Best cell phone plans in 2022: The best options for your monthly phone service

best cell phone plans
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Now's the time to pick one of the best cell phone plans for your wireless service. All of the top new phones are now out for this year, and if you plan to grab one, you'll want a new wireless plan to go with your brand new handset.

Best cell phone plans: quick links

Best cheap cell phone plan: Mint Mobile (opens in new tab)
Best option for coverage: Verizon (opens in new tab)
Best unlimited plan on a budget: Visible (opens in new tab)
Best prepaid value: AT&T (opens in new tab)

Knowing your options for the best cell phone plans can also come in handy when shopping for your next smartphone. A lot of the best cell phone deals require you to sign up for specific plans with a carrier, so you should check out if any required plan passes muster.

Finally, finding the best cell phone plan might help you save money, if you're able to track down a great plan that costs less than what you're currently paying. In fact, comparing your current plan to other options is the first thing you should do when looking to save money on your cell phone bill.

We've done the research on the best cell phone plans for you, checking prices to see what's new and how much you can expect to pay. But we look at more than just price — coverage and data speeds are critical, too, especially in the area where you'll use your phone the most. It also helps to get a plan from a top phone carrier so that your service comes with some solid perks.

To make the decision easier, we’ve gone through the plans of both major wireless carriers and smaller MVNOs to create a list of the best cell phone plan for all sorts of different needs. You'll find our top picks and a little bit of helpful advice on how to choose the plan for you.

Cheap cell phone plans

Simply want a cell phone plan on a budget? There are plenty of carriers that can offer you a cheaper plan if you don't mind sacrificing your data cap somewhat.

If you're the kind of person who occasionally uses social media and the essential apps like Google Maps, WhatsApp or general browsing of the internet, you could get away with a plan offering anywhere from 1GB to 4GB of data each month. Depending on the wireless provider you use, you can get your costs down to somewhere between $10 and $15. In fact, three of the four plans below hit that price range, and the fourth benefits from a significant discount right away.

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CarrierPlanMonthly cost
Mint Mobile4GB$15
Tello1GB$10
T-Mobile3GB$15
Verizon15GB$35
Mint Mobile | 4GB | $15/month - Best overall cheap cell phone plan (opens in new tab)

Mint Mobile | 4GB | $15/month - Best overall cheap cell phone plan (opens in new tab)
Mint Mobile has quickly become one of the best carriers for those on a budget. While 4GB isn't a huge amount of data, Mint's cheapest cell phone plan will be perfect if you're mainly using your phone for a bit of social media, internet searches and less data intensive apps like Google Maps. Mint piggybacks off of T-Mobile, which provides extensive coverage, particularly for 5G phones. It is important to keep in mind that after three months, Mint Mobile will require you to pay for a whole year to hold onto the $15/month price, though the carrier is currently offering three free months of service when you sign up for a three month plan. Check our Mint Mobile coupons (opens in new tab) page for additional offers and discounts.

Pros:
Very affordable, decent amount of data
Cons:
Offer changes after 3 months

Tello Economy | 1GB | $10/month - Lowest priced cell phone plan (opens in new tab)

Tello Economy | 1GB | $10/month - Lowest priced cell phone plan (opens in new tab)
Tello has added more data to its pricier plans, but the Economy Plan is still the way to go if you want the cheapest possible service. With Tello, you can get a monthly price of $10. You will find yourself limited at 1GB of data in this plan. While you do get unlimited calls and texts, some will find that data cap quite limited so this really is just for those after the lowest monthly cost. Fortunately, jumping up to Tello's 2GB plan costs just $4 more each month. Right now, Tello is discounting the first month of service on its plans.

