Nowadays, choosing the best cell phone plan is more complicated than simply hitting up one of the Big Three — and that's a good thing for consumers. There are more options than ever before, and folks are able to personalize their wireless experience by choosing just the right amount of talk, text, and data with a plan that fits with their budget. The key is choosing a plan that works for you and your family's lifestyle, and we've got all of the best options below.
Whether you're an MVNO expert or brand new to prepaid wireless, Visible reigns as one of the best carriers around. Thanks to excellent 5G coverage provided by Verizon, compatibility with most of the best Android phones, and a cheap monthly rate, Visible Plus is our overall favorite phone plan, but don't stop there. Everyone has different needs when it comes to wireless service, so keep reading to find the plan that'll work best for you.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Visible is a prepaid carrier operated by Verizon with two simple plans, both offering unlimited data. The cheaper Visible plan is a bargain at just $30 per month and aligns closely with the old Visible plan we tested in our Visible review. While the base plan will be a great fit for many bargain hunters, the $45 Visible Plus plan is one of the best values on Verizon, thanks to its unthrottled access to C-band 5G. If you're looking to make the most of a new phone, Visible Plus has plenty of performance, even in dense areas.
Visible Plus will deliver higher speeds on average than the basic Visible plan, thanks to coming with 50GB of premium data. This means that Visible Plus will hold up better in densely populated areas better than the base Visible plan or the old Visible plan. The hotspot data is still unlimited though you only get 5Mbps on a single device like before.
Visible has also added some worthwhile international features to this premium plan, starting with calling to 30+ countries and texting to 200+ countries. You also get unlimited talk, text, and data while roaming in Mexico and Canada. If you live near the U.S. border or just travel to Mexico or Canada frequently, Visible Plus can be a great pick to stay connected.
To learn more about this Verizon-owned carrier, take a look at our complete Visible Wireless review.
Mint Mobile Unlimited
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Now owned by T-Mobile, Mint Mobile delivers great network performance on that Big Three carrier's LTE and 5G network. Mint has four basic plans with 4GB, 10GB, 15GB, or unlimited (35GB) of high-speed data. Every Mint Mobile plan comes with unlimited talk and text in the U.S. with free calls to Mexico and Canada. 5G is included for free where available, including Ultra Capacity 5G. On top of that, this plan comes with 5GB of hotspot data to share with your other devices.
While Mint asserts that most people don't need unlimited data, signing up for its unlimited plan is one of the best ways to prove that thanks to a feature called unliMINTed. When it comes time to renew, Mint Mobile will recommend the plan that makes the most sense for you if it turns out you don't use that much data. Mint also gives you another way to save with big discounts available to those willing to buy six or 12 months of service upfront. Best of all, if you're not sure if Mint is a good fit, you can try your first three months for the 12-month rate.
Mint Mobile also allows you to bring the whole family with Mint Family. Mint Family allows one user to manage all of the lines on the account from one place, and you can choose a mix of whatever plans make the most sense. There is no multi-line discount, however.
To learn more about this T-Mobile-owned carrier, check out our Mint Mobile review.
Verizon 5G Play More
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
An unlimited plan with Verizon is never a bad idea, especially when considering its extremely reliable 4G LTE network and its quickly growing 5G network that's now available in most big cities. To accompany its fantastic network, this carrier offers a great selection of unlimited cell phone plans to choose from, though Verizon's Play More plan hits that sweet spot when it comes to meeting data needs at a price that's not outrageous. For a single line, you'll pay $80 per month; for three lines, your bill becomes $165 per month, and for four lines, you'll pay $180 per month. But keep in mind that taxes and fees aren't included.
With this plan, you'll get access to Verizon's entire 5G network (Nationwide and Ultra Wideband including C-band) along with unlimited data. Of that unlimited data, 50GB will be premium, which should be more than enough for you never to witness slower data speeds. Though the hotspot offering isn't quite as generous as Verizon's top-tier unlimited plan, you'll still get a solid 15GB of high-speed data to power another device and comfortably work or be entertained when Wi-Fi isn't an option.
Verizon 5G Play More shines when it comes to entertainment perks and was created with streamers in mind. A Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus subscription comes included with your plan, as does an Apple Music trial for six months and discovery+, Apple Arcade, and Google Play Pass for a year. To top things off, you'll get access to HD streaming for all your shows and movies.
To learn more, check out our guide to the best Verizon deals and plans of the month.
T-Mobile Magenta MAX
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
As the nation's leader in 5G coverage, speed, and reliability, it comes as no surprise that T-Mobile's latest Magenta MAX cell phone plan was made for the 5G generation. It's by far the most lavish T-Mobile plan you can get, and it certainly won't come cheap. A single line on Magenta MAX costs $85 per month, but the third line is free like all other T-Mobile plans. So for three lines, your monthly bill (which includes taxes and fees) will come out to be $141 per month, or $172 per month for four lines.
