Best Cell Phone Plans 2017

01 July 2017

There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cell phone plan. 

Just as it would be reductive to declare one car or holiday "the best," so it is with cell phone plans; we all have different needs and wants, and no single one serves them all. With this in mind, we've compiled a list of what we think are the best picks for cell phone plans for different groups of people, whether you're looking for unlimited data, unlimited talking and texting, international calling, multiple lines for families, prepaid plans, and so on. 

The best for you might be the worst for someone else. In order to find the right cell phone plan, you'll need to decide which features are important to have in your cell phone plan. The following checklist can help you narrow down your hunt: 

Checklist for the Best Cell Phone Plan

  • Unlimited Talk and Text
  • Unlimited Data
  • International Talk, Text and Data
  • Prepaid Plan
  • Multiple Lines for Family
  • Cell Phone Plan for Teenager
  • Cell Phone Plan for Senior
  • Cheap Cell Phone Plan
  • Plan for Hot Spots/Tethering

Bear in mind that carriers are constantly switching up their plans and deals, so this is only a current snapshot. We will be updating this list frequently and, as always, you can use WhistleOut's industry-leading comparison tool (now supercharged with a coverage check feature!) to further customize your search.

Summary: Best Cell Phone Plans in July

Here's our pick of the top cell phone plans in July. We've included a mix of single line and family deals based on current promotions and value. Our weekly best cell phone deals are here.

 Plans & Current Deals
Carrier Plan Lines Data Price We like
The People's Operator
Unlimited Goodness  1
1GB$21/mo Extremely inexpensive for unlimited talk and text
3 Month - Large 10GB plan  1
10GB$20/mo Massive data if you buy in 3 month blocks


Unlimited Freedom 1 Unlimited data $50/moCheapest price of the big 4 carriers for unlimited data
T-Mobile T-Mobile One  2 Unlimited data $100/mo Excellent price, 2 lines, no additional taxes and fees
H2O $30 Monthly Unlimited 1 3 GB $27/mo Most data under $30
Cricket Group Save
12 GB
$100/mo 4 lines of unlimited talk and text, 12 GB of data for only $100
Last updated: July, 2017.

Best Unlimited Talk and Text Plans

Whether you're keen on keeping in touch with loved ones on the other side of the country or just the other side of the office, unlimited, catch-all talk and text plans can alleviate your worries about overages. Nearly every carrier offers some sort of unlimited talk and text plan nowadays, and it can be hard to navigate through them all. We sorted through hundreds to present the ones we believe represent the best bang for the buck. 

WhistleOut's Pick

The People's Operator Unlimited Goodness plan

Why we love it: Besides the amazing price (with auto-pay), The People's Operator (TPO for short) runs on Sprint and T-Mobile's 4G networks, so not only can you use CDMA and GSM phones but you can enjoy the solid coverage and reliability of these networks. 

TPO is an MVNO that donates a portion of its profits to charity—reason enough to consider subscribing with them—but that's not why we chose this plan. Rather, the the Unlimited Goodness plan represents an industry-leading value for unlimited talking and texting, making it an obvious front-runner in this category.  

Also consider:

For a more detailed explanation of options, check out WhistleOut's comparison tool.

Best Unlimited Data Plans

For many of us, smartphones have supplanted PCs for our usual internet tasks. We use our phones to browse the web, stream music and movies, read and watch the news, and use email, all while our laptops gather dust in the corner. With the increasing reliance on our phones for everything digital, getting adequate—and affordable—data has become a central priority. Cell carriers have recognized this, and most now offer excellent unlimited data plans. 

WhistleOut's Pick

Sprint Unlimited Freedom for $0

Why we love it: Is there a better price than $0 for unlimited "everything." 

Sprint has made a name for itself in recent years with its unlimited plans. The Unlimited Freedom plan is the company's latest offering, and includes unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE data at an amazing $0/month if you switch from T-Mobile, Verizon or AT&T. 

