Best cell phone carriers in February 2021
Thinking about switching wireless carriers? Say no to giant cell phone providers who charge you too much for service you don't need. The average smartphone user only goes through 3-5 GB of data per month. Time to stop wasting money and only pay for what you need!
People who switch from the major carriers to a smaller carrier save about $600 a year on their cell phone service. See how much you could save with our cell phone plan savings calculator.
Low cost carrier benefits
Smaller carriers - called MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) - offer some surprising advantages over the big four:
- Same nationwide coverage: Smaller cell phone carriers run on the big guys' networks. That means you get the same reliable coverage you're used to.
- Cheaper prices: Save up to $600 a year on your cell phone plan with an MVNO. These smaller carriers have lower overhead costs than the big guys and pass the savings on to you.
- Bring your phone and your number: With an alternative provider you can bring your own phone and keep your phone number. Compare cell phone deals or buy new from some carriers.
- Custom cell phone plans: Smaller carriers tend to be more flexible, giving you plenty of customizable options. Choose as little or as much as you want, including unlimited data plans.
- No-contract plans: Kiss the commitment goodbye. MVNOs sell no-contract cell phone plans. No early termination fees or overage charges.
- Better customer service: Switching to a small carrier can be a great way to get more personalized customer support. Check out our carrier user reviews to see which ones have the best reputations.
Cell phone plans comparison
|Tello||T-Mobile||1GB||$5** Half Price for 3 Months|
|Reach Mobile||Verizon||3GB||$15** $15 Off for 3 Months|
|Pure Talk||AT&T||4GB||$18.75** 25% Off for 3 Months|
|Mint Mobile||T-Mobile||10GB||$20** $60 for 3 Months Service|
|Twigby||Verizon||0GB||$6.50** 50% Off for 6 Months|
Best cell phone coverage in your area
Choosing a wireless carrier means getting the right fit for your budget and data needs. But you also want to find the best coverage in your area.
It's helpful to keep in mind that since T-Mobile just merged with Sprint their coverage will basically be the same pretty soon.
Wondering about the rapidly-spreading 5G coverage? Us too. So we're keeping an eye on 5G phone plans being rolled out by MVNOs so that you can easily find the fastest carrier in your area.
Other factors that impact coverage
- Whether you live in a metropolitan or rural area - all four networks offer strong cellular coverage in most major cities.
- Surrounding buildings or landscape features - working in a high-rise or living in the mountains can have a significant effect on your wireless signal.
- How new and powerful your smartphone is - the newer your device, the more powerful its internal antenna, which means - generally speaking - the better your signal reception will be.
Cell phone plan types
We know that one of your main concerns with choosing a wireless carrier is what kinds of cell phone plans they offer.
Smaller carriers give you boatloads of options designed to meet your needs while saving you money.
- Prepaid: Say goodbye to overage charges with prepaid cell phone companies. MVNOs sell no-contract plans at prices that make you want to stay. Check out our prepaid phone plan comparison to see which carrier works best for you.
- Unlimited data plans: It's true that most people don't really need an unlimited phone plan. Are you one of those people who does plow through a ton of data? Compare unlimited data plans from low-cost carriers. If you're not sure what you need just use our data usage calculator to figure it out in seconds.
- Family plans: Looking for a carrier that can cover the whole fam? Compare the cheapest family phone plans and get a deal on service for everyone.
- BYOP plans: Bring your own phone plans make it easy to switch carriers without having to commit to two years of phone payments.
- Single line plans: Unlike the big guys, MVNOs don't penalize you with high prices when you only need one line. Find the best phone plans for individuals from the cheapest carriers out there.
- Talk and text only plans: If you don't need data, an unlimited talk and text only plan will save you even more money.
- Tablet plans: MVNOs also have you covered with cheap data plans for tablets and iPads.
- Kid plans: Design just the right plan for your little ones with the best phone plans for kids.
- Senior plans: Small carriers are experts at meeting the needs of customers of all ages. Compare cheap cell phone plans for seniors now.
Low cost carrier features
You might be concerned that smaller carriers don't offer all your must-have features. Rest assured these wireless providers give you the same set of attractive options as their overpriced counterparts.
