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Postpaid vs Prepaid in 2024

The key to finding the best value prepaid plan is all about leveraging the competitive rates offered by low-cost carriers. You'll get the same coverage for a fraction of the cost without hidden fees and price hikes. Here are the most affordable providers to consider.

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Are you trying to decide on a prepaid or a postpaid phone plan? At MoneySavingPro, we've got you covered.

Whether a postpaid or prepaid cell phone plan would be best will vary depending on a number of things including if you like to keep up to date with the latest devices or if you're looking to save money.

We've selected some prepaid deals with MVNOs below and discussed the pros and cons of both postpaid and prepaid plans so you can choose the best option for you.

Image of cell phone with Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile unlimited data plan
Cheap prepaid unlimited plan
Image of cell phone with Tello
Tello 2GB plan
Cheap phone plan
$10/mo
Image of cell phone with Ultra Mobile
Ultra Mobile 3GB plan
Cheap prepaid phone plan
Image of cell phone with US Mobile
US Mobile unlimited data plan
Cheap prepaid family plan
Image of cell phone with Twigby
Twigby 2GB plan
Best cheap phone plan

Best prepaid plan

Mint Mobile unlimited data plan

Image of cell phone with Mint Mobile
  • T-Mobile coverage
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Instant eSIM activation
Unlimited
data
$15/mo*
$30/mo
See at Mint Mobile

*$45 for 3 Months

4.2 Read our Mint Mobile review
$585 in annual savings

Cheap phone plan

Tello 2GB plan

Image of cell phone with Tello
  • T-Mobile coverage
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Instant eSIM activation
2GB
data
$10/mo
5 Read our Tello review
$780 in annual savings

Cheap prepaid phone plan

Ultra Mobile 3GB plan

Image of cell phone with Ultra Mobile
  • T-Mobile coverage
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Instant eSIM activation
3GB
data
$16/mo*
$19/mo
See at Ultra Mobile

*$48 for 3 Mths

3.4 Read our Ultra Mobile review
$681 in annual savings

Cheap prepaid family plan

US Mobile unlimited data plan

Image of cell phone with US Mobile
  • Verizon & T-Mobile coverage
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Instant eSIM activation
Unlimited
data
$15/mo*
$29/mo
See at US Mobile

*30 Day FREE Trial

5 Read our US Mobile review
$594 in annual savings

Cheap prepaid unlimited plan

Mint Mobile unlimited data plan

Image of cell phone with Mint Mobile
  • T-Mobile coverage
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Instant eSIM activation
Unlimited
data
$15/mo*
$30/mo
See at Mint Mobile

*$45 for 3 Months

4.2 Read our Mint Mobile review
$585 in annual savings

Best cheap phone plan

Twigby 2GB plan

Image of cell phone with Twigby
  • Verizon coverage
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Instant eSIM activation
2GB
data
$5/mo*
$15/mo
See at Twigby

*$5/mo for 1st 3 Mths

4.4 Read our Twigby review
$750 in annual savings

Cheap T-Mobile plan

Mint Mobile 15GB plan

Image of cell phone with Mint Mobile
  • T-Mobile coverage
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Instant eSIM activation
15GB
data
$15/mo*
$20/mo
See at Mint Mobile

*$45 for 3 Months

4.2 Read our Mint Mobile review
$675 in annual savings

Cheap AT&T plan

Red Pocket 20GB plan

Image of cell phone with Red Pocket
  • AT&T & Verizon coverage
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Instant eSIM activation
20GB
data
$30/mo
4.1 Read our Red Pocket review
$540 in annual savings

Cheap Verizon plan

US Mobile 12GB plan

Image of cell phone with US Mobile
  • Verizon & T-Mobile coverage
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Instant eSIM activation
12GB
data
$25/mo*
See at US Mobile

*30 Day FREE Trial

5 Read our US Mobile review
$600 in annual savings

Best eSIM plan

Tello 10GB plan

Image of cell phone with Tello
  • T-Mobile coverage
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Instant eSIM activation
10GB
data
$19/mo
5 Read our Tello review
$672 in annual savings

How to choose the best prepaid or postpaid plan

What network coverage do you prefer?

Network access is a key consideration wherever you live, but especially in rural areas. Luckily, low-cost carriers operate on the same 5G & 4G LTE networks as major carriers. T-Mobile scores the highest for 5G coverage, according to an Opensignal 5G Experience Report (2023). If there is a particular network you prefer, choose an MVNO that operates on that network. Use our coverage checker to find the best cell phone service in your area.

How much data do you need?

