Prepaid Cell Phone
When looking for a good prepaid plan, you want to look for flexibility and basic features like unlimited talk and text, unlimited data, or varying amounts of data that you can choose based on your needs. Despite being cheaper than postpaid cell phone plans, prepaid phone plans can be competitive. Small cell phone companies, which are known as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), often have more plans and can beat larger carriers on price.
prepaid cell phone
In our Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans of 2023 rating, plans from Tello, Mint Mobile, Visible, and Google Fi are featured. Read on to learn more about each company and what they offer in terms of prepaid cell phone plans.
Deprioritization is another concern with prepaid data plans. Since MVNOs are small wireless companies that lease network access from large carriers, like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, MVNO customers are often deprioritized when competing for data. That means, in times of a busy network, customers of large carriers get access to faster data speeds while MVNOs customers get slower speeds. A report from data company, Tutela, says MVNOs run 23% slower than large carriers. Getting faster speeds costs more, so prepaid plans are usually more affordable for that reason.
Prepaid cell phone plans are popular with consumers because they are simple to set up and generally low cost. Most do not offer many extra services or perks, however. All of the plans to make our ratings do include extra options for international calls, which are usually free to Canada and Mexico.
Prepaid cell phone plans are flexible in that they allow you to purchase the amount of data you need. So, while none of the plans in our rating included streaming service subscriptions or discounts, the ability to add more data means streaming from your device is still an option.
While data and optional features are important, so are call quality, reliability, and good customer service. It can be daunting to pick a new cell phone plan, so here are some steps you can use to figure out the right one for your needs.
For most of the companies in our ratings, you can visit their website or speak with a customer service representative to place an order over the phone. Honorable mention Metro by T-Mobile has in-person brick-and-mortar locations and customers can activate new cell phone plans online or in the store. You can look up a store location on its website and visit the store in person to set up a cell phone plan.
We compared the available cell phone plans provided by our top cell phone plan companies across several criteria, including monthly cost, data and hotspot limits, network types, and add-ons. Research shows that these are the most important criteria for people shopping for a cell phone plan. We then narrowed the list down to the 10 best cell phone plans using aggregate data points with a focus on professional and consumer reviews.
Cell phone family plans should have advantages for the whole family over other individual plans. For this subrating, we include plans that offer free in-family calling, share a single monthly bill, share data or per line allotment, and require a minimum of two lines.
Cell phone plans for seniors should be easy to sign up for and offer incentives or discounts. For this subrating, we looked for plans that did not require any contracts, offered discounts for people above the age of 55 or AARP members. If no discounts were available, we looked for plans with a price threshold of $40 or less.
Other terms: No annual svc. contracts. Offers/coverage not avail. everywhere or for all phones/networks. All prices, offers, fees, and features subject to change. Prohibited network use rules & other restrictions apply. See boostmobile.com or store for details. 2023 Boost Worldwide, Inc. All rights reserved.
With the best prepaid phone plans, you don't need to worry about the costs of your wireless service skyrocketing from one month to the next. By paying in advance, you know exactly what you're going to spend for phone coverage. And should a better deal turn up at another carrier, it's easy enough to switch your service.
And if there's a better deal out there, we can help you find it. We keep tabs on the best cell phone plans overall, including prepaid options. And among those offerings, the very best prepaid plans can help you spend less on wireless service without sacrificing much in the way of data.
But you won't have to worry about sacrificing on network coverage if you're looking for ways to save money on your cell phone bill. Even if you use a smaller carrier, they get their service from the major wireless providers. So you'll still be using the same network as people with more expensive cell phone plans. (Your speeds may be slowed down if there's too much traffic on a network.) And that service includes 5G coverage, too.
Another thing you won't have to sacrifice is data. While there are cheap prepaid plans with small data allotments, if you need a big pile of data each month, you'll find some of the best unlimited data plans can be surprisingly affordable when they come from prepaid services.
Visible Visible Plus $45/month - The best unlimited data prepaid on a budget (opens in new tab)Verizon-owned Visible offers a cheaper unlimited data plan that now costs $30. (That's the same as Mint Mobile's unlimited plan, only without the year-long commitment.) But we like the $45 Visible Plus plan for all the perks it includes. Visible Plus subscribers can access Verizon's faster Ultra Wideband network for 5G coverage, and they can make calls to more than 30 countries from the U.S. at no extra cost. Under a promotion, Visible's cut the price on this plan by $10 to $35, but we're told that offer expires March 31 so act quickly. Pros: Very affordable, 5G unlimited dataCons: There are cheaper prepaid plans, no more discounts for multiple lines
AT&T Unlimited data plan $40/month - Best prepaid phone plan for students (opens in new tab)Normally, AT&T's prepaid unlimited data plan costs $50/month after a $10 autopay discount. But can save another $10/month for 12 months when they sign up with AT&T. In addition to unlimited data, you'll also get 5GB of hotspot data in this online-only deal which is a limited-time offer.Pros: Unlimited data at a discounted rateCons: Only available to students
T-Mobile Connect 3.5GB data $15/month - Low cost cell phone plan from a big name carrier (opens in new tab)The amount of data in the T-Mobile Connect plan has gotten its annual 500MB bump, so you're now getting 3.5GB in this $15 monthly plan. If you can get by with less data, you can drop your bill to $10/month with the 1GB plan, while the $25 monthly plan now features a generous 6.5GB. Just be aware that once you use your data for the month, you have to wait until the next billing cycle for more data; other prepaid plans usually just slow down your speeds when you hit your cap.Pro: Low costs, 500MB data boosts annually, includes 5G serviceCon: Out of data once you hit your cap
5G coverage is now a part of what many MVNOs offer. Metro subscribers can access T-Mobile's 5G with an eligible phone, as can Mint Mobile customers. Visible has added 5G access on Verizon's network to select phones, and Cricket customers can now use AT&T's 5G connectivity with any of that MVNO's plans.
Finding the best prepaid phone plans means widening our search beyond the major carriers, though AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all have prepaid offerings. We're also researching plans from smaller carriers who use the Big Three's cellular towers to provide their coverage. As smaller carriers usually offer their service at a discount, they make up a majority of the candidates that we consider for best prepaid phone plans.
As noted previously, prepaid plans don't offer much in the way of perks. That said, we do take note of any special add-ons included with the best prepaid plans, as those can add value to a plan above and beyond its monthly cost.
Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels."}; var triggerHydrate = function() window.sliceComponents.authorBio.hydrate(data, componentContainer); var triggerScriptLoadThenHydrate = function() if (window.sliceComponents.authorBio === undefined) var script = document.createElement('script'); script.src = ' -9-5/authorBio.js'; script.async = true; script.id = 'vanilla-slice-authorBio-component-script'; script.onload = () => window.sliceComponents.authorBio = authorBio; triggerHydrate(); ; document.head.append(script); else triggerHydrate(); if (window.lazyObserveElement) window.lazyObserveElement(componentContainer, triggerScriptLoadThenHydrate, 1500); else console.log('Could not lazy load slice JS for authorBio') } }).catch(err => console.log('Hydration Script has failed for authorBio Slice', err)); }).catch(err => console.log('Externals script failed to load', err));Philip MichaelsSocial Links NavigationPhilip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels. 041b061a72