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Cheap cell phone plans for budget minded consumersIf you’re frustrated over the cost of your cell phone plan, you’re not alone.

I’ve often thought of switching to a cheaper carrier, but I worry about getting service in my area, if I can bring my own phone, and other hidden costs.

But what if a cheap cell phone plan can tick all the boxes without you noticing a drop in coverage?

The different discount plans available have increased competition and driven costs down. A study by the Tax Foundation found that wireless bills dropped 17% from 2008 to 2017. Even the “big four” wireless companies of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon have dropped their prices.

But price confusion can add to the fear of changing providers. Companies can charge different fees that make it hard to compare plans. A $50 per month plan could end up $60 or more after taxes and other charges.

While the cheapest plan might not be the best pick for you, there are plenty of options to help you cut costs.

12 Cheap Cell Phone Plans for the Budget-Minded Consumer

There are lots of cheaper cell phone plans out there. The amount of money you could save might surprise you, especially if you’re paying for services you don’t need, like unlimited data.

1. Mint Mobile

At $15 a month, Mint Mobile has plans that come with all the features of a big-name company.

Mint Mobile homepage

They launched in 2016 as a spin-off of Ultra Mobile and offer prepaid service at a discount price. Go here to see if Mint Mobile is available in your area.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • Free SIM card
  • 7-day money-back guarantee
  • Bring your own phone
  • Requires 3-month commitment
  • Mobile hotspot included
  • WiFi calling and text
  • 4G LTE network
  • GSM technology
  • Uses T-Mobile’s network
  • $15 per month for 3GB
  • $20 for 8GB
  • $25 for 12GB
2 out of 5 stars

2. Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless is a well-known discount provider with some of the best cell phone plans available. The company started in 2011 using Sprint’s network but expanded to include T-Mobile’s service area in 2016.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • No contracts
  • No hidden fees or overages
  • 14-day risk-free trial
  • Bring your own phone
  • $5 charge for SIM card
  • Doesn’t support Apple iPhones
  • Mobile hotspot available
  • WiFi calling and text
  • 4G LTE network
  • Large coverage area
  • GSM and CDMA technology
  • Uses Sprint and T-Mobile networks
  • $15 per month for unlimited talk and text
  • $20 per month for 1GB
  • $25 for 2GB
  • Additional data is $5 per 1GB
4.5 out of 5 stars

3. Total Wireless

Owned by TracFone, Total Wireless uses Verizon’s network to deliver low-cost plans without a contract. Cell phone and plan options are available to purchase on their website and inside most Walmart, Target, and Dollar General stores.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • Save 5% with Auto-Refill
  • Bring your own phone
  • Mobile hotspot not available
  • WiFi calling limited to select devices
  • Unlimited family plans
  • Limited WiFi calling and text
  • 4G LTE network
  • Nationwide coverage
  • CDMA technology
  • Relies on Verizon’s network
  • $25 for unlimited talk and text per month
  • $35 plan includes 5GB
  • $50 for unlimited monthly data
  • $60 for a 2-line family plan
  • $100 for 4-line family plan
3 out of 5 stars

4. Sprint

You’ll recognize Sprint as one of the most popular wireless providers. It’s part of the “big four” cell phone companies and features competitively priced plans.

Sprint homepage offer

They offer some of the cheapest phone plans with unlimited talk, text, and data.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • Hulu bundled with most plans
  • 30-day satisfaction guarantee
  • Bring your own phone
  • Limited 5G service
  • WiFi calling not available on all phones
  • $60 for unlimited talk, text, and data
  • $70 to upgrade to HD video
  • Family plans start at $100 per month
1 out of 5 stars

5. Ting

Wireless company Ting started in 2012 and has quickly gained popularity. Ting doesn’t have typical monthly plans. Instead, you only pay for what you use which makes them one of the cheapest phone plans for one person.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • Only pay for actual usage
  • No contracts
  • Bring your own phone
  • SIM card is only $1
  • Costs more for heavy users
  • Mobile hotspot
  • WiFi calling on select devices
  • 4G LTE network
  • Coverage based on network
  • GSM and CDMA available
  • Uses Sprint and T-Mobile networks
  • $6 per line for access
  • Talk minutes vary from $3 to $35
  • Pay $3 to $11 for text packages
  • Data starts at $3 for 100MB
3.5 out of 5 stars

