Product Use case Rating
T-Mobile Best Family Plan N/A
T-Mobile Best Unlimited Individual Plan N/A
Verizon Best Individual Plan N/A
Metro by T-Mobile Best Prepaid Individual Plan N/A
Republic Wireless Best Plan Under $30 N/A
Metro by T-Mobile Best Unlimited Prepaid Plan N/A
Metro by T-Mobile Best Prepaid Family Plan N/A
Project Fi Best International Plan N/A

Finding the right phone plan to fit your needs is tricky. Beyond just dollars and cents, you need to consider which phones are supported by which wireless carriers and what coverage and data speeds are like in the area where you’ll use your phone the most. Throw in carriers’ near-continual plan changes — including multiple tiers of unlimited plans — and it’s a recipe for confusion.

To make the decision easier, we’ve gone through each carriers’ plans to figure out which one is the best for your particular needs. Even after introducing a lower-cost, stripped-down plan, T-Mobile's T-Mobile One unlimited data offering is the best family plan; it offers better value than AT&T and Verizon (though bargain hunters may be tempted by Sprint's discounted family plan and AT&T includes a new streaming TV service with its unlimited plans). T-Mobile's $70 plan is also the best unlimited data plan for individuals, though you can now get a bare-bones unlimited data plan from the carrier for $10 less.

MORE: Who Is the Top All-Around Carrier in the U.S.?

If saving money without compromising too much on data is the most important thing to you, Republic Wireless offers a decent amount of data for less than $30 a month, especially after tweaking what it charges for LTE data. Otherwise, Verizon offers the most compelling individual cellphone plan, costing $55 a month for 5GB; you can also roll over unused data to the next month. When MetroPCS relaunches as Metro by T-Mobile in October, it will claim the best prepaid plans for both individuals and families.

Note: T-Mobile and Sprint have announced plans to merge. While major changes are unlikely until the merger goes through (and that requires regulatory approval), it could mean less aggressive pricing promotions from the two potentially future partners.

These are the best cellular plans available right now.

Best Cellphone Plans: Our Top Picks

MORE: Best International Phone Plans: What Travelers Need to Know

In evaluating plans, we looked at the four major U.S. carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — and what they offer. We also evaluated five discount carriers: Boost Mobile, Cricket, MetroPCS, Straight Talk and Virgin, and to help you stretch your dollar even further, we looked at plans from several smaller discount carriers. In addition to price, we considered network coverage and performance, including results from our own 4G network testing in half-a-dozen cities. In some cases, total savings on one carrier’s plan outweighed the performance edge another carrier might enjoy; other times, network performance was a deciding factor in our choice.

Should You Switch?

If these are the best plans, does that mean you should drop your current carrier for one of the above plans that best covers your needs? (That assumes, of course, that the carrier we recommend provides ample coverage for your area.) Yes, but only if you can switch without consequences.

If you can't wait until your deal is up with your current carrier, the major carriers are all willing to pick up some of the cost to get you to switch. Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer up to $650 for each phone you switch over to pay off your phone purchases and early termination fees; AT&T offers a $100 bill credit for switching over plus $200 for trading in an eligible smartphone. Note that this money will come in the form of prepaid gift cards and that every carrier requires you to trade in your existing phone.

MORE: Carrier Customer Service Showdown: Who's on Top?

Before you decide whether to switch your cellphone plan, make sure to check carriers’ websites for any special offers. In recent years, carriers have gotten aggressive in trying to lure new customers, and that figures to continue into 2018, with switching deals popping up from time to time.

As of this writing, Sprint still offers a particularly attractive incentive to leave your current carrier behind: It will give you free unlimited data for the next year, though you're still on the hook for taxes and fees. After November 30, 2019, your bill reverts to Sprint's standard rate for unlimited data, which is listed as $60 for a single line. The big caveat: You need to bring over an eligible phone to qualify for free data. (Since the deal is geared toward AT&T and Verizon customers, there's a better chance your phone is eligible if it came from those carriers.) The offer is listed as a limited-time deal, but Sprint has kept it around since the summer of 2017.

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  • wizodd
    Republic offers wi-fi only service very cheap.

    Their plans may be much cheaper than this review implies--if you spend most of your time in places with wi-fi available.

    I first signed with them because I NEED wi-fi access at home as I live in a dead zone. But about the only time I need cell service is for trips.

    They also offer the ability to change plans easily if you need more or fewer features.

    Unfortunately, they don't yet support the iPhone.
  • rgd1101
    Republic wireless just changed their plan, the article didn't have the updated info.
  • socrfan1
    Boost Mobile offers at least 23 GB with no throttling for $45 a month with auto pay.
  • akashra
    Is this a review of the worst value for your money plans? Sure looks like it...

