The days of being locked into a lengthy wireless contract are over, as there is a plethora of prepaid options that allow you to pay for your phone service on a month-to-month basis. We've taken the liberty of breaking down the top prepaid wireless options for you in this handy guide.

Check your coverage

One of the first things you should consider when deciding on a prepaid carrier is the coverage provided in your area. Prepaid carriers often have a smaller coverage map than postpaid carriers because of their limited roaming agreements, so it's good to re-check your area, even if you've used the carrier before. Click through to find out if you're covered and to see the plans that make these carriers unique.

Metro by T-Mobile

Check your coverage

Metro uses T-Mobile's HSPA+ and LTE network, as it is owned entirely by the larger carrier. You have the option to purchase a phone through Metro, or bring your own device that's compatible with the T-Mobile network.

Price

Plan pricing is based on how much high-speed data (LTE) you think you'll use on a monthly basis. There are no annual contracts, and taxes and fees are included in the price.

  • 2GB of high-speed data — $30/month
  • 10GB of high-speed data — $40/month
  • Unlimited LTE + 5GB hotspot — $50/month
  • Unlimited LTE + 15GB hotspot — $60/month

All plans come with unlimited talk, text, data, Wi-Fi calling, caller ID, call waiting, 3-way calling, and Data Maximizer, a feature that helps optimize your high-speed data usage when streaming videos.

The unlimited data plans also include a free Google One membership, which includes 100GB of cloud storage on Google Drive, and the $60 plan even throws in an Amazon Prime membership. That's a $12.99/month value.

In addition, Metro includes taxes and fees in its pricing, meaning the sticker price is exactly what you'll pay each month — a carryover from T-Mobile and a first for the prepaid industry.

How to reload

Log into the Metro website to make a payment or set up Auto Pay. You also have the option to pay in person at a Metro store.

Big on data

Metro by T-Mobile

Cloud storage and the data to use it

Metro by T-Mobile grants you access to T-Mobile's constantly improving and already vast LTE network. Get the service and speed of T-Mobile without the commitment or hassle of postpaid service.

AT&T Prepaid

Check your coverage

AT&T's prepaid option lets you choose from a selection of phones specifically for their prepaid plans, or you can purchase a prepaid SIM card kit if you'd prefer to bring your own device.

Price

AT&T prepaid plans include unlimited talk and text in the U.S., as well as unlimited messaging to Mexico, Canada, and over 100 countries. For data, AT&T offers several types of prepaid plans:

  • Pay-as-you-go ($5 per 250MB) LTE data — $30/month
  • 1GB of LTE, with rollover data — $35/month
  • 8GB of LTE, with rollover data — $50/month
  • Unlimited LTE data — $65/month
  • Unlimited LTE + 10GB hotspot — $85/month

The 8GB and unlimited LTE plans also include unlimited talk and text within and between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and allow you to use your high-speed data allotment from your plan when in Mexico or Canada. You can also save $5 per month on any plan by signing up for Auto Refill.

You can also pay $2 per day for unlimited nationwide talk and text or pay $0.25 per minute and $0.20 per text message. Data is available at $2 per MB (based on their stated $0.01 per 5KB rate), or you can add on a data package that gives you 100MB for an extra $1 a day.

How to reload

Pay online via myAT&T using a credit/debit card or eCheck, buy a Refill card (available online, at AT&T wireless stores, and at more than 200,000 retail locations), or call 611 anytime from your phone (or 1-800-901-9878) and follow the prompts for Refill.

International texting

AT&T Prepaid

One of the best LTE networks

AT&T has one of the strongest and most complete LTE networks nationswide. You can get prepaid access to that network with competitive pricing straight from the source with AT&T prepaid.

Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile

Check your coverage

Boost Mobile uses Sprint's nationwide LTE network. You have the option of buying a phone through Boost or bringing your own Sprint-compatible device.

Price

Boost Mobile offers four types of monthly prepaid phone plans featuring LTE high-speed data. Once your plan's data allotment has been reached, speeds are reduced to 2G for the remainder of the plan cycle.

