The best cheap cell phone plans 2024

Switch to one of the best cheap cell phone plans if you want to spend less on your wireless service each month. There's a lot of great low-cost monthly plans out there for $40 or less that deliver the exact amount of data you need — whether it's a lot or a little.

We know, because we're constantly on the lookout for the best cell phone plans. As it turns out, a lot of those top plans charge you very little without asking you to sacrifice much in the way of data. It's just a matter of knowing where to look.

Our best cheap phone plan search takes into account the merits of prepaid vs. postpaid phone service while also examining whether MVNOs are worth the money. (You can look at our methodology for making picks just below our rankings of the best cheap plans.) Whether you're buying a new phone and need a new plan or you're just looking for ways to save money on your cell phone bill, one of the plans below should do the trick.

It's easy enough to find cheap cell phone plans if you use very little data, but even if you want one of the best unlimited data plans, you still have multiple options for keeping your bill to less than than $40 each month. Let our guide to the best cheap cell phone plans help you find big savings.

The quick list

The best overall cheap cell phone plan

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The best cheap cell phone plan overall

Mint Mobile | 5GB | $15/month - Best overall cheap cell phone plan
Mint Mobile is definitely worth a look if you want one of the best cheap cell phone plans overall. Plans start at $15/month for 5GB of data, though you have to pay for a full year of service to get that rate. As part of your plan with Mint, you get the ability to use your phone as a hotspot, plus 5G coverage where T-Mobile's 5G network reaches. Mint frequently runs pricing promotions to lure new customers that reduce their low rates even further.

Pros: 
Cons:

Mint Mobile | 5GB | $15/month - Best overall cheap cell phone plan
Mint Mobile is definitely worth a look if you want one of the best cheap cell phone plans overall. Plans start at $15/month for 5GB of data, though you have to pay for a full year of service to get that rate. As part of your plan with Mint, you get the ability to use your phone as a hotspot, plus 5G coverage where T-Mobile's 5G network reaches. Mint frequently runs pricing promotions to lure new customers that reduce their low rates even further.

Pros:
Very affordable, decent amount of data
Cons:
You must pay for a full year to get the best rate

Best value plan

AT&T | Unlimited 12-month prepaid | $25/month - Great value on AT&T
Usually, the main carriers stay clear of offering cheap cell phone plans, but this AT&T prepaid plan offers some overall excellent value. For just $25 each month, you get unlimited data —  a generous 16GB of that is high-speed data. (Go over that amount, and you're slowed to 1.5 Mbps for the rest of the month.) While this plan isn't as cheap as what Mint or Tello charge for similar amounts of data, 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 — investing in a full year can get you the best combination of price and data possible.

Pros:Cons:

AT&T | Unlimited 12-month prepaid | $25/month - Great value on AT&T
Usually, the main carriers stay clear of offering cheap cell phone plans, but this AT&T prepaid plan offers some overall excellent value. For just $25 each month, you get unlimited data —  a generous 16GB of that is high-speed data. (Go over that amount, and you're slowed to 1.5 Mbps for the rest of the month.) While this plan isn't as cheap as what Mint or Tello charge for similar amounts of data, 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 — investing in a full year can get you the best combination of price and data possible.

Pros:
Major carrier, good amount of data for price
Cons: Best price requires a longer contract, data slowed after 16GB are up

Best cheap plan with extensive coverage

Verizon | 15GB prepaid | $35/month - Best plan for coveragePros:Cons:

Verizon | 15GB prepaid | $35/month - Best plan for coverage
Bargain hunters should consider Verizon's prepaid options, which include a 15GB plan with significant discounts right out of the gate. This option costs $45/month — outside the $40 budget we set for ourselves — but enrolling in autopay drops the monthly cost by $10. And since you're getting Verizon's nationwide 5G coverage with this plan that's a pretty good deal on top of a big pool of data.

Pros: Great coverage and speeds, big autopay discount
Cons: Cheaper 5GB plan is no more

The best cheap unlimited data plan

Visible | unlimited data | $25/month - The best unlimited data prepaid on a budget
Visible's basic unlimited data plan is cheaper than ever at $25/month. A limited-time promotion drops that price to $20 for the next 24 months when you sign up with code 'VISIBLE24' before February 14. (That same code reduces the price of the more expensive Visible Plus unlimited data plan to $35/month for the next two years.) Since Visible is owned by Verizon, Visible uses its parent company's speedy network, giving you 5G access with a compatible phone. Our look at the best Visible deals can clue you in on other ways to save.

Pros: 
Cons:

Visible | unlimited data | $25/month - The best unlimited data prepaid on a budget
Visible's basic unlimited data plan is cheaper than ever at $25/month. A limited-time promotion drops that price to $20 for the next 24 months when you sign up with code 'VISIBLE24' before February 14. (That same code reduces the price of the more expensive Visible Plus unlimited data plan to $35/month for the next two years.) Since Visible is owned by Verizon, Visible uses its parent company's speedy network, giving you 5G access with a compatible phone. Our look at the best Visible deals can clue you in on other ways to save.

