The best prepaid phone plans can help you keep your smartphone costs down by serving up a lower cell phone bill every month. Unlike the best unlimited data plans or tiered data plans from big-name wireless carriers, these plans often don’t cost much more than $40 a month. And even unlimited data isn’t out of reach these days if you turn to a prepaid carrier.
You do have to make some tradeoffs, even for the very best prepaid phone plans, and that usually means skipping out on some of the perks and benefits the Big Four carriers include with their high-priced plans. Forget about free subscriptions to streaming services or using your monthly data allotment when you travel overseas. At most, you’re likely to get some hotspot data (though a few discount carriers dangle a handful of extras). And you’re also subject to slower speeds if the network your prepaid carrier uses is clogged with traffic.
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Still, these sacrifices may be worth it, especially if it means dependable cell phone services at a low monthly cost. You’ll find a variety of options from prepaid carriers — some for families, some for individuals — that may fit your needs for wireless coverage.
Here are the best prepaid phone plans we’ve found for smartphone service, after looking through options from the Big Four carriers, prepaid service providers and other lesser known carriers.
What are the best prepaid phone plans?
Even with an adjustment to its prepaid plan, Verizon still offers a compelling amount of data, making its 15GB plan the best prepaid phone plan currently available. The plan costs $45 a month after a $5 autopay discount, and you can earn additional discounts by sticking with Verizon's prepaid sevice.
Otherwise, your next best option for individual prepaid plans comes from Metro by T-Mobile, which gives you 10GB of data for $40. As for unlimited phone plans, Metro also offers one of the best unlimited phone plan for prepaid customers. The carrier's $50 and $60 unlimited options match Boost Mobile on price, though you get a better network with Metro plus other perks like Google One storage. (Boost's unlimited plans give you more hotspot data, if that's something important to your needs.) But thanks to a discount for autopay, AT&T's unlimited prepaid plan now costs as much as Metro's and offers better perks like HD video streaming.
If you need multiple lines, prepaid plans don't always offer substantial discounts as you add lines. But Visible, which operates on Verizon’s network, offers very attractive discounts for each line of service you add, making it the best prepaid choice for families.
If saving money is more important than maximizing data, you could turn to a host of discount carriers to find the best cheap cell phone plans. Republic Wireless offers a great balance of cost and data: you pay $5 per gigabyte on top of a $15 charge for unlimited talk and text, so 2GB of data would cost you a mere $25 a month. But right now, T-Mobile’s newly launched T-Mobile Connect plan has the best value — 2GB of data for just $15 a month.
Anyone who travels overseas regularly will want to check out Google Fi, the Google-owned wireless service, which charges a reasonable amount for data while also letting you use your data plan with no restrictions when you’re traveling in 200-plus countries. Meanwhile, Consumer Cellular offers attractive prices for seniors, particularly if you can take advantage of the carrier’s discounted rate for AARP members.
Note that Boost has just been purchased by Dish as part of a condition of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger. Boost, which will use T-Mobile's network going forward, has introduced new tiered data plans while retaining the unlimited data plans that have proven to be quite competitive with what Metro by T-Mobile offers.
The best prepaid phone plans for your smartphone
Verizon's prepaid plans offer generous amounts of data, led by the carrier's 15GB option. That will cost you $45 a month (after you enroll in autopay for a $5 discount), so you're only paying $5 more than Metro By T-Mobile's $40 monthly plan for five extra gigabytes of data. (Verizon's plan used to include 16GB of data, but it's shrunk by a gigabyte in a recent reshuffling.)
Discounts don't stop with autopay. If you hold onto your Verizon plan for three months, the carrier takes another $5 off your monthly rate, and you get an additional $5 discount after nine months. That means, you're paying $35 a month for 15GB of data, which is a terrific value.
The discounts apply to Verizon's other prepaid options — a $60-a-month unlimited plan and a $35-a-month 5GB offering.
We like Verizon’s service because you’re benefiting from the carrier’s extensive LTE network, which ranked first in our last round of testing for the fastest wireless network. If you don't need 15GB of data, you can find lower prices elsewhere, but it's hard to find a better prepaid plan than what Verizon offers.
Should Verizon’s super-sized plans go away, the best choice for prepaid plans remains Metro by T-Mobile. That’s the T-Mobile-owned service that used to be known as MetroPCS, which benefits from its parent company’s fast network. In fact, if you pony up for a 5G-capable phone, you can even geet 5G speeds as part of your Metro cellular plan, thanks to T-Mobile’s 5G network.
Speaking of Metro’s cellular plans, the prepaid carrier may be emphasizing unlimited data plans these days — more on that below — but its $40-a-month tiered data plan remains a good deal for individuals, offering 10GB of high-speed data. (Unfortunately, there’s no hotspot data in this plan.) You'll give up some perks that you'd get from Metro’s pricier unlimited plans, but the $40-a-month rate includes taxes and fees, and you can use 40 different music streaming services without tapping into your data pool.
We’re still not sure how the completed T-Mobile-Sprint merger will affect cell phone plans, but in the short-term at least, it’s introduced a compelling value for prepaid plans. The T-Mobile Connect Plan gives you 2GB of data each month for a mere $15. If that proves too little data, you can opt for the 5GB, $25 monthly plan instead.