Do you really need an unlimited data plan? The big wireless companies want you to believe so, but in reality, the average monthly cellular data consumption is around 10GB. However, if you spend most of your time at home or work on Wi-Fi, it's likely your cellular data usage will be much lower. You can choose a data plan tailored to your needs with cheap cell phone providers, meaning you can pay less if you use less. But if you do choose an unlimited data plan, be aware that high-speed data is normally capped.

Is hotspot data included?

Most carriers allow hotspot data usage but limit the amount of data that can be used via tethering. The limit depends on the carrier and plan you choose. Some carriers also offer data only plans so you can access the internet on mobile devices like iPads, tablets, and mobile hotspots when Wi-Fi's not available.

What's the monthly price?

While big wireless unlimited plans cost around $75-90 per month, the best MVNOs offer budget-friendly plans, ranging from $5-35 per month without sacrificing wireless coverage and data speeds. Watch out for hidden fees & taxes; some carriers include these in the price, and others, such as Verizon and AT&T, don't.

How many lines do you need?

With big wireless, you only get the advertised price if you buy four lines. With MVNOs, the price you see is the price you pay, even for one line. Many low-cost carriers now offer further discounts for multi-line plans.

Can I bring my own phone or buy a new device?

While the big three love keeping their customers locked into a constant phone upgrade cycle, MVNOs encourage you to bring your own phone. This means you take back control and only change your phone when it suits you. If you do want to purchase a new phone, many MVNOs offer an affordable and easy way with 0% financing over 1-2 years.

Are there any deals or promotions?

Big wireless promotions can seem good at a glance. But once you read the small print, it often leads to buying things you don't need and committing to 3-year phone contracts. Many MVNOs offer short-term introductory promotional pricing for new customers, and their pricing is much more transparent.

What perks or add ons can I expect?

Most big wireless plans include "free" TV subscriptions. Initially, these seem like a great deal. However, these usually turn into a paid subscription that is automatically added to your bill a few months down the line. A few low-cost carriers, such as US Mobile, do offer plan options with free subscription services, but we generally recommend keeping these subscriptions separate so you don't end up paying for things you don't need.

Is international calling included?

Most MVNOs offer free international calls to many countries. If this is important to you, make sure to choose a carrier that includes this.

Are there parental controls?

Some Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) provide parental controls that allow parents to monitor their children's cell phone usage and data consumption. By using these features, you have the ability to establish limits on data usage, limit access to specific apps or websites, and even keep track of your child's whereabouts. These capabilities are accessible either through subscription plans or can be adjusted in the settings of your mobile device.

Check out our cell phone plan comparison to ensure you find the best deal.


AT&T prepaid vs AT&T postpaid

Boost Mobile unlimited data plan
  • AT&T & T-Mobile 5G & 4G LTE networks
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Unlimited data
$12.50/mo*
*50% Off 1st Mth
See at Boost Mobile

AT&T vs Boost Mobile comparison

Keep your AT&T phone, number & coverage: Save $612 per year

Carrier Network Coverage 4G/5G Data Price Annual Cost
AT&T AT&T 4G & 5G Unlimited $75/mo $900/yr
Boost Mobile AT&T 4G & 5G Unlimited $25/mo $288/yr
Savings $50/mo $612/yr

T-Mobile prepaid vs T-Mobile postpaid

Mint Mobile unlimited data plan
  • T-Mobile 5G & 4G LTE network
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Unlimited data
$15/mo*
*$45 for 3 Months
See at Mint Mobile

T-Mobile vs Mint Mobile comparison

Keep your T-Mobile phone, number & coverage: Save $585 per year

Carrier Network Coverage 4G/5G Data Price Annual Cost
T-Mobile T-Mobile 4G & 5G Unlimited $75/mo $900/yr
Mint Mobile T-Mobile 4G & 5G Unlimited $30/mo $315/yr
Savings $45/mo $585/yr

Verizon prepaid vs Verizon postpaid

US Mobile unlimited data plan
  • Verizon & T-Mobile 5G & 4G LTE networks
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Unlimited data
$15/mo*
*30 Day FREE Trial
See at US Mobile

Verizon vs US Mobile comparison

Keep your Verizon phone, number & coverage: Save $594 per year

Carrier Network Coverage 4G/5G Data Price Annual Cost
Verizon Verizon 4G & 5G Unlimited $75/mo $900/yr
US Mobile Verizon 4G & 5G Unlimited $29/mo $306/yr
Savings $46/mo $594/yr

What are the benefits of prepaid phone plans?