    Can get the same service as any of these providers for much cheaper on their smaller partner networks. Silly review.
  • kep55
    Just what the heck is Verizon's Smartphone Access fee? Pure profit?
  • jon.r.barnard
    T-Mobile's plan is even better than you suggest: There's no throttling until 50 GB, not 30 GB!
  • jon.r.barnard
    Also, Verizon's throttling begins at 22GB, not 50gb.
  • jon.r.barnard
    You are mixed up about throttling for the unlimited plans: T-Mobile's throttling doesn't start until 50 gb (not 30), and Verizon's starts at 22 gb, not 30. (All of which makes T-Mobile's unlimited plan the even better choice.)
  • ryan.small
    What other carriers did you test. I think mine (Ting) beats all the competitors. It's post-pay with no contract. With 4 devices, you could use a monthly aggregate of 2000 minutes, 5000 messages, and 5GB, all for $120.50 before fees/taxes.

    They provide credits for referrals.
    They have credited us for sim card purchases when we mistakenly ordered the wrong sim or had compatibility issues.
    They have always provide super fast service on live chats and support calls.
    You can use GSM or CDMA.

    I've not been able to find any reasons to switch to any other carrier. You might want to test their service and plans. Thank you!
  • robinjoe1
    I get 5 lines, unlimited talk and text, 5GB per phone for $100/month with Cricket. I switched 3 years ago and LOVE them.
  • protocol48
    Over 55 years old? My T-Mobile "over 55" plan gets unlimited everything for a flat $50 a month (must be set up as auto-pay). Verizon was charging me $72 a month for 0.5 gB.
    I asked for a better deal. A 20 year history with Verizon did nothing- Profit trumps loyalty. Of all the carriers , Verizon is consistently the most costly. They offered me the same unlimited package for $70 a month. (oh, plus taxes, etc.). I like like my T-mobile account.
  • mchan1
    Be careful about any 'fees' that are added In Addition to your monthly access fee.
    Verizon's $20/m fee is ridiculous as their plans are already considered as one of the Most expensive plans available. Also, you'll need to get a New phone so it won't run on GSM phones.

    MetroPCS runs on TMo's backbone and the rates are relatively good esp. if you live/work near many Wifi areas and can get Wifi. That'll help reduce your cellular data usage so you can get their unltd calling/text plans with $30/m plan for 2Gb, $40/m ups the data to 5Gb/m and $50/m Unltd data plan. Best thing is that you can switch between one plan to another to fit your needs.
  • tharskjold
    I am very happy with the fact that I have less than 60 days until we are free from Sprint. It has been a 2 year nightmare. Corporate said we could transfer a 3rd phone with the BOGO Free deal, then it didn't work. Called corporate and got a $14 SIM card for it. It still didn't work. Went to the local store verified that phone would never transfer. BOGO is the only reason we are locked in and when we offered to pay for the other phone over the phone with corporate then they said, 'Yes'. Then they charged us for both phones. So to get back in the program we wanted a refund or I would protest through the bank. Instead they said they would apply it to the bills. Weeks later they turned off my phone for non-payment with a $600 balance.
    The 1st year I was having to make monthly hour long calls (x11) to correct billing, features or data plan problems. Then 3rd party companies are charging us for services we never signed up for. Sprint doesn't question it gives us grief when we try to get them removed. With the Unlimited data plan they block reception/cellular connection if you have your WiFi on and it sees any WiFi sources. So we have to turn off our WiFi just get usage of the phone. Probably to reduce network sharing costs.
    The Sprint forced firmware updates have caused us to call tech support and get technical support because the settings of the update restricted Unlimited usage as part of the update. "It was intentional". The worst cellular company and just a poorly run business overall. If you own stock, Sell, Sell, Sell! Can't wait to go back to AT&T and only left because of the cost of new phones. Never had any problems with AT&T worldwide.
  • thirdelvis
    Not sure why you'd list Republic Wireless as best plan for under $30. Project Fi should get the nod. I've had both services (had RW for couple yrs and now Fi for over year and half) and Fi is better. My monthly bill for Fi is rarely over $24. that gets me the base $20 plan w 1gb of data (of which part is always refunded to me since i don't use much data.) Maybe RW is slightly cheaper per month, but since your dollar amount given is 'Under $30' then you have to go woth Fi, esp since it has access to an additional set of towers (US Cellular) and also has phone support that calls you back within 2 mins anytime you have a porblem (which is rare). You can also use chat or email for support if you prefer. Additionally, the Fi app is puresimplicity and offers complete transparency of your account, incl data useage and days left, etc. This is also where you can add numbers to block. Fi also has automatic VPN that secures any unknown network that the phone attaches to. Lastly, with additon of Moto x4 and the new Moto G6, there are now excellent budget phones from which to use, which can be purchased using interest free payments over 24 months. It's really a no brainer.
  • deborah.shaka
    If your family includes adults who are over 55 years old, it may be a better deal to go with T-Mobile's One plan (2 lines, unlimited, auto-pay, for $65/mo, then add the kids in separately).