  • 3GB of LTE + hotspot — $35/month
  • Unlimited LTE + 8GB hotspot — $50/month
  • Unlimited LTE + 20GB hotspot — $60/month
  • Unlimited LTE + 40GB hotspot — $80/month

Boost's unlimited plans come in different tiers; the $50 plan reduces media streaming quality with unlimited LTE everywhere else, whereas the $60 and $80 plans offer up to 1080p streaming. The Ultimate Unlimited plan included for $80 also includes bonuses like TIDAL Premium and international calling and texting.

All plans come with unlimited domestic talk and text (available even if you haven't paid for up to 60 days), unlimited music streaming with select music partners, call waiting, voicemail, 3-way calling, as well as the ability to turn your phone into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

How to reload

Pay online via My Account on the Boost Mobile site or sign up for Auto Re-Boost. Pay by phone by dialing #-A-D-D (#-2-3-3) and following the prompts to pay with your credit, debit, or Re-Boost card, text ADD and the pin on the back of your Re-Boost card to 7225 (ex. ADD 12345678912345), or text "PAY," the dollar amount, and the last four digits of the credit or debit card associated with the account to 7225 (ex. PAY 50 1234).

Alternatively, you can pay in-store at any Boost Mobile location.

The data hogs

Boost Mobile

A tong of data on the Sprint network

Sprint has one of the most improved networks in recent years. Try out this LTE network with Boost and stick around for the large amounts of data for a great price. Add TODO Mexico for a great plan to stay connected to family in Mexico or Canada.

T-Mobile Prepaid

T-Mobile Prepaid

Check your coverage

T-Mobile's prepaid service gives you access to T-Mobile's nationwide network without signing up for an annual contract. You have the option to buy a prepaid T-Mobile phone, or bring your own device for only the cost of the SIM card.

Price

T-Mobile offers prepaid plans for individuals and families, as well as a pay-as-you-go option.

Individual plans include:

  • 10GB of LTE + hotspot — $40/month
  • Unlimited LTE + unlimited 3G hotspot — $50/month
  • add 5GB data in Mexico and Canada — $5/month

All plans include unlimited talk, text, and data on T-Mobile's nationwide LTE network, with data speeds slowed to 2G upon reaching your monthly data allotment.

If you'd rather pay as you go, T-Mobile has partnered with Ultra Mobile to offer a plan that starts at $3/month for any combination of 30 minutes of talk or 30 texts, with options to add a high-speed data pass with daily ($5/day for up to 500MB of LTE data) and weekly ($10/week for up to 1GB of LTE data).

How to reload

To reload your account online, go to T-Mobile's website, either through one-time payments or by setting up recurring payments. You can also call -A-D-D (-2-3-3) from your T-Mobile phone to reload your account via credit, checking account or T-Mobile Refill card. Refill cards are available to be purchased online or in-store at a T-Mobile location.

Big on data

T-Mobile Prepaid

A big network with a lot of data

Get prepaid access to T-Mobile's network straight from the source with T-Mobile Prepaid. This is a good choice for heavy data users with a strong conneciton to the T-Mobile network.

Mint Mobile

Check your coverage

Mint Mobile is a T-Mobile subsidiary owned by Ultra that sells its plans in multi-month bundles. You can buy a phone from Mint or bring your own T-Mobile-compatible or unlocked GSM phone.

Price

All of Mint's plans include a 7-day money back guarantee, along with unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, international calls to Mexico and Canada, and mobile hotspot.

  • 3GB of LTE per month — $45/3 months
  • 8GB of LTE per month — $60/3 months
  • 12GB of LTE per month — $75/3 months
  • 3GB of LTE per month — $108/6 months
  • 8GB of LTE per month — $144/6 months
  • 12GB of LTE per month — $180/6 months
  • 3GB of LTE per month — $180/12 months
  • 8GB of LTE per month — $240/12 months
  • 12GB of LTE per month — $300/12 months

If you try out one of the 3 month plans and decide to stick with Mint, you can retain the introductory pricing by buying a whole year at a time — otherwise, there's a slight price increase.

