The Best Cell Phone Plans

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The best cell phone plans offer a wide selection of the most popular phones, provide excellent coverage in your area, and have several features packaged together at an affordable price.

You know what you want in your cell service but it can be time consuming and confusing to sift through all of the options out there.

That's where we come in. We analyze the ever-changing pool of mobile service plans and help you get a good deal on the right one.

Key Factors When Choosing a Cell Phone Plan

Ask yourself the following questions to help pinpoint the wireless offers that best fit your needs:

  • Do you need a single line or additional lines?
  • Are you keeping your phone or shopping for a new one?
  • Do you really need unlimited high-speed data (for example, if you do a lot of HD streaming)?
  • Do you need unlimited calls and texts?
  • What features do you need (unlimited international usage, hotspot, etc.)?
  • Which cellular networks offer coverage in your area?

Consider a MVNO For More Savings

Mobile Virtual Network Operators - or MVNOs - are smaller cell carriers that sell you service on the big four networks, but at a lower monthly cost.

MVNOs can cut your cell phone bill by more than 50%, adding up to hundreds of dollars in savings per year.

Other benefits of MVNOs include:

  • The same 4G LTE mobile network you already enjoy
  • No contracts or credit checks, most operate as prepaid carriers
  • Customized plans so you only pay for what you actually need
  • High customer service ratings
  • Simple online sign-up process, just swap SIM cards
  • BYOP - bring your own phone (and keep your phone number)

Best Unlimited Talk and Text Plans: Tello

Some people aren't heavy data users but do talk and text a lot. If this is you, it's tough to beat Tello.

We love this provider because:

  • Service is on Sprint's nationwide 4G LTE network.
  • Plans allow extensive customization.
  • Tethering is included.
  • Calls to China, Mexico and Canada are included with your plan.
  • It's one of several prepaid options in this guide. There are no contracts or early termination fees.

You can change your plan at any time and you get unlimited free data at 2G speeds after your high-speed allotment runs out. You can also add minutes to other international locations and you get 24/7 customer support.

Best Unlimited Data Plan: US Mobile

US Mobile is one of the few MVNOs that offer unlimited data plans. Service is delivered on the Verizon network. These unlimited 4G LTE data plans are great if you're an avid HD video watcher or music streamer.

What we love: there are nine different configurations to choose from and you can try it risk-free for two weeks. If you're not happy with US Mobile's service they'll refund your money.

US Mobile Unlimited Data Plans

There are three speed choices (two with speed caps), each with the option of 100 minutes and 100 texts, unlimited talk and texts, or unlimited talk, text, and mobile hotspot data. Choose from download speeds of:

  • 1 Mbps
  • 5 Mbps
  • Uncapped data speeds

Pro Tip: Use our tool to calculate your data usage.

Best Prepaid Plans: Mint Mobile

This carrier uses the bulk business model to give you cheap prepaid phone plans. Mint uses the nationwide T-Mobile 4G LTE network.

You can pay in lots of three, six, or 12 months, each option saving you incrementally more depending on the amount of data you need. Every plan includes unlimited talk and text. There are three plan options: 2GB plan, 5GB plan, and 10GB of data.

Other perks - you can add data or international roaming and you get a 7-day money-back guarantee.

Best Family Plans: Mint Mobile

Our favorite option for a family plan also goes to Mint Mobile, even though it's not technically sold as a "family plan".

Mint works well as a family phone plan because you can customize exactly how much data you want the extra lines to have. Each line has their own bucket so you won't run out on your phone because the teenagers have gobbled through your share of the 4G LTE data.

Best Plans for Kids: Mint Mobile

We also think Mint offers the best deal on cell phone plans for kids. It's cheap, easy to customize, and gives you plenty of options for keeping your bill under control. Plus, with unlimited talk on all plans you'll get peace of mind knowing your child will never run out of minutes.

No matter the ages of your kids you can put together a package that works for you. For kids under 10 a 2 GB data allotment is usually plenty. Your tweens and teens might want the 5 GB plan. Throw a couple 10 GB lines in for the adults and you're still paying half of what you would with a major carrier.

Best Plans for Seniors: Twigby

Senior citizens often have different needs when it comes to mobile phone service. Twigby is a Sprint and Verizon MVNO that offers both basic service and smartphone data at affordable rates.

If you have a basic phone (like a flip phone) you can choose anywhere from 200 minutes to unlimited. Global texting is free and you can also add data in lots of 150 MB.

Smartphone plans range from 200 minutes and 1 GB of high-speed data to unlimited talk and 4 GB of data.

What's great about Twigby - you get 25% off your first six months (discounts may be for a limited time only).

Best Cheap Plans: Tello

If you're on the hunt for the best cheap cell phone plan, Tello may be just the ticket. Plan pricing starts at some of the lowest in the wireless industry. Texting is free with all prepaid plans and the company offers international service to well over 140 countries.

There are two ways to buy your service on Tello.

Prepaid:

There are several configurations when it comes to Tello prepaid service. Choose from WiFi only with limited minutes to 10 GB of data with unlimited talk and text. Build your own plan, choosing each component separately. All prepaid plans include free unlimited 2G data after your high-speed allotment is used up.

Pay-as-You-Go:

Not sure how much you need? Buy talk minutes, texts, and data separately, adding more as needed.