Also consider:

These selections are just the tip of the iceberg; for a more detailed list, check out WhistleOut's comparison tool

Best International Plans

For those with friends or family in other countries—or those who travel abroad frequently—good international talk and text rates can be of major importance when shopping for cell phone plans. Fortunately, several of the smaller cell carriers (MVNOs) specialize in affordable international calling plans, and the major carriers have improved in this area as well.

WhistleOut's Pick

T-Mobile One

Why we love it: Talk, text and browse to your heart's content in Canada and Mexico at no extra charge. Plus a generous allotment of international destinations where you can text or use data worry-free. 

T-Mobile's One plan includes unlimited talk, text and data use within and to Canada and Mexico. It also includes unlimited data and texting in 140+ countries and destinations, while talk in these places runs $0.20/minute. If you're outside one of these 140+ places, data will cost you $15/MB, and texts $0.50/each. 

Also consider:

Check out WhistleOut's comparison tool for more options. 

Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans

Once primarily favored by parents of teens and credit score-challenged adults, the world seems to have woken up to the fact that prepaid cell phone plans often offer the best deals out there, without overages or binding contracts. Also, the prepaid plans themselves have become more sophisticated.

There are two types of prepaid plans: "pay as you go" ones that that require customers to manually submit payment, at any time, for any additional use, and "auto top-up" plans that bill customers automatically on a recurring date, ensuring they are never without service. Now that carriers have moved away from annual contracts en masse, the difference between auto top-up prepaid plans and traditional postpaid ones (like the kind you'll encounter on major carriers) is that prepaid ones require payment at the beginning of the month as opposed to the end.

WhistleOut's Pick

Mint SIM Unlimited Plan

Why we love it: MintSIM is a new carrier with deals for buying wireless plans in bulk - providing amazing value -- make that unbeatable value. You pay for 3 months at a time, and get a better value plan than paying for one month at a time. The deal we love is the 10GB plan which works out at $20/mo for the first three months - the cheapest 10GB plan on the market right now. 

MintSIM uses a GSM network so offers wide compatability for bringing your own phone. 

Also consider:

For more options, check out our more detailed guide to prepaid plans or use WhistleOut's comparison tool.

Best Family Plans

Cell phone carriers want your business. Not only yours, but your entire family's. Enter family plans, which offer some of the best deals in the mobile market, reducing the cost per line dramatically.

Even if the plan you're shopping for is only for you and your spouse, you can see the cost per line nearly halved by adding the extra person. That makes family plans a no-brainer, assuming you're on good terms with yours. 

WhistleOut's Pick

T-Mobile One

Why we love it: T-Mobile has changed the market once again and now includes ALL taxes and fees for the one price. Their argument is --- with other carriers you see a price of $120 and actually pay $220 when all their fees and charges are added in so T-Mobile now offers an ALL IN price of $160 for a family of 4

Each line has unlimited data, so it's perfect for the family who loves to use their mobile data all day long with no surprises.

Also consider:

For more options, check out WhistleOut comparison tool

Best Cell Phone Plans for Teens

Today's teens (and, admittedly, many of us) treat their smartphones like permanent appendages, texting, Facebooking, Instagramming, streaming and playing games like the outside world doesn't exist. 

If you're the parent of a data-hungry teen, unlimited plans can be the way to go, since they eliminate concerns about overages. Alternatively, you might consider a bare-bones "lifeline" cell phone plan that provides your teen with a means to make a calls, and not much else. Finally, a third possibility is a group plan that's cheap to add lines onto. We've chosen our favorite lifeline and affordable group plan options below. 

WhistleOut's Pick: Additional Line

Cricket Group Save 

Why we love it: If you're looking for a family cell phone plan to add your teen onto, Cricket's Group Save is an affordable option. The first two lines are only $70, and include unlimited talk and text and 5GB of data. The third line costs $20 and includes an additional 2.5GB of data, while the fourth line is a mere $10, and adds another 2.5GB of data.  Cricket runs on AT&T's very reliable network, so you'll be able to stay in touch with your high schooler easily (assuming they pick up). 

