There are MVNOs, the four major cell phone carriers, and then you have regional carriers like U.S. Cellular. U.S. Cellular, which is home to 5.03 million subscribers as of Q3 2016, is the fifth largest available wireless provider, offering a plethora of no-contract plans and contract plans for you to enjoy.
However, the problem we consumers can agree on in regards to U.S. Cellular, besides the fact that the cell phone provider only exists in 23 states, is that relevant and important information for the cellular service is scattered on the official website. We understand your plight and have made it our focus to provide you with the information you need in relation to U.S. Cellular.
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We have compiled the details on the available US Cellular cell phone plans and formatted it into a readable article. In our guide, you'll find the relevant facts on the US Cellular cell phone plans, as well as the LTE network coverage, the available mobile phones, the customer service, and more.
Finally, we'll direct you to our cell phone plan comparison tool, which should help you make an informed decision as to whether or not U.S. Cellular is right for you.
In This Guide
U.S. Cellular Wireless Plans
U.S. Cellular contains two different types of regular monthly plans: business plans and "Total Plans." However, these plans lack desired features, such as free unlimited music streaming. Yet, while the plans are rather lacking in features, they make up for it in cellular network reliability.
U.S. Cellular is one of the few cell phone carriers that hasn't completely dropped the two-year contract format (though it is optional).
In fact, the new Total Plans make it so that the contracts are in name only - in other words, there are no monthly connection charges, no data overage charges, no monthly activation fees or upgrade fees, and best of all, no early termination fee.
Without an early termination fee, you're free to drop the cellular service whenever you like in favor of another cell phone provider like Straight Talk, Boost Mobile, Total Wireless, or even the T-Mobile network.
That being said, the Total Plans are a tad on the pricier side compared to U.S. Cellular's carrier brethren, except the unlimited plan. There are three plans available: 2GB (which is more expensive than Verizon Wireless' 2GB plan), 6GB, and Unlimited. Even better is that all of these plans include unlimited talk and text. But hey, you also don't have to worry about monthly installment fees and all that jazz that was previously associated with U.S. Cellular.
A bit more about the U.S. Cellular unlimited plan though, which is comparable in price to the T-Mobile network unlimited plan, Sprint Unlimited, and Verizon unlimited plans (though it is more expensive compared to the Sprint Unlimited plan): you will only be able to stream video at standard definition, and after you exceed 22GB of data, the plan will shift to 2G.
However, in regards to the 2GB and 6GB data plans, you will be able to stream at high definition LTE speeds and will automatically be throttled to 2G speeds once the plans reach the high-speed data allotment.
Read More: You can compare US Cellular's plans to the competition using our comparison tool.
U.S. Cellular is no longer offering straightforward family plans, but like the major carriers, you can add lines to your Total Plan and save money per line, creating a family plan in the process. You can add whatever you plan you'd like for each line. For instance, for line one, you can add the Unlimited Plan, for line two, you can add the 6GB plan, and for line three, you can add the 2GB plan.
These 6GB and unlimited plans include unlimited voice and unlimited text to Mexico and Canada, as well as a mobile hotspot at no extra charge.
Pro Tip: Data tethering allows you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot. You can learn more about that here.
U.S. Cellular comes with its own set of prepay plans, complete with no credit check, no overages, and no activation fee. These prepay plans come with the following:
- Unlimited Talk
- Unlimited Text (International Included)
- High-speed 4G LTE Network
- Smartphone Mobile Hotspot
- Device Trade-in-Services
- Phone Upgrades Every 12 Months
- Bring Your Own Phone
- Online Account Management
There are three high-speed data amounts to choose from 1GB, 5GB, and Unlimited Data (similar to the prepaid T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon unlimited plans). However, once you run out of the selected data, you'll be dealing with 2G speeds. Similar to the postpaid plans, the 1GB and 5GB no-contract plans will stream at high-definition speeds, but the unlimited monthly plan will stream at standard-definition speeds.
These prepay cell phone plans do not come attached with unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada, but you can purchase the feature as an add-on to your plan for only $10 per month.
There's even a basic monthly phone plan to consider for a very affordable fee. This basic prepay mobile phone plan comes with unlimited voice and unlimited text if you can settle without data. So if you're looking for a monthly prepay cell phone plan, U.S. Cellular's plans are worth consideration.
U.S. Cellular provides data for tablet and connected device plans at a monthly fee. For tablets or connected devices, you can purchase between 1GB and 10GB of data.
Phones Offered By US Cellular
U.S. Cellular phone offerings aren't exactly vast, but they should satisfy anyone interested. The latest iPhone, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S Edge iteration, is showcased, meaning that you won't have to settle for an older device.
