College can cost up to $35,000 a year. If you're a student, you're no stranger to the constant struggle to save money. Yet you need a dependable cell phone service with plenty of data for music and video streaming.
Although the average cell phone bill sits at about $80 per month, it's easy to cut that down by over half - which can make a huge difference when you're living on pizza and ramen noodles!
In this guide, I'll show you how you can save more than 50% on both your smartphone and your wireless service.
We'll look at the best cell phone plans for college students along with how to get the best price on top devices.
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Save Money with MVNOs
Did you know you can cut your wireless bill by over half just be going with a smaller carrier? These mobile providers are called MVNOs, which stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operators. You've probably already heard of a few of them, like Boost Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile (formerly MetroPCS).
These carriers buy up extra space on the four major networks - AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Sprint - and resell it at a discount. MVNOs can afford to give you better rates because most of them operate completely online and do not spend the big bucks on marketing as the major wireless carriers do. The best part is that college students can get service on the same great networks for half the cost.
Benefits of MVNOs
As a student, you want to save money but you also need a reliable wireless service. MVNOs are the ideal solution.
- Cheaper prices by up to 50% or more
- Service on the same networks as the major carriers
- Custom plans let you pay only for what you need
- No credit checks and no contracts
- Easy to bring your own phone and keep your number
- Great customer service
- Convenient and fast online signup
Compare wireless plan features and prices side-by-side with our cell phone plan comparison engine.
The Cheapest Cell Phone Plans for College Students
Here are a few examples of MVNOs that offer cheap cell phone plans that meet the high-usage needs of today's college student - along with their budget.
Mint Mobile saves you money by selling their plans in bulk. You can purchase three, six, or 12 months at a time. The more you buy at once, the lower your per month price will be. The highest plan gives you 10 GB of 4G LTE data, which is plenty for most smartphone users. You'll get unlimited talk and text with any plan. This MVNO runs on the nationwide T-Mobile network.
Are you a heavy data user who needs a little more from your plan? TextNow, which operates on the T-Mobile and Sprint networks, offers an unlimited data plan option. They also feature a free Wi-Fi plan and 2 and 5 GB options. All plans include unlimited texting and calling.
For the college student who has to tighten those purse strings as much as possible, Tello is a great option. You pick and choose as much or as little calling and data as you want. Unlimited text messages are included. Tello runs on the Sprint network.
Related: Have you finished your entrance exams? Ace the test with the best prep courses for the MCATs, GMATs, GREs, and LSATs.
Save Even More: Buy a Refurbished Cell Phone
Buying a used or refurbished smartphone is a great deal, both financially and practically.
- You'll save more than 50% off the retail price of a brand-new phone (which can run as high as $1000!).
- There are plenty of reputable sellers now, most of which even offer some kind of warranty on your purchase.
- There are phone repair shops virtually everywhere now - getting your device fixed is easy and affordable.
- Buying a used phone is environmentally responsible. Most people upgrade before their device is actually worn out or obsolete.
If you're planning to bring your current device to a new plan, remember to unlock your phone so you're free to use it on another carrier.
Put More Cash in Your Pocket: Sell Your Old Phone
Not only do you need every penny you can get your hands on but you also don't have much room in your dorm or apartment for extra stuff. If you're replacing your phone, take that old one and sell it for some cold hard cash.
Compare offers in seconds, pick one, ship your phone off and collect your money. It's simple, really!
There's no reason for college students to pay premium prices for cell phone service or top-end smartphones.
- Choose an MVNO and a discount cell phone plan.
- Buy a used or refurbished phone at 50% or more off retail.
- Sell your old phone for cash.
Not sure which plan to choose? Calculate your data usage before making a final decision!