Pros:
Cheapest cell phone plan, unlimited calls and texts
Cons:
Very limited on data at this price

T-Mobile Connect | 3GB data | $15/month - Low cost cell phone plan from a big name carrier (opens in new tab)

T-Mobile Connect | 3GB data | $15/month - Low cost cell phone plan from a big name carrier (opens in new tab)
The T-Mobile Connect plan now gives you 3GB of data each month for just $15. (T-Mobile bumps up the data allotment every year by 0.5GB.) Need more than that? Upgrade to the 6GB T-Mobile Connect option for $25 a month, or opt for the cheap $10/month plan for 1GB of data if your needs are minimal. Still, there's a big limitation to T-Mobile Connect plan: once you use up your allotment, you're out of data for the rest of the billing cycle. Many rival plans simply slow your speeds when you hit your monthly limit. 

Pros: Low costs, 500Mb data boosts annually
Cons: Out of data once you hit your cap

Verizon | 15GB prepaid | $45/month - Best prepaid for coverage (opens in new tab)

Verizon | 15GB prepaid | $45/month - Best prepaid for coverage (opens in new tab)
Verizon's prepaid data plan is the most expensive option here, but you can rapidly save on that full $45/month rate. Just sign up for autopay to get a $10 discount. If you're not a fan of autopay, you will get loyalty discounts from Verizon, saving $5 after three months of continuous service and another $5 after nine months. (Sadly. you can't combine the autopay and loyalty discounts.) Along with the pricing and data benefits, Verizon also offers fast speeds and wide coverage. This prepaid plan gets 5G coverage, though not the faster Ultra Wideband service Verizon includes with other plans.

Pros:
Lots of data, great coverage and speeds, nationwide 5G coverage
Cons: Not the cheapest prepaid around, doesn't include Verizon's Ultra Wideband service

Unlimited cell phone plans

On the opposite end of the spectrum to the best cheap phone plans above, unlimited cell phone plans are often going to be among the most expensive on the market. But if you're glued to your phone to stream Netflix on the go, scroll through Facebook and power through lots of data each month, the additional cost of an unlimited plan could well be worth it.

Realistically, you should expect to pay at least $30 here, though the bigger carriers charge between $60 and $90 a month for unlimited data. Those more expensive plans include more perks, such as free streaming service subscription, increased data for hotspots, and more. The best unlimited data plans often include 5G coverage, too.

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Carrier planMonthly costPerk highlights
Verizon 5G Play More$80Disney bundle, streaming game subscription, 25GB hotspot data
Mint Unlimited$30After 3 months, $30 pricing requires a year commitment
Visible Unlimited$30Unlimited mobile hotspot, taxes and fees included
T-Mobile Magenta Unlimited$701 year ofParamount Plus, six months of Apple TV Plus, 5GB hotspot data
Tello Unlimited$29Free calls to 60-plus countries, includes hotspot
AT&T Value Plan Plus$50Unlimited talk, text and data when traveling in Mexico and Canada
Google Fi Unlimited Plus$65Use data when traveling in 200-plus countries
Verizon | 5G Play More | $80/month - Best unlimited plan for coverage (opens in new tab)

Verizon | 5G Play More | $80/month - Best unlimited plan for coverage (opens in new tab)
Verizon has tweaked its unlimited data plans now that it's launched an expanded Ultra Wideband network for fast 5G coverage. But even with those changes, we still recommend the 5G Play More plan for most people. Yes, it does cost $80 for a single line of unlimited data but that price includes access to Verizon's fastest Ultra Wideband 5G service, 50GB priority data and free subscriptions to a number of streaming services, highlighted by Disney's streaming bundle. The per-line charge also drops the more lines you add to your plan — a good thing for families. If you go over that 50GB limit, Verizon could slow down your speeds; the $90/month 5G Get More plan removes that limitation while also adding extra perks.