In fact, the majority of the phones available are of the Apple or Samsung brands, though you will find an LG, Motorola, ZTE, and Kyocera in the mix.
You can purchase a phone through an installment plan, which requires a retail installment contract and a shared connect plan. You can even select between 20, 24, and 30 months as the installment contract length. Online, these phones come with free shipping.
Read More: If you're looking to compare smartphones, you can always take our handy smartphone comparison tool for a spin.
With U.S. Cellular, you can obtain Device Protection+. After all, accidents happen, and you need to ensure that your device is protected at all times.
For the iPhone and Android, there are two types of Device Protection+ plans available: the Advanced Plan and the Standard Plan. You must enroll in either plan within 30 days of activating your device.
This plan protects your phone from accidental damage such as drops, spills, and cracks, mechanical or electrical breakdown, loss, or theft. Replacement for the devices can be delivered over the next business day.
Furthermore, you will receive up to 5GB of data backup, anti-malware software, and a service for locating your phone, alerting you, and locking and wiping your device. Finally, you'll receive performance monitoring and troubleshooting, some Geek Tools, and Geek Tips.
The advanced plan covers your phone from accidental damage, hardware malfunctions, loss, and theft. Like the standard plan, you'll receive free next business day delivery of your replacement device.
You'll also receive 100GB of data backup, anti-malware software, and the ability to locate, lock, and wipe your phone. Additionally, you'll receive 90-day credit monitoring.
Also included in the advanced plan is Tech Support, performance monitoring and troubleshooting, Geek Tools, and Geek Tips.
However, before you consider a cell phone insurance plan, you may want to read our article, "Is Cell Phone Insurance Worth It?"
If you're worried about any complicated activation process U.S. Cellular may have, don't. With U.S. Cellular, you can activate your phone via a special site. You can either retrieve a new phone number or keep your existing phone number.
However, if you're not comfortable with U.S. Cellular's site, then you can always contact the customer service department or bring your phone to a U.S. Cellular store for activation.
U.S. Cellular includes a Smartphone Mobile Hotspot in its plans, free of charge. The Smartphone Mobile Hotspot is a feature that is actually built into Apple and Android smartphones, so you can turn your phone into a mobile hotspot at no additional charge (unless it consumes your data).
However, you can connect a mobile hotspot device for a prepaid or monthly fee.
According to U.S. Cellular, SIM cards, which contains information on your subscriber profile (which you can learn more about here), cannot be swapped between devices. However, if you can obtain a new SIM card at no cost from the carrier.
Compare: Find a cheap U.S. Cellular SIM Card
Deals, Promotions & Discounts
U.S. Cellular offers plenty of incentives. The carrier is known for its "Phones for a Penny" offer, which is just that: you receive phones for a penny with a two-year contract. Though lower-quality phones may be part of the offer, iPhones (surprisingly) are too.
U.S. Cellular also urges customers to take advantage of its refer-a-friend and switcher offers. It also features a Bill Reducer, which is an exclusive app that is designed to help lower your monthly wireless bill.
Finally, the carrier pushes promotions heavily to the customer, such as "Switch and Get Half Off of Any Smartphone," plus get up to $650 more in U.S. Cellular Promo cards. Sometimes it will even offer a free Samsung 58" Smart HDTV when you buy two Samsung Galaxy S Smartphones. Talk about incentive.
U.S. Cellular is limited in LTE coverage, but in home areas, the LTE coverage and reliability are strong. That being said, if you're not in the carrier's area, you could suffer greatly from reduced data speeds.
U.S. Cellular is able to provide the customer with a strong rural LTE network. If you're in a rural cellular network and U.S. Cellular is available in your location, you may want to consider the wireless service. You can review U.S. Cellular's coverage map here.
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U.S. Cellular Customer Support
U.S. Cellular does not have the greatest track record when it comes to customer service. In fact, many people complain of the customer service, citing lack of honoring of rebates and adding phantom charges to your account.
That being said, there are various ways to receive support from the carrier. You can:
- Visit a U.S. Cellular store
- Refer to one of its FAQs
- Chat with a representative
- Connect with the service via Facebook and Twitter
- Call their toll-free customer service number number
Read More: Total Wireless offers similar services but better coverage in urban areas. If you live or work in the city a lot, Total Wireless might be a better choice.
U.S. Cellular is a good wireless service to consider if you live in any of the areas it services (especially remote areas).
While the promotions and deals are enticing, the customer service isn't viewed as fantastic and the prices are rather steep for what you're receiving unless you purchase the somewhat-truly unlimited service.
Remember, when choosing a cheap cell phone plan, it's always best to compare deals from multiple low-cost carriers.