Cheap cell phone plans should be inexpensive, flexible, and simple to understand. Purchasing a cell phone plan can be expensive and the last thing you want are hidden costs and low data caps. It may be tough to find a plan that gives you all the bells and whistles you desire and saves you money, but it's not impossible.
In my research, I put costs, customer service, and contracts at the top of my list. Because everyone has different cell phone data usage habits, I have reviewed the cheapest cell phone plans to help you find one that suits your needs.
Key Considerations When Comparing Cheap Phone Plans
In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that 23% of smartphone owners in the U.S. said they had canceled their cell phone plan in the past because they couldn't afford it. With large overage fees and high prices on low data caps, it's obvious why many are struggling and searching for the cheapest smartphone plans.
There are various questions to contemplate when looking for the cheapest cell phone plans available. Obviously, it's important to pay attention to prices. But it's also necessary to pay attention to some other things including:
1. How much data and how many minutes do you need?
The amount you'll be using your phone will determine how much data and minutes you'll need in a month. If you can estimate the amount of data and minutes you're going to need, you can compare the cheapest cell phone plans based on that amount. This is the best way to decide on a plan, whether it's prepaid, postpaid or pay-as-you-go.
If you are sure you won't be using your phone very often, a pay as you go plan could be perfect for you. Otherwise, a prepaid cell phone plan or postpaid plan is probably the way to go. Whichever option you choose, fortunately, long distance calling won't be a concern. These days, cell phone providers don't charge extra for long distance.
2. Can you bring your own cell phone?
Many carriers these days have bring your own cell phone plans. This feature allows you to activate cellular service on a used, unlocked phone at a reasonable price. This may be an option for you for anything from a basic flip phone to an iPhone or Android smartphone.
Instead of buying a brand new phone from your carrier, you can go online and buy a cheap used cell phone. If you're not sure about buying used cell phones online, check out our review of the best place to buy used cell phones. Or, you could bring a device you already have. Say, for example, your Samsung Galaxy S7 is still in great condition. You won't have to shell out big bucks for a Samsung Galaxy S8 if you've already got a working phone.
The bring your own cell phone option could save you a lot of money, especially now that most carriers have done away with free cell phones. Not every carrier offers it, though, so check with your chosen wireless carrier to ensure they allow it.
3. Will you have to sign a contract?
Whether or not you'll have to sign a cellular service contract will depend on what type of cheap phone plan you choose. Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into when you purchase a plan. Prepaid or pay as you go plans may be the way to go if you're looking for no contract. Postpaid plans almost always require a contract.
On a side note, pay attention to the locked or unlocked status of your phone if you buy from a carrier or a used cell phone site. It may be locked in an attempt to keep you from using another carrier for a certain amount of time. You can unlock cell phones in some cases - check out our guide to learn how to unlock cell phones to use on another network.
4. Are there any extra or hidden fees?
Like contracts, hidden fees and overages come along with many contract cell phone plans. Pay as you go or prepay plans, on the other hand, do not have either.
With a prepaid plan, you pay for data and minutes before you use them each month. At the end of the month, you can renew your plan for the same amount of data and minutes or switch it up, depending on your carrier's options. This way, you never have to worry about extra fees. Your monthly plan simply ends when you run out of talk time, text messages and/or data.
In 2015, 23% of smartphone owners in the U.S. said they had canceled their cell phone plan in the past because they couldn't afford it.