Best cell phone plans in 2023: The best options for your monthly phone service

best cell phone plans
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Having one of the best cell phone plans isn't just about having the lowest rate — though that's a big part of it. And while we all want to save money on our monthly bill, the cost of wireless service is just one thing to consider when looking for coverage. There's also the perks that come with each plan, not to mention how strong of a network a particular wireless carrier offers in the places where you frequent.

Best cell phone plans: quick links

Best cheap cell phone plan: Mint Mobile
Best option for coverage: Verizon
Best unlimited plan on a budget: Visible
Best prepaid value: AT&T

We take all those considerations into account when we evaluate the best cell phone plans overall. And we also make sure to compare what one carrier offers with deals from rival providers. To make sure we're comparing a wide array of plans, we look at the offerings from the three major phone carriers in the U.S. as well as options from smaller operators.

The result is a guide to the best cell phone plans that introduces a wild range of options from an assortment of the best phone carriers. Our search for the best plan overall calls out the top cheap plans as well as the best options for families and prepaid users. We also highlight the top options if you want unlimited data. (And if you're looking just at price, we've tracked down the best cheap cell phone plans, too, in a separate guide.)

Below you'll find the best cell phone plans across all of those categories, with comparisons to other options so that you can ensure you're getting the best deal on your cell phone coverage.

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. Most of the plans below cost less than $20 per month, but as a result, you should only expect 5GB of data at most.

Of these options, we think the best cheap cell phone plan belongs to Mint which offers the best balance of data and price for its 5GB plan. At $15 a month, Mint's cheapest plan costs the same as the T-Mobile Connect plan, though T-Mobile limits your data to 3.5GB. To go even cheaper, you can pay $10 per month at Tello, but you'll only get 1GB of data. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Verizon offers the most data of our favorite cheap plans, but it's also the most expensive at $35 a month after an autopay discount. Read on to find out more about these four plans' strengths and weaknesses.

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CarrierPlanMonthly cost
Mint Mobile5GB$15
Mint Mobile | 5GB | $15/month - Best overall cheap cell phone plan

Mint Mobile | 5GB | $15/month - Best overall cheap cell phone plan
Mint Mobile has quickly become one of the best carriers for those on a budget, especially now that it offers more data with each plan. We recommend the 5GB plan for most people, as it provides enough data for social media, internet searches and Maps. Right now, a deal knocks down all Mint plans to $15/month for the first three months, so you can grab one of Mint's bigger data plans at a discount. At the end of those three months, regular pricing returns, and you have to pay for a year in advance to get the lowest monthly rate. (That means $180 for a year of the 5GB plan after the first three months.) Mint piggybacks off of T-Mobile, which provides extensive coverage, especially when it comes to 5G. (T-Mobile is in the process of buying Mint.) Check our Mint Mobile coupons page for additional offers and discounts.

Very affordable, increased data allotments
Offer changes after 3 months

T-Mobile Connect | 3.5GB data | $15/month - Low cost cell phone plan from a big name carrier

T-Mobile Connect | 3.5GB data | $15/month - Low cost cell phone plan from a big name carrier
After its annual 500MB bump to the amount of data included, the T-Mobile Connect plan offers 3.5GB of data for a low monthly rate of $15. Need more than that? Upgrade to the 6.5GB 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

Tello Economy | 1GB | $10/month - Lowest priced cell phone plan

Tello Economy | 1GB | $10/month - Lowest priced cell phone plan
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 and other data allotments are available, too.

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

Verizon | 15GB prepaid | $45/month - Best prepaid for coverage

Verizon | 15GB prepaid | $45/month - Best prepaid for coverage
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, lowering your monthly bill to $35. 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.

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

You'd think the best unlimited data plans would pricey — and it's true that the options at the major carriers are among the more expensive plans you'll find. But there are still some low-cost plans out there that can get you unlimited data for as little as $30 per month.

That's why our unlimited plan pick is Visible's $30 plan. It's light on perks, but it is among the lowest prices you'll pay, with the pay-in-advance requirement that gets you a $30 monthly rate at Mint Mobile. Among the major carriers, the T-Mobile Magenta plan offers a good blend of price and perks, though Verizon and AT&T offer cheaper options for anyone looking for a no-frills plan. We'd also flag up Google Fi's Unlimited Plus plan if you do a lot of traveling, as it lets you use your data at no extra cost when you're overseas.