Pros:
Excellent coverage, free streaming subscriptions, 5G access
Cons: Not the cheapest option for unlimited data

Mint Mobile | Unlimited data | $30/month - Unlimited data on a budget (opens in new tab)

Mint Mobile | Unlimited data | $30/month - Unlimited data on a budget (opens in new tab)
Mint Mobile once again pops up as the affordable option, especially when it comes to unlimited data. Piggybacking off of T-Mobile's network, Mint Mobile will only charge you $30 its unlimited plan. While that is a great price, you won't be surprised to hear that it does come with some catches. Mint's speeds — both for 4G and 5G — are slowed after your first 35GB of data usage and Mint's plans can start to get pretty costly after the first three months, with large upfront costs to get the best rates. If these two issues are putting you off, Visible's $30 unlimited plan (opens in new tab) is a great alternative now that it matches Mint's price.

Pros:
Cheap unlimited plan, 5G speeds
Cons:
Speed restrictions, price increases after 3 months if you don't commit to a year of service

Visible | Visible Unlimited | $30/month - No-strings-attached unlimited data on the cheap (opens in new tab)

Visible | Visible Unlimited | $30/month - No-strings-attached unlimited data on the cheap (opens in new tab)
If you don't want to commit to a year with Mint to get that carrier's best price, consider Visible instead. The Verizon-owned carrier's base plan now costs $30/month with taxes and fees included. Since it's owned by Verizon, Visible enjoys the benefits of Verizon's network — including 5G coverage on supported devices. If you pay an extra $15 a month for the Visible Plus plan, you can even access Verizon's fast Ultra Wideband 5G network and enjoy other perks that don't come with the $30 monthly plan. Sign up by January 3, and you can lock in your rate at Visible (opens in new tab) for the next five years.

Pros: Low rate, excellent network performance
Cons: Data can be slowed if network is congested, no more discounts on multiple lines

T-Mobile | Magenta unlimited data | $70/month - Best value unlimited plan from a main carrier (opens in new tab)

T-Mobile | Magenta unlimited data | $70/month - Best value unlimited plan from a main carrier (opens in new tab)
T-Mobile's $70 option provides a great mix of value and performance. While this middle-tier plan cuts a few features like HD streaming the regular Magenta plan is worth it for this more attractive price. With Magenta, you get unlimited priority data and free Netflix when you've got two or more lines on your plan. The Magenta plan also includes a year of Paramount Plus and six months of Apple TV Plus. Magenta Max subscribers get HD streaming, an Apple TV Plus subscription and other perks for $15 more each month.

Pros: Attractive perks, affordable price
Cons: HD video streaming costs extra

Tello | Unlimited Data Plan | $29/month - Cheapest unlimited option (opens in new tab)

Tello | Unlimited Data Plan | $29/month - Cheapest unlimited option (opens in new tab)
To get Mint Mobile's low price on unlimited data, you need to commit to a year of service. That's not the case with Tello and its unlimited data plan. Tello dropped the cost of unlimited talk, text and data to $29/month, one of the lowest prices you'll pay. Perks are few and far between with this plan, but you can make free calls to 60-plus countries, and Tello lets you turn your phone into a mobile hotspot at no extra cost. Note that Tello gives you 25GB of unlimited data per month, and will slow your speeds if you use more than that amount.

Pros: Price beats Mint's without 12-month commitment, includes free calls to 60-plus countries
Cons: Not many perks

AT&T | Value Plus plan | $50/month - AT&Ts cheapest unlimited plan (opens in new tab)

AT&T | Value Plus plan | $50/month - AT&Ts cheapest unlimited plan (opens in new tab)
Now that AT&T's rebranded Unlimited Premium plan no longer includes HBO Max, the best unlimited data option at AT&T is the carrier's Value Plus plan. It costs just $50 a month for a single line of data, which is $15 cheaper than the carrier's Unlimited Starter plan. In addition to unlimited data, you get 5G access, coverage when traveling in Mexico and Canada and texting to 200-plus countries. You'll miss out on the hotspot data AT&T's more expensive unlimited options include and AT&T can slow your speeds if its network gets congested. Value Plus is only available to individuals, not families.