Best Data Only Plans: Tello

Tello also wins in the data plans category. So if you've got a tablet or other device that doesn't require talk minutes or texting you can get a great deal on high-speed data alone.

Choose from plans between 1 GB of 10 GB of data. Best of all? Tello lets you use your plan for tethering other devices.

Best Network Coverage: Verizon

If you're shopping for a new cell phone plan you're probably asking one big question: who has the best cell phone coverage? We go into detail in our guide but the short answer, though, is that all four major carriers offer similar coverage and reliability.

Although all four of the big guys rate within a few percentage points of each other for coverage, download speeds, and reliability, Verizon consistently comes out on top.

RootMetrics performs testing to determine top dog among wireless carriers. In the second half of 2017 their results showed Verizon as the winner in all six of their test categories.

OpenSignal uses actual customers as the basis of their ratings. In their January 2018 report OpenSignal placed Verizon just behind T-Mobile in coverage, showing a 4G signal 92.7% of the time compared to T-Mobile's 93.1%.

As you can see the numbers are very close, however due to its dominance in virtually every area we chose Verizon for the best overall network coverage.

Three of our favorite MVNOs run on the Verizon network: Twigby, Tello, and US Mobile.

Best MVNO: Mint

When it comes down to it, Mint Mobile has unbeatable rates on the kinds of plans most people - and families - need. Not only that, but they make it simple. No complicated bills, no confusing plan choices. And you only pay every three, six, or 12 months so you can set it and forget it.

What we love best about Mint Mobile? They reward loyalty. You get a deeper discount the more you buy.

Great Ways to Save on Your Next Smartphone

While some of the MVNOs on our list do sell devices, you're better off choosing another option.

  1. Keep your phone. This is the most effective way of saving money on your smartphone. Alternative carriers encourage bringing your own phone - it's easy and free.
  2. Buy a used or refurbished device. If your iPhone or Android phone is at the end of its usefulness or you want the next model newer you can save over 50% off the retail price by purchasing a used device. Get more tips on how to buy a used cell phone.

We've also put together a guide on how to sell your old phone so you can get cash to put toward a new one. Also, we've got great smartphone deals for you.

Related: How to Pick the Right Cell Phone Plan for You

Recap

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Cell Phone Plans FAQs

QWhat carriers have unlimited data plans?

A

Most cell phone carriers these days offer unlimited talk and texting plans. Carriers that offer unlimited plans include Verizon, AT&T, Google Fi, Sprint, and T Mobile. Unlimited data plans are less common, but are available from Sprint, Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, Straight Talk, and Metro PCS.

QWhat is the cheapest cell phone company?

A

The cheapest cell phone company will vary based on how you use your phone. People who rarely use their phone will probably find a prepaid phone to be the cheapest option. International travelers with low data usage can get great value out of Google Fi. Republic Wireless is a great, all around, cheap option.

QWhich cell phone provider is fastest?

A

As a no-contract cell phone provider with a limited network, T-Mobile used to be in the middle of the pack when it came to the top mobile providers. However, after their new network recently rolled out their overall quality went through the roof. They had always offered good month to month plans but their network couldn't back it up.

Now they have the fastest data speeds in the market. If you are looking for a carrier that offers blazingly fast download and upload speeds then T-Mobile is number one. However, their coverage is still limited.

QHow can I deal with poor reception?

A

If you live in a rural area with weak cell reception there are several ways you can boost or cope with this issue. First, check your provider. If your poor reception is caused by your provider's weak coverage of the area, you may just have to switch to another carrier with better coverage. However, some areas of the country are difficult to reach for all companies so you'll have to try other tactics:

  • Keep your phone charged. Some phones tend to have better reception when they are running on adequate power. It takes plenty of power to connect a call; if your phone's battery is low it may have a harder time finding a signal.
  • Find your home's hot spots. There may be areas around your house that have stronger signals than others. Place your phone in these areas and use speaker-phone or a Bluetooth headset to communicate while your device remains stationary.
  • Step outside or near a window rather than making calls from the middle of buildings.
  • Use a cellular repeater. A repeater is a device that can boost a weak signal in a certain area. Install it outside that area, preferably somewhere that has at least two bars of signal and it should increase the signal around it.

QHow can I use my cell phone while abroad?

A

Using a cell phone while you are outside the country can be very expensive and reception largely depends on the carrier. Most people choose to use their cell phones only for emergencies while traveling abroad. To cut down on costs while keeping your phone one just in case you need it, turn off data and GPS.

Some providers have roaming plans, but these too can be pricey. However, some are better than others. As of last year, T-Mobile started including roaming data and texting in its popular "Simple Choice Plan." Not every country is covered in any of the top wireless companies' roaming plans. However, a list of the covered location should be provided by each carrier.

QWhich cell phone companies offer unlimited data?

A

You can find unlimited data plans offered by a number of carriers, including T-Mobile, Sprint, Cricket Wireless, and Boost Mobile. These plans can be pre and post-paid, and let you surf the web as much as you'd like. The plans may throttle your speed if you use too much data in a month.

QHow much is a Verizon plan for one person?

A

A one person phone plan on the Verizon network will cost anywhere from $35 to $85 per month. The $35 plan includes unlimited talk and text plus 2GB of data per month. The Unlimited Beyond plan will run you $85 per month.

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