How to reload

Sign into your Mint Mobile account online or download the Mint app on Android or iOS to renew your plan manually or set up automatic re-ups.

Bundle to save

Mint Mobile

Pay more upfront to save more

Mint Mobile is willing ot reward you for your commitment offering discounted plans when you pay for three, six or twelve months at once. You can even get up to 12GB of high speed data per month alongside unlimited talk and text.

Republic Wireless

Check your coverage

Republic Wireless is an MVNO that uses WiFi calling by default but also utilizes both the T-Mobile and Sprint networks. You can purchase a phone from Republic or bring your own phone, provided that it's unlocked and GSM-compatible.

Price

Republic has some of the simplest pricing around — in fact, there's just one plan. You pay only for the data you need, maxing out at 15GB a month, and of course you can increase your data plan mid-cycle if necessary. Save money by paying for 1GB or 2GB of data up front for $5 more per 1GB.

  • Unlimited talk and text — $15/month + $5 per GB

Republic's plan includes mobile hotspot, WiFi calling, and free domestic roaming. There's no international calling, but you can call back to the U.S., Canada, or "per call countries" (which may cost up to $0.50 per minute) from anywhere in the world over WiFi.

Should you exhaust your data allotment for the month, Republic doesn't fall back to unlimited 2G; you'll need to pay for more data.

How to reload

You can pay your phone bill online by visiting the My Account portal, or on your phone with the Republic Wireless app for Android.

For lighter users

Republic Wireless

Simple plans for traditional phone usage

Start low with unlimited talk and text and add data as you need it. At $5 per 1GB of data, this is a great plan for someone that doesn't need the internet all that much or has plenty of access to Wi-Fi for data.

Consumer Cellular

Check your coverage

Consumer Cellular operates off of T-Mobile and AT&T's towers, and focuses on retirees — it offers a 5% discount on monthly services for AARP members, as well as other benefits including 30% off on accessories and an extended risk-free return policy.

Price

Consumer Cellular sells popular devices, including the iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9, or if you prefer you can bring your own phone, as well.

  • 250 minutes for talk and text — $15/month
  • Unlimited minutes$20/month
  • 250MB of data — $5/month
  • 2GB of data — $10/month
  • 5GB of data — $20/month
  • 10GB of data — $30/month
  • 20GB of data — $40/month

If you go over your minutes or data plan, you'll automatically be upgraded to the next level plan, and you can switch back to the lower tier the following month. Once you exceed the highest 10GB data plan, you'll be charged an additional $5 per gigabyte until you reach 18GB, at which point your data will be suspended until your next billing cycle.

All of Consumer Cellular's plans include caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting, 3-way conference calling, voicemail, and international calling at no extra charge — though there's no mobile hotspot feature.

How to reload

You can log into Consumer Cellular's site to pay your bill online or set up Autopay.

Customer service focused

Consumer Cellular

Something for nearly everyone

With data plans as big as 20GB and plans starting with just talk and text, this can be a great plan for someone that doesn't need their phone all that much as well as a heavier user. Consumer Cellular can get the whole family covered.

Straight Talk

Straight Talk Mobile

Check your coverage

Straight Talk is a prepaid carrier that doesn't rely on just one wireless network to provide services to it's customers. It purchases the right to use other the towers of the four major carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint.

Straight Talk offers prepaid phones for purchase, and also lets you bring your own device. But just because it offers service from four carriers, that doesn't mean you get access to all four at the same time — you get to choose between T-Mobile or AT&T if you bring your own phone, or Straight Talk may choose the right carrier based on your location when you buy a phone from it.

Price

Straight Talk has five tiers of wireless plans available for your smartphone starting as low as a dollar a day, as well as extended plans up to a one-year unlimited plan for $495.