There’s one big catch here, and it’s that you only get 2GB of data with your plan. Once you use that up, you’re out of data until the next billing cycle. That’s not the case with similar plans from Boost and Cricket launched in response to T-Mobile Connect; they’ll simply slow down your data speeds if you go past 2GB of data use. However, those rival plans are for a limited time only, while T-Mobile Connect is a permanent plan.
To that end, each year you stick with T-Mobile Connect, you’ll get another 500MB of data added to your allotment for five years. So that’s potentially another 2.5GB of data over time.
You shouldn’t have to pay up for cellular service if you don’t need a lot of data, and Republic Wireless provides the best alternative to bloated high-data plans that price tags to match. You pay just $15 for talk and text each month at Republic. Any data you use costs $5 per gigabyte. That means if you keep your data use down to less than 3GB, your monthly bill won’t go over $30.
Republic has ways to keep your cellular use down. In addition to Sprint’s cellular towers for its LTE coverage, Republic also makes use of Wi-Fi hotspots to save you from racking up heavy data charges. If you demand unlimited data or prefer iPhones, you’ll want to look elsewhere — Republic only supports Android phones. But anyone who doesn’t constantly hop online to stream, tweet or upload files, will find Republic’s approach to data a relief on their wallet.
Visible brings Verizon’s extensive network reach to prepaid service while leaving its parent company’s high prices behind. Using Verizon’s network, Visible offers just one plan — a $40 unlimited data option that lets you consume as much data as you please for a fraction of what you’d pay at one of the Big Four carriers. Even better, Visible has lifted a speed cap on its plans that used to limit you to 5 Gbps download speeds, though it’s not clear if that cap could one day return.
Visible’s plan is even better once you add additional lines. The more lines you add, the bigger the discounts, to the point where four lines of unlimited data at Visible cost $100. Even better, Visible also bills each person on a multi-line plan, so it's easier for friends to share their cell phone plan.
Normally, we'd suggest Metro by T-Mobile's $50 unlimited data plan as one of the best prepaid phone plans you can get. But a current discount at AT&T is too good to ignore. AT&T's Unlimited Data Plus plan for prepaid customers costs $75 a month, and while enrolling in autopay usually nets a $10 discount, AT&T has bumped that to $25. That means unlimited data for the same $50 a month that Metro charges.
AT&T's unlimited plan includes more perks. For starters, you get 10GB of LTE hotspot data. But more importantly, AT&T Unlimited Data Plus subscribers can stream video at HD resolution; most prepaid plans restrict you to 480p resolution on video streams. If you happen to have a 5G-capable phone, you can access AT&T's 5G coverage where available. (Metro customers enjoy that same perk with T-Mobile's 5G coverage.)
Discounts have a habit of coming and going in the world of prepaid phone plans. But so long as AT&T is sticking with the beefed-up discount for using autopay, its unlimited prepaid phone plan is hard to beat.
Speaking of discounts, another offer at AT&T makes the carrier's prepaid 8GB plan more attractive. Pay for service up to a year in advance, and you can lower your cost to $25 a month. Normally, that plan costs $40 after an autopay discount, so you're saving $15 a month by prepaying.
Metro’s unlimited data plan isn’t the cheapest option out there — Visible undercuts it by $10 a month. But this $50 plan from the T-Mobile-owned Metro is still one of the best prepaid plans with unlimited data, even with AT&T's current discount.
While you still have to stream video at 480p resolution — a pretty common restriction on prepaid plans with unlimited data with the exception of the AT&T Unlimited Plus plan — Metro does include 5GB of hotspot data along with 100GB of online storage. Opt for the carrier’s $60 unlimited plan and the hotspot data increases to 15GB while you also get an Amazon Prime subscription.
Adding extra lines to Metro’s plans costs $30 per line, so two people could enjoy unlimited data for as little as $80 per month, with taxes and fees included. On Metro's more expensive unlimited plan, the carrier will wave that $30 fee on the fourth line of data.
Regardless of which unlimited plan you get from Metro, you benefit from T-Mobile’s cellular network, which includes 5G coverage if you’ve got a compatible phone.
These are unusual times for Boost, which just got purchased by Dish. The discount carrier had been owned by Sprint, but with Sprint and T-Mobile merger, regulators required Boost to get spun off. Dish-owned Boost will get to use T-Mobile's network for the next seven years while it builds out its own coverage.
Changes have come to Boost's plans, too, now that the company has introduced a 15GB plan that costs $45 a month. Boost will take $5 off the monthly fee when you stick with the plan for three months and another $5 at six months. A 10GB/$35-a-month plan is also available, but without any loyalty discounts.
Those new offers have joined Boost's existing plans, and that's good news, as Boost's $50 unlimited data offering remains the best deal at the carrier. That plan provides more hotspot data than Metro By T-Mobile’s comparably priced plan (12GB of LTE data vs. 5GB with Metro) and a six-month subscription to the Tidal music streaming service. Boost does put caps on streaming content — in addition to streaming video at 480p resolution, you’ve also got speed caps on music and game streaming, so Metro and Visible are better options, unless you really want all that hotspot data.