WhistleOut's Pick: Lifeline

Cricket Basic Plan with Auto Pay

Why we love it: Cricket's plans are also a solid "lifeline" solution, offering unlimited talk and text, and 2.5GB of data in case your teen is in a crunch and needs to look up the location of the nearest movie theater.  

For more options, check out WhistleOut comparison tool

Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors

Just as there's no one-size-fits-all cell phone plan for 30-year olds, so it goes for seniors: there are tech savvy seniors and those less versed in technology; those who rely on their cell phones to keep in contact with loved ones, and others who use their landlines for this purpose; and those for whom built-in emergency response features are of great benefit and those who don't require them (just to name a few variables).

With the understanding that any cell phone plan could potentially suit a senior, we've chosen to focus in on the ones specifically geared towards this market, and selected the best of the bunch. Whether you're a senior shopping for yourself or a loved one looking for a gift for a relative, it's worth taking a look at the following plans. 

WhistleOut's Pick

Greatcall 1,000 Minute Plan

Why we love it: Greatcall's plans are a great call for seniors who use their phones exclusively for making calls, and who could benefit from the security of 24/7 emergency services. For $35, their 1,000 minute plan comes with Greatcall's signature 5Star Urgent Response service, which includes 911 support and follow-up. 

Greatcall's plans combine talk time with access to 24/7 emergency services for very affordable prices.  

Also consider:

For more options, check out WhistleOut comparison tool

Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans

Given the nature of most mobile carrier ads, you'd assume everyone's priority is getting ahold of the latest devices on the fastest networks with the biggest talk, text and data allotments. But there's a portion of us out there who only care about one thing: price. If you count yourself as someone who simply wants a cheap plan—regardless of bells and whistles—then read on.

There are plans out there that cost $0 (you read that correctly); specifically, both FreedomPop and ringplus offer modest 500GB plans with 200 and 500 talk minutes, respectively. However, calls are sent via VoIP (voice over IP)—think Skype-style calling—which is less reliable than cellular networks. Both plans fall into the "freemium" category, as they require upgrades to turn them into something resembling conventional cell phone plans.

Other MVNOs—i.e. smaller providers who rent space on the major cellular networks—offer talk, text and data via traditional channels for very affordable prices. If you're more than a very occasional cell phone user, these plans can be the way to go. Our top selection is one of these.

WhistleOut's Pick

The People's Operator Unlimited Goodness Kind

Why we love it: For roughly $13, you get 1,000 minutes of talk time, unlimited text messages, and 500MB of data. If you're someone who doesn't plan on using your phone for much else than talk and text, this is a pretty unbeatable deal. 

The People's Operator is a carrier with a cause, donating 25% of its profits to charities. The company also has an amazingly affordable selection of cell phone plans, and the Unlimited Goodness Kind plan is one of them. 

Also consider: 

For more options, check out WhistleOut comparison tool

Best Plans for Hot Spots/Tethering

Tethering means turning your cell phone into a mobile WiFi hotspot for the purposes of using the web on your laptop or tablet, sharing your phone's data connection. This can be a life saver if you need to do something on, say, your laptop, but happen to be somewhere without an available—or free—WiFi signal. 

Most popular devices allow tethering, but not all plans do. And some that do, like T-Mobile, downgrade tethering to a 3G signal, from a 4G one. For a complete list of all of the plans that allow tethering, check out this handy search results page. As for our picks for the very best plans for tethering, read on.

WhistleOut's Pick

Verizon 5GB for $55

Why we love it: All of Verizon's plans feature unlimited talk and text, and, for the price, a decent allotment of data. If you're on the move frequently and need full-speed tethering, their 5GB plan is a solid option. 

Verizon's plans are an excellent choice if you plan on tethering because speeds aren't slowed when you do it (same with AT&T). That means you can surf or stream on your laptop or tablet at full 4G speed, a rather significant step up from 3G or 2G. 

Also consider: 

For more options, check out WhistleOut comparison tool

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