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Carrier planMonthly costPerk highlights
Visible Unlimited$25Unlimited mobile hotspot, taxes and fees included
Mint Unlimited$30After 3 months, $30 pricing requires a year commitment
T-Mobile Magenta Unlimited$70Six months of Apple TV Plus, 5GB hotspot data
Verizon Welcome Unlimited$65Nationwide 5G coverage; bundled perks cost extra
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
Visible | Visible Unlimited | $25/month - The lowest-cost unlimited data option

Visible | Visible Unlimited | $25/month - The lowest-cost unlimited data option
Visible is now your best bet for low-cost unlimited data after the Verizon-owned carrier slashed the price of its entry-level plan to $25/month. That's less than what Mint chargers, and you don't have to pay for a full year upfront to get that rate. Visible enjoys the benefits of Verizon's network, including 5G coverage on supported devices. 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.

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

Mint Mobile | Unlimited data | $30/month - Unlimited data on a budget

Mint Mobile | Unlimited data | $30/month - Unlimited data on a budget
Visible may beat
Mint Mobile on price now, but don't dismiss Mint as an option for a cheap unlimited plan — especially with a promotion that cuts the usual introductory $30/month rate to $15 for the first three months of service. Afterwards, you'll go back to paying $30 for unlimited data, though to keep that rate, you'll need to pay for a year of service upfront. Be aware that Mint's speeds — both for 4G and 5G — are slowed after your first 40GB of data usage. Your coverage comes via T-Mobile's network, which means speedy 5G service where available.

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

T-Mobile | Magenta unlimited data | $70/month - Best value unlimited plan from a main carrier

T-Mobile | Magenta unlimited data | $70/month - Best value unlimited plan from a main carrier
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. (A newer Go5G plan at T-Mobile provides more hotspot data and travel perks for a little bit extra each month.) 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 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.) Magenta plans are now buried under the Go5G offerings on T-Mobile's website, so keep scrolling all the way down to the More Plans button to get the full details on Magenta.

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

Verizon | Unlimited Welcome | $65/month — Best unlimited plan for coverage

Verizon | Unlimited Welcome | $65/month — Best unlimited plan for coverage
Verizon's unlimited plans used to be among the most expensive, but the Unlimited Welcome package lets you get your foot in the door for just $65 a month. Perks are few and far between — you get nationwide 5G coverage and that's about it — but $10/month add-ons let you tack on things like Disney streaming services, 100B of hotspot data and the like. For $15 more each month, Verizon's Unlimited Plus offers more benefits and includes faster 5G coverage via Ultra Wideband, but we think the lower price of Unlimited Welcome is more appealing. You can lower the price of your Verizon plan even further by bringing your own phone; that gets you a monthly credit on your bill for the next 36 months.

Pros: Low cost for unlimited data, includes 5G coverage
Cons: Unlimited Plus has more perks and faster 5G speeds

Tello | Unlimited Data Plan | $29/month - Cheapest unlimited option

Tello | Unlimited Data Plan | $29/month - Cheapest unlimited option
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

AT&T | Value Plus plan | $50/month - AT&Ts cheapest unlimited plan
Since AT&T's 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. (Click More Plans on AT&T's wireless plan page to find the Value Plus option.) 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.

Unlimited data for $50, includes 5G access
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

Google Fi | Unlimited Plus plan | $65/month - Best unlimited plan for Pixel phones
Anyone with a Pixel 7a, Pixel 7  or Pixel Fold 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 S23 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. 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. 

T-Mobile's Go5G plan is the best option for a family of four with an attractive price (thanks to a current discount) and a number of perks. (Opt for Magenta Max or Go5G Plus, and the perks increase, but so does your monthly rate.) Verizon's Unlimited Plus plan also packs in some perks, and lets you layer on others with $10 add-ons; plus, you can can mix and match Verizon's cheaper Unlimited Welcome plan on some lines to lower your overall cost.

Discount carriers don't typically offer discounts on multiple lines like the bigger providers do, but Mint at least offers the same discount as you add each line, making it the best choice for a low-cost, no frills family plan.