6. Gen Mobile

Gen Mobile is a lesser-known cheap cell phone service that’s great for people who don’t use a lot of data. You aren’t locked into a contract and can enjoy nationwide coverage on Sprint’s network.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • No annual contract
  • Low-cost plans
  • 7-day money-back guarantee
  • Bring your own phone
  • Plans don’t go above 3GB
  • Only sells pre-owned phones
  • Must contact customer care to check coverage
  • Unlimited texting for $5 a month
  • $10 for unlimited talk and text
  • $15 to get 1GB
  • $25 for 3GB
3.7 out of 5 stars

7. U.S. Cellular

America’s fifth-largest wireless carrier is U.S. Cellular. They offer cheap cell phone service that includes unlimited everything at a low price.

US Cellular iPhone offer

Make sure to check for coverage availability because the company doesn’t offer plans in every area.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • Unlimited plans can save money
  • Bring your own phone
  • 4G LTE coverage is limited
  • Service is spotty in some areas
  • $30 per line for family plans
  • Additional plans start at $65
2.5 out of 5 stars

8. TracFone

TracFone is a popular brand of wireless service providers. The prepaid plans have been a major draw since the company began in 1999. In 2013, TracFone started its “Bring Your Own Device” program.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • Cheap data plans
  • Low-cost talk-only plans
  • Bring your own phone
  • Coverage area can vary
  • Data only goes to 3GB
  • Option for mobile hotspot
  • WiFi calling for smartphones
  • 4G LTE network
  • Large service area
  • CDMA technology
  • Uses Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint networks
  • 1GB for $20
  • 2GB for $25
  • 3GB for $30
  • Talk and text-only plans start at $9.99 per month
2 out of 5 stars

9. T-Mobile

You’ll recognize T-Mobile from its purple-themed plans. The award-winning company was founded in 1999 and has some of the best deals on family cell phone plans.

T-Mobile iPhone offer

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • Military discounts
  • Senior discounts
  • Netflix included with family plans
  • No roaming fees
  • Requires auto pay for $5 discount
  • Coverage is limited in some areas
  • Option for 4G LTE mobile hotspot
  • Netflix included in some plans
  • Select plans offer in-flight WiFi
  • WiFi calling
  • 4G LTE and limited 5G network
  • Service area coverage
  • GSM technology
  • $30 per line for unlimited data family shared plan
  • $35 per line includes 4G LTE mobile hotspot
  • $43 per line upgrades video to HD streaming
2.5 out of 5 stars

10. AT&T

As one of the “big four” wireless companies, AT&T has higher prices than most of the others on this list. They began in 1877 as the Bell Telephone Company and are now the largest company in the telecom industry.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • 30-days return policy
  • Get credit for your old phone
  • Unlimited plans have DirecTV discounts
  • Higher-cost plans
  • Limited 5G availability
  • Up to 15GB mobile hotspot
  • Automatic WiFi calling
  • 4G LTE network with some 5G
  • Better coverage areas
  • GSM technology
  • 3GB for $30 per month
  • 9GB for $35
  • Unlimited data is $40
  • Upgrade to HD streaming for $48
1 out of 5 stars

11. Good2Go Mobile

You might not have heard about Good2Go Mobile, but they’ve been providing cheap cell phone plans since 2004. The prepaid option keeps your budget in check so you won’t see any surprises on your monthly bill.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • Free SIM card activation kit
  • Can bring your own phone
  • Offers low-priced plans
  • No overage fees
  • $5 discount with autopay
  • No unlimited plans
  • No mobile hotspots
  • WiFi calling coming in 2019
  • 4G LTE network
  • Wide service area
  • GSM technology
  • Relies on the AT&T network
  • 3GB for $20
  • Upgrade to 5GB for $30
  • Get 10GB for $40
3.5 out of 5 stars

12. Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless is a respected choice for discount cell phone plans. The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of AT&T.

