You don’t need to pay an expensive monthly bill to have quality phone service. Gone are the days where you have to stay with a legacy carrier like Verizon or AT&T to receive reliable coverage.
Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are a fantastic alternative that let you save money without sacrificing quality. Our guide shares the top cheap cell phone plans to consider if you want to cut costs.
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What to Consider When Comparing No-Contract Cell Phone Plans
There are many factors to keep in mind when looking for prepaid phone plans. The following chart shows a high-level overview of the base plan for each service in our guide.
However, you’ll want to be sure to evaluate each option using the following criteria:
Price: Prepaid phone plans excel when it comes to affordability. It’s not difficult to find a plan that costs $20 a month, especially if you’re on Wi-Fi most of the time.
Even if you’re a heavy data user, using Wi-Fi is an excellent way to keep your data needs to a minimum. This will help lower your monthly phone bill since many MVNOs provide unlimited talk and text in all plans.
Nevertheless, not all budget carriers are equal in price. Some options can go as high as $50 per month. As a result, you will want to compare plan prices and features before making a decision.
Coverage: Choosing a no-contract cell phone plan is a great way to save money fast, but it’s pointless to switch carriers and end up with less than reliable coverage.
MVNOs rent space on the towers of major carriers like Verizon or T-Mobile. However, if the T-Mobile coverage in your area isn’t good, you might be in for a frustrating experience.
Every low-cost carrier shows its coverage map on its website. Take the time to review this information before making a decision to help ensure you will have quality coverage.
Once you choose your carrier, you buy an inexpensive SIM card from the chosen service, install it, and you can get started.
Know what data you need: Legacy carriers made us believe we need unlimited data to survive. MVNOs show us that you can stream lots of content without needing to spend a fortune.
But, not all no-contract options are equal on data. Some let you pay by the GB, and others level up their plans to get what you need.
It’s also important to note that many carriers let you have a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Don’t forget that the data you use from a hotspot often draws on the data plan you have. This means that you’ll need to monitor your mobile hotspot usage to ensure you don’t receive any surprises on your bill.
Plus, all MVNOs have data deprioritization. This is a temporary slowing of your data speeds for others in the network if you reach a certain data amount in a month.
Similar to price and coverage, you want to research data practices by an MVNO before making a decision.
Beyond these three things, other factors are standard when choosing cheap cell phone plans. Each plan will let you bring your own phone, keep your phone number, and won’t charge an activation fee.
Which Cell Phone Carrier Has the Cheapest Rates?
There are many choices in the MVNO space. Here are the best phone plans for people looking to save money.
Tello is one of the cheapest prepaid plans in the space. Plans start as low as $10 a month, but that only provides 1GB of data usage per month.
This provider includes unlimited talk and text for all plans. Until recently, it was with T-Mobile. Now, it operates on a nationwide GSM network.
Here are the plans available with Tello:
|Plan||Monthly Cost||Data||High-Speed Data||Hotspot Data|
If you’re on Wi-Fi a lot, Tello is a good option because it allows you to customize your plan to your needs. However, if you’re looking for cheap unlimited plans, you can get unlimited data for $29 a month.
Tello offers 4G LTE and is growing its 5G offerings. You can also make free international calls to over 60 countries.
Like most other no-contract cell phone plans, customer service is only available online.
Pros: Plans as low as $10, unlimited calls and texts
Cons: Data plans are limited
Read our Tello review to learn more.
If simplicity is important to you, Visible is a terrific option for your cell phone needs. The company only offers one plan. It includes unlimited talk, text, and data.
Visible operates on the Verizon network, making it even more attractive. While the plan is $25 per month for one line, they often have promotions to reduce the price.
For example, the carrier is currently letting customers get three months of service for $20 a month.
The carrier used to have a feature called Party Pay, that allowed you to share lines with friends and each of you can get rates as low as $25 per month.
As of August 2022 that option is no longer available.
Here is the pricing for Visible:
|Plan||Monthly Cost||Data||High-Speed Data||Hotspot Data|
Visible also offers the most generous free trial in the space, allowing you to try the service at no cost for 15 days.
The plan includes free calls to Canada and Mexico. Certain other countries are free as well. Consult their site for current availability and rates.
Additionally, the plan has no limits on your hotspot data. Visible even offers 5G service.
Frugal Rules readers can receive a $100 gift card to use on the site when they sign up through our link.
Pros: Unlimited 5G data, coverage on Verizon
Cons: Video streams in SD, there are cheaper plans available
Read our Visible by Verizon review to learn more.
Twigby is one of lowest-cost cell phone service providers in the space. All plans include unlimited talk and texts, and you purchase data separately.
They also provide up to 50 percent off for your first six months of service.
Twigby operates on the Verizon network, so you know you’ll receive reliable coverage, including 5G.
You have a few plan options. Here are the data plans (each with unlimited talk and text):
|Data||Cost Per Month|
The company has free overage protection and family plan options for everyone in your household. If you need an option for your child, Twigby is one of the best kids phone plans available.
You can also make free international calls to over 80 countries.
Pros: Customizable plans and coverage on Verizon
Cons: No physical locations
Read our Twigby review to learn more.
4. Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile is another unique alternative for cell phone service. Instead of paying for monthly service, you purchase coverage in increments of at least three months.
You can purchase plans in three, six, and 12-month time periods. All plans include unlimited talk and text.