  • 100MB of data, 1500 minutes of nationwide talk, unlimited texting — $30/month
  • 3GB of LTE, unlimited talk and text — $35/month
  • 25GB of LTE, unlimited talk and text — $45/month
  • Unlimited LTE data — $55/month
  • 10GB of LTE + international talk and text — $60/month
  • 3-Month Extended Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and data (25GB of high-speed data) for 90 days — $130
  • 6-Month Extended Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and data (25GB of high-speed data) for 180 days — $255
  • 12-Month Extended Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and data (25GB of high-speed data) for 365 days — $495

How to reload

Go to the Straight Talk site to reload your account via service card, setting up recurring automatic payments, or downloading the Straight Talk My Account app for Android or iOS.

Big data offerings

Straight Talk

100MB up to unlimited

Something for nearly everyone with plans as low as 100MB and up to unlimited. Save even more by paying for 12 months in advance with the 25GB plan.

Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless

Check your coverage

After being acquired by AT&T, Cricket Wireless has supported devices that use AT&T's HSPA+ and LTE network. You can purchase a phone from Cricket, or BYOD.

Price

Cricket Wireless offers five plan levels, from talk and text to unlimited data.

  • Talk & Text: Unlimited nationwide talk and text — $25/month
  • 2GB of LTE, unlimited talk and text — $30/month
  • 5GB of LTE, unlimited talk and text — $40/month
  • Unlimited data at up to 3Mbps — $55/month
  • Unlimited LTE data — $60/month

Any plans starting at $40 are eligible for a Group Save Discount when you add additional lines to your account. Save $10 when adding a second line, $20 off your third line, $30 off your fourth line, and $40 off your fifth line for a total eligible savings of $100.

Receive a $5 credit on your monthly bill by signing up for Auto Pay (not available with the Group Save Discount).

Cricket's unlimited data plans include unlimited texts to 37 countries, as well as unlimited calls, texts, and data to and from Canada and Mexico — though Canada usage can't exceed 50% of your overall usage for the month.

There's also a bunch of add-on features available for each plan.

How to reload

Log in to My Account on the Cricket Wireless site to pay your bill or sign up for Auto Pay, or download the My Cricket app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

AT&T for less

Cricket Wireless

Access to the AT&T network for less

Cricket Wireless is a great option for someone that uses less data than average. Starting at a 2GB data plan, this can be great for someone that uses only a little data or has access to Wi-Fi all the time.

US Mobile

Check your coverage (requires Zip Code)

US Mobile is an odd carrier with multitudes of different prices and even different types of plans made for different networks. When ordering a SIM card, you're given the choice between GSM LTE or Super LTE; while US Mobile doesn't specify which carriers it piggybacks off of, it claims to use the two best networks in the nation, and Super LTE runs off of CDMA, so ... we can assume that's Verizon.

Price

Both types of LTE service come with their own sets of plans. You select your talk, text, and data tiers separately, and only Super LTE offers unlimited data plans. The easiest way to figure out your perfect plan is to use the configurator on US Mobile's site, but for GSM LTE, talk plans range from $3 for 100 minutes to $15 for 5000 minutes. Texting ranges from $2 for 100 texts to $7 for unlimited, and data costs between $2 for 100MB to $35 for 8GB.

The unlimited plans available with Super LTE are slightly less complicated; rather than selecting talk, text, and data allotments separately, there are nine bundles to choose from, ranging from $35 for 100 minutes of talk, 100 minutes of text, and unlimited data capped at 1Mbps all the way up to $75 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data with mobile hotspot and unrestricted speeds.

How to reload

You can sign into the US Mobile site to view and pay your bill, though the carrier doesn't have a dedicated app on Android or iOS.

So many choices

US Mobile

The entire range of options

Starting as low as 40 minutes of talka and working all the way up to unlimited data, anyone could build a plan with US Mobile. This is one of the only carriers to sell data based on download speed but it can save some money for heavy users.

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile

Check your coverage

Virgin Mobile uses Sprint's CDMA and LTE networks. You have the option of buying a phone through Virgin or bringing your own Sprint-compatible device.

Price

All of Virgin Mobile's plans are no-contract and offer unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, along with the LTE data you pay for. You also get access to Virgin's Member Benefits, including discounts on food and merchandise.