- 4G LTE networks: MVNOs use the same four wireless networks as the big carriers. You can expect reliability as well as great data speeds.
- Unlimited talk and text: Cheap talk and text only plans that come with no data.
- International calls to Canada and Mexico: Enjoy great rates on those calls to long-distance friends and family. Check out the best international calling plans to get discounts on tons of countries.
- Multiline discounts: Get a stellar deal on family cell phone plans by taking advantage of multiline discounts from smaller carriers.
- Wi-Fi calling: Few things are more annoying than calls dropping when you're in an area with weak signal. Wi-fi calling lets you connect over the internet instead.
- Tethering and hotspot data: Love to share your high speed data with your other devices? No problem even with alternative carriers. Check out the best mobile hotspot plans.
- HD video streaming: Some low-cost carriers offer HD video streaming. That's something not even all of the big guys give you.
Bring your own phone and save even more
Our goal is to help you save as much money as possible on your wireless service. Keeping your current cell phone helps you put more money back in your pocket.
Since smaller carriers let you bring your own phone, switching is simple. Get a prepaid SIM card kit from your new carrier, pop it in and you're ready to go (make sure you unlock your cell phone first!).
Don't forget, you can keep your phone number too. Just make sure you get switched over to your new carrier before canceling your old wireless plan so you don't lose your number!
Cheap phone deals
So what if you do want to upgrade your phone? It's all good - you can save a ton of money by choosing one of a couple of great money-saving options:
- Buy a new phone from the carrier: More and more MVNOs are offering a selection of affordable phones. Some even give you the choice of making device payments instead of paying all at once. We've gathered the best cell phone deals for you to compare all in one place.
- Buy a used cell phone: If you'd rather own your phone outright, compare refurbished phone deals to save over 50% on top models in great condition.
Cheap cell phone service providers
Now that you know what switching to a smaller carrier can do for you, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Check out this summary of our favorite MVNOs to find the best cell phone service provider for you.
- Mint Mobile: Save more by purchasing service 3-12 months at a time. Mint is a T-Mobile MVNO.
- Pure Talk: PureTalk USA runs on the AT&T network. It has great international calling options and also offers discounts on multiple lines.
- Unreal Mobile: Unreal is a T-Mobile MVNO. This carrier also sells phone service in bulk (multiple months at a time) for deeper discounts.
- Good2Go Mobile: This AT&T MVNO works best for low to moderate data users. You can also add on international phone calls if you want.
- Red Pocket: Red Pocket is unique because it runs on all four of the major wireless networks. It's also a standout because you get free calling to over 80 countries.
- Xfinity Mobile: Xfinity could be just the right carrier if you're looking for a Verizon MVNO with an unlimited data plan. One caveat - you have to be an Xfinity internet customer to get their wireless service.
- Boost Mobile: Boost runs on the Sprint network. They don't sell the cheapest phone plans in the world but they do offer some cool perks like multiline discounts and international calling.
- Tello: This Sprint MVNO specializes in flexibility. Customize your cell phone plan with just the right amount of talk and text plus data.
- Twigby: Twigby is a CDMA carrier operating on the Sprint and Verizon networks. This MVNO has built a reputation out of offering some of the best phone plans for seniors.
- Ultra Mobile: This is another carrier that saves you money by selling plans in bulk. The difference is that you also have the choice to buy one month at a time. Ultra Mobile operates on the T-Mobile network.
- Ting: Ting is one of the only MVNOs that operates on a postpaid basis instead of prepaid. Choose your own network - T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon.
- US Mobile: Pick from T-Mobile or Verizon, with a wide range of build-your-own-plan choices. US Mobile also stands out from the crowd with their international roaming option.
- Reach Mobile: This Verizon MVNO has some solid options for everyone from light to heavy data users.
- h2o Wireless: h2o is a GSM carrier running on the nationwide AT&T network. They've also got some great international calling options.
From basic plans to all the bells and whistles, smaller carriers are the savvy way to save tons without sacrificing quality or network coverage.
Have more questions, like how to decide between a CDMA and GSM cell phone company or what exactly is 4G? We've got more answers in our comprehensive collection of wireless carrier guides.