The service is provided through the T-Mobile network.
Here are the plans available with Mint Mobile:
|Monthly Data||3 Mo. (New Customer)||3 Mo.||6 Mo.||Annual|
New customers can get unlimited data for just $30 per month, making it one of the better unlimited plans on the market.
Mint Mobile includes 4G LTE and 5G service on all plans. Plus, you get free calls to Canada and Mexico as well as reasonable rates to 160 other countries.
This stacks up well against a service like Visible by Verizon that offers unlimited data. Read our Mint Mobile vs. Visible analysis to learn how the two carriers compare.
Pros: Plans start at $15 per month, all plans offer 5G
Cons: You can’t change your plan until your current one ends
Read our Mint Mobile review to learn more.
5. Xfinity Mobile
Xfinity Mobile is a newer mobile service offered by Xfinity. You must be an Xfinity Internet service customer to qualify for mobile service.
If you live within their coverage area, you likely have them as your internet service provider. The service offers coverage on the Verizon network, so you know it’s reliable.
*Check out Xfinity Mobile’s savings calculator to see how much you can save by switching.*
The pricing structure is the best part of Xfinity Mobile. They offer one of the best cheap cell phone plans for families.
Xfinity is proud to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Qualified customers can receive a credit of up to $30 per month towards their Internet and mobile service. Learn more today.
Each plan includes:
- Free, unlimited nationwide talk and text
- No line access fees for up to ten lines
- Free access to 18+ million Wi-Fi hotspots
- 100 MB shared data for free each month
Aside from taxes, the base plan is free of charge.
Assuming you need data, here are the plans available with Xfinity Mobile:
|Lines||Data||Cost Per Month|
Xfinity Mobile offers international calling to nearly 200 countries. You also get access to 5G coverage.
Like many other no-contract carriers, you get access to a mobile hotspot if you need data while traveling.
Pros: Free unlimited talk and text on all plans, coverage on Verizon
Cons: Only available to Xfinity Internet customers
Read our Xfinity Mobile review to learn more.
Ting is another good MVNO if you want to save on your phone bill. The carrier is owned by Dish, and the base plan offers a bit more data than Tello Mobile.
Better yet, Ting operates on two carriers, including T-Mobile and Verizon. This helps ensure increased reliability in case one is down.
The carrier was also recently named the top provider in the U.S. by Consumer Reports.
*Related: Are you looking for a no-contract cell phone plan that fits your needs? Read our Mint Mobile vs. Ting comparison to see which service is best for you.
Here are the plans available with Ting Mobile:
|Plan||Monthly Cost||Data||High-Speed Data||Hotspot Data|
All plans include unlimited talk and text.
Ting allows you to make international calls to Canada, China, Germany, India, Israel, Mexico, and the United Kingdom only using your minutes. Consult their site for current rates.
If you need 5G, Ting won’t disappoint as they offer it on all plans.
Pros: Works on two networks
Cons: Can get expensive for heavy data users
Read our Ting review to learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Choosing a new phone plan can be difficult. Here are some common questions we frequently receive from people looking to switch carriers.
What Kind of Cell Phone Do I Need?
An unlocked phone is your best tool when choosing an MVNO. These types of phones give you the flexibility to move to any carrier you wish.
Unlocked phones are not tied to a specific carrier or contract.
You can find unlocked cell phones on Amazon and take them to any carrier that allows you to bring your own phone.
Should I Buy My Own Phone Instead of Getting One From a Carrier?
It’s often best to buy your own phone. This gives you more freedom to switch carriers and not risk buying a locked phone.
Some carriers sell unlocked devices, but it is wise to purchase your own phone if you plan on staying with the service for more than a few months.
How Do I Activate an Unlocked Phone?
It is simple to activate an unlocked device. You purchase a SIM card from the carrier and insert it into your phone. In many cases, the carrier will provide this for free.
Otherwise, you’ll likely pay a one-time charge of $10.
The SIM card allows you to receive texts, make calls, and use data on the chosen network.
Most carriers will provide step-by-step instructions to activate your phone.
How Much Data Do I Need?
Data needs depend on how you utilize Wi-Fi. If you’re not on Wi-Fi most of the day and stream a lot of data, you will need more data.
Since Wi-Fi is prominent, it’s best to take advantage of that to mitigate your data needs and save money.
What Is an MVNO?
An MVNO is a smaller carrier that leases cell coverage and data bandwidth from a legacy provider.
Legacy providers include:
The MVNO then sells you what you need for service. Since they don’t have the overhead cost of building and maintaining towers, they can pass the savings on to you.
Each of the discount mobile phone plans on our list operates similarly.
It’s no longer necessary to spend lots of money on a data-heavy cell phone contract. Numerous carriers offer cheap cell phone plans that don’t skimp on reliability and only cost $20 or $30.
If you’re spending $100 or more a month on your phone bill, compare prices from the above carriers to see which will save you more and still take care of your needs.
How much is your monthly cell phone bill?
I’m John Schmoll, a former stockbroker, MBA-grad, published finance writer, and founder of Frugal Rules.
As a veteran of the financial services industry, I’ve worked as a mutual fund administrator, banker, and stockbroker and was Series 7 and 63-licensed, but I left all that behind in 2012 to help people learn how to manage their money.
My goal is to help you gain the knowledge you need to become financially independent with personally-tested financial tools and money-saving solutions.