  • 5GB of LTE — $35/month
  • 10GB of LTE — $45/month
  • Unlimited LTE data — $60/month

Virgin's plans don't include mobile hotspot by default, but you can add it for $3 a day (500MB), $5 a month (1GB), or $10 a month (2GB). You can also add international calling to your plan for $5 a month — unlimited calls to Canada and Mexico, and unlimited worldwide texting.

How to reload

You can top up your Virgin Mobile account by buying a Virgin Mobile Top-Up card and entering it along with your Virgin Mobile number online, or simply pay online with your credit/debit Card or PayPal.

All data

Virgin Mobile

Great price on 5GB

Starting out with 5GB of data on the low side, Virgin Mobile is a carrier for smartphone users first. Double your data for just $10 more. Once your use up your Sprint LTE data, keep going with unlmimted 2G speed data.

Verizon

Verizon Wireless

Check your coverage

Verizon's prepaid option gives you full-access to Verizon's nationwide network without locking you into a lengthy contract. You have the option of buying a prepaid phone from Verizon or BYOD.

Price

Verizon offers monthly smartphone plans, featuring no annual contract, no activation fee, and no credit checks.

  • 1GB with data rollover — $30/month
  • 6GB with data rollover $35/month
  • 16GB with data rollover — $45month
  • Unlimited LTE data — $65/month

Verizon's prepaid plans all include unlimited talk and text, but it's important to note that they don't fall back to 2G when you run out of LTE data. On the bright side, every plan includes mobile hotspot and unlimited international texting to 200 countries, and the 16GB and unlimited data plans include unlimited calling to Mexico and Canada.

How to reload

Reload your Verizon account online, buy refill cards, or pay in-store at a Verizon Wireless location.

No contract network

Verizon Wireless

A whole lot of data

Get data one of the the strongest networks available with Verizon Prepaid. With plans as low as 1GB and up to unlimited, this can be a great way for anyone to get on the Verizon network without locking into a contract.

Advertisement

Visible

Check your coverage

Visible uses Verizon's vast LTE network for service. You have the option of buying a phone through Visible or bringing your own Verizon-compatible device.

Price

Visible's main draw is simplicity with only one plan. Having recently removed it's speed limit, Visible is a better value than every with unlimited talk, text, and data with no surprises. Fees are included so $40 per month is all you are paying. You get 480p video streaming and Visible reckons you can expect between 5 and 12Mbps.

  • Unlimited everything — $40/month

Visible allows you to use an unlimited hotspot at up to 5Mbps. One thing to watch out for is a lack of international roaming options. This is a great balance for users in the US.

Unlimited means unlimited

Visible

Don't worry about the gigs

With the simplest plan of any network, Visible offers unlimited LTE data at $40 per month with fees included on the Verizon network.

Simple Mobile

Simple Mobile

Check your coverage

Simple Mobile uses T-Mobile's HSPA+ and LTE network and offers options to purchase a new phone or bring your own T-Mobile- or AT&T-compatible GSM phone.

Price

Simple Mobile offers five prepaid plans, which all feature no contract or credit check, unlimited talk and text, unlimited international texting, international calling to 68 countries, and roaming to 16 Latin American countries.

  • 3GB of up to LTE speeds + hotspot — $25/month
  • 2GB of up to LTE speeds + hotspot — $30/month
  • 15GB of up to LTE speeds + hotspot — $40/month
  • Unlimited LTE data — $50/month
  • Unlimited LTE + 10GB hotspot — $60/month

How to reload

ReUp through the Simple Mobile website via credit card or pin. You also have the option to pay in advance with Stash, allowing you to add money to your plan when you have it, so you don't have to worry about re-upping when your service runs out.

No confusion

Simple Mobile

KISS

Sticking to its name, Simple Mobile offers competitive plans on the T-Mobile network with international service. Get the right amount of data for you whether it's 3GB or unlimited.

Updated August 2019: Prices and features updated for 2019.

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