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Best cheap cell phone plans 2022

Visible SIM card next to Pixel 3a
Visible SIM card next to Pixel 3a (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

There are a lot of things to consider when looking for the best cheap phone plans in 2021, whether you need a ton of data or just enough to get by when you're away from Wi-Fi. Two of the most important considerations are coverage and phone compatibility. Mint Mobile's 4GB plan is the best of both worlds, offering great coverage with 5G support and just enough data to get you by with a little discipline. These are some of the best cheap phone plans to ensure you stay connected while paying for only what you need.

Mint Mobile Speed Test

Source: Samuel Contreras / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Best overall: Mint Mobile 4GB

Mint Mobile

Just enough data on a big network

Multi-month savings
Hotspot enabled
Great T-Mobile coverage with 5G
Unlimited calling and texting
Must buy at least three months
No physical stores

T-Mobile's network is home to some of the best cheap phone plans in the industry, and Mint Mobile takes things a step further with great discounts for those who are willing to pay a little more upfront. Mint Mobile comes with unlimited calling and texting in the U.S., and mobile hotspot is enabled if you need it. With the 4GB plan coming in at a low $15 per month when you buy 12 months, it's hard to find a much better value.

While the total cost of $180 for a year will sting once, it can be a great way to take advantage of times when you have a little extra cash on hand, such as getting a tax refund. Plus, it's nice not thinking about your phone bill for a year. Though you can always sign up for a shorter duration, with a six-month plan coming in at $20 per month and three months at $25 per month. With Mint, you start with three months at the $15 per month price and can then renew for whatever length you feel comfortable with.

Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile's growing network with coverage that's always improving especially if you have one of the best Android phones with 5G like the Samsung Galaxy S21, which supports both of T-Mobile's sub-6 5G bands. Fortunately, 5G is included with Mint Mobile for free no matter which plan you pick.

T-Mobile 5G network on the OnePlus 7T Pro

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Best value: T-Mobile Connect with 2.5GB

T-Mobile Connect with 2.5GB

Data that grows with you

Large T-Mobile network
Data amount grows with time
No overages
Hotspot included (as long as you have data)
Scam-blocking included
No unlimited data (data capped)
No international service

T-Mobile Connect is the cheapest of T-Mobile's first-party prepaid plans. It comes with unlimited talk and text with 2.5GB of high-speed data. Not only that, the plan grows every year by 500MB until 2025, meaning it grows with you. At $15 per month, this is easily one of the best ways to get solid phone service with no risk of overage and no minimum term requirements. A mobile hotspot is even supported as long as you have data. T-Mobile's new scam-blocking protection is present to reduce scam calls as well.

However, this service wouldn't be a good fit for heavy data use. It doesn't have unlimited music streaming or even international calling; it's made for people who want to get online quickly and cheaply, and for that, it's hard to do better. It's also worth remembering that you're covered by the entire T-Mobile network, which is consistently turning in some of the country's best speed and coverage results.

US Mobile website

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Best custom plan: US Mobile

US Mobile

Create your own plan and save

Create your own plan to save
Unlimited plans are available
Verizon and T-Mobile networks supported
Streaming perks with multiple lines
Actually still sells a flip phone
International roaming available
No physical stores

US Mobile can be very cheap if you are a light user. Unlike other carriers, each customer is allowed to pick among a few simple plans or put together exactly what they need and nothing more. You can check your current phone bill to see your usage so you can pick the right plan and minimize waste. US Mobile also has a totally unlimited plan starting at $45 for one line, with discounts factored in when you add more lines. For an additional $10, you can add on 20GB of hotspot data.

With service on either the Verizon or T-Mobile network, there's an excellent chance you'll be covered by US Mobile's network. If you bring three or four lines, you get to choose from a list of services to get for free like Disney+, Apple TV, or even PS Plus. If you were already paying, this is a great way to save some money.

If you build your plan right and make great use of Wi-Fi networks for data, you can create a very cheap plan. It's also worth noting that US Mobile is one of the few companies to still sell a flip phone. And if you travel abroad frequently, it's useful to know that US Mobile offers unlimited plan customers up to 10GB of high-speed roaming in select countries.

Visible logo with a smartphone

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Best unlimited: Visible

Visible

Affordable without limits, domestically

Unlimited talk, text, and LTE data in the U.S.
Massive Verizon LTE network
Save with Party Pay
Unlimited hotspot
No 3G or roaming network
Fewer supported phones

Visible easily has the best cheap phone plan with unlimited data. For $40 per month, you get unlimited talk, text, and LTE data on the Verizon Wireless network with no contract. While Verizon-based MVNOs aren't going to get top priority on the network, in most places, there's plenty of capacity to keep you going more than fast enough. On top of that, mobile hotspot data is enabled at 5Mbps, and it's also unlimited.

