The Best Cell Phone Carriers

Best Sprint Carrier
4GB LTE Data
$19 per month
Best T-Mobile Carrier
8GB LTE Data
$20 per month
Best AT&T Plan
5GB LTE Data
$30 per month
Best Verizon Plan
5GB LTE Data
$45 per month
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Which Cell Phone Provider is the Best?

Rob Webber

By Rob Webber

Founder

Last Updated:

You may not know this but there are well over 50 cell phone carriers in the United States.

These low-cost carriers, known as MVNOs, are powered by one or more of the big 4 networks.

They generally offer much cheaper phone plans which are customizable based on your usage. This means that you can get big network coverage, without paying big network prices!

Find Cheap Cell Phone Plans in Your Area

In this guide, we rank and evaluate our top picks based on coverage, plans, and overall value.

Read on to find the best cell phone carrier for your budget and needs!

The Best Cell Phone Carriers of February 2020

The Best Cell Phone Carriers
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Cell Phone Carrier Comparison Chart

CarrierNationwide Coverage4G LTE DataPrice
TelloSprint 4G LTE4GB$19
Mint MobileT-Mobile 4G LTE8GB$20
PureTalk USAAT&T 4G LTE5GB$30
Reach MobileVerizon 4G LTE5GB$45

Best Sprint MVNO Carrier: Tello

Pros

  • Flexible plans up to 10 GB of high-speed data
  • Free texting with all plans
  • Change your plan any time
  • Unlimited 2G data

Cons

  • Only CDMA or global phones compatible
  • No unlimited data plan

Best Value MVNO Plan: Tello 4GB

Tello
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:4 GB4G data
Tello is powered by:Sprint
Tello SIM Card
NetworkSprint
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkCDMA
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico, Canada & China
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 3 days

Best Cheap MVNO Carrier: Tello 1GB

Tello
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:1 GB4G data
Tello is powered by:Sprint
Tello SIM Card
NetworkSprint
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkCDMA
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico, Canada & China
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 3 days

Sprint National 4G LTE Coverage Without Sprint Prices

Sprint Coverage Map

Sprint vs Tello Price Comparison

Keep your Sprint phone, number & coverage: Save $492 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
SprintSprint 4G LTEUnltd*$60/mo$720/yr
TelloSprint 4G LTE4GB$19/mo$228/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$41/mo$492/yr

Best T-Mobile MVNO Carrier: Mint Mobile

Pros

  • Simple, affordable plans
  • Free text and talk with all plans
  • Unlimited 2G data
  • Free SIM card kit

Cons

  • Only GSM or global phones compatible
  • Only sold in lots of 3, 6, or 12 months
  • No unlimited data plan

Best Value MVNO Plan: Mint Mobile 8GB

Mint Mobile
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:8 GB4G data
Mint Mobile is powered by:T-Mobile
* $60 for 3 months service
Mint Mobile SIM Card
NetworkT-Mobile
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - 3 mths prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico & Canada
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 7 days

Best Cheap MVNO Plan: Mint Mobile 3GB

Mint Mobile
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:3 GB4G data
Mint Mobile is powered by:T-Mobile
* $45 for 3 months service
Mint Mobile SIM Card
NetworkT-Mobile
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - 3 mths prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico & Canada
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 7 days

T-Mobile National 4G LTE Coverage Without T-Mobile Prices

T-Mobile Coverage Map

T-Mobile vs Mint Mobile Price Comparison

Keep your T-Mobile phone, number & coverage: Save $600 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
T-MobileT-Mobile 4G LTEUnltd*$70/mo$840/yr
Mint MobileT-Mobile 4G LTE8GB$20/mo$240/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$50/mo$600/yr

Best AT&T MVNO Carrier: PureTalk USA

Pros

  • Good plan selection
  • Unlimited talk and text with all plans
  • Unlimited 2G data
  • Clean, user-friendly website

Cons

  • No unlimited data plan
  • International calling requires add-on calling card

Best Value MVNO Plan: PureTalk USA 5GB

PureTalk USA - 5GB Data PlanMSP Exclusive: 25% off the first 3 months
PureTalk USA
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:5 GB4G data
PureTalk USA is powered by:AT&T
* 25% off the first 3 months
PureTalk USA SIM Card
NetworkAT&T
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM
Mobile Hotspotn/a
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International Callsn/a
Money Back Guaranteen/a

