Best Mobile Phone Plans
Finding the best mobile phone plan to fit your needs is tricky. Beyond just dollars and cents, you need to consider which phones are supported by which wireless carriers and what coverage and data speeds are like in the areas where you’ll be using your phone the most. Throw in carriers’ continual changes in their plans, and it’s a recipe for confusion.
To help make your decision easier, we looked at the plans from the four major carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — as well as offerings from five prepaid carriers — Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, MetroPCS, Straight Talk, and Virgin Mobile. We broke things down into six different kinds of plans, for individuals, families and prepaid customers. To arrive at our choices, we considered pricing, value, network coverage, and performance.
For performance, we looked at our own test results in six cities, along with reports from firms that specialize in network testing. In some cases, total savings on one carrier’s plan outweighed the performance edge that another carrier might enjoy; in other cases, network performance was a crucial factor in our choice.
These are the best cell phone plans available right now.
Best Mobile Phone Plans: Our Top Picks
Boost Mobile: Best Cell Phone Plans
Boost Mobile Unlimited plan comes close to the offer from MetroPCS. Some consumers will get more out of Boost Mobile plan if they often need to get data to the other devices, or if they find the Sprint wireless network more reliable.
Boost Mobile offers unlimited talk, text, and data For $50 (taxes and fees included in that price). Boost Mobile has a soft cap for data on this plan at 23GB, and it will throttle customers who use more than that when the network is congested and also limits video streaming quality to 480p+.
Boost Mobile allows unlimited music streaming from its popular streaming partners, like Pandora and Spotify, with none of that data counting toward users data caps. Also, though Boost Mobile has a tighter limit on high-speed data, it does allow for up to 8GB of Wi-Fi Hotspot usage each period.
- $35/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB of data with mobile hotspot.
- $50/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and data with 12 Gigs Mobile Hotspot plus streaming Videos, Gaming & Music.
- $60/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and data with 30 Gigs Mobile Hotspot & HD Streaming.
- >> Check out Boost Mobile Plans
Tello: Best affordable Plans
Tello is an MVNO that runs on Sprint network, assuring you of a smooth and reliable connection overall. Basic plans start for as low as $5 month. The carrier’s $14 per month plan comes with unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of data. This is convenient for kids who don’t use their phone’s data too much (if that’s even a possibility). You can pick and choose the amount of data and voice minutes you require before signing up. Texting is almost entirely free on every plan, so that’s not a concern.
Tello also has a wide selection of smartphones to choose from, although you’re free to bring your own device to maintain some familiarity. The real bonus here is that Tello has no hidden fees, early termination costs, contracts or activation fees, so there’s plenty of money to be saved here.
- $10/mo: 200 minutes, unlimited text and 500 MB
- $14/mo: unlimited talk, text and 1 GB
- $24/mo: unlimited talk, text and 3 GB
- $39/mo: unlimited talk, text and 10 GB
- >> Check out Tello Plans
Cricket Wireless: Best Prepaid Family Plans
Among the growing options for prepaid family plans, Cricket Wireless was one of the original low cost cell phone providers that tried to change the game several years ago. Now, many companies offer similar pricing and plans, and Cricket hasn’t really kept up.
Cricket’s main plan goes for $30 a month, and you get unlimited talk, 2GB, and 4G LTE data. For $40 a month, you can get 5GB of data. If you don’t need any data, they offer a talk and text plan for $25 a month. You can buy a phone or bring your own.
- $25/mo: Unlimited talk and, text
- $30/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB of data
- $40/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and 5 GB of data
- $55/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and data at 3 Mbps max speed
- $60/mo: Unlimited talk, text and high-speed data
- >> Check out Cricket Wireless Plans
Republic Wireless: Cheap Cell Phone Plan
You may know a few people that use Republic Wireless. There are a few reasons why Republic Wireless is one of the best cell phone plans in 2018. They have no contract plans that are really cheap. If you need a very cheap cell phone plan, this may be a great option for you. You get nationwide coverage and you can increase or lower your data, all while keeping everything on a budget.
