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Best prepaid phone plans in 2020

best prepaid phone plans
(Image credit: Wayhome Studio/Shutterstock)

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.

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?

Double the regular amount for the same amount of money is a tough deal to beat. That’s why we think Verizon currently offers one of the best prepaid plans at $45 a month (after a $5 autopay discount). Normally, the carrier gives you a generous 8GB of data for that amount, but these days, Verizon has doubled the data allotment to 16GB. Otherwise, your best option for individual prepaid plans comes from Metro by T-Mobile, which gives you 10GB of data for $40.

Metro still offers 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.) Visible, which operates on Verizon’s network, now offers the best discounts on multiple lines, 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.

The best prepaid phone plans for your smartphone

best prepaid phone plans: Verizon

(Image credit: Verizon)

1. Verizon Prepaid Phone Plan

Best prepaid phone plan overall

Name of Plan: Verizon 8GB Prepaid Plan | Monthly Cost: $45 | Amount of Data: 16GB | Special features: Currently double the normal amount of data; LTE hotspot data

Lots of data under current promotion
LTE hotspot data
Speeds can be throttled if Verizon’s network is congested

Verizon’s regular prepaid plans offered generous amounts of data, at least at the $45-a-month tier where you got 8GB of data in addition to unlimited talk and text. (That rate includes a $5 discount for signing up for auto-pay on your bill.) But other carriers provided more data for less, which perhaps pushed Verizon last year to double the size of its data plans. That means you now get 16GB of data for the same $45 as before.

Verizon has billed that as a special offer, but it’s been around since late 2019, so for a limited-time deal, the 16GB plan has some serious staying power. In another limited-time promotion, Verizon is knocking another $10 off the price of both its 16GB and unlimited data plans. That means you can currently get 16GB of data for $35 a month.

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. Should Verizon scale back the size of its prepaid plans, you may want to turn elsewhere, but so long as you can get 16GB of data for $45 a month, Verizon’s offering tops the best prepaid phone plans.

best prepaid phone plans: metro by t-mobile

(Image credit: T-Mobile)

2. Metro By T-Mobile Prepaid Phone Plan

Best alternative prepaid phone plan

Name of Plan: Metro by T-Mobile 10GB Prepaid Plan | Monthly Cost: $40 | Amount of Data: 10GB | Special features: Stream music from 40-plus apps without using data

Lots of data for $40
Uses T-Mobile's network
Taxes and fees included in plan
Traffic is slowed if T-Mobile's network is congested
No mobile hotspot data

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.

best prepaid phone plans: T-Mobile

(Image credit: T-Mobile)

3. T-Mobile Prepaid Phone Plan

Best prepaid phone plan value

Name of Plan: T-Mobile Connect Plan | Monthly Cost: $15 | Amount of Data: 2GB | Special features: Plans grows by 500MB every year

500MB of data added to plan each year
Low cost
Once you hit 2GB, you’re out of data

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.

best prepaid phone plans: republic wireless

(Image credit: Republic Wireless)

4. Republic Wireless Prepaid Phone Plan

Best alternative prepaid phone plan under $30

Name of Plan: Republic Wireless Plan | Monthly Cost: $25 | Amount of Data: 2GB | Special features: Additional discounts if you pay annually

Uses Sprint and T-Mobile networks
Rates correspond to data usage
Doesn’t support iPhones

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.

best prepaid phone plans: visible

(Image credit: Visible)

5. Visible Prepaid Phone Plan

Best prepaid phone plan for families

Name of Plan: Visible Party Pay | Monthly Cost: $100 (for 4 lines of data) | Amount of Data: Unlimited | Special features: Hotspot data

Uses Verizon’s network
No caps on speed
Speeds can be throttled when network is congested

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.

best prepaid phone plans: Metro by T-Mobile Unlimited data plan

(Image credit: T-Mobile)

6. Metro By T-Mobile Unlimited Data Plan

Best prepaid phone plan with unlimited data

Name of Plan: Metro Unlimited High-Speed | Monthly Cost: $50 | Amount of Data: Unlimited | Special features: 5GB of LTE hotspot data; 100GB of Google One storage

Hotspot data and cloud storage included
Works on T-Mobile’s network
More expensive than other prepaid unlimited data plans
Video resolution capped at 480p

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 one of the best prepaid plans with unlimited data thanks to the perks that come included.

