7 Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans for 2020
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Cheap cell phone plans are one of the best ways to save money in a budget. While you receive quality service through a carrier like Verizon, the monthly bill can make nearly anyone choke.
Most prepaid cell phone plans operate on the networks of the major carriers, so there’s no need to spend a lot of money each month for service. Add that to the wide availability of Wi-Fi, and it’s easy to get by with limited data allowances.
It’s not only possible, it’s easy to reduce monthly cell phone bills and save money as a family.
I know we’re not the only family dealing with expensive phone plans. Data shows that plans from the major carriers average over $150 per month. Thankfully, there is plenty of competition, allowing most people to save significant money each month.
Personally speaking, we left Verizon years ago for Cricket, which operates on the AT&T network. Cricket is one of the best cheap cell phone plans on the market and we spend $70 for our service each month.
We’ve used Cricket for the past five years, and have not seen a drop-off in quality. There are many other cheap prepaid cell phone plans in the space, many costing well under $50 per month.
If you’re looking to save money on your cell phone bill, we cover the top cheap cell phone plans in this post.
best Cheap Cell Phone Plans to Consider
When I got my first cell phone the only real options were the big carriers and outliers like TracFone. The no-contract cell phone space has exploded, resulting in many options.
Below are the best cheap cell phone plans to save big money each month.
Tello is a prepaid cell phone service provider with flexible plans and low rates – perfect for families and individuals alike. There are no contracts, no activation fees, no early termination fees and customers get nationwide 4G LTE coverage provided by Sprint’s network.
Plans start as low as $5 per month and you can customize your plan based on how much data or talking minutes you need. This allows you to choose exactly what you want without having to pay for something you don’t need.
There are several plans that have unlimited talk and text and you customize it further by how much data you want. You can limit your talk minutes to further lower your bill and still keep unlimited texts.
Their most popular plan has unlimited talk and text, plus 1 GB of data for just $14 per month. – after paying $7 for the first month. You can either bring your own phone to Tello, or buy one from them.
What to Like About Tello:
- You can use both Android and iPhones
- Fully customizable plans
- Free tethering
- You can make international calls
What Not to Like About Tello:
- No roaming, but calls are made over Wi-Fi
- Phones are a bit more expensive
Ting is another popular option for those looking for cheap cell phone plans. With Ting you don’t have a set plan, but you customize a plan based on your specific needs. The provider has no contracts and you can leave whenever you wish.
If you need unlimited talk, text, and data they may not be for you, but the ability to customize a plan to your situation is difficult to overlook. In fact, the average monthly bill with Ting is $23, which is a large savings over a traditional contract plan.
Frugal Rules readers receive a $50 credit when signing up, effectively offering your first two months of service for free! None of the other prepaid cell phone plans on our list have a similar offer.
Ting, like Twigby, operates on two networks – Sprint and T-Mobile so you have more reliable coverage with the provider. You can add as many lines as you like with Ting, each running $6 per line. You then add talk and text to your customized plan.
The average talk minutes is $9 per month for 100 – 500 minutes. The average text amount is $5 for 101 – 1,000 texts per month. Data is last, and the average amount is $10 per month for 101 – 500 MB of data.
If you find the data restrictive, it’s important to remember that if you use Wi-Fi a lot you should be able to avoid that. The best part is you only pay for what you use, so you’re not overpaying for something you don’t need.
You can also bring your own phone to Ting, or buy one from the provider.
What to Like About Ting:
- Provides coverage on two carriers
- You can bring your own phone
- Provides fully customizable plans
- You only pay for what you use
- No additional cost for calls to 60+ international countries
What Not to Like About Ting:
- Not for heavy data users
Twigby is a pay-as-you-go phone service provider that offers a 25 percent discount for the first six months of service. With Twigby, you can change your plan whenever you want.
They also operate on both the Verizon and Sprint networks, giving them better coverage than other providers.
If you upgrade your plan, you’ll only be charged the difference in the next plan’s price. For example, if you start out with 300 minutes per month and 600 MB of data, you’ll pay $11.25 plus tax per month for the first six months.
If you need more minutes or data, you can upgrade at any time and pay the difference. Unlimited global texting is free and you can upgrade to unlimited talk for just $15 per month.
Twigby also has free overage protection and family plan options for everyone in the household.
What to Like About Twigby:
- Two networks offer more stability on the platform
- International calls to Canada, China, and Mexico
- Fully customizable plans
- Discounted service for the first six months
- You can use both Android and iPhone
What Not to Like About Twigby:
- Caps data packages at 10 GB per month; it’s throttled after that
- Credit or debit card payments only
4. Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile also has cheap cell phone plans starting at $15 per month. Like other Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNOs), Mint Mobile piggybacks on a major carrier to provide service.
Mint Mobile operates on the T-Mobile network.
Mint Mobile offers a robust plan for customers, including:
- 4G LTE high-speed data
- Unlimited talk and text
- A free SIM card
- Nationwide coverage
- A mobile hotspot
However, Mint Mobile is unique when it comes to their pricing. They sell plans in bulk or in three, six, or twelve-month increments. The pricing is good to start, but when you renew, it can get a bit more confusing as the pricing increases quite a bit.
For example, if you choose another three-month plan your rate will increase by at least $24 if you choose their 3 GB plan. The best way to lock in the lowest price is to sign-up for a 12-month commitment upfront.