Pros:
Unlimited data for $50, includes 5G access
Cons:
Limited to just 1 line, few perks, AT&T can slow your data speed

Google Fi | Unlimited Plus plan | $65/month - Best unlimited plan for Pixel phones (opens in new tab)

Google Fi | Unlimited Plus plan | $65/month - Best unlimited plan for Pixel phones (opens in new tab)
Anyone with a Pixel 6a (opens in new tab) or Pixel 7 (opens in new tab) should consider Google Fi. Google's wireless service is optimized for the company's phones, letting them seamlessly switch between different cellular networks for the best coverage. (Google Fi also sells other optimized phones for its network, including all three Galaxy S22 models.) Google Fi's unlimited plan costs $65/month, with discounts available on additional lines. More importantly, you can use your Google Fi Unlimited Plus plan when you travel to more than 200 other countries with no disruption in service or extra charges; that makes Google Fi Unlimited Plus one of the best international phone plans (opens in new tab). Unlimited Plus customers now get a year of YouTube Premium, too.

Pros: Good for international travel, optimized for Pixel phones, includes YouTube Premium
Cons: Cheaper options available elsewhere

Family cell phone plans

When shopping for the best family cell phone plan, cheaper isn't always better. More expensive options tend to have larger data caps (or unlimited data), better coverage and more perks. 

The best value does tend to be around the four-line mark but there are also plenty of two-line plans if that suits you better. Realistically, for four lines of data, you should expect to pay in excess of $100 and anywhere up to $200 depending on the plan and carrier. 

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Carrier planDataMonthly cost (4 lines)
T-Mobile MagentaUnlimited$160
Verizon Welcome UnlimitedUnlimited$120
Mint Family Plan4GB (per line)$60
T-Mobile Magenta | 4-line family plan | $160/month - Best value family plan (opens in new tab)

T-Mobile Magenta | 4-line family plan | $160/month - Best value family plan (opens in new tab)
Even as carriers offer multiple tiers of unlimited data plans, T-Mobile Magenta is still the best choice for families. It gives a family of four unlimited data for $160 a month once you factor in an autopay discount. Occasionally, T-Mobile will waive the cost of the third line, lowering your bill even further. For example, right now, those four lines of data will cost you just $140/month at T-Mobile.

Pros: Free Netflix, 5G available, data speeds aren't slowed unless you use 100GB
Cons: Can’t mix-and-match unlimited plans

Verizon Welcome Unlimited| 4-line family plan | $120/month - Best family plan for coverage (opens in new tab)

Verizon Welcome Unlimited| 4-line family plan | $120/month - Best family plan for coverage (opens in new tab)
When all that matters is unlimited data on a far-reaching network, Verizon's Welcome Unlimited plan offers an unbeatable price for families. With four lines, escalating discounts lower the per-line cost to $30 each for a total payment of $120/month. You can't mix and match with other Verizon unlimited plans, and there are very few perks associated with Welcome Unlimited. You get 5G coverage through Verizon's nationwide network, and that's it — no hotspot, no streaming service, no extras. But for families who want an affordable monthly plan, that may be enough.

Pros: Excellent coverage, unlimited data for cheap
Cons: No high-speed 5G access, Few perks

Mint 4GB Plan | 4-line plan | $60/month - Discounts on every line (opens in new tab)

Mint 4GB Plan | 4-line plan | $60/month - Discounts on every line (opens in new tab)
Mint now includes new family plans, though it takes a different approach from other carriers on this list. Instead of increasing the discount as you add lines of data, Mint extends the same discount to everyone on the plan, provided you pay for the service in advance. (You get a discounted rate for the first three months, then you commit to a full year to keep the low rate.) That means everyone on your plan can get 4GB of data for the same $15 per line. Mint also lets families mix and match its different plans.

Pros: Low cost, ability to mix and match different plans for each line
Cons: You have to pay in advance to get the biggest discount

Prepaid cell phone plans

For a lot of people, the best prepaid phone plans are going to be the ideal way to go. They are often some of the most affordable plans around, offering flexible contracts that usually have no contracts or credit checks.