Pros: Very affordable, 5G unlimited data
Cons:
$45 Visible plan offers better perks

Lowest absolute price on data

Tello Economy | 1GB | $9/month - Lowest priced cell phone plan
Tello offers the cheapest of the cheap when it comes to a new cell phone plan, especially after adjusting its rates. You only pay $9 a month but you will find yourself with just 1GB of data. (Your speeds are slowed if you hit the 1GB limit.) For that price, Tello includes 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. Tello has other low-cost options, all of them for less than $40 a month, including a $14 5GB plan and a $25 unlimited data option.

Pros: 
Cons:

Tello Economy | 1GB | $9/month - Lowest priced cell phone plan
Tello offers the cheapest of the cheap when it comes to a new cell phone plan, especially after adjusting its rates. You only pay $9 a month but you will find yourself with just 1GB of data. (Your speeds are slowed if you hit the 1GB limit.) For that price, Tello includes 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. Tello has other low-cost options, all of them for less than $40 a month, including a $14 5GB plan and a $25 unlimited data option.

Pros:
Cheapest cell phone plan, unlimited calls and texts, six plans available for under $40
Cons:
$9 plan is very limited on data

The best cheap cell phone plan at T-Mobile

T-Mobile Connect | 3.5GB data | $15/month - Low cost cell phone plan from a big name carrier
Opting for service from either Mint or Tello means forgoing the major carriers. But you can find cheap plans at some of the Big Three, including T-Mobile and its low-cost T-Mobile Connect options. The $15 monthly plan expanded its data allotment to 3.5GB. (Every year through 2025, T-Mobile boosts your data pool by 500MB.) There's also a 1GB option for $10 if you really want to save. 

Pro: Con:

T-Mobile Connect | 3.5GB data | $15/month - Low cost cell phone plan from a big name carrier
Opting for service from either Mint or Tello means forgoing the major carriers. But you can find cheap plans at some of the Big Three, including T-Mobile and its low-cost T-Mobile Connect options. The $15 monthly plan expanded its data allotment to 3.5GB. (Every year through 2025, T-Mobile boosts your data pool by 500MB.) There's also a 1GB option for $10 if you really want to save. 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 value for seniors

Consumer Cellular | 10GB | $35/month — Lots of data for seniorsPros:Cons:

Consumer Cellular | 10GB | $35/month — Lots of data for seniors
Consumer Cellular has consolidated its plans into just three offerings, but the $35 monthly plan packs in a lot of data — 10GB — for less than what you'd pay at some other carriers. You get 5G coverage as part of your plan, and you can add a second line for just $15 each month — that's not a common option for cheap phone plans. AARP members can save even more with a 5% discount on their monthly rate at Consumer Cellular. Should you use more data than your plan allows, Consumer Cellular upgrades you to the next tier of its data plans.

Pros: AARP discount, lots of data, can add up to four lines
Cons: Not many perks

Best cheap cell phone plan for travelers

Google Fi | 2GB Flexible plan | $30 a month - Best plan for travel
The pricing of Google Fi's flexible plans — $20 for a talk and text, plus $10 for each GB of data you use — isn't as generous as what you find from the other best cheap cell phone plans we've highlighted. But Google Fi will appeal to anyone who gets a Pixel 8, Pixel 7a or Pixel Fold — those devices are optimized for Google's network. Google Fi does have some advantages, including the ability to use your plan when you travel in more than 200 countries. You also don't pay extra for data you don't use overseas.

Pros:Cons:

Google Fi | 2GB Flexible plan | $30 a month - Best plan for travel
The pricing of Google Fi's flexible plans — $20 for a talk and text, plus $10 for each GB of data you use — isn't as generous as what you find from the other best cheap cell phone plans we've highlighted. But Google Fi will appeal to anyone who gets a Pixel 8, Pixel 7a or Pixel Fold — those devices are optimized for Google's network. Google Fi does have some advantages, including the ability to use your plan when you travel in more than 200 countries. You also don't pay extra for data you don't use overseas.

Pros: Overseas coverage, you're only charged for data you use
Cons: $30 only gets you 2GB of data

Also worth considering

Cricket | 10GB | $40/month - A better budget option than beforePros: Cons:

Cricket | 10GB | $40/month - A better budget option than before
If you've dismissed Cricket as an option in the past, it's time to re-examine this AT&T-owned discount carrier. Cricket stopped imposing a speed cap on plans, so you now enjoy the full benefits of AT&T's network, including 5G coverage. (Your data speeds slow down if you go over your monthly allotment.) With Cricket's $40 plan, you get a generous 10GB pool of data, and you can save another $5 each month by enrolling in autopay, meaning Cricket's plan costs the same as Verizon's (though with less data).

Pros: Autopay discount, no more speed caps
Cons: Very few perks

What to look for with cheap cell phone plans

When looking for the best cheap cell phone plan, the 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 we 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.