Are you getting ready to get your child a phone? It's an exciting yet stressful time.
On top of picking out the right device, you've also got to figure out what kind of monthly plan you should get for your young techie.
Here's the deal: the best cell phone plans for kids vary depending on your needs and wants.
There are so many carriers and phone service options - it gets downright confusing. Don't worry, I'm going to give you the information you need to make the right choice for your child and family.
Whatever your child's age, there's something for everyone in our top picks of cell phone service for kids.
In This Guide
Mobile Phone Plans for Kids and Teens
The cell phone milestone is arriving earlier and earlier as time and technology advance. According to consumer behavior analytics from Influence Central, the average age a child first gets a mobile phone is now 10 years old.
There are some great benefits of kids this young having their own phone number. They can let you know when they're home safely, or if they need a ride. You can even find them using programs like Family Locator from Verizon Wireless and others.
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One of the major cons of kids having mobile phones is that they may not be very responsible yet. With all the dangers lurking on the internet and the advanced features included on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy and iPhone, you want to make sure they have the right plan.
Limited Phone Service Plans
Young children may be better off with a basic phone, rather than an iPhone or Android phone. This way you can use a plan with talk and text for easy contact, and forego internet access.
The best part?
These are the cheapest cell phone plans because you can typically prepay plan charges for the number of minutes and text messages your child needs, rather than paying for an entire unlimited talk, text, and data package.
Medium Phone Plans
Have a tween? You may not want him or her to have unrestricted service, yet you may also want to provide some access to apps and the internet. You can choose a plan with a set number of minutes and texts, plus a limited amount of data.
Even though overage charges are virtually extinct, setting a limit on data usage is still good practice to keep children from becoming too device-dependent too early on.
More Data/Unlimited Plans
For the screen-addicted teen, you may want to provide more data plus unlimited talk and text. While Millennials represent the largest group of smartphone users on the whole (according to Nielsen), teenagers are no slouches.
Pew Research Center data shows that teens send and receive an average of 30 text messages per day, while 94% of teenage mobile device users access the internet daily via their phone.
Pro Tip: Even though unlimited and higher-tier data plans are more expensive, don't forget if your teenager has a job, this is a great opportunity to teach them about budgeting by having them pay a portion or all of their own bill.
Single or Family Plan?
I know what you're thinking: isn't it best to add my child's phone to my existing monthly plan? The answer: maybe. If your child is younger, the cheapest cell phone plan may be a separate, pay-as-you-go option with a basic phone. Carriers like Virgin Mobile, Straight Talk, and Cricket Wireless all offer reasonable single-phone plans.
For older teens, you could be better off using the family plan discount with your current provider, especially if you already have an unlimited plan. For example, if you're on the T-Mobile network, you'll find one of the most affordable family plans available. You can use our handy tool to figure out the best family plan for you and your children.
Next up: our top five picks for mobile phone service for kids and teens.
The Best Cell Phone Plans for Kids: Our Top Picks
US Mobile - 100 Minutes/100 Texts/100MB Data
US Mobile is an MVNO using the T-Mobile network. Their customizable plans are ideal for teenagers who need plenty of texts, minutes, and enough data to surf the web.
US Mobile $30 Plan (9 Lines)
- Flexible plan options from $2 to $54
- Tethering allowed
- Excellent customer service
- Cannot share plans among devices
- No international roaming
- Limited phone selection
For the ultimate in flexibility, US Mobile offers a staggering amount of plans suitable for kids, teens, seniors, families--literally anyone.
US Mobile is a great carrier if you want to bring your own phone. It must be a GSM device (one that takes a SIM card). The low rates and the variety of US Mobile plans make this a smart option for kids and teens.
TPO - Unlimited Talk and Text/1GB Data
The People's Operator is unique because they donate 10% of your bill to a cause of your choice. The People's Plan is great for younger teens because it offers unlimited talk/text, plus a decent data bucket. TPO runs on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks.
TPO Mobile Gentle Plan (1 Line)
- Great prices
- Works with both CDMA and GSM devices (learn about CDMA vs. GSM here)
- Free SIM card
- Plans not customizable
- No mobile hotspot
TPO has affordable cell phone service for kids and gives you the option of activating a CDMA phone or using their free SIM card in your GSM device. They also offer device financing, however, it's at a very high-interest rate so you're better off bringing your own phone or buying outright.
See More: Check out other TPO plans here.
Tello - 500 Minutes/200 Texts/500MB Data
Tello is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator - read more about MVNOs here). This carrier runs on the Sprint 4G LTE network, so if you have a compatible phone your child may be able to use it. The $20 option is great for older children who don't need a lot of data.
US Mobile $21 Plan (1 Line)
- Affordable, versatile plans - change anytime
- No contract
- BYOP (bring your own phone)
- Mobile hotspot
- Share data with other devices
- Use plan in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico
- No device financing
- No roaming
It's tough to find anything bad to say about Tello plans. Prices range from $5 to $63, and you can change up any element at any time. You can BYOP or buy one from Tello for anywhere from $29 to $649, including late model iPhones and Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7. Choose from monthly billing or a prepay plan.
Pro Tip: Don't forget you can bring your own phone number to any of these providers.
Republic Wireless Clear Choice Plan - Unlimited Talk/Text and WiFi Data
Republic Wireless (MVNO on Sprint and T-Mobile) keeps costs low by using their Adaptive Coverage. This allows your device to switch seamlessly between WiFi and cellular coverage, even for phone calls.
The Clear Choice plan is one of the best cell phone plans for younger children because they get unlimited talk and text, but can only use data when connected to WiFi.
Simple Mobile $50 Plan (1 Line)
- Affordable lower-tier plans
- No contract
- Good phone selection with financing available
- BYOP only available for GSM; must purchase CDMA phone
- Pricey for higher amounts of data
See More: You can check out other Republic Wireless plans here.
A few other providers you may want to consider, especially if you're shopping for a prepay plan, include:
- Straight Talk
- Cricket Wireless
- Boost Mobile
- Virgin Mobile
These carriers are all MVNOs operating on the major networks.
For older teens, you could be better off using the family plan discount with your current provider, especially if you already have an unlimited plan.
There are plenty of choices when it comes to finding the best cell phone plan for your child. As far as choosing the right phone, remember that kids don't need the fanciest, most expensive device. There are several Android phones that are cheap yet functional.
The most important thing is choosing a plan you can afford that allows your child the safety and features they need.
Once you've chosen a cell phone plan, you have the option of bringing your own phone (BYOP) or purchasing a new one. Sometimes, however, a smartphone may not be the best idea for your child's first cell phone (especially if they're prone to dropping things!).
Take a look at our buyer's guide to phones for kids to find basic, flip, and smartphones suitable for young children and teenagers.
Also, don't forget to brush up on cell phone safety for kids!