The best cheap cell phone plans 2024

best cheap cell phone plans under $40
(Image credit: H_Ko/Shutterstock)

The best cheap cell phone plans prove that you don't have to spend big bucks to get solid wireless service. For less than $40 a month, you can find a plan that delivers just the right amount of data for your needs — even if those needs require the best unlimited data plans.

In our search for the best cell phone plans overall, we keep an eye out for low-cost offerings that have the right mix of data, price and perks. Our picks below include several different options, so that you can find one that uses the phone network best serving your area. We think Mint Mobile and Visible have the best low-cost options, but we've also found the best cheap cell phone plans from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.

Whether you need unlimited data or just the bare minimum, we can help you find a cheap cell phone plan that keeps your monthly costs low and your phone well-connected.

The quick list

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels, our managing editor for mobile devices, has been writing about tech since 1999, with a focus on smartphones since the first iPhone debuted back in 2007. He joined Tom's Guide in 2014 and has been following wireless carriers ever since. In addition to keeping tabs on the big three carriers, he's also studied plans for smaller mobile virtual network operators, so he's well versed on what different wireless providers charge for monthly coverage. He spends far too much time looking at his phone screen.

The best cheap cell phone plan overall

Mint Mobile

(Image credit: Mint Mobile)

1. Mint Mobile

Best cheap cell phone plan

Specifications

Data amount: 5GB
Monthly cost: $15
Taxes and Fees included?: No
Network: T-Mobile
Data limit reached: After 5GB, data slowed to 128 Kbps
Noteworthy perks: Mobile hotspot data, free calling to Canada and Mexico

Reasons to buy

+
Very affordable
+
Other Mint plans also available for cheap
+
Uses T-Mobile's network, including 5G coverage

Reasons to avoid

-
Best rate requires year commitment

Mint Mobile has a whole host of cheap cell phone plans, with four different options costing less $30 or less. We're recommending the 5GB plan as that's Mint's lowest-priced offering, and it includes a decent amount of data alongside unlimited talk and text. You'll get that rate for three months, but to keep it, you'll need to pay for a full year of service upfront. (That's $180 for the 5GB plan.) If you can swing the upfront payment, Mint Mobile's low monthly rate delivers good value, especially since you'll get coverage from T-Mobile's network. That includes the carrier's far-reaching 5G service.

As of this writing, Mint is running a promotion that cuts the prices of all its plans to $15/month for the first three months of service. It's a great way to get unlimited data (normally $30 at Mint) for half the usual cost. Another promotion gives you six months of Paramount Plus when you sign up for Mint before the end of May.

See Mint Mobile's 5GB plan.

The best cheap unlimited data plan

Visible logo

(Image credit: Visible)

2. Visible

Best cheap cell phone plan for unlimited data

Specifications

Data amount: Unlimited
Monthly cost: $25
Taxes and Fees included?: Yes
Network: Verizon
Data limit reached: Speeds can be slowed when network congested
Noteworthy perks: Hotspot data, unlimited talk and text to Canada and Mexico

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable unlimited data
+
Taxes and fees included
+
Coverage on Verizon's network

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't use Verizon's fastest 5G network
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Data speeds can be slowed at any time

Visible joins Mint Mobile in offering an unlimited data plan for less than $40, but Visible's option is cheaper. And unlike Mint, you don't have to pay for a year up front — Visible charges on a month-to-month basis with taxes and fees baked into its $25 rate. Customers can now save more by choosing to pay for service annually, which turns out to be $275 for the entire year. By paying annually, it makes the $25/month rate turn out to be $23/month.

The cheaper of Visible's two unlimited data plans comes with some trade-offs: your data speeds can be slowed whenever parent network Verizon is experiencing lots of traffic, and you won't get faster Ultra Wideband 5G. (That's available to Visible Plus customers for $45/month, along with a bunch of other recently added perks.) Still, unlimited data for just $25 is tough to beat, which is why we steer people on a tight budget to Visible's plan.

See Visible's unlimited data plan.

Best cheap Verizon plan

Verizon logo

(Image credit: Verizon)

3. Verizon

Cheap prepaid option

Specifications

Data amount: 15GB
Monthly cost: $35 (with autopay)
Taxes and Fees included?: No
Network: Verizon
Data limit reached: After 15GB, speeds are slowed to 128 Kbps
Noteworthy perks: Hotspot data included, plan works when traveling in Canada and Mexico

Reasons to buy

+
Big autopay discount
+
Travel perks in Canada and Mexico
+
Big pool of data

Reasons to avoid

-
5G coverage isn't Verizon's fastest

The best prepaid phone plan at Verizon also happens to be one of the best cheap cell phone plans under $40, provided that you enroll in autopay. That saves you $10 a month on your bill, bringing the cost of this 15GB down from $45 to $35 per month. In exchange, you get a large pool of data — 15GB to be exact — which you can also draw on for hotspot data. 

You're able to use talk, text and data while traveling in Canada and Mexico so long as it only accounts for 50% of your usage over 60 days. You also get 5G service, though it isn't through Verizon's fastest Ultra Wideband network, which requires a more expensive Verizon plan.

See Verizon's 15GB prepaid plan.

Best cheap T-Mobile plan

T-Mobile logo

(Image credit: T-Mobile)

4. T-Mobile

T-Mobile's cheapest plan

Specifications

Data amount: 5GB
Monthly cost: $15
Taxes and Fees included?: No
Network: T-Mobile
Data limit reached: Must refill data
Noteworthy perks: 5G coverage included

Reasons to buy

+
Super cheap
+
Includes 5G coverage
+
Plan features more data than before

Reasons to avoid

-
Refill required after you hit your cap
-
Annual data boost ends in 2025

T-Mobile Connect offers the cheapest way to get T-Mobile's service with a $15 plan that's grown to 5GB thanks to annual data boosts from T-Mobile. (Those increases are supposed to come to an end next year.)