Magenta MAX's higher price tag is worth it for those who consume heavy amounts of data and want nothing less than the best data speeds possible. Not only does this plan come with unlimited premium data, meaning that data speeds will never be slowed down or deprioritized, but it also offers a very considerate 40GB of hotspot data to keep you connected wherever you go. If you ever manage to use that up, your hotspot will still be unlimited at 3G speeds.
This cell phone plan also comes with several international perks, making it an ideal choice for frequent travelers who would rather not deal with swapping out SIM cards or purchasing an add-on feature. Along with unlimited international texting, you'll also get unlimited data abroad (256Kbps), unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of LTE data (later unlimited at 2G speeds) in Mexico and Canada, and unlimited Gogo in-flight texting and Wi-Fi. This plan also comes with a Netflix subscription included. With one line, you'll get one SD screen on Netflix, but if you happen to have two lines on your account, you'll get two HD screens. And if you're someone who likes streaming on the go, you're in luck because you can do so in 4K UHD.
To learn more, check out our guide to the best T-Mobile cell phone plans.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Tello is a prepaid carrier that operates on the T-Mobile network. While the carrier formerly used Sprint, current activations will be on the new network with improved coverage and speeds. The T-Mobile network also brings 5G data as long as you have a 5G phone. All Tello plans can be manually configured with a combination of data and minutes, though unlimited texting is included with all plans.
The Economy plan is a ready-made plan with 1GB of high-speed data and unlimited minutes. Of course, like any Tello plan, you can customize it with fewer minutes or even more data. Tello also allows for upgrades or downgrades at any time, so if you aren't happy with your first configuration, you're not stuck. Data is available up to 25GB if you need it, and the price is even fairly competitive. Tello also allows you to use as much of your data for tethering (mobile hotspot) as you like.
Tello, unfortunately, does not include any support for international roaming, so you'll need to find another SIM if you intend to travel. Tello does allow free calls to more than 60 countries, making it a great choice for someone that wants to call family or friends abroad; it also allows calling to and texting to many other countries at varying rates. Calls start at less than a cent per minute, but some countries are much more expensive, so make sure your country of choice is supported before signing up. If you're looking for a cheap and simple plan, Tello can be a fantastic value.
To learn more about this affordable carrier, check out our Tello Mobile review.
Google Fi Unlimited Plus
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Google Fi has come to feel like the default carrier for Android enthusiasts, with amazing support for Google's own Pixel line of phones and one of the best international experiences possible. While Google Fi originally only supported a handful of phones, it has expanded with support for nearly any T-Mobile compatible phone, including iPhones.
Google Fi Unlimited Plus comes with unlimited calls, texts, and 50GB of high-speed data. This data can be used either fully on your phone, or as a hotspot. Google Fi also has a data-only SIM that allows you to use your data on another device without creating a hotspot. Keep in mind that videos will only stream in 480p quality most of the time. Fi Unlimited comes with free calls to more than 50 countries and territories.
Google Fi's most impressive feature is the ability to use data and text abroad for free. Data is used the same way in more than 200 supported countries, helping solidify Google Fi as the best carrier for those who need to travel abroad. Calling is not free while abroad, though the rates are reasonably low. For the best results, stick to a VoIP solution like Telegram or Whatsapp to make calls over your data connection. Fi Unlimited also comes with 100GB of cloud storage on the Google One platform, so you can be sure you never lose your important files with your phone. Also, Fi comes with Spam protection for calls and family content controls if you bring your kids along. Like many other carriers, Google Fi offers multi-line discounts for up to four lines with a maximum of six lines on your account.
To learn more, check out our comprehensive Google Fi buyer's guide.
Cricket More Unlimited
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Cricket is owned by AT&T and is one of the best ways to get service on AT&T's massive LTE and 5G network without signing up for an expensive postpaid plan. In the past, Cricket was difficult to recommend due to low data speeds, but Cricket has removed these restrictions and the top Unlimited Cricket More plan has been upgraded with premium data. This makes this plan act a lot more like a postpaid AT&T plan but with a single-line price of just $55 per month. Of course, multi-line discounts take rates even lower with four lines working out to just $25 per line.
Besides unlimited calling, texting, and data usage, Cricket also includes a few extras. HBO Max is included, though it is the ad-supported version, it's still a nice bonus. Cricket also includes 150GB of backup storage for your photos and videos with the myPhotoVault app so if your phone breaks or gets lost, you don't lose your memories. Cricket also includes Call Defense, a feature that can help block scam calls before they even reach your phone. Another interesting Cricket bonus is free usage in Canada and Mexico. As long as you use less than 50% of your data in these countries, you can travel to either without worrying about data.