At $70 a month, Google Fi’s unlimited plan is pricey as far as the best prepaid phone plans go. But if you do a lot of traveling, Google’s wireless service is the option for you, as Google Fi lets you use your data and texting when you travel to more than 200 countries just like you would at home. Your data speeds aren’t even slowed. Few other prepaid plans offer that kind of coverage to travelers, making Google Fi's coverage the best international phone plan.
Google Fi now works with all phones, though some phones — like Google’s own Pixel devices, including the newly launched Pixel 4a, along with the Moto G Power and Moto G Stylus — are optimized to work on the carrier’s network, which blends coverage from T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular.
If that $70 a month rate is too high for your tastes or you don’t need unlimited data, Google Fi also features a plan that costs $20 a month for talk and text, plus $10 for each GB of data you use. Google doesn’t charge you for unused data so your bill will be adjusted down to the cent.
If you don’t use a lot of data every month, you’ve got several options for wireless service from providers without as big a profile as the Big Four carriers. One of the best for seniors is Consumer Cellular, which offers a 5% discount on monthly service to AARP members.
Even without that discount, Consumer Cellular already offers low rates, at least if you don’t use a lot of data. Opt for unlimited talk and text along with 3GB of data, and you'll pay $30 a month; you can save $5 on that plan by selecting only 250 minutes of talk time to go with your unlimited texts and 3GB pool of data. Adding a second line adds another $15 to your bill.
You enjoy the best value at Consumer Cellular if you don't need too much data each month, though you can opt for unlimited data if you're willing to pay $60 a month.
Mint Mobile offers nationwide coverage using T-Mobile’s network with surprisingly low rates for a lot of data. Sign up for Mint’s most popular plan, for example, and you get 8GB of LTE data plus unlimited talk and text for just $20 a month for the first three months of service.
It’s after those three months are up that Mint’s low rates come with a catch. If you go month-to-month with service, your rate increases to $35 a month. If you want that $20 rate to stay, you’ve got to sign up for a year of service. (You can also sign up for six months for a slightly less generous discount, and there are 3GB and 12GB options at Mint, too.) That means giving up some of the flexibility of prepaid service in exchange for a low monthly cell phone bill, but that’s a tradeoff some people will be happy to make — especially since Mint's prepaid rate is lower than similar buy-in-advance pricing from AT&T.
Cricket Wireless seems like a good proposition if you’re looking for a low-cost phone provider, as it uses the far-reaching network of its parent company, AT&T. But the only plan worth considering at Cricket is the company’s most expensive one — a $60 unlimited data plan. (You can get a $5 monthly discount by signing up for autopay.)
What makes the $60 unlimited plan so appealing is that it’s Cricket’s only plan where you reap the full benefits of AT&T’s network. There’s no speed cap on this plan, and you get 15GB of LTE hotspot data included. Cricket’s tiered data plans — 2GB for $30 a month and 5GB for $40 — cap speeds at 8 Mbps, while Cricket’s cheapest unlimited option puts a 3 Mbps cap on download speeds. Go big with Cricket’s unlimited plan, or go elsewhere for your cellular service.
Cricket is slated to add 5G coverage via AT&T's network in August, though it's unclear which plans will be eligible for the higher-speed service.
The best prepaid phone plan at Straight Talk offers 25GB of data. Most users will opt for the $45 version of that plan, but anyone with friends and family living overseas should give the $60 Unlimited International version of the 25GB plan another look. In addition to that big pool of data, Straight Talk includes mobile-to-mobile calling to phone numbers in Canada, China, India and Mexico.
Straight Talk’s other data plans are less compelling. The unlimited data plan costs $55 at Straight Talk — more than you’d have to pay at Boost, Metro and Visible. Straight Talk’s ideal of a low-cost data plan is $35, and it includes 3GB of data. You can get more for less elsewhere.
Straight Talk gets its wireless coverage from all Big Four carriers, so you can opt to get a SIM card that uses the towers of the carrier with best coverage in your area.
How to pick the best prepaid phone plans
When shopping for a prepaid phone plan, price is paramount. That’s because prepaid plans don’t often come with the kind of benefits postpaid cell phone phone plans offer. That said, some carriers — such as Metro By T-Mobile and Boost — do work in a few perks, so be aware of those when picking your plans.
You'll also want to pay attention to discounts and special offers. As of this writing, for example, AT&T has increased the discount for enrolling in autopay with its most expensive prepaid plan, while Verizon is taking an additional $10 off its prepaid offerings. Deals like these can be fleeting, though.
Besides price one of the most important things to consider is what carrier offers the best coverage around your home and workplace. That’s true even if you look beyond the Big Four carriers for service. Other wireless services — known as mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs — use the cellular networks of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon for their coverage. (Some MVNOs turn to multiple carriers.) So if Verizon’s network is particularly strong where you are, for example, MVNOs that use Verizon’s network for coverage will perform well, too. Just be aware that MVNOs can see their traffic slowed if a carrier’s network gets too crowded.