Provided here is a brief description about major providers and identification of their plans that could be among the leaders in the four categories; Cheap, Unlimited, Family and Prepaid, identified earlier.
The list is organized by the provider, and under each provider, where one of its plans are among the best plans for one of the four categories, that plan is listed with a mention of the category because of which it has been included.
When determining which cell phone carrier can offer the best monthly plan, you need to consider many factors. Naturally, price is one of the most important aspects of every plan, but it shouldn’t necessarily rank at the top of your list of priorities. For instance, extensive network coverage and reliable customer support are just some of the other details you should look for first in an internet carrier. This way, even if you pay a higher price initially, it’s very likely to pay off in the long run.
In this article, we’ll give you a rundown of the most favorable cell phone plans in the U.S. Ultimately, we’ll decide which one has the edge over all the others.
Mint operates on the T-Mobile cellular network in the United States and offers some of the most attractive plans. Though new phones are available at attractive prices, existing devices are welcome. There is no extra charge for the SIM card in such cases., a big deal considering most service providers would charge for it. Prepaid plans are normally available for durations of 3, 6 and 12 months, with 12 being the cheapest, except for the 3-month intro offer. The catch is that on renewal after 3 months, it becomes more expensive unless you lock-in for 12 months.
Mint allows unlimited talk and text on its plans as well as free access to mobile hotspots. You can call for free to Mexico and Canada. For data, your service will switch seamlessly between 5G & 4G LTE to identify the best network available.
Tello provides coast to coast 4G LTE/ 5G coverage based on the Sprint network which has recently merged into T-Mobile. It offers a unique Build Your Own Plan option where you can choose the combination of data and text minutes you need. It is meant for people with need for data allocation. At the ‘unlimited data’ setting, you get unlimited texting minutes as well, apart from all the standard inclusion in all Tello plans.
The pricing is transparent. There are no activation or termination fees and you can upgrade your downgrade your plan at any time with no extra fees. You can even turn your phone into a hotspot and allow others to share your plan minutes. Tello charges incoming calls to your prepaid account balance. Besides, the speed is reduced to 2G once plan allocation has been used up
Verizon’s No Annual Contract Monthly Plans help you keep your spending in check while accessing one of the best networks in America. The longer your prepaid connection continues, the more the savings that accrue to you. You can also get up to $15/month savings after 9 months of service, with loyalty discounts and Auto Pay.
You can use your own device, subject to compatibility, with the Verizon plans. And if you sign up online, there is no activation fee. Though service is available nationwide, roaming charges could apply if used outside the prepaid coverage area with domestic voice roaming billed at $0.20/minute. You don’t get data while roaming. Whatyou get is the 5G network nationwide and unlimited text and talk time. You can even change your prepaid account to a postpaid account or vice versa if you so desire, during the period of your service.
Verizon unlimited plans tend to be more expensive and they do not include mobile hotspot in some.
With AT&T you get is the reliability of a BIG FOUR carrier with its 5G network. You have a great choice of phones and can even plug-in your own device to the network, by just buying the AT&T SIM.
It offers substantial savings on autopay. You get unlimited talk, text and data on most pkans, available in Canada and Mexico as well.
Works out somewhat expensive for short periods. They also charge activation fee of $15 for offline orders and $4.99 for a SIM Card
Visible is owned by Verizon and runs on their powerful network. It makes life simple for customers by offering just one plan. The plan is available for $25/ month. This is only for the first month. Thereafter it goes to $40/ month. However, Visible offers methods through which the plan price can stay low.
Customer service is through human assistance on chat.
The one plan provides unlimited data, messages and minutes without additional fees. However, the initial plan price goes up after the first month. There are schemes like ‘Party Pay’ and referral programs that can help you keep it low.
The greatest benefit of subscribing to Metro is the ability to use T-Mobile’s superfast network. Even though you may experience speed reduction due to congestion, you’ll still have access to 5G thanks to the connection with T-Mobile.
The company has two appealing unlimited plans. One costs $50 per month, whereas the other is $10 more, but comes with an Amazon Prime subscription. Also, you get more hotspot data, along with Scam Shield services.
Metro’s $40 prepaid plan also boasts a good amount of data. You get 10GB of internet, and the ability to stream music from more than 40 sources.
