The best cheap cell phone plans prove that you can still get a lot for $40. While many wireless plans can put a serious dent in your wallet, you don't have to spend big bucks to get good service in return. Just broaden your search beyond the big phone carriers, and you can get your hands on the right amount of data for your needs — all without spending more than $40 a month.
For $40 or less, you can still choose from a wide variety of options — whether that's generous amounts of tiered data or even unlimited plans. All it takes is looking at some off-the-beaten path choices (or, in some cases, from some familiar wireless providers looking to retain subscribers).
Even if you don't want to spend that full $40 each month, the best cheap cell phone plans can help you stretch your dollar farther with plans that give you a small data allotment for a big break on your monthly bill. Because if you don't need all that data, why spend extra for it?
As part of our search for the best cell phone plans overall, we've kept an eye out for the best cheap cell phone plans under $40 a month. Our search takes into account the merits of prepaid vs. postpaid phone service while also examining whether MVNOs are worth the money. As it turns out, you may be as surprised as we were by what you can get for $40 or less, including unlimited data cell phone plans at some carriers.
- Best phone carriers
- Find the best cheap phones to save more money
- Here are the best cell phone plans for seniors
With new smartphones like the iPhone 13 now available and the best Black Friday phone deals promising big savings, you might be looking for a new cell phone plan, especially if it means paying less each month than you are now. But even if you're sticking with your current phone, it could be worth it to your bottom line to consider one of the best cheap cell phone plans that are out there right now.
The best cheap cell phone plans
The best overall cheap cell phone plan:
Mint Mobile | 4GB | $15/month - Best overall cheap cell phone plan
Mint Mobile currently stands out as the best overall value when it comes to cheap cell phone plans. Go for its 4GB option, and you'll pay just $15 each month. It is however important to note that Mint Mobile's best prices require you to give up some flexibility. After a three-month discounted rate, you'll keep the best price when you sign up for a year of service. You can also opt for three- and six-month plans. Mint also includes hotspot features and 5G access.
Pros: Very affordable, decent amount of data
Cons: Offer changes after 3 months
The lowest priced cell phone plan
Tello Economy | 1GB | $10/month - Lowest priced cell phone plan
Tello offers the cheapest of the cheap when it comes to a new cell phone plan... but it is slightly limiting. You only pay $10 a month but you will find yourself with just 1GB of data. However, for that price Tello is throwing in unlimited calls and texts, free mobile tethering and no contract to tie you in. In other words, this is the perfect plan for anyone on a budget who doesn't need much data. Right now, new customers pay $7.50/month for the first six months of service before the $10 monthly rate kicks in.
Pros: Cheapest cell phone plan, unlimited calls and texts
Cons: Very limited on data
An excellent price from one of the major carriers
T-Mobile Connect | 2.5GB data | $15/month - Low cost cell phone plan from a big name carrier
The two plans above offer some of the lowest prices around, but for the best coverage and access, looking for a plan from one of the major wireless carriers will be the way to go. This T-Mobile Connect offer currently supplies you with 2.5GB of data at a price of $15. While that isn't a huge amount of data, T-Mobile will give you a 500MB data boost annually. T-Mobile's price also includes unlimited calls and texts and 5G access. However, once you hit your data cap, you're out of data until your next cycle begins instead of simply being limited on speeds.
Pro: Low costs, 500Mb data boosts annually
Con: Out of data once you hit your cap
Best cheap plan with extensive coverage
Verizon | 5GB prepaid | $40/month - Best plan for coverage
Verizon and cheap aren't two words often found near each other, and at first blush, the price of its 5GB plan doesn't compare favorably to the best cheap cell phone plans. But take off $5 for enrolling in autopay, and your monthly fee goes dow to $35. Then, Verizon will cut another $5 when you stick with the plan for three months plus $5 more for staying put for nine months. That brings the cost to $20 over time. This plan's main bonus is the access to Verizon's leading speeds and great 5G coverage (though only prepaid customers with a more expensive unlimited data plan can access Verizon's fastest 5G).
Pros: Great coverage and speeds, Monthly rate drops over time
Cons: Not the cheapest prepaid around
The cheapest unlimited data
Visible | unlimited data | $40/month - The best unlimited data prepaid on a budget
Visible doesn't exactly go all out on prepaid plans and you'll find yourself limited to just one option. The good news is that the one available choice is pretty great — unlimited data for half of what you'd pay at a big carrier. Plus as a Verizon MVNO, Visible uses Verizon's speedy network, and you can even get 5G access depending on which phone you use.
Pros: Very affordable, 5G unlimited data
Cons: There are cheaper prepaid plans, 5G data speeds are capped
The best cheap cell phone plan for switchers
Metro by T-Mobile | Unlimited cell phone plan | $25/month - A great deal for switchers
Normally, we'd recommend Metro By T-Mobile's $40/month plan, which packs in an impressive 10GB of data. But right now, a limited-time promotion is too good to pass up if you get your wireless service from either Boost or Cricket. Switch to Metro, and the carrier will knock half off its unlimited data plan, charging you just $25 per month; you'll also get a free Galaxy A32 5G. It's an in-store deal, and the price could go up after 24 months, but that's a very good price on unlimited data so long as the offer remains available.
Pros: Taxes and fees included in price, free phone, uses T-Mobile
Cons: Speeds slowed if T-Mobile is congested, price can go up after 24 months
Google Fi | Flexible plan | $40 a month | Best plan for the Pixel 5a
The pricing of Google Fi's flexible plans — $20 for a talk and text, plus $10 for each GB of data you use — doesn't compare favorably to the other options among the best cheap cell phone plans. But if you want a Pixel 5a, Google Fi is the only carrier currently offering Google's midrange phone. (We don't know if the Pixel 6 will be similarly limited when it arrives later this month, but Google Fi will surely offer that new phone, too.) Google Fi does have some advantages, including the ability to use your plan when you travel in more than 200 countries.
Pros: Pixel 5a is available through the carrier, overseas coverage
Cons: Not much data for $40 or less
The best cheap AT&T cell phone plan
AT&T | 8GB 12-month prepaid | $25/month - Great value on AT&T
Usually, the main carriers stay clear of offering cheap cell phone plans and yet, this AT&T prepaid plan offers some overall excellent value. For just $25 each month, you're getting an 8GB data cap. While that isn't as cheap as Mint Mobile or Tello, it is a great price to pay for AT&T. While you can pay for a month at a time — AT&T charges $30 a month for 5GB and $40 for 15GB — investing in a full year can get you the best price possible.
Pros: Major carrier, good amount of data for price
Cons: Best price requires a longer contract
What to look for with cheap cell phone plans
Obviously, price is going to be paramount when considering a cheap cell phone plan. After all, if money is no object, there are plenty of pricey plans that will deliver maximum perks and data.
But price isn’t the only criteria to look at. You'll want to consider who provides the best cell phone coverage in your area and whether the discount carrier you're considering uses that carrier's network. With the exception of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, none of the discount carriers we've mentioned here operate their own network. Rather, as mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, they piggyback on the cellular networks built by one or more of the major carriers. Some carriers, such as Republic Wireless and Google Fi, also offload calls and texts to Wi-Fi when available, as part of their efforts to keep monthly costs low.
You'll also want to look at the variety of plans each carrier offered and whether you could move to a different plan if your talk, text and data needs change. We've focused on plans for individuals, but if you're searching for the best family cell phone plan, look into whether a carrier offers discounts on multiple lines. While perks generally aren't included with cheap cell phone plans, look to see if there are some added benefits such as hotspot data.
- Best international phone plans: What travelers should know