Republic Wireless also has phones to help you stay “with it” technology wise! They offer a wide variety of Androids. So, with no contracts and coverage that’s guaranteed, this isn’t too shabby of a deal!
- $15/mo: Unlimited talk, text
- $20/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of data
- $25/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and 2GB of data
- >> Check out Republic Wireless Plans
T-Mobile: Cheapest Unlimited Data Plan
For those who like to use a lot of data on the go, you can get some high quality T-Mobile packages starting at $35 for a single phone. This gives you a whopping unlimited number of data if you are part of T-Mobile One, with 10GB of 4G LTE data provided for all mobile hotspot usage. Unlimited international calls are a nice boon, too, as well as being part of the T-Mobile Tuesdays program that offers all manner of whopping discounts.
- $75/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and data for 1 line
- $120/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and data for 2 lines ($60 each)
- $120/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and data for 3 lines ($40 each)
- $140/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and data for 4 lines ($35 each)
- >> Check out T-Mobile Plans
MetroPCS: Best Prepaid Individual Plan
If you use data only occasionally, the best prepaid deal is MetroPCS’ $40-per-month plan for unlimited talk and text plus 10GB of data. MetroPCS’ only competitor at this level is Boost Mobile, which offers double the data — 3GB of LTE service — for $35 if you enroll in its Auto Re-Boost autopay plan. Boost also increases your data allotment if you pay your bill on time. Average data users, though, should consider MetroPCS’s $40 plan, especially now that MetroPCS has increased the size of the plan to 10GB of LTE data.
- $40/mo: Unlimited talk, text and 10GB of data
- $50/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and data plus 5GB of Hotspot
- $60/mo: Unlimited talk, text, and data plus 15GB of Hotspot and amazon prime included
- >> Check out MetroPCS Plans
Verizon Wireless: Best Individual Plan
Looking for the best nationwide coverage, Verizon is the easy choice. their start at $160 for 4 lines ($200 on their higher tier offering, and $240 on the highest tier) and $75 for one line ($85 on the higher tier and $95 on the highest).
With two sets of rate plans, Verizon higher costs make it less of a budget-friendly option though they do offer “go unlimited” as the lower tier that caps streaming video at 480p and cuts back mobile hotspot speeds. Their “beyond unlimited” plan adds 720p streaming video on phones and 1080p on tablets alongside 15GB of mobile hotspot use every month.
As one of the first to offer nationwide LTE, Verizon’s early start and network buildout has given it a solid 4G LTE experience that consistently wins coverage and speed awards.
- Unlimited data plan: $75/mo (Save $20 for each additional line)
- Includes Unlimited talk, text, and data & Unlimited mobile hotspot data & Unlimited Talk to Mexico & Canada & Unlimited Text to over 200 international destinations.
- >> Check out Verizon Wireless Plans
Should You Switch?
If these are the best plans, does that mean you should drop your current carrier for one of the above plans that best covers your needs? (That assumes, of course, that the carrier we recommend provides ample coverage for your area.) Yes, but only if you can switch without consequences.
If you can’t wait until your deal is up with your current carrier, the major carriers are all willing to pick up some of the cost to get you to switch. Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer up to $650 for each phone you switch over to pay off your phone purchases and early termination fees; AT&T offers a $100 bill credit for switching over plus $200 for trading in an eligible smartphone. Note that this money will come in the form of prepaid gift cards and that every carrier requires you to trade in your existing phone.
Some carriers offer other incentives to switch over. As of this writing, Sprint is continuing a “Cut Your Bill in Half” promotion for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon customers. In the case of T-Mobile, the offer only applies to tiered-data Simple Choice plans and not the Uncarrier’s unlimited data offering. There’s also a $36 per phone activation fee, and T-Mobile switchers who go over their data limit will be throttled to 2G speeds. (AT&T and Verizon switchers are charged 1.5 cents per MB if they use more data than Sprint’s giving them.) You do have that $650 per line credit when you switch, though.
Before you decide whether to switch your cell phone plan, make sure to check carriers’ websites for any special offers. In recent years, carriers have gotten aggressive in trying to lure new customers, and that figures to continue in 2018, with switching deals popping up from time to time.