The phone selection is excellent, too. There are many budget solutions, with about 30 percent of Metro’s phones costing under $200.
If you’re already using Comcast’s internet, you can save a good amount of money by subscribing to Xfinity Mobile. But Xfinity is a low-cost option even without bundles. Their unlimited plan costs $45 per month, and lets you use Verizon’s high-speed 5G network.
Another perk of Xfinity Mobile is cheap data lines. Each line you add to your plan costs just $45.
There are a large number of phones you can get at Xfinity Mobile. For example, you find some of the most recent flagship devices, such as the Galaxy Note 20. Moreover, the company supports Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, as well as iPhone devices under the Bring Your Own Phone program.
Consumer Cellular mainly appeals to senior citizens. The company offers discounts of up to 5 percent every month to AARP members. The network is great due to the fact that Consumer Cellular uses T-Mobile and AT&T’s towers.
Consumer Cellular is primarily an excellent solution if you don’t need unlimited data or talking. There are plans with limited data at a fair price. Furthermore, if you restrict your talking to 250 minutes per month, you’ll get a $5 discount on the $30, 3GB plan.
Following the merger between Sprint (Boost Mobile’s previous parent company) and T-Mobile, Boost Mobile started offering its services using the latter company’s network. This means that the network’s speed is high, save during congestion periods.
If you become one of Boost Mobile’s customers, your best option is to select one of the two unlimited plans they provide. The first one includes a half-year Tidal subscription and 12GB of hotspot data for $50 per month. The other plan costs $60 per month, and the main perks include 30GB of hotspot data, and the ability to stream HD videos. However, the company puts caps on game streaming and music.
There are also two-tiered internet data plans. One of the plans features a $5 discount after three and six months of subscribing to Boost Mobile. Also, you can get their 10GB plan for $35 per month.
Cricket Wireless is notorious for its low internet speeds, and usually ranks at the bottom of U.S. mobile carriers with regard to data plans. The reason for this is Cricket Wireless has data caps under almost all its plans. Even though AT&T is Cricket Wireless’ parent company, you won’t have access to download speeds higher than 8 Mbps under tiered plans, and the highest download speed under unlimited plans is just 3 Mbps.
The only plan without data caps costs $60 per month. It features 15 GB of hotspot data. On top of that, this plan gives you access to 5G.
Despite the recent improvements to their data speed performance, Straight Talk is still quite sluggish. The good thing about the company is that it offers the lowest prices on the market. For instance, you can get 25 GB for $60 or $45 per month. Unlimited data comes at the cost of $55 per month.
After its acquisition of Sprint, T-Mobile is one of the widest networks in the country. Many of T-Mobile’s plans include its entertainment perks like Music Unlimited. In coverage, T-Mobile has just edged out AT&T for the number two spot nationwide.
It offers international calls at very competitive rates while allowing phones on their network to be used like local phones in Canada and Mexico. Its starting plans are amongst the most affordable. It ratchets speeds downwards during periods of network congestion.
If you are looking to change your device, it might be a good time to review your plan and shop around for other, more suitable plans.
Even if you are not planning to change your device, it might be a good time to review your plan and shop around for a more suitable offering from providers. Even if it means you migrate to another plan of the same provider, which might be easier as it might save you termination fees, if done prematurely.
Any time is a good time to review and change your cellphone plan. In a dynamic business, providers periodically introduce newer plans to cater to changing requirements and demographics. In many cases, this results in newer plans offering more for less, or same for less or more for same. However, if you are on an older plan, they will let that continue. The initiative to change needs to be taken by you, the consumer.
The balance of power between postpaid and prepaid plans also changes. Ever since cellphones started gaining popularity, prepaid plans have been considered to be the poor cousin between the two, meant for people who did not have a good credit score. Prepaid plan customers would get access to only the lower end phone models and would receive lower priority customer service. But that is changing. Prepaid plans are offering greater options and are being taken up by more and more people for the flexibility and freedom they offer.
Commitment periods are changing. While longer term contracts might still get you the best deals, they are no longer considered necessary. Many postpaid plans are available with commitments as low as one month, which is equivalent to no commitment or contract.
Everything considered, the best time to look for a suitable plan is now.
