Whether you're on a strict budget, or just looking to cut down your cell phone bill, there's plenty of affordable talk, text and data options for your smartphone.
If you're tired of over-paying for your cell phone plan, switch to a smaller, prepaid carrier, and you’ll get big coverage at great prices.
Best-Kept Secret in Wireless
Most people don’t know that prepaid carriers use all the infrastructure muscle of the major carriers, so you’ll still get dependable coverage but at a lower cost.
The smaller carriers use all of the major carriers' cellphone towers and technology but charge a fraction of the price. For example, prepaid carrier MetroPCS uses all of T-Mobile's infrastructure, while prepaid Boost Mobile uses Sprint’s.
Switch to prepaid, and the only real difference you’ll notice — aside from a lower price — is when you pay. On a prepaid plan, you pay at the beginning of the month, before receiving your service, and with a postpaid you pay at the month's end, after receiving your service.
The benefits of switching to prepaid:
- No surprise bills: Since you pay for your service upfront, you don’t have to worry about overages or other extra charges sneaking on to your monthly bill.
- No contracts: There's no binding contracts -- switch anytime, pay as you go.
- Families are welcome: Buy in bulk and save. Expect more discounts the more lines you buy.
- No credit check: You don’t need to have good credit to get a great prepaid plan.
Here's our top picks for cheap deals...
Best cheap plans: low data use
The People's Operator
For customers who love texting and chat, but rarely use data, The People's Operator's Unlimited Goodness Kind with AutoPay has you covered. You'll get 1000 talk minutes, unlimited messages, and 500MB of monthly data, plus 10% of your monthly bill is donated to a non-profit of your choice.
Only use data over WiFi? Then Republic Wireless may be right for you. The company's Clear Choice plan includes unlimited talk and text only, so cellular data coverage isn't available. However, you can upgrade to 1GB of monthly 4G LTE data at anytime.
The current king of cheap plans has got to FreedomPop, and it's a great option for anyone who sticks to WiFi data, but still needs talk and text. The company's Unlimited Talk and Text plan gives you unlimited chat and messaging in the US, plus 500MB of data each month, and you'll get your first month of service free.
Best cheap plans: average data use
Not every low-cost plan is low in gigabytes. Our favorite right now has got to be Virgin Mobile's excellent Data Love plan, which includes unlimited talk and text, plus a generous 5GB of 4G LTE data per month. And that's not all: the plan also comes with unlimited 2G data (so no overages!), plus unlimited music streaming from selected services.
This means you can stream non-stop from Spotify, iHeartRadio, Slacker Radio, Pandora, 8tracks, Samsung Milk Music, and Napster, independently from your plan's included fast data.
Sticking with prepaid, AT&T offshoot Cricket Wireless' similar Basic plan gives you unlimited talk and text, plus 4GB of full speed data each month. This plan is also overage-free, with unlimited 2G data once your fast gigabytes are used up each month. You'll also get all plans and taxes included in the monthly pricing.
If you'd like to go cheaper, H20 Wireless is offering 3GB of fast data for under $30 each month with AutoPay. Customers will also receive unlimited national talk and text, plus unlimited mobile calls to Mexico and unlimited international texts, all on AT&T's network.
Best cheap plan: international options
We've mentioned H20 Wireless above, but Tello's Smart Plan comes with included talk to both Canada and Mexico, in addition to unlimited calls and texts nationwide. This plan also includes 1GB of full speed data, unlimited slowed data, and free tethering.
You'll also get unlimited calls to Canada and Mexico with Credo Mobile's Shared Data Plan. This option includes unlimited calls and messaging within the US, although data allowances are low - just 25MB per month. Like The People's Operator, Credo donates a percentage of its revenue to progressive non-profits, but service is run on Verizon's 4G LTE network.
The People's Operator
Speaking of The People's Operator, the company's Unlimited Goodness North America plan with AutoPay includes unlimited calls to US, Mexican and Canadian numbers. You'll also get unlimited text in the US, and 2.5GB of fast data each month.
Ultra Mobile also offers unlimited talk to Mexico and Canada on selected plans, plus unlimited calling to 60 more countries. You'll also get unlimited global texting, and 100MB of data each month - so although it's not great for data lovers, it's an awesome option for frequent international callers. Ultra Mobile is contract-free and runs on the T-Mobile network.
Finally, if you're looking for roaming deals, Google's Project Fi plans include data roaming in over 135 countries at no extra charge, plus unlimited international texting. This plan also includes unlimited calls and texts, and 1GB of worldwide data use - but there are limitations on which devices can be used. Read more about Project Fi here.
Best cheap plans: streaming
We've name-checked it above, but if you're a music lover, Virgin Mobile's Data Love plan is a great find. In addition to 5GB of data, plus unlimited calls and text, you'll get unrated, unlimited streaming from Spotify, Slacker Radio, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Samsung Milk Music, 8tracks and Napster.
Boost Mobile's 2 Gigs plan also features unlimited, data-free streaming from the above seven services, with streams 'optimized' at 500Kbps. This plan also includes unlimited talk and text, unlimited 2G data, and 2GB of 4G LTE each month. All plans are contract-free, and service is provided by Sprint's network.