Cricket's most expensive plan is a great value but if you want to save a little money, you might be able to get by on the Cricket Core plan. This one also comes with unlimited data but not premium data. The hotspot data is also removed. Still, if you live in a rural or low-density area, you may never notice the difference in priority between the plans.
To learn more about Cricket, check out our Cricket Wireless buyer's guide.
How to pick the best cell phone plan
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Believe it or not, there really is no such thing as the best cell phone plan. Instead, you need to focus on choosing a carrier based on your own individual needs. Do you love gaming or streaming on your device, or do you just need something with simple talk and text capabilities? Do you have family overseas? Asking yourself these questions could be a major help when it comes to finding the right plan for you and your family. Other factors come into play as well, so check out our quick guide below for some extra advice.
How much data do you need?
This is tricky because you don't want to risk running out of data, but most of us don't need much more than 4GB. You can get an idea of how much data you use by looking at your prior phone bills or even by keeping track of the data usage section in your phone's settings. Furthermore, you could also take steps to reduce your usage, such as connecting to Wi-Fi whenever you can.
If you find yourself using more than 10GB, you might actually be able to save some money by selecting an unlimited plan. Cheap unlimited plans are typically structured to deprioritize data usage when network congestion is high. This is due to a lack of premium data which aims to keep you connected at top speed as long as you haven't used too much.
Deprioritization looks like your connection drops speed for a short period of time before the network recovers. This isn't ideal for someone that relies on their phone for on-demand high-speed data. However, if you're just browsing social media or messaging with friends, you may never even notice a change.
Do you need a new phone?
The next thing to consider is your phone. If you just bought a new phone and want to keep using it for a few years, you'll want to make sure it works as well as possible on your new network. While phones can be unlocked to use on other carriers once they're paid off, you might not get optimal performance on a different set of towers. This is also true for phones purchased in other markets such as Europe or India. Also, even if your phone supports all of the right bands, you still might run into some activation issues. This is particularly important if you want to use AT&T 5G, which doesn't work properly with OnePlus most of the time.
If you are ready for a new phone and can front the full cost, you can buy one of the best Android phones unlocked and bring it with you, but if you want to pay for it monthly, you have to plan ahead a bit more. You can buy an unlocked phone with payments directly from the manufacturer, such as Samsung, but other options exist. For example, some credit cards will allow you to spread your payments out interest-free as well.
Finally, you can buy a phone from the carrier, but keep in mind that you're on the hook for the full amount if you're paying monthly for it. If you lose or break the phone, you have to finish paying for it. If you're signing up in a carrier store and the salesperson suggests a bundle, be sure to get an itemized invoice with payment durations for each item to know exactly what you're paying for.
If you already have a phone and you know it's unlocked, be sure to check with customer support or use a BYOD compatibility checker on the carrier's website to be sure. If you're taking a bit of a risk with this, familiarize yourself with each carrier's return policy.
Do you need hotspot data?
Most smartphones are capable of sharing their mobile data connections as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This feature is great for getting other devices online, like a tablet or Chromebook. Hotspots can work in one of two ways, with the first sharing your standard mobile data with your other devices. This is nice because you don't have to worry about managing a second data pool, but it will eat into the data you need for phone usage. This is common on the cheapest data plans such as Mint Mobile's 4GB, 10GB, or 15GB plans.
The second way is with dedicated hotspot data. Most unlimited plans will use this approach with unlimited data on your phone but a smaller amount for devices connected through the hotspot. Verizon Wireless, for example, includes 15GB of high-speed hotspot data with its Play More Unlimited plan. Some carriers offer unlimited hotspot data with a significant speed cap. Visible, for instance, offers unlimited hotspot data though you'll only ever see a max of 5Mbps.
Do you need international features?
The last thing to consider with your phone plan is international features. While many postpaid services will include talk and text to some countries, you may need to pay by the minute to call internationally. If you need to call another country frequently, check to make sure it's included or at least cheap.
If you need to travel to another country, things are a bit more limited. Google Fi is a shining example of international roaming support with more than 200 countries included for no extra charge. At least for data use. Some other carriers like Cricket Wireless offer service in Mexico and Canada, while others such as T-Mobile and US Mobile come with at least some international roaming data, though it may be slower than back home.
Pick the plan that fits your needs
There's a lot to keep in mind when you're looking for the perfect plan for your new phone, but if you stay focused on the aspects that are most important to you, there should be plenty of options. It's not possible to eliminate all waste on your phone plan, and you'll likely buy more data than you need, but running out is a lot more of a hassle. For most people, we recommend the new Visible Plus plan, namely because it offers outstanding Verizon coverage with premium carrier perks at an MVNO price.
That being said, no matter which you choose, the plans listed here will cover most people's needs and help you get the most of your device.
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