While you still have to stream video at 480p resolution — a pretty common restriction on prepaid plans with unlimited data — 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.

best prepaid phone plans: boost mobile

(Image credit: Boost Mobile)

7. Boost Mobile Unlimited Plan

Best alternative unlimited plan

Name of Plan: Boost Unlimited Gigs | Monthly Cost: $50 | Amount of Data: Unlimited | Special features: 12GB of LTE hotspot data; 6 months of Tidal music streaming

Hotspot data, streaming music included
Sprint’s network isn’t as fast as other carriers
Streaming caps on video, music, games

These are unusual times for Boost, which is currently owned and operated by Sprint. But now that the T-Mobile-Sprint merger has closed, Boost will eventually be spun off to Dish, where it’s expected to become a competitor to the likes of AT&T, Verizon and the New T-Mobile. It’s safe to assume changes are in store.

For now, Boost’s best prepaid phone plan is its $50 unlimited data offering, which includes 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.

best prepaid phone plans: Google Fi

(Image credit: Google)

8. Google Fi Unlimited Plan

Best prepaid phone plan for international travel

Name of Plan: Fi Unlimited | Monthly Cost: $70 | Amount of Data: Unlimited | Special features: Uses service from multiple carriers; Free texting and data when traveling

Great international coverage
Supports a wider variety of phones than before
Optimized features limited to select phones
Cheaper plans available elsewhere

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.

Google Fi now works with all phones, though some phones — like Google’s own Pixel devices — 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.

best prepaid phone plans: consumer cellular

(Image credit: Consumer Cellular)

9. Consumer Cellular Prepaid Phone Plan

Best prepaid phone plan for seniors

Name of Plan: Consumer Cellular Connect Plan | Monthly Cost: $30 | Amount of Data: 3GB | Special features: AARP members get a 5% discount on monthly service

Flexible options for data and talk
Unlimited text with every plan
Discounts for seniors
No unlimited data plan

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.

best prepaid phone plans: Mint Mobile

(Image credit: Mint Mobile)

10. Mint Mobile Prepaid Phone Plan

Good annual rates

Name of Plan: Mint 8GB plan | Monthly Cost: $20 | Amount of Data: 8GB | Special features: Mobile hotspot feature; Discounted rates on annual service

Uses T-Mobile’s network
Low-cost data plans
Annual plans required for best discounts

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.

best prepaid phone plans: cricket

(Image credit: Cricket Wireless)

11. Cricket Unlimited Data Plan

Cricket’s best prepaid phone plan

Name of Plan: Cricket Unlimited & 15GB Mobile Hotspot | Monthly Cost: $60 | Amount of Data: Unlimited | Special features: 15GB of LTE hotspot data; Includes usage in Canada and Mexico

Unlimited plan comes with hotspot data
Can use plan when in Canada and Mexico
Other Cricket plan cap data speeds
Unlimited plan more expensive than rival plans

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.

best prepaid phone plans: Straight Talk

(Image credit: Straight Talk)

12. Straight Talk Prepaid Phone Plan

Straight Talk’s best prepaid phone plan

Name of Plan: Straight Talk Unlimited International | Monthly Cost: $60 | Amount of Data: 25GB | Special features: Ability to call Canada, China, India and Mexico; 400 bonus minutes to Claro Guatemala numbers

Ideal for international callers
Lots of data
Expensive
Minimal autopay discounts

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.

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.

  • Mighty Sea Tide 💪🌊
    I've been using Total Wireless, which is one of TracFone's subsidiaries and an MVNO for 2+ years, and they are fantastic. For $35 a month I get unlimited talk and text, 5 GB of high speed data on Verizon's network that I've never noticed being throttled, and if I would use all 5 GB, which I never have, I still have data but the speed would drop to 3G or slower. I have a Moto G7 phone--their phones are very affordable and they have frequent flash sales on various phones on their website. The voice network quality is outstanding, as is the data network availability and speed. I've used Virgin Mobile, regular (not prepaid) AT&T, and Straight Talk in the past and none of them even come close to the quality and value for the cost compared to Total Wireless. I very highly recommend Total Wireless.
    Reply