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Carrier planDataMonthly cost (4 lines)
T-Mobile Go5GUnlimited$155
Verizon Unlimited PlusUnlimited$180
Mint Family Plan5GB (per line)$60
T-Mobile Go5G | 4-line family plan | $155/month - Best value family plan

T-Mobile Go5G | 4-line family plan | $155/month - Best value family plan
Thanks to T-Mobile waiving the cost of a third line on the Go5G plan, it's currently a better deal for a family of four than the Magenta plan. Go5G also offers more perks, with an extra 10GB of hotspot data and the ability to use more of your data for free when you travel in Canada and Mexico. The perks are even grander with Go5G Plus, but this is the more affordable option.

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

Verizon Unlimited Plus| 4-line family plan | $180/month - Best family plan for coverage

Verizon Unlimited Plus| 4-line family plan | $180/month - Best family plan for coverage
Of Verizon's two My Plan options, Unlimited Plus offers the better perks. You get access to Ultra Wideband 5G, 30GB of hotspot data, and a three year price-guarantee that your rate will stay the same. For $10/month, you can bundle in add-ons like Disney streaming services, travel passes, and an Apple services bundle. And if you want to save money, you can make some lines of your family plan the cheaper Unlimited Welcome option. Bring your own device for an additional monthly discount for each phone you have.

Pros: Excellent coverage with faster 5G service, three-year price guarantee
Cons: Streaming services and similar perks cost extra

Mint 5GB Plan | 4-line plan | $60/month - Discounts on every line

Mint 5GB Plan | 4-line plan | $60/month - Discounts on every line
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 5GB of data for the same $15 per line, though you'll have to pay $180 upfront to cover those first three months of service. Mint also lets families mix and match its different plans, which is especially appealing during Mint's current promotion where every data tier costs $15 a month for the first three months of service.

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

The best prepaid phone plans have you pay up front for a set amount of data, instead of being charged at the end of the month for the data you've used. That means you know what you're going to pay month to month. And if you play your cards right, you can usually pay a lot less for a prepaid plan.

AT&T currently offers the best prepaid plan, if you have the ability to pay for a full year of service up front. That gives you a massive amount of data — 16GB every month — for what amounts to $25/month over the course of the year. Otherwise, we'd point you toward Mint Mobile's 15GB plan, which also requires you to pay in advance to get the best rate. More traditional prepaid options come from Metro by T-Mobile and Cricket, where you're only paying for service on a month-to-month basis.

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CarrierDataMonthly cost
AT&T16GB$25 (must pay 12 months in advance)
Mint Mobile15GB$20
Metro by T-MobileUnlimited$50
AT&T | 16GB 12-month prepaid | $25/month - Great value on AT&T

AT&T | 16GB 12-month prepaid | $25/month - Great value on AT&T
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

Mint Mobile | 15GB | $20/month - Best value prepaid plan

Mint Mobile | 15GB | $20/month - Best value prepaid plan
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 is the carrier's 15GB plan, which costs $20/month. For a limited time, you can get that plan at a reduced cost of $15/month for the first three months. Mint has cheaper plans, but this offering is 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

Metro by T-Mobile | Unlimited data | $50/month - Best balance of data and perks

Metro by T-Mobile | Unlimited data | $50/month - Best balance of data and perks
We used to recommend Metro by T-Mobile's $60 unlimited plan, as that package included an Amazon Prime membership. With that perk now gone, though, you're better off with Metro's $50 unlimited plan, which still offers decent perks at a lower rate. In addition to unlimited talk, text and data, you get 5GB of hotspot data, 100GB of Google One cloud storage and access to T-Mobile's weekly giveaways. Metro customers also can access T-Mobile's 5G network.

Pros: Includes coverage from T-Mobile's 5G network, Amazon prime membership
Cons: Expensive compared to other prepaid unlimited plans

Cricket Wireless | 10GB | $40/month - A competitive alternative to Metro

Cricket Wireless | 10GB | $40/month - A competitive alternative to Metro
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?


(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
  • Xfinity Mobile runs on Verizon
  • Boost Mobile: runs on T-Mobile and is transitioning to AT&T

Cell phone plans comparison

Philip Michaels

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.