Best wireless carriers for students 2024

If you're heading back to class soon, it may be a good idea to pair the new year and new you with an entirely new wireless plan. Fortunately, plenty of wireless carriers offer plans that work well with students' hectic and tech-savvy lifestyle, and we've dropped some of our favorites below.

The best wireless carriers for students offer a balance of great coverage nationwide with good old-fashioned bang for the buck, plus it never hurts to get some extra perks out of the deal. Keep reading for a list of our favorite student-friendly phone companies, starting with Visible Wireless, a Verizon-owned wireless carrier that offers unlimited everything for cheap with no contract whatsoever.

At a glance


Best overall

Hands holding phone with Visible logo

(Image credit: Visible)
Best overall

Reasons to buy

+
Unlimited everything
+
No contract
+
Taxes and fees are included
+
Unlimited hotspot data
+
Two affordable plan options

Reasons to avoid

-
De-prioritization is possible when network is busy
-
Fewer supported phones

One of the most important things for a student is a constant and reliable data connection, the kind that works after midnight when you can't figure out how to get back to your dorm. Visible is one of the simplest solutions with a truly unlimited connection on the Verizon network. Nearly every carrier has an unlimited option, but with Visible, there's no credit check and the monthly price stays constant. 

The carrier offers two plans, Visible Basic and Visible Plus for $25 per month and $45 per month, respectively. Both plans come with unlimited talk, text, data, and a free mobile hotspot, but Visible Plus has the added bonus of 50GB of premium network data and some international perks, such as calling to over 30 countries worldwide. 

Visible uses Verizon's LTE and 5G network so you can be confident you'll have some of the best coverage around. Even if it doesn't work out, with no contract, you're free to try another network. Visible allows you to bring your own device, such as an unlocked Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, or iPhone. You can also buy or finance a phone from the website, and there are typically quite a few Visible deals to explore, if you're looking to save money. 

Best in bulk

Mint Mobile logo on a Zenfone 8

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)
Best in bulk

Reasons to buy

+
Save in bulk
+
Unlimited talk and text
+
Hotspot included
+
Buy up to 12 months at once
+
Mint Family allows 12-month rates in 3-month increments

Reasons to avoid

-
Must buy three months
-
Unlimited plan is capped at 40GB

When I was in college, I found that I had far more money at the beginning of the year than at the end. If you have a similar financial situation, it may be worth buying your phone service for the year and not worrying about it while class is in session. Mint Mobile allows you to buy up to 12 months of service at once and you can even save money when you do. You can also buy three or six months of service at a time, but three months is the minimum.

With coverage on T-Mobile's LTE network, you will likely have plenty of coverage with Mint Mobile as well as fast speeds with your LTE data. Although Mint Mobile's unlimited option is capped at 40GB, that's still a decent amount, and more high-speed data can easily be added later on. 

Mint Mobile also allows your data to be used on a hotspot with no speed penalties. This can be a lifesaver if you need to get an assignment done while traveling. With plans starting at 5GB and moving up to 15GB and 20GB, most people can find a Mint Mobile plan that works for them.

Best perks

T-Mobile website on a OnePlus Nord N200

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

3. T-Mobile Prepaid

Best perks

Reasons to buy

+
Fast T-Mobile network with 5G
+
Unlimited talk and text
+
10GB of high-speed data
+
Great phone compatibility
+
Unlimited music streaming

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

T-Mobile Prepaid has a selection of unlimited plans, but if you make clever use of Wi-Fi while at school and at home, you can probably get away with the 10GB option. Besides 10GB of high-speed data, you also get unlimited music streaming. If you always have music playing, you don't need to worry about it eating into your data. Set quality to high and enjoy from the likes of Spotify, TIDAL, and more.

If you use up your 10GB of data, you'll still get data at 2G speeds, which means you'll be able to send and receive messages and use apps like Google Maps (just switch off satellite view). If you use Wi-Fi to download videos ahead of time, 10GB is more than enough to get you through a month. 

