Visible SIM card next to Pixel 3aSource: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

If you want to save money on your phone plan, there are more options than ever from new ways to save on the major carriers or going with an MVNO. MVNOs (mobiåle virtual network operators) or alternative carriers, lease coverage from the larger networks and resell it for less.

That being said, depending on your usage and needs, a plan from one of the Big Three might be your least expensive option.

Before choosing a plan

Before you choose a carrier and/or a wireless plan, first determine your needs and usage habits. If this is your first smartphone, I'd like to first welcome you to the 21st Century and secondly encourage you to try out your options without getting yourself into any yearly or multi-year contracts.

If this ain't your first rodeo, then reflect on your phone habits from the past. How much data have you actually used in an average month? Do you really need an unlimited plan or are you actually on Wi-Fi more than you realize? Could you benefit from an international plan of sorts?

Take time to analyze your usage and then choose the plan that best fits those needs. Most carriers are more concerned with making you overbuy by convincing you that you need unlimited everything when the fact is that 90% of Americans don't.

Don't let carriers dictate what they think you need, because it will almost always be much more than what's necessary. Figure out what you need and make carriers work for you.

Plans

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You could opt for the cheapest data plan there is, but if you end up using more than what's allotted, you could pay far more in overages when you could've just picked the right plan for you. See if these options fit your usage habits.

You don't need much

Screen showing data usageSource: Android Central

Many Americans use significantly less data than they think. If you've realized that you're using less than 2GB of data per month, then these are the best cheap plans for you:

T-Mobile Connect: T-Mobile Connect is the newest low-priced prepaid plan from T-Mobile that starts at 2GB. This plan also features an increasing data cap on the anniversary of the plan's launch adding 500MB per year. This is one of the only plans that can grow with its customers' increased usage.

  • Cheapest plan: $15/month
  • What's included: 2GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, tethering, visual voicemail, Wi-Fi calling

Mint Mobile: Mint Mobile is an MVNO that leases coverage from T-Mobile. You don't sign up for a contract, but you pay in advance for 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months, saving you more money the longer the term. Read our review for more.

  • Cheapest plan: $15/month for the first 3 months ($45 upfront)
  • Renewal: $25/month for 3 months, $20/month for 6 months, or $15/month for 12 months
  • What's included: 3GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, tethering

Cricket Wireless: Cricket is owned by AT&T and operates on the AT&T network. You pay monthly for Cricket, with no fixed contract.

  • Cheapest plan: $15/month
  • What's included: 2GB 4G LTE at 8Mbps, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data

Republic Wireless: Republic operates on the T-Mobile network. No fixed contract required. It encourages users to spend time on Wi-Fi by making it easy to automatically connect to many hotspots around the country.

  • Cheapest plan: $20/month
  • What's included: 1GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, tethering

Google Fi: Google Fi is owned by Google and operates on the T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular networks. Google Fi's most interesting feature is the refund you get for data you pay for but don't use.

  • Cheapest plan: $30/month + $10/GB of data used
  • What's included: 1GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, unlimited international texting, tethering, data-only SIM, international roaming
  • Data is free after 6GB

Boost Mobile: Boost is owned by Dish and operates on the new T-Mobile network while Dish builds its own 5G network. You just pay month to month, with no contract necessary.

  • Cheapest plan: $35/month
  • What's included: 3GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, unlimited music streaming from select services (may require monthly subscription), tethering

You use an average amount of data

The average American uses around 4GB of data per month. If you've noticed this trend for yourself, then consider these your cheapest options:

Mint Mobile: Mint Mobile is owned by Ultra Mobile and operates on the T-Mobile network. You pay upfront for 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months. The longer your term, the more money you save.

  • Cheapest 4GB+ plan: $20/month for the first 3 months ($60 upfront)
  • Renewal: $35/month for 3 months, $25/month for 6 months, or $20/month for 12 months
  • What's included: 8GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, tethering

US Mobile: US Mobile can use either the Verizon or T-Mobile networks. With a flexible plan structure, you can choose unlimited talk and text with 5GB of data for $30 per month. If you don't need unlimited minutes and texts, you can save even more.

  • Cheapest 4GB+ plan: $30/month
  • What's included: 5GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, choice of either Verizon or T-Mobile network.

Simple Mobile: Simple Mobile is owned by TracFone Wireless and operates on the T-Mobile network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest 4GB+ plan: $28.50/month ($30 without Auto Re-Up)
  • What's included: 5GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, tethering, unlimited international calling to 69 countries, unlimited international text, data roaming in Mexico

Metro by T-Mobile: Metro is owned by T-Mobile and operates on the T-Mobile network. Its cheapest monthly plan includes all taxes and regulatory fees and requires no contract.

  • Cheapest 4GB+ plan: $40/month
  • What's included: 10GB 4G LTE data, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, tethering, visual voicemail, Wi-Fi calling, Music Unlimited

You're a data hog!

Visible speed testSource: Android Central

If you're one of the few people that use more than 10GB of data per month, then you'll probably want to go with an "unlimited" plan from one carrier or another. These plans will usually give you 4G LTE up to around 20GB per month, and if you're going over that, then you deserve a medal.