  • No Contracts or Credit Checks. One great benefit is flexibility. Prepaid cell phone plans allow you to pay on a month-to-month basis, keeping you from getting locked into a contract you might not be able to afford or want later on down the line. Cheap prepaid cell phone plans are also available without a credit check for customers with low or no credit scores who are unable to qualify for long-term plans.
  • Customized Plans. Many providers offer a flat monthly fee that gives you access to texting, talk time, and data. In addition, you can also sign up for services where you only pay for the days you use the phone. This flexibility gives you more control over which services you pay for, whereas, with a postpaid cell phone plan, you pay a specific amount per month for a blanket of services. This means you are paying for services you might not use.
  • Easy Sign-Up Process. With prepaid cell phones, there are no credit checks or deposits you must pay to use the service. You simply buy the phone you want and the corresponding monthly service amount that best fits your needs. Conversely, with postpaid plans, the provider will check your credit to see if you have any outstanding balances with other cellular companies. If you have poor credit, they might allow you to obtain service, but you must pay a deposit first. This makes prepaid cell plans a better alternative if you have limited credit or have had financial problems in the past.
  • No Termination Fees. With a postpaid cell phone, you can either buy a phone at a discounted rate with a two-year service commitment or finance the full price of the mobile device. In either instance, if you switch service providers before fulfilling your terms, you owe a balance to the company you left, which can result in hundreds of dollars. This is why a prepaid cell phone is a great alternative because you have the freedom to switch providers any time you choose, and you don't have to worry about paying costly fees to achieve this. While it's true that you will need to make a higher initial investment to obtain a phone with a prepaid plan, a smart money rule is to only buy what you can afford now, which is what this forces you to do.
  • No-Risk. Because prepaid cell phones don't require a long-term commitment, there's no risk in simply trying the service to see if it's worth the savings. If you find that the coverage is too limiting or the service insufficient, you can always change your plan the following month.

What are the benefits of postpaid phone plans?

  • Get the newest phones: As your 24-month payment plan nears its end, you may be eligible to upgrade to the latest and greatest cell phones. If you love technology and enjoy staying on the cutting edge of cell phones, a postpaid cell phone plan is for you. Some cell phone carriers even offer early upgrading.
  • Never run out of data: No matter what postpaid cellphone plan you purchase, and no matter how many gigs of data are allotted to you, you'll never truly run out of data anymore. As of the time of this writing, all the major cell phone carriers provide extra data to users who exceed their monthly limit. You can be sure that you'll never run out of minutes, texts, or data.
  • Extras and Bonuses: Not many prepaid cell phone plans have gotten on the bandwagon and offered special bonuses and services for their consumers. On a postpaid cell phone plan, you can find carriers that offer unlimited video streaming, cloud photo storage, hotspot capabilities, and more.
  • Great for families: Postpaid cell phone plans are often perfect for families or large groups of people who want multiple lines tied to a single account and under one monthly bill. Many carriers offer specific family cell phone plans that you can see here.

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Prepaid carriers offer the best value for money

Now that I've discussed both kinds of cell phone plans, which one is better? Well, like most things in life: it depends.

Prepaid cell phones are a great fit if you are looking to control how much you pay for the services you use. While they do require an initial investment in buying the phone and service, over time, you won't have to worry about termination fees if you want to switch providers.

Best of all, obtaining a prepaid cell phone is easy since you don't have to worry about credit checks and deposits. This makes them a great option to consider if you want all the benefits of cell phone use without the high costs.

On the flip side, a postpaid cell phone is perfect for those who want to stay up-to-date with the most advanced devices, families with multiple lines, and large data users. You won't have to worry about refilling your minutes and data every month, and you can experience plenty of neat perks.

Ultimately, the best cell phone plan is the one that fits your lifestyle and budget and actually covers where you live.

Compare the cheapest prepaid phone plans

Carrier Network Data Price
Mint Mobile 15GB plan T-Mobile 5G/4G Coverage 15GB $15/mo $20/mo
Boost Mobile unlimited data plan AT&T & T-Mobile 5G/4G Coverage Unltd $12.50/mo $25/mo
Visible unlimited data plan Verizon 5G/4G Coverage Unltd $15/mo $25/mo
Mint Mobile unlimited data plan T-Mobile 5G/4G Coverage Unltd $15/mo $30/mo
Tello unlimited data plan T-Mobile 5G/4G Coverage Unltd $25/mo

Prepaid vs postpaid plans FAQs


Recap - Are prepaid or postpaid plans better?

It's a personal preference whether prepaid or postpaid plans are better, but there are pros and cons to both.

If you love upgrading your phone to the latest handset every 36 months, then postpaid plans are best, but if you're looking to save money, prepaid plans from low-cost carriers could save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Most of the low-cost carriers do offer cell phones, including the latest smartphones from Apple and Samsung, but you'd have to pay upfront for the phone. However, some do have an interest-free loan available to pay in installments.

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