Best Cheap MVNO Plan: PureTalk USA 1GB

PureTalk USA - 1GB Data PlanMSP Exclusive: 25% off the first 3 months
PureTalk USA
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:1 GB4G data
PureTalk USA is powered by:AT&T
* 25% off the first 3 months
PureTalk USA SIM Card
NetworkAT&T
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM
Mobile Hotspotn/a
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International Callsn/a
Money Back Guaranteen/a

AT&T National 4G LTE Coverage Without AT&T Prices

AT&T Coverage Map

AT&T vs PureTalk USA Price Comparison

Keep your AT&T phone, number & coverage: Save $562 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
AT&TAT&T 4G LTEUnltd*$75/mo$900/yr
PureTalk USAAT&T 4G LTE5GB$30/mo$338/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$45/mo$562/yr

Best Verizon MVNO Carrier: Reach Mobile

Pros

  • Good pricing for lower data users
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Unlimited data plan available
  • User-friendly website and app

Cons

  • No international service
  • Does not sell devices
  • Expensive for heavy data users

Best Value MVNO Plan: Reach Mobile 5GB

Reach Mobile - 5GB Data Plan$15 Discount with Code: MSP153
Reach Mobile
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:5 GB4G data
Reach Mobile is powered by:Verizon
* $15 discount for first 3 months with promo code: msp153
Reach Mobile SIM Card
NetworkAT&T, Verizon
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM & CDMA
Mobile Hotspotn/a
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International Callsn/a
Money Back Guaranteen/a

Best Cheap MVNO Plan: Reach Mobile 3GB

Reach Mobile - 3GB Data Plan$15 Discount with Code: MSP153
Reach Mobile
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:3 GB4G data
Reach Mobile is powered by:Verizon
* $15 discount for first 3 months with promo code: msp153
Reach Mobile SIM Card
NetworkAT&T, Verizon
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM & CDMA
Mobile Hotspotn/a
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International Callsn/a
Money Back Guaranteen/a

Verizon National 4G LTE Coverage Without Verizon Prices

Verizon Coverage Map

Verizon vs Reach Mobile Price Comparison

Keep your Verizon phone, number & coverage: Save $465 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
VerizonVerizon 4G LTEUnltd*$80/mo$960/yr
Reach MobileVerizon 4G LTE5GB$45/mo$495/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$35/mo$465/yr

Best Overall Carrier: Mint Mobile

Best Value Cell Phone Plan: Mint Mobile 8GB

Mint Mobile
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:8 GB4G data
Mint Mobile is powered by:T-Mobile
* $60 for 3 months service
Mint Mobile SIM Card
NetworkT-Mobile
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - 3 mths prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico & Canada
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 7 days

MVNO Carriers Offer the Best Value for Money

MVNOs - Mobile Virtual Network Operators - rent tower usage from the major carriers in order to provide you with the same LTE coverage, but at a lower premium.

For example, Metro by T-Mobile (formerly known as MetroPCS) is a T-Mobile MVNO. This means that if you're on MetroPCS, your phone runs on the T-Mobile network. Consumer Cellular is another T-Mobile MVNO, however, Consumer Cellular utilizes a combination approach, using the AT&T network as well to enhance carrier coverage. Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile are both solely on the Sprint network.

MVNO Benefits:

There are multiple reasons to go with these alternative wireless carriers:

  • Service on the same reliable network you're used to
  • Cheaper by 50% or more
  • Custom plans so you don't overpay for features you don't need
  • No contracts or overage charges
  • Easy to bring your own phone and keep your phone number
  • Great customer service ratings
  • Simple to switch by ordering a SIM card online

Best Unlimited Data Plan: Tello

Tello
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:Unlimited4G data
Tello is powered by:Sprint
Tello SIM Card
NetworkSprint
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkCDMA
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico, Canada & China
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 3 days

For cheap unlimited data on the Sprint network, you can't go wrong with Tello.

  • Bring your phone and number to save even more.
  • They have very affordable international rates.