T-Mobile itself has some great perks, including features like scam call blocking and full access to its LTE and 5G network. T-Mobile's network is also highly-compatible with unlocked phones so there's a good chance you'll be able to bring the phone you already own to the carrier be it Android or iPhone.

Best custom plans

US Mobile SIM cards

(Image credit: Android Central)
Best custom plans

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap unlimited plans with family savings
+
Works on either the Verizon or T-Mobile network
+
Custom plans available
+
5G including C-band available on Verizon

Reasons to avoid

-
No hotspot data on Unlimited Starter
-
Limited international benefits
-
T-Mobile SIM gets less high-speed data

US Mobile has three unlimited plans and a fully custom plan. The cheaper Unlimited Starter plan comes with 20GB of premium data on Verizon's network. The more expensive Unlimited Essentials plan adds a bit more with 50GB of premium data and 5GB of hotspot data, while the most-expensive Unlimited Premium plan comes with 100GB of premium data and 50 GB of hotspot data. All of US Mobile's unlimited plans come with access to 5G mmWave with C-band.

These unlimited plans start at $25 per line for Unlimited Starter, $30 per month for Unlimited Essentials, and $40 per line for Unlimited Premium with discounts when you add more lines up to four. 

Unlimited Premium also gives you a free subscription when you add three lines, with options such as Netflix, Spotify, or the Disney+/Hulu/ESPN+ package. Most people will be happy with the Unlimited Starter plan but if you need the hotspot data, Unlimited Premium is one of the cheapest plans with 50GB. If you just want enough minutes and data to get by, you can also save some extra cash by creating your own custom plan. 

Best for AT&T coverage

Cricket Coverage Map S20+

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

5. Cricket Wireless

Best for AT&T coverage

Reasons to buy

+
AT&T coverage
+
Cheap plans
+
No contract, and taxes and fees included
+
Max subscription included with Unlimited plan
+
Free cloud storage

Reasons to avoid

-
De-prioritization can be an issue
-
Limited perks

Cricket Wireless is a prepaid carrier owned by AT&T, and as such, it uses this network exclusively. Even so, Cricket has some solid plans that make a lot of sense for those looking to save. You can start with 5GB of high-speed data for $30 per month if you just need a small amount of data. Moving up, there's a 10GB option for $35 per month with autopay. However, the two most interesting plans for college students are the Unlimited and the Unlimited + 15GB Mobile Hotspot Data plan.

Unlimited has unlimited data with a lower priority than AT&T's postpaid plans, but the $55 price tag makes it a great fit for a heavy data user on a budget. For $5 more, you can upgrade to premium data and add 15GB of hotspot data. You also get Max with ads included.

Cricket's prices aren't the lowest but if you are looking for a cheaper way to get unlimited data on the AT&T network, it's worth considering. If you have multiple lines, you can also save with discounts on up to five lines. While the AT&T network isn't the fastest, it has consistent rural coverage in many areas with better phone compatibility than Verizon.

How to choose

Pick the right plan for your needs

Why you can trust Android Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

There are more options than ever for great values on wireless carriers for students. It's always a great idea to check each college for discounts on services like this since some schools form partnerships with specific carriers. With special discounts, it can be possible to save even more money. You can also save some money by going with a cheap but good Android phone.

Most colleges also build a fairly robust Wi-Fi system for students covering local public areas and sometimes even buses. Making good use of Wi-Fi can be a great way to save money and even improve connection speeds. If you are looking to use a lot of public Wi-Fi, consider using a VPN service to protect your privacy.

In the end, Visible provides a great solution for anyone that needs a lot out of their phone service. An unlimited, though slowed, Wi-Fi hotspot is a great way to keep connected to your online storage, and can be worth a lot of friendship points during group projects. All of this easily makes Visible one of the best carriers for students.

Patrick Farmer
eCommerce Editor

After almost a decade of working in the e-commerce space, Patrick Farmer (he/him) began his career at Android Central as a Deals and Commerce Writer before moving into a new role as AC's eCommerce Editor in 2023. When he's not hunting down the best deals and offering shopping advice for our readers, you'll often find him listening to music, camping out at a brewery, or treating his cat like a human child.