When you're ready to compare cell phone plans, you need all the information you can get. There are so many different options as far as data allowance, devices, and price - it can be difficult to decide which carrier and cell phone plan best fit your needs.
That's where we come in. In this guide, we'll help you compare monthly plans among major providers.
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Key Considerations When Comparing Cell Phone Plans
Making a wise choice among cell phone plans is especially important in this high-tech era because many people rely mainly on their smartphone for internet access. If you're in this group, you need reliable service and enough data to be able to read email, watch videos, and even access job search tools.
There are thousands of cell phone plans out there. To narrow down your options, we suggest you ask yourself some simple questions about the ways you use your device. These include:
- Which network(s) offer coverage in your area and the areas you visit most often?
- Do you need a single line or additional lines?
- Do you really need unlimited data?
- Do you need unlimited calls and texts?
- Are you keeping your phone or shopping for a new one?
Why you should consider MVNOs
Another option to take into consideration is making the switch to a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). MVNOs are popping up all over the grid and taking the big four networks by storm. They offer great benefits such as a customizable plan with no contracts while offering you the same coverage.
They buy network service from the "big four" - AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint - and sell it to consumers at a cheaper price. They are able to offer more affordable prices because they have lower overheads and spend much less on marketing.
MVNOs can save your more than 50% on your cell phone bill totaling hundreds of dollars in savings each year.
One thing to keep in mind when comparing cell phone plans is that the days of subsidized phone purchase are largely over. Most carriers have moved to a system of monthly device payments, even for the cheapest cell phone they carry.
Other benefits of switching to an MVNO include:
- Bring your own phone (BYOP) - AND keep your phone number
- Switching made easy- sign up online and simply swap SIM cards
- High ranking customer service
- Customizable plans- pay for only what you need
- No contracts, no credit checks, no problem- most MVNOs operate as prepaid carriers
- Same 4G LTE mobile network you already use
Which network is best for you?
Different networks offer different amounts of coverage. This is dependant on where you live. Check out our detailed coverage maps for to help decide which network you should be operating on. Once you decide which network works best for you, be sure to check our handy guides of the correlating MVNOs with Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile to save you even more money.
Single line or additional lines?
Family/group cell phone plans can offer real savings. There are three main benefits of joining a family, group, or shared cell phone plan:
- Oftentimes you're rewarded for signing up a group of phones at one time.
- You can add up to eight lines as long as there's just one monthly bill.
- There are usually no additional credit checks - just the one for the main account holder.
How much data do you need?
The big four cell phone companies love to push unlimited, but do you really need unlimited data? Check out our data usage calculator to see if you could get away with a set limit of data each month. After all, the average person uses less than 3GB of data per month and MVNOs offer huge savings when you customize your plan to meet your needs.
Check out these data-saving tips to keep your data usage in check:
- Try to use WiFi whenever possible
- Avoid downloading apps unless you are connected to a WiFi network
- Restrict your data usage- head to your settings and put a cap on the data you use.
- Avoid using apps that have a lot of advertisements. These apps gobble up data.
- Avoid streaming high-quality music and videos.
Do you need unlimited calls and texts?
Look into how useful an unlimited talk/text plan is for your personal needs. Why pay for what you don't need? Most MVNOs offer flexibility with their customizable plans that allow you a certain amount of texts and minutes. So if you aren't a heavy texter or frequent caller, you should check them out.
Related: Making the Switch to T-Mobile
Other Ways to Save Money
- Buy a refurbished smartphone. If you don't currently own a phone, consider purchasing a refurbished one. Check out our used phone comparison tool to find the cheapest, most available used phones.
- Look for other deals. Certain companies have various deals for certain things. For instance, did you know that there are cell phone plans specifically for senior citizens? Check out our analysis of the best cell phone deals for seniors as well for even more savings.
- Monitor your data. Do you have family members that eat up all your data? Do you browse the Internet at all hours of the night or stream high-definition video?
- Get cash for your old phone by selling it online.
Related: Be sure to check out our cell phone guides, which will help you save on your monthly bill!
Do keep in mind that as you're selecting your new cell phone plan that the big four carriers certainly aren't the only choices when it comes to mobile service. So instead of resigning with your current network, check out the MVNOs which operate on your network and offer the same coverage at a lower price.
Whether you're looking for traditional service with one of the big four or a prepaid wireless plan, the right carrier is out there. It's just a matter of deciding which one fits your needs and budget. Check out our top picks of the best cell phone plans here.