Reviews.org found the best deals on wireless service for budget-conscious callers.
Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans
Welcome to the secret menu of cell phone plans. You’re not going to see too many cell phone plans in this piece from the United States’ three major cellular carriers—AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Those carriers are definitely worth the money in some cases, but you can save a ton of money—up to half your monthly bill—by signing up for a prepaid plan from smaller carriers like Visible, Xfinity Mobile, and US Mobile. And you still get quality cellular coverage over a major network.
The truth is that most cell phone users don’t need a flagship unlimited phone plan that costs a high monthly price and comes with features you don’t really need (like international roaming or cloud storage). So read on for our recommendations and find the best cell phone plan for your budget.
How we picked the best cell phone plans
Reviews.org uses price-comparison tools to compare and contrast every cell phone plan, but price is just the beginning. To get down to the nitty-gritty value of a cell phone plan, we factor in the value of things like high-speed data caps, 5G coverage, performance, phone trade-in programs, and other features.
After getting a comprehensive view of what each cell phone plan offers, we try to get hands-on experience with as many cell phone plans as we can. When we can’t, we reach out to folks in different areas of the country to give us their personal experience. With all those considerations, we can make reliable recommendations.
Reviews.org makes money when readers click our sponsored links, but I researched and wrote this piece independently. Our brand partners do not read our pieces or pre-approve our pieces before they are published.
Best cell phone coverage
Every cell phone plan we recommend uses at least one of the three major networks: AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. These networks stretch across the United States but can offer wildly different experiences depending upon your exact location. For example, a Verizon customer in Des Moines, Iowa might have a wildly different experience than a T-Mobile customer in the same city.
The best way to find out what coverage to expect in your neighborhood is by entering your zip code in our coverage map and swap between the networks to see what network offers the best coverage for you.
We use OpenSignal as a secondary source for coverage experience. In the January 2024 report, OpenSignal had Verizon as the most reliable coverage network in the country. Since those results track with our experience, we recommend Verizon’s network over AT&T and T-Mobile for coverage.
OpenSignal invented a new metric called Coverage Experience that measures the quality of coverage over heavily populated regions of the United States. According to OpenSignal, the score reflects “the experience users receive as they travel around areas where they would reasonably expect to find coverage.”
All three of the cellular carriers get high rankings for 4G LTE experience. But Verizon edges to the lead—suggesting that it’s the best pick if you’re looking for coverage in a rural area or other part of the country where cell service might otherwise be spotty.
4G LTE coverage experience
5G coverage experience
As the data shows, you’re far less likely to connect to a cellular carrier’s faster, lower-latency 5G network than to a 4G LTE network. But if you do want 5G, then stick with a prepaid plan that works over T-Mobile’s network, since T-Mobile has the widest 5G coverage in the country.
Best wireless speeds
Data speeds refer to the speed your internet connection gets on your phone when connected to a specific network. Faster data speeds mean you can download apps more quickly, you can get more up-to-date traffic info on your GPS app, and YouTube videos load more quickly.
As of January 2024, T-Mobile still holds the championship belt for the fastest data speeds on average. OpenSignal’s Download Speed Experience metric measures users’ everyday experiences with 4G and 5G wireless networks, and T-Mobile blows the competition out of the water.
Average download speeds
Best cheap cell phone plans—at a glance
Here is a quick breakdown of the plans we highlight on this page:
- Best coverage: Visible’s $25 unlimited plan gets you truly unlimited data on Verizon’s network, but your data speeds might slow down occasionally when the network gets busy.
- Best unlimited plan: US Mobile’s Unlimited Starter plan costs only $23 a month if you pay for the whole year in advance ($276 total). You get 35GB of high-speed data every month, along with 10GB of designated hotspot data–all on T-Mobile or Verizon’s networks.
- Best bundle deal: Xfinity Mobile is available for Xfinity internet customers only, but if you qualify, you can get an unlimited plan for as cheap as $30 per month with a family plan.
- Best cheap cell phone plan: Tello’s 5GB plan only costs $14 a month and lets you roll over unused data.
- Best family plan: The AT&T Unlimited Starter plan drops from $65 to $35 per month if you bundle four or more lines together. Similar plans from T-Mobile and Verizon cost around $15 more each month.
Visible $25 Unlimited Plan: Best coverage
Visible exclusively uses Verizon’s awesome network to provide wireless coverage for its customers. Verizon offers more coverage in rural areas of the country than any other network, which makes Visible an even easier recommendation if you live outside of a major city. Hesitant? You can try out the service for 15 days for free.
Although the plan technically costs $25 a month, Visible almost never actually charges the full $25 for this unlimited plan. You can usually cut the price down to $20 a month if you keep an eye out for any promotional deals when you sign up for your plan.
Instead of giving users a high-speed data cap every month (like US Mobile), Visible offers unlimited data with the caveat that your speeds can slow down whenr the network gets busy. At least one Reddit user reports that using Visible can occasionally feel like “being in the back of the data line,” but it shouldn’t be an issue all the time.