One thing to consider with Visible is that it only uses the Verizon LTE network. That means no roaming, international or local, and no 3G if LTE lets you down. This will be fine for the most part, but make sure you're covered on Visible's coverage map even if you have awesome Verizon coverage. 5G coverage is included, though you'll need a 5G-capable phone.

One of Visible's best features is Party Pay, which lets you join a party for free, and if your party has at least four people, your bill comes down to just $25 per month. You can even join a party from the community page on Visible's website. Keep in mind that Visible also has a much smaller list of supported phones than most MVNOs, but it has most of the big names, including most newer iPhones and the Galaxy S21 series.

Walmart

Source: Walmart (Image credit: Source: Walmart)

Best family plan: Walmart Family Mobile 40GB

Walmart Family Mobile 40GB

Add lines to any plan for $25

Great T-Mobile network with 5G
Great multi-line savings
Works with most unlocked phones
Unlimited talk and text
Find it in a Walmart store
Single line prices aren't anything special
Only one network to choose from
No overages if you use up data

Walmart Family Mobile is yet another T-Mobile-based prepaid carrier and is one of the best cheap phone plans for a family. With it, you get 5G connectivity and a ton of unlocked phone options. Plans come in 2GB, 5GB, 40GB, and unlimited sizes. While many people will be able to get by on the smaller plans without issue, you can't mix and match, so you can pick a plan that will work for everyone.

The best part of Walmart Family Mobile is that each additional line is only $25 no matter the base plan you start with. Of course, the biggest savings will come from the unlimited plan with several lines, but most people will be OK getting by on 5GB. Unfortunately, if you or a family member uses up the data, there are no overages, and they stay connected at 2G speeds. This is enough for emails and messaging apps but not much more.

Tello website on a Galaxy S8

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Best for basic phones: Tello

Tello

Exactly what you need and nothing more

Unlimited talk and text
Custom data plans
Call 60+ international countries free
Works with most phones
Can buy a basic flip phone!
A bit expensive for data users
Only 25GB of high-speed data on the unlimited plan

Tello's custom plans make it one of the best options for light users. If you need no data at all, you can get unlimited talk and text on the T-Mobile network for just $8 per month. Tello also lets call 60+ countries for free, making it a great option for those wanting to keep in contact with friends and family. If Grandma wants to call her friends back home in one of these countries, there's not a much cheaper or easier way to get it done.

Tello's plans are fully custom, meaning that you can add data as needed, including an unlimited option with up to 25GB of high-speed data. Hotspot is included on data plans as well. Tello also lets you upgrade or downgrade your plan at any time, so you don't need to sweat about over or underbuying when you build your plan. Still, it's worth taking a peek at your last bill to get an idea of your typical usage.

Tello is also one of the remaining carriers to still stock a flip phone on its website.

Galaxy S20 Ultra

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Best postpaid plan: T-Mobile Magenta

T-Mobile Magenta

Postpaid benefits with multi-line savings

Priority data on the T-Mobile network with 5G
5GB of high-speed mobile hotspot then unlimited 3G speed
Netflix included with two or more lines
Scam-blocking
Taxes and fees included
Expensive without multi-line discounts

T-Mobile's Magenta plan is by far the most expensive on the list, starting at $70 per month with one line. It's also one of the best cell phone plans available today. If you happen to have a few lines to connect, there are some savings you can take advantage of. Also, when you add a second line, Netflix is included for free. It's only SD Netflix on one screen, the basic package, but it's a great addition. To watch your videos, you get prioritized LTE or 5G data with a 5GB high-speed mobile hotspot. The hotspot even has unlimited data at 3G speeds, which can be a lifesaver if you work online and your internet connection goes out.

Magenta is a postpaid plan meaning you have to sign up with T-Mobile proper with a credit check and a billing address. Still, you get access to T-Mobile stores for technical support as well as phone and accessory sales. You can also pay in cash at a store if you please.

You get unlimited international texting and data with 5GB of LTE data in Mexico and Canada before dropping to 2G speeds. If you travel a lot, this is a great benefit, and one hour of in-flight Gogo Wi-Fi will make the trip there nicer.

Bottom line

Thanks to increased competition and constantly improving cell networks, finding the best cheap phone plan is easier than ever. Especially when paired with a cheap unlocked phone. Whether you need a ton of data or just something basic, an MVNO is available for you. If you want the benefits of a postpaid plan, you can still save a lot with multiple lines, and with multi-line discounts, the price becomes even more reasonable.

When it comes down to it, most people will be able to get by with a few gigs of data on a prepaid MVNO plan. At the end of the day, the most important thing is coverage, and with T-Mobile's growing network, most people will have no trouble with signal strength. Mint Mobile gets the balance of data and savings pretty close to perfect with solid data packages and savings if you can pay more upfront.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author:

Samuel Contreras When Samuel is not writing about networking and carriers, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.

When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.