Best Family Phone Plan: Mint Mobile

Mint Mobile
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:12 GB4G data
Mint Mobile is powered by:T-Mobile
* $75 for 3 months service
Mint Mobile SIM Card
NetworkT-Mobile
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - 3 mths prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico & Canada
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 7 days

Even though it doesn't technically sell "family plans", we still love Mint for the whole family for several reasons:

  • You can customize the amount of data for each line.
  • It's insanely cheap for the amount of high-speed data you get.
  • You can add more data to a line any time you want.
  • The data isn't shared - if your teenager rips through all theirs, you don't suffer for it.
  • The T-Mobile network is reliable and fast.

Best Unlimited Talk & Text Plan: Tello

Tello
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:0 GB4G data
Tello is powered by:Sprint
Tello SIM Card
NetworkSprint
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkCDMA
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico, Canada & China
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 3 days
  • Wide range of cheap low usage phone plan options
  • Unlimited text messaging with all plans

Best Senior Phone Plan: Twigby

Twigby
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:1 GB4G data
Twigby is powered by:VerizonSprint
* 25% off for the first 6 mths
Twigby SIM Card
NetworkVerizon & Sprint
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkCDMA
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico, Canada & China
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 30 days

Twigby - a Sprint and Verizon MVNO - is a great plan for seniors because of its flexibility and low pricing.

  • You can choose basic service for devices like flip phones.
  • Smartphone data is available in small increments, which means you don't pay for unnecessary data.
  • Twigby offers an introductory discount for the first six months of service.
  • Global texting is included with all plans.

Best Cheap Prepaid Plan: Tello

Tello
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:1 GB4G data
Tello is powered by:Sprint
Tello SIM Card
NetworkSprint
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkCDMA
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico, Canada & China
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 3 days

While this Sprint MVNO doesn't offer the cheapest cell phone plans for data-hungry users, it's perfect for light to medium users who want to fine tune exactly what they pay for.

  • Plans start at $5 a month.
  • Choose between zero and 10 GB of high-speed data.
  • Texting is free with all plans.

Compare Cell Phone Plans

Starting at:$10/mo
TelloSprint

Which Network Provides the Best Coverage?

1. Verizon Coverage

Verizon has long enjoyed a reputation for being the most reliable wireless network available. Mobile performance analyst RootMetrics agrees, rating Big Red first in reliability, speed, and overall service quality.

As far as Verizon Wireless coverage, however, OpenSignal reports that T-Mobile has edged Verizon out in terms of availability. The gap is tiny though, with T-Mobile customers receiving a 4G signal 92% of the time and Verizon customers sitting at 93% 4G availability.

2. T-Mobile Coverage

As I mentioned earlier, T-Mobile has made great strides and by some measurements has overtaken long-time leader Verizon in terms of coverage and speed. This is all thanks to several technology upgrades the network continues to invest in.

T-Mobile boasts over 92% consistency with its 4G signal, and covers more than 99% of the US population. T-Mobile download speeds are no joke either, with OpenSignal reporting averages of more than 19.4 Mbps, a hefty advantage over Verizon's 17.8 Mbps.

3. AT&T Coverage

In terms of AT&T coverage, the carrier comes in third among the big four networks. Customers have a 4G LTE signal about 87% of the time, putting AT&T just ahead of Sprint coverage. AT&T's main coverage struggle is in rural areas.

As far as speed, reliability, text and call quality, and overall performance, RootMetrics puts AT&T in second place in every category it measures.

4. Sprint Coverage

Sprint has battled for years to lift itself out of last place, not only in terms of coverage but reliability and speed as well.

Sprint coverage gives you a 4G signal 86% of the time. Even though Sprint customers enjoy a fairly high percentage of 4G availability, the network labors under its lack of widespread 4G LTE service.

Find Cheap Cell Phone Plans in Your Area

Recap

Regardless of whether your priority is top-notch customer service, unlimited talk and text, or a cheap prepaid plan, you can look at every cell phone carrier and plan we've researched using our cell phone plan comparison tool.

Take a look at the cell phone coverage maps first to make sure you have service where you live.

Don't forget you can also save over half on your device when you buy a refurbished smartphone!

Compare Cell Phone Plans

Starting at:$10/mo
TelloSprint

The Best Prices on the Best Networks

All low-cost carriers are powered by the major US networks

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