US Mobile Unlimited Starter: Best unlimited plan
A prepaid provider running over T-Mobile and Verizon networks, US Mobile currently offers the best deal in the world of cell phone plans: $23 a month for 35GB of high-speed data and 10GB of designated hotspot data.
The only catch is that you have to pay for a year in advance—a total lump sum of $276—to get the biggest discount. But while that may hurt in the short term, the benefit is that you don’t have to worry about paying your cell phone bill for the entire rest of the year. And it’s not like you’re getting a cheap throwaway plan either—35GB of data gives you plenty of room to stream music and TV shows without having to worry about passing your data cap. You also get a generous 10GB of hotspot data, which can really come in handy if you need to get some work done without a Wi-Fi connection.
When you sign up, you can choose whether to have your US Mobile plan use T-Mobile or Verizon’s network. Before making a decision, make sure to check out our wireless coverage guide to see what network works best for you.
Xfinity Mobile: Best cell phone bundle deal
If you’re an Xfinity internet customer, Xfinity Mobile’s standalone cell phone doesn’t offer much value on its own ($45/mo. for a 20GB data cap doesn’t compete with other carriers). But what sets Xfinity apart is the fact that you can bundle a family plan together along with your internet plan. Usually family plan discounts are reserved for major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, but Xfinity customers can get the family plan discount without paying for the big brand name.
With a family plan of four or more lines, you can get your cost per line down to $30 a month. It’s also worth mentioning that you get a lot of perks you usually find only with major carriers, such as phone upgrades and major discounts on new phones.
What makes Xfinity especially tempting right now is the fact that you get a free Unlimited Intro plan for a year when you sign up for any Xfinity Unlimited plan. All in all, Xfinity Mobile falls right in between a major carrier cell phone plan (like Verizon) and a cheaper carrier (like Tello).
Tello 5GB Plan: Best cheap cell phone plan
Tello is a prepaid cellular carrier that’s big on flexibility and affordability, and the 5GB plan falls right into the sweet spot between price and power. For a ridiculously low monthly price, you get unlimited talk and text over T-Mobile’s network and a respectable 5GB of premium cellular data. That’s not a ton, but it’s enough to let you use your maps app while driving, scroll through TikTok while you’re bored at the DMV, or play online games like Hearthstone.
Another cool thing about Tello is that you can technically make unused data from one month roll over and accumulate into the next month—at least up to a total of 5GB of hotspot data and 35GB of wireless data. If you manually renew or charge your plan at least 24 hours before the end of your current billing cycle, all of your unused data will carry over to the next month. You just need to make sure to keep the same plan for the trick to work.
AT&T Unlimited Starter: Best family plan
On its own, the AT&T Unlimited Starter plan costs $65 a month, but the price drops down to $35 a month per line when you get a family plan of four or more lines together. The total savings on this plan adds up to $380 every month.
The price is still higher than some of the others on this list, but the plan comes with perks you can’t get from US Mobile or Visible—including prioritized data from the parent network, ensuring you get the best possible coverage at all times. You also get phone trade-in deals, which means you can nab a free iPhone 15 from AT&T when you sign up for an unlimited plan.
What to look for in a cheap cell phone plan
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when deciding on a cell phone plan:
Compare prices: Make sure you’re not paying more for less. All the recommendations in this guide offer some unique value, but you’ll always want to compare prices with other carriers to make sure you get the best deal.
Look at your data cap: Most “unlimited” cell phone plans come with a high-speed data cap, which basically means you get reliable speeds up until you’ve surpassed the cap. After you pass the cap, your data speeds slow down dramatically. Choose a cell phone plan with a high-speed cap that matches your data usage.
Make sure your area is covered: Not all mobile providers have reliable service in every part of the U.S. Check out coverage maps before signing up for a cell phone plan.
Check for mobile hotspot data: Like taking your laptop and working on the beach? Some cell phone plans offer designated high-speed hotspot data every month, letting you use the mobile hotspot data on your phone to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot. Other cell phone plans may take from your regular data cap to power your Wi-Fi hotspot.
Family plans: Many carriers offer a discount for opening two or more lines on a plan, giving you a significant discount on your monthly bill. It’s usually referred to as a family plan discount, but you can add anyone you want on an extra line—including friends or even neighbors.
Recap: What’s the best cheap cell phone plan?
There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all best cell phone plan. That’s why we break down our recommendations into categories. Whether you want the lowest price possible or just a discount when you bundle with family, one of these low-cost options may fit the bill for you:
- Best coverage: Visible’s $25 unlimited plan runs over Verizon’s network, giving you top-tier 4G LTE coverage in the United States.
- Best unlimited plan: US Mobile’s Unlimited Starter plan only costs $23 a month as long as you pay for the whole year in advance ($276 total), and comes with a generous 35GB of high-speed data every month.
- Best bundle deal: Xfinity Mobile is available to Xfinity internet customers, and can get you a free unlimited line for a year when you also have Unlimited Intro.
- Best cheap cell phone plan: Tello’s 5GB plan costs just $14 per month and you can roll over data every month as long as you keep paying for the plan.
- Best family plan: The AT&T Unlimited Starter costs $65 a month on its own, but the price plummets down to $35 monthly if you get a family plan together with four or more lines.