If you don't want to get tied to a contract, that flexibility to cancel anytime will be a huge bonus. While these plans tend to focus on more affordable, low data contracts, you can also get unlimited data plans or slightly more expensive options with more benefits.

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CarrierDataMonthly cost
Mint Mobile10GB$20
AT&T16GB$25 (must pay 12 months in advance)
Metro by T-MobileUnlimited$60
Cricket10GB$40
Mint Mobile | 10GB | $20/month - Best value prepaid plan (opens in new tab)

Mint Mobile | 10GB | $20/month - Best value prepaid plan (opens in new tab)
Mint Mobile is arguably one of the best providers of prepaid plans in the US. While it has quite a few available options, the overall best value seems to be its 10GB for $20. While that isn't the cheapest price available at Mint, it's the best mix of data and costs. Mint Mobile piggybacks off of T-Mobile and offers free hot spotting and access to 5G where it is available. But "prepaid" at Mint really does mean prepaid — to get the lowest possible rate, you've got to buy a year of service in advance after your first three discounted months.

Pros: Very affordable price, free hot spotting
Cons: Might not be enough data for some

AT&T | 16GB 12-month prepaid | $25/month - Great value on AT&T (opens in new tab)

AT&T | 16GB 12-month prepaid | $25/month - Great value on AT&T (opens in new tab)
The main carriers rarely offer the best value prepaid plans and these tend to be more common from MVNOs. However, AT&T can be slightly more affordable and flexible than the likes of Sprint or Verizon. While you can pay for one month at a time, the best price is going to come from investing in a 12-month prepaid with AT&T, offering 16GB for $25 a month. That's double the amount of data AT&T used to offer, but at the same $300 upfront price. If you prefer monthly payments, you can get 5GB of data from AT&T for $30 per month.

Pros: Major carrier, more data than ever
Cons: Best prices require a longer contract

Metro by T-Mobile | Unlimited data | $60/month - Best perks for prepaid unlimited data (opens in new tab)

Metro by T-Mobile | Unlimited data | $60/month - Best perks for prepaid unlimited data (opens in new tab)
Now that Metro by T-Mobile's plans focus on unlimited data, choosing between them is a matter of finding the perks that fit your needs. We think the best package of add-ons comes with Metro's $60 monthly plan. In addition to unlimited talk, text and data, you get 15GB of hotspot data, 100GB of Google One cloud storage and an Amazon Prime membership. Cheaper unlimited plans are available at $50 and $40 per month, though with fewer perks. All plans can access T-Mobile's 5G network, though, and Metro offers discount pricing on additional lines of data.

Pros: Includes coverage from T-Mobile's 5G network, Amazon prime membership
Cons: Metro's most expensive plan

Cricket Wireless | 10GB | $40/month - A competitive alternative to Metro (opens in new tab)

Cricket Wireless | 10GB | $40/month - A competitive alternative to Metro (opens in new tab)
It used to be easy to dismiss Cricket's prepaid plans because of an 8 Mbps speed cap imposed on downloads. But Cricket's lifted that now and added 5G coverage to all its plans, so this 10GB offering is more compelling than it used to be. You can save $5 per month if you enroll in automatic payments.

Pros: No more speed caps on Cricket's plans, autopay discounts, includes 5G access
Cons: Limited perks

How we pick the best cell phone plans

Picking the best cell phone plans requires extensive research on exactly what each carrier offers. That means we're checking the plans available at each of the three major carriers as you would expect, but we also extend our search to lesser know MVNOs, who often offer lower-priced plans.

Once we've gathered all the data on available smartphone plans, we single out the lowest cost options. But because the best cell phone plan isn't a one-size-fits-all choice, we look at the best options from the most popular carriers, as well as compelling values from discount carriers, giving you a wide variety of options to choose the best plan for you. (More on making that decision in a moment.)

Because phone carriers are often changing up their plans, we make it a habit to periodically review what's available. As a result, these rankings get updated at least once a month so that our picks reflect any changes to pricing or perks.