People who have been through this exercise, of choosing a cellphone plan, and presumably now everyone has, would understand that it is like solving a complicated mathematical problem of optimization, without the mathematical tools or computing power. There is no perfect answer and whatever you decide on, there is probably a better one someone is going to point out to you.
As a consumer, all you really want is the best at the lowest price. While price is transparent, each price point can get you a bewildering array of combinations. Eventually, you will need to rely on your requirements, usage pattern and preferences. Whether a better plan exists out there or not, this is the best for you. At least at this time.
That is a given. But evaluating the ‘best’ usually leads one through winding lanes of competing priorities that one needs to navigate with care. Then there is context; you. What does it mean to you, as each individual has many common and many unique requirements that he is in the best position to evaluate.
People’s preferences while choosing a cellphone plan generally fall into one of the following four categories:
Perhaps the simplest to understand, and means the same thing to everyone. Of course, there is usually a direct correlation with the benefits you get; the cheaper the plan the fewer the benefits, but people who go in for the cheap plans understand that.
If a cellphone is a ‘just in case’ accessory for you, a cheap plan is adequate. Or if you are a user who will use it for light usage like the occasional email of message on the go, but who would limit the heavy usage when he gets back to the office or home to the laptop.
Many carriers offer cheap options. Data caps usually get smaller with the price. You could get a plan for under $15 per month.
People are using cellphones more for internet these days and less for talking. For most users, therefore, the availability of data is key. You are comfortable using your cellphone for the major part of your browsing, emailing, social media, even playing games and watching movies, on the go. And you are on the go for the most part. Then this is for you.
Plans with unlimited data are typically the upper end of the scale, on the other end from the ‘cheap’ plans we just discussed. $30 is perhaps the bottom end of the unlimited scale. It will increase with carrier and coverage. Plans that offer a 5G connection will cost even more. Of course, as plan prices increase, the bundled freebies will also likely increase.
Family plans have become a useful mechanism for keeping overall costs in check while enabling individual connections for people ion the plan. Inclusion of more numbers in the plan will bring the per line cost down, as per the standard relationship of volume and value in cellphone plans. The larger the gross bill, the lower the rate per user within the package.
A suggestion for family plan users would be that it might be worthwhile to pay a bit more and be comfortable on the data caps and coverage so that no individual’s needs are compromised. Cheaper plans, of course, would be available. You can expect to pay upwards of $100 for a 4-line plan.
Prepaid plans have been playing catch-up with postpaid for many years. The relative aura of postpaid has dimmed. Prepaid often gets you the cheapest plans with the greatest flexibility.
Though many prepaid plans are geared towards the budget plan seeker, they now cover tastes and preferences across the spectrum, including unlimited data plans.
There are a few other criteria that plan buyers will use while buying a plan. These are:
Coverage offered should cover the locations where it will be used
Customer service should be reachable and responsive, when needed
Phones available and bundled with the plan
In the industry, there are companies that have laid out networks and own them and use it for offering their services. The primary ones in the US are AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile (bought Sprint in 2020 which was another carrier). US Cellular is also a carrier, but operates in limited areas, hence generally not spoken of in the same breath as the other four, or other three.
An MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) on the other hand, does not own the network. They ride on one of more of the network owning carriers. While they do not have the overhead costs of the carriers, no doubt they have to pay fair amounts to them for using their network.
The advantage of MVNOs is their nimbleness and ability to spot gaps in the market and step in. Carriers tend to be slow to react, as large organizations tend to be.
There are concerns people have that MVNOs may not be as reliable as carriers. There should not be any reason for such concerns as they have back-up arrangements in place based on which their services are offered. Of course, if they fail to meet their commitments, recourse if available.
Some of the MVNOs are:
Overall, T-Mobile has better offers than all the other mobile carriers. The company consistently provides high-speed internet at a fair price. Also, the numerous discounts and free trials set T-Mobile apart from the competition. Best of all, you can get T-Mobile’s 5G network almost anywhere in the country and reap the benefits of optimal internet performance.
On the other hand, you should also consider offers from Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) such as Visible or Metro by T-Mobile. They’ll give you access to high-speed networks owned by their parent companies at lower prices. Therefore, these mobile carriers are an affordable option and offer good performance overall.