Cricket

One thing that sets Cricket Wireless apart is that you can lease-to-own a phone without a credit check.

ProsConsFeaturesPlansTrustPilot Rating
  • Plan price includes taxes and fees
  • Wide coverage area
  • Affordable plans
  • Limited data speeds
  • Mobile hotspot included
  • Select phones allow WiFi calling
  • 4G LTE network
  • Check out the coverage map
  • GSM technology
  • Powered by AT&T’s network
  • 2GB plus unlimited talk and text for $25
  • $40 for 5GB
  • $55 for unlimited data, talk, and text
2.5 out of 5 stars

Plan Comparison Chart

When considering different carriers, you don’t have to give up your phone number. Most companies allow you to port your number to a new plan. See how the top five cheap cell phone plans can help you save money.

CarrierBase Plan Price (monthly)Data Limit for Base PlanTechnologyNetworkWi-Fi CallingTrustPilot Rating
Mint Mobile$15 (1st 3 mo.)

$25 regular

3GBGSM4G LTEYes2/5
Republic Wireless$201GBGSM/CDMA4G LTEYes4.5/5
Ting$30100MBGSM/CDMA4G LTELimited3.5/5
TracFone$201GBCDMA4G LTEYes2/5
Cricket Wireless$252GBGSM4G LTELimited2.5/5

5 Things to Consider Before Making The Switch

Consider what you’ll be using the cell phone for before you jump to a new plan. Heavy data users should go with a wireless company with cheaper prices on data.

1. Coverage: GSM vs. CDMA

GSM and CDMA are two different technologies that power communication between cell phones. Every cell phone company, no matter how big or small, has to pick at least one to use, though some companies rely on both to power their network.

If you’re bringing your own phone to a new plan, you must know which technology your phone uses. For instance, you can’t bring a phone that uses CDMA to Mint Mobile because that company uses GSM. Without a GSM phone, you’d have to purchase a new phone to switch to Mint Mobile.

2. Prepaid vs. Contract

Prepaid phone plans can be less expensive than contract plans, though usage and data can be limited. You aren’t able to switch to a new company if you’re locked into a contract, which is why prepaid plans are good for some people.

3. Shared Family Plans vs. Individual Plans

Sharing a plan with other family members is an easy way to cut down on your bill. However, you can run into trouble with data usage if one member is a heavy phone user. Individual plans limit cell phone use and data package to a single user.

4. Bring Your Own Phone (and Number)

It’s easy to port your current number over to a wireless provider. To bring your own phone to a new plan, find out if you own the phone or are leasing it. Some providers charge you to rent the phone so make sure you can take your phone with you before you cancel your service.

5. WiFi Capable Plans

WiFi calling gives you more access to a wider range of places. With free internet access, you’re able to make phone calls and send text messages without cell phone service. This feature can be helpful if you live in a rural area or in a city where buildings can block cell phone signals.

Switching to an Affordable Cell Phone Plan Doesn’t Mean Sacrificing Service

If your cell phone bill is causing you stress, consider switching to a cheaper plan. You can probably find a cheaper service that still offers all of what you need from a cell phone carrier.

You don’t have to sacrifice coverage quality when switching carriers, discount carriers don’t have to mean lower quality service. Some of the cheapest cell phone plans use the same technology and towers as the big-name companies which means you get the same service for less money.

Related: Where Can I Sell My Old Phone? The Best Places to Earn the Most

Author

Amy is a freelance writer with bachelor degrees in business administration and legal studies. She has a passion for personal finance and is on a mission to help everyday families develop better money habits and escape the burden of debt. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, Money Tips, and various other personal finance publications. Amy makes her home in Michigan where she serves as a Girl Scout leader and teaches work-force development training to low-skilled workers in her community. When she’s not writing about money or perfecting her budgeting spreadsheet, Amy enjoys playing board games with her family and watching Marvel movies.

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