Not that it's a big deal since instead of cutting your data off, most of these carriers will either slow your speed or deprioritize your connection. The latter simply slows your connection compared to other users of a tower if congestion is high. Many people won't even notice a difference.

Visible: Visible operates on Verizon's LTE network with no contracts and only one simple plan.

  • Cheapest unlimited plan: $40/month
  • What's included: Unlimited data, talk, text, and hotspot (5Mbps), data may be deprioritized compared to other traffic during heavy congestion.

Metro by T- Mobile: Metro is owned by T-Mobile and operates on its network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest unlimited plan: $50/month
  • What's included: 35GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, 5GB of tethering, 100GB of Google One cloud storage, unlimited music streaming (may require monthly subscription), voicemail, visual voicemail, Wi-Fi calling

Boost Mobile: Boost is owned by Dish and operates on the new T-Mobile network while Dish builds its own 5G network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest unlimited plan: $50/month
  • What's included: unlimited talk, text, and data, 12GB of tethering, SD video streaming

Cricket Wireless: Cricket is owned by and operates on AT&T's network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest unlimited plan: $55/month (with AutoPay)
  • What's included: 22GB 4G LTE at 3Mbps, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, unlimited international texting, roaming in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (50% of usage must be in the U.S. for roaming in Canada)
  • Remove the speed limit and add 15GB of hotspot data for $5 more

T-Mobile: T-Mobile is about as close to truly unlimited data as it gets, with a massive 50GB prioritization point. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest unlimited plan: $60/month
  • What's included: 50GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, Music Unlimited, tethering unlimited 3G speeds, SD video streaming, 2G data in Mexico and Canada

Family savings

You can often save money on your monthly phone plan by entering into family plans with various carriers. Depending on your needs, there are plenty of options. You'll usually pay full price for the first line but receive a discount on subsequent lines. Not every carrier offers family/multi-line plans. Here are the cheapest around:

T-Mobile: T-Mobile's single-line Essential plan isn't necessarily cheap, but if you have 4 lines, you end up saving $30/month per line.

  • Cheapest unlimited plan: $26/month/line for 4 lines ($60 for 1 line, $45/line for 2 lines, $35/line for 3 lines)
  • What's included: 50GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, tethering (unlimited 3G speeds)

Visible: Visible optrates one Verizon's LTE network with a simple plan offering unlimited talk, text, and data in the United States.

  • Cheapest multi-line plan: $25/month/line for 4 lines ($40 for 1 line, $35/line for 2 lines, $30/line for 3 lines)
  • Each number has its own account and bill
  • What's included: Unlimited 4G LTE, talk, and text, unlimited hotspot at 5Mbps

Metro by T-Mobile: Metro is owned by T-Mobile and operates on its network. No fixed contract required.

  • $120 for 4 lines on the top unlimited plan with 15GB hotspot data and Amazon Prime
  • $50 for 1 line, $80 for 2 lines, and $110 for 3 lines on the base unlimited plan
  • What's included: 35GB 4G LTE data/line/month, unlimited talk, text, 2G data, visual voicemail, Wi-Fi calling, 5GB hotspot data, and 100GB on Google One.

Boost Mobile: Boost is owned by Dish and operates on the new T-Mobile network while Dish builds its own 5G network. No fixed contract required. Boost currently has an offer for four lines with unlimited talk, text, and data plus 30GB of hotspot data for $120.

  • Cheapest family plan: $30/month/line for 4 lines
  • What's included: Unlimited talk, text, LTE data, 30GB of mobile hotspot, HD video streaming

Sprint: Sprint has some of the best postpaid values out there and for a promotional period, you can get multiple lines on Sprint's Unlimited Basic plan for $100. Whether you need two or 5 lines, the cost of the plan is $100 total.

  • Cheapest family plan: $100 total (2-5 lines)
  • What's included: 50GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, data, 5GB of 4G roaming in Mexico and Canada, 500MB of hotspot data.

International options

Google FI WebsiteSource: Android Central

If you often travel internationally or you have family abroad, then you'll want a carrier with a good international calling plan for cheap.

Google Fi: Owned by Google and operates on the T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular networks. You can use your Google Fi data in 200+ countries just like you would at home. Unlimited texting is also included, but international calling is subject to various fees.

  • Cheapest international plan: $30/month + $10/GB of data used
  • What's included: 1GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, unlimited international texting
  • Data is free after 6GB
  • An unlimited data plan is available (22GB)

Boost Mobile: Boost is owned by Dish and operates on the new T-Mobile network while Dish builds its own 5G network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest international plan: $35/month plus $5/month for Todo Mexico Plus or $10/month for International Connect Plus
  • What's included: Todo Mexico Plus gets you unlimited calling to and from all of Mexico, unlimited calls to Canada, unlimited international SMS (text) messaging, 8GB roaming data for Mexico. International Connect Plus gets you all of the above plus MMS messaging, unlimited calls to landlines in over 70 countries, 200 minutes to select mobiles lines in over 50 countries, and reduced per-minute rates to over 200 destinations.

Unlocked Android

Moto G Power

Unlocked and compatible with most carriers

The Moto G Power has a huge 5000mAh battery while offering support for most networks. It's a great phone to try out a new carrier.

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