Cheap Phone Plans Compared: 8 Affordable Alternatives to Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T

Cell phone plans can be expensive. These days, however, they are a necessity that cannot be eliminated as our modern world becomes increasingly dependent on mobile devices. While you can’t get your cell phone expenses down to zero, there are some cheap phone plans that can get you pretty close.

We put together our recommendations on the best cheap phone plans out there. We’ve taken into account not only price, but also which plans offer the best value based on your needs. If you don’t consume a ton of data each month (and most people don’t), there are significant savings to be had.

There was a time when the US consumer’s only real options for cell service were Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Fortunately, those days are long gone: mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) have emerged as affordable alternatives to the Big Three. (Why not the Big Four? Sprint merged with T-Mobile in 2020.) An MVNO leases access to major carriers and offers similar cell phone services at lower prices. That means you can sign up with Mint Mobile, for example, and get a kind of T-Mobile Lite service for less.

Keep in mind that you may first need to complete any existing contracts or leases with your current provider, or pay a penalty for leaving early. If you bought your phone directly from a carrier, make sure it’s unlocked and compatible with other networks. Once you’ve taken care of those preliminaries, you can switch plans.

Not comfortable changing from a major operator to a smaller one? AT&T and Verizon offer prepaid plans for much less than the widely advertised unlimited plans. Still, check out these other plans. Here are our picks for the cheapest phone plan that will help you save big on your monthly cell phone bill, which we’ll update regularly.

Are you an Optimum or Suddenlink cable subscriber? You qualify for an additional $10 savings each month, which means you can get cell phone service for as little as $22. Unfortunately, although Altice (which runs on the T-Mobile network) already supports 5G, the carrier’s unlimited plan costs $45 per month. Before it was $20.

Black Wireless leases service from AT&T and offers an attractive unlimited plan: just $15 a month if you pay a year up front (that’s $180 up front), or $20 if you pay month-to-month. Data slows to 128kbps after the first gigabyte, so this is a plan that rewards you if you spend most of your time on Wi-Fi.

Boost plans start at just $8.33 for 1 GB of data, or you can take it up to 2 GB for $15 per month or 5 GB for $25 per month. Whichever path you choose, your plan includes unlimited talk and text. You must also bring your own phone.

Boost operates on the T-Mobile network and offers 5G.

Hello, a T-Mobile MVNO, offers unlimited talk and text plans starting at just $5. But the real standout here is the $25 plan, which adds unlimited 4G and 5G data to the mix. You also get free calls and texts to several dozen countries.

Hello is also among a relatively small number of MVNOs that cater to families: You can have up to five lines, with discounts as you add more. For a family of four, for example, the unlimited data plan would cost just $17 per line.

Here’s the only real problem: If you want a mobile hotspot feature, it’ll cost you another $15 per month.

Mint takes the notion of “prepaid” cellular service to the next level: You get price discounts when you pay for three, six or 12 months in advance. So, for example, a payment of $45 would get you three months on the provider’s 4GB plan.

However, the offers get better as you level up. Prepay $360, for example (which works out to $30 per month), and you’ll get 12 months of totally unlimited service. Mint relies on the T-Mobile network and offers both 4G and 5G: “Which is stronger” depending on where you are.

If you’re looking for service for a rarely used backup phone or perhaps a tween who needs a phone just for emergencies, consider TextNow’s free plan that sounds too good to be true. All you need is a compatible Sprint phone and you can get unlimited talk and unlimited text for free. (Everything else requires Wi-Fi, though you do have the option to add a 2GB data plan for $20/mo.)

Want to learn more? read about TextNow’s Surprisingly Good Free Plan.

US Mobile runs on the T-Mobile and Verizon networks and offers service plans for just about every budget imaginable. That’s because you can choose between fixed plans or create a custom one. One standout is the $15 plan, which includes unlimited talk and text and 5GB of high-speed data. Boost that to 30GB for $30 a month.

The operator also offers price discounts on various lines. For example, three lines on US Mobile’s unlimited plan would cost $75 per month.

Visible is for those who don’t want to sacrifice unlimited service. Now, with 5G coverage in the mix, the carrier’s only plan, which costs $40 a month, includes unlimited data on Verizon’s network.

However, there is an easy way to get it for less: Sign up for Visible Party Pay Option, which can lower your monthly plan fee to as low as $25 per person. This is not a traditional family plan; you can do this with friends, co-workers, even strangers you meet on reddit.

There are other inexpensive options, but these are among our favorites.

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