBest Unlimited
simple mobile logo
View PlansView PlansView Plans
  • Best overall: Simple Mobile takes the cake with many options for data that give you a lot for your money.
  • Best budget plan: How could we say no to Freedom Pop’s $0 per month plan that cruises on AT&T’s and Sprint’s networks?
  • Best unlimited plan: MetroPCS wins this round with a very generous 35 GB of high-speed data that won’t be throttled, plus unlimited music streaming.
  • Best family plan: You’ve got to hand it to Total Wireless for offering a low price for lots of data—no contract needed.
  • Best plan for kids: TracFone offers cheap plans with limits on talk, texts, and data so you won’t have to worry about that phone becoming permanently stuck to your child.

Other notable carriers we didn’t mention

That wraps up our favorite prepaid plans, but there are still many more carriers we didn’t cover here that are worth noting.

Other notable prepaid phone plans

ProviderPrice range*Get started
AT&T$30–$75/mo.View Plans
Sprint$40–$60/mo.View Plans
T-Mobile$45–$75/mo.View Plans
Verizon$30–$75/mo.View Plans
Virgin Mobile$35–$60/mo.View Plans
TingStarts at $9/mo.View Plans
Consumer CellularStarts at $15/mo.View Plans
Republic WirelessStarts at $15/mo.View Plans
Project Fi$20–$80/mo.View Plans

* Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included unless otherwise noted.