Opt for the Simple Connect plan — one of the best T-Mobile cell phone plans — only if you know you can stick to your data allotment each month, because once you hit that cap, you've either got to refill your account by paying for more data or wait for the next billing cycle to begin; T-Mobile doesn't just slow your speeds like other carriers. Still, with 5G coverage included, Simple Connect is a cheap way to get fast speeds on a great network.

See T-Mobile's 3.5GB Simple Connect plan.

Best cheap AT&T plan

AT&T logo

(Image credit: AT&T)

5. AT&T

Low monthly rate for lots of data

Specifications

Data amount: Unlimited
Monthly cost: $25
Taxes and Fees included?: No
Network: AT&T
Data limit reached: After 16GB, data slowed to 1.5 Mbps
Noteworthy perks: 10GB of hotspot data

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of data for a low price
+
Hotspot data included

Reasons to avoid

-
Big upfront payment required
-
Data can slow down after 16GB are used

AT&T's prepaid plan features unlimited data, with 16GB of that high-speed data, for just $25/month. To get that low monthly rate, you've got to pay for a full-year in advance. But if you can swing the one-time $300 payment, you've locked in a low rate for the year that matches what Visible charges. And while your data slows down to 1.5 Mbps speeds after you use 16GB, most people won't approach that limit.

Perks include 10GB of hotspot data, 5G coverage where available, unlimited texting to 230 countries and calls to Canada and Mexico from the U.S. But again, the real lure here is a $25 monthly rate for a very large pool of data on AT&T's network.

See AT&T's unlimited prepaid plan.

Best low-data plan

Ultra Mobile logo

(Image credit: Ultra Mobile)

6. Ultra Mobile

Best cheap plan with low-data

Specifications

Data amount: 250MB
Monthly cost: $15
Taxes and Fees included?: No
Network: T-Mobile **Data limit reached:** Must refill data
Noteworthy perks: Talk and text available to 90-plus countries

Reasons to buy

+
Low-cost offering
+
International calling included

Reasons to avoid

-
250MB disappears quickly

Some people don't need a lot of data, and if that applies to you, Ultra Mobile offers you the chance to save big on your monthly bill. For just $15/month, you get unlimited talk and text, along with 250MB of data to use when Wi-Fi isn't available. You can further drop your monthly rate by paying or service three, six or 12 month chunks.

Need more data? Ultra has five other options with bigger data allotments, and only the $49/month unlimited data plan goes over our self-imposed $40 budget. You can opt for 3GB ($19), 5GB ($24), 10GB ($29) or 15GB ($39) plans and still pay less than $40/month. Multi-month payment options lower the cost of these plans, too.

See Ultra Mobile's 250MB talk and text plan.

Other cheap cell phone plans to consider

Our research has turned up a few other cheap cell phone plans under $40 that deserve some attention, even if they didn't make the cut for our top picks.

  • Tello: The carrier uses T-Mobile's network and has a range of plans under $40, with a 1GB plan for $9 all the way up to unlimited data for $25.
  • Consumer Cellular: For $35/month, you can get 10GB of data on the networks of AT&T or T-Mobile. AARP members get a 5% discount, making this a top choice for seniors.
  • Cricket: Enroll in autopay and you can reduce the cost of a 10GB plan to $35/month on this AT&T-owned prepaid carrier.
  • Metro by T-Mobile: Metro's plan scrapes under our $40 limit after you enroll in auto pay, but you get 10GB per month, plus the ability ot upgrade your phone after a year.
  • Google Fi: Google charges a lot for wireless coverage — $20 for talk and text, plus $10 for each GB of data you use. But you get the best international coverage with the Flexible plan.
  • TextNow: Pay nothing for talk and text at TextNow and use Wi-Fi for your data connection. Need cellular data? Prices range from 99 cents for a day pass to $40 for a month of unlimited data, though TextNow's free plan now includes some data for essential tasks like checking email and accessing ride-sharing apps.
  • Now Mobile: This newly launched low-cost service from Comcast provides an unlimited data plan for $25/month, with taxes and fees included in that rate. You will need to get your broadband service from either Xfinity or Now to sign up for Now mobile coverage.

Best cheap plans compared

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 CostDataData cap reached
Mint Mobile$15/month5GBdata slowed to 128 Kbps
Visible$25/monthUnlimitedSpeeds can be slowed when network congested
T-Mobile$15/month5GBMust refill data
Verizon$35/month15GBdata slowed to 128 Kbps
AT&T$25/monthUnlimitedAfter 16GB, data slowed to 1.5 Mbps
Ultra Mobile$15/month250MBMust refill data

Frequently asked questions

What should I consider when looking for the best cheap cell phone plan?

Overall price is going to be your biggest consideration. That's why we imposed a limit of $40 a month to make sure we're evaluating plans that will fit in many budgets.

But price isn’t the only criteria to look at. You'll want to concentrate your search on 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 want to look at the variety of plans each carrier offers 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.

How do you pick the best cheap cell phone plans?

We are constantly looking at what phone carriers offer, as part of our research into the best cell phone plans. That includes looking at what's available from the major carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon — as well as from discount carriers. We check prices monthly, comparing what different services have to offer.

For our best cheap cell phone plans guide, we set a limit of $40 per month, only looking at plans that fall under this threshold. Price is paramount in our rankings, though we do make note of how much data each plan provides as well as any perks to keep in mind. That can help distinguish two equally priced plans — or even make a slightly more expensive plan a better value overall.

Because cell phone coverage can differ from area to area, we try to include a wide variety of cell phone plans priced at $40 or less, so that you can find the best rate for the wireless service with the strongest coverage in your area.

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.