How to choose the best cell phone plan for you

Price is a big consideration when looking for the best cell phone plans, especially if you’re getting more than one line for other members of your family. Most carriers offer escalating discounts as you add lines, so you’ll want to compare the total cost of your plan based on the number of lines that require service.

Cell phone plans are about more than just the amount on your bill each month, though. You also need to consider who offers the best coverage in your area and whether they support the phone you’ll want to use. Our guide to the best phone carriers can answer some of those questions, but you’ll also want to ask friends, neighbors and co-workers about how a specific carrier’s coverage is at your home and office, if you’re looking to switch wireless providers.

Speaking of switching carriers, the major carriers are all willing to pick up some of the cost to get you to switch. These promotions can vary over time, so we'd suggest keeping an eye on any new carrier deals when you're mulling a switch, as you could find extra ways to save money.

Wireless carriers have spent the past several years building out their 5G coverage, and if you’ve got the right 5G phone, you can benefit from faster speeds if a carrier offers 5G service in your area. T-Mobile includes 5G coverage with its Magenta Plan, and Metro By T-Mobile customers with unlimited plans can also access T-Mobile's 5G towers with a compatible smartphone. AT&T had required you to sign up for its most expensive unlimited data plan options for 5G, but now any unlimited plan qualifies for coverage. Verizon includes full 5G coverage in three of its four unlimited plans currently, but the cheapest plan, Start Unlimited lacks 5G Ultra Wideband coverage. Both AT&T and Verizon have extended 5G coverage to prepaid customers with unlimited data plans.

What kind of cell phone plan do I need?

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(Image credit: AndreyPopov)

As you would expect, there is no simple answer to this and the question is more about what is the best plan for you. This will obviously depend on a wide variety of factors.

For those on a budget and looking for some flexibility, a prepaid cell phone plan will be an excellent way to go. These are often the cheapest options and the lack of contracts is going to be a massive bonus, especially if you like to change up carriers frequently.

If you frequently stream Netflix on the go, like to play games on your phone or just generally drain your data at impressive speeds, an unlimited plan is an excellent way to go — especially as 5G becomes more common.

Family cell phone plans are an excellent way to save money, especially as many carriers offer discounts as you add more lines to your plan. It will be no surprise that this is the way to go for the average family. Some carriers, such as Verizon and AT&T, let you mix and match plans, so parents can get an unlimited line with greater perks, while giving kids a cheaper line of data to save money overall.

If you are simply after the lowest price possible, carriers including Mint Mobile and Tello can offer you really low costs if you don't mind settling for smaller data caps. 

Realistically, cell phone plans tend to fall into one of these categories: cheap, prepaid, family, unlimited, kids or seniors. If you work out which one you fit into best you can narrow your search drastically.

MVNOs and main carriers: what's the difference?

MVNOs are a slightly strange concept but they do offer an excellent way to get a cell phone plan on a budget. So what are they and how do they differ from the main carriers.

Firstly, it's important to note the main carriers. These are: AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, which absorbed Sprint in 2020. You can also include US Cellular in that group, though its coverage remains regional compared to the Big Three carriers. These brands use their own technology and run their own regional cellular networks.

MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) on the other hand are brands that don't own and operate their own technology and instead 'piggyback' off of the services of one of the above brands. This allows them to be far cheaper than the main carriers but does mean they are the first to be restricted during peak usage periods and don't get access to as many additional benefits.

MVNOs used to have limited 5G coverage, though that seems to be changing, as carriers build out their coverage. \We explain more about this in our MVNO guide, but the main players are:

  • Mint Mobile: runs on T-Mobile
  • Metro by T-Mobile: runs on T-Mobile
  • Cricket Wireless: runs on AT&T
  • Visible: runs on Verizon
  • Boost Mobile: runs on T-Mobile and is transitioning to AT&T

Cell phone plans comparison

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.