What to Like About Mint Mobile:
- Free 7-day trial
- Free tethering
- You can use both Android and iPhones
- Free calls to Canada and Mexico
What Not to Like About Mint Mobile:
- Mint Mobile devices have lower priority on the T-Mobile network
- Pricing can be confusing, but data allowances are recalculated monthly
Check out the plans at Mint Mobile and see how much you can save. For a limited time, receive up to 40 percent off when you sign up for a three month plan with Mint Mobile!
Read our Mint Mobile review to learn more about the service.
5. Republic Wireless
Republic Wireless is one of the most popular cheap cell phone plans in the market, and for good reason. They offer one of the best discount cell phone plans available with monthly plans that start as low as $15.
The plans at Republic Wireless range from $15, which is all on Wi-Fi and has unlimited talk and text. You can add high speed LTE data at $5 per GB.
If you just need basic coverage and are regularly on Wi-Fi, then Republic Wireless is a great carrier to consider. The provider is also one of the best phone plans for college students looking to save money.
Like many Multiple Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), you can either buy a phone from Republic Wireless, or bring your own. If you love your iPhone, Republic Wireless will not work for you as they only work with Android devices.
What to Like About Republic Wireless:
- They offer a 14-day money back guarantee
- They pay you back each month for unused data
- Republic Wireless is contract-free, so you can leave at anytime
- It operates on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks
What Not to Like About Republic Wireless:
- Does not work with iOS platform
- Data not included, but easy to purchase
If you need a reliable service at a steep discount, Republic Wireless is worth a try. They’re one of the top cheap cell phone plans with data.
Check out the plans at Republic Wireless to see how much you can save.
6. xfinity mobile
Xfinity Mobile is a newer mobile service offered by the internet and cable giant, Comcast Xfinity. Many have had less than stellar experiences with Comcast, but their coverage map and pricing make them hard to deny as one of the best cheap cell phone plans.
Xfinity runs on the Verizon network, so you know it’s a reliable network for your needs.
You must be an Xfinity Internet service customer in order to qualify for their Mobile service. If you live within their coverage area it’s likely you have them as your Internet service provider.
The best part of Xfinity Mobile is their pricing structure. Xfinity is one of the best cheap cell phone plans for families on the market. Each plan includes the following features:
- Free, unlimited nationwide talk and text
- No line access fees for up to five 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. If Wi-Fi is not enough for your needs, you can buy data in one of two competitive options:
- $12 GB/shared data per month
- $45 per month per line for unlimited data
What to Like About Xfinity Mobile:
- Great service on the Verizon network
- Free, unlimited nationwide talk and text
- Customizable data plans
- Free access to Wi-Fi hotspots
What Not to Like Abount Xfinity Mobile:
- Does not work with Android devices, only iPhone 5 and later
Check out plans at Xfinity Mobile and see how much you can save.
FreedomPop claims to be one of the cheapest cell phone plans in the market. The claim does hold true. The provider offers free service, albeit with some limitations.
Here’s what you get with the free monthly service from FreedomPop:
- 200 talk minutes
- 500 texts
- 500 MB data
The plan is best for those always on Wi-Fi and with limited talk and text needs. If that does not describe you, the next plan up offers unlimited talk and text, with the same 500 MB of data for $13.99 per month. If you have an elderly family member who needs basic service, FreedomPop is a good phone plan for seniors to consider.
FreedomPop does offer the option to purchase data rollover, but you incur $15 per time you need it. You can cancel this option, but your account will be suspended once you reach your monthly data limit.
The provider offers four other plans, charging up to $35 per month for service. At that point, FreedomPop is relatively equal to the higher priced no-contract cell phone plans on our list.
You can bring your own phone, or buy one from FreedomPop as they service both Android and iPhones.
What to Like About FreedomPop:
- Free, bare-bones service
- Operates on the AT&T network
- Free 14-day trial
- Many plans to choose from
What Not to Like About FreedomPop:
- Overage fee of $15 when you go over data limit
Check out plans at FreedomPop and see how much you can save.
Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans FAQs
If you’ve never had a no-contract cell phone plan before you may wonder where to start. Below are answers to questions we frequently receive from people looking for cheap phone plans for the first time:
What kind of cell phone do I need?
To use any of the best cheap cell phone plans above you need an unlocked cell phone. An unlocked cell phone is a phone 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 a phone.
Should I buy my own phone, or get one from a carrier?
This depends on the carrier, but most often it’s best to buy your own phone. This gives you more freedom to move from carrier to carrier as you wish and not risk buying a locked phone.
How do I activate an unlocked phone?
It is simple to activate an unlocked cell phone. You get a SIM card from the carrier and insert it into your phone. In most cases the carrier will either provide it for free, or it will be a $10 one-time charge.
The SIM card allows you to receive texts, make calls, and use data on the chosen network.
How much data do I need?
That depends on your needs. If you’re not on Wi-Fi most of the day and stream a lot of data you will need more. Since Wi-Fi is prominent, it’s best to take advantage of that to mitigate data needs and save money.
How much money can I save per month with the best prepaid cell phone plans?
The most expensive plan on our list tops out at $35 per month. Including taxes, you should plan on spending $40 per month, though many providers offer discounts if you go on auto pay.
Even the most expensive plans on our list are significantly cheaper than one from the traditional carriers. You should be able to easily save at least $50 per month.
What is an MVNO?
Think of an MVNO as a smaller carrier that leases cell coverage and data bandwidth from a major carrier. The major carriers are:
The MVNO then sells you what you need for service. Since they don’t have overhead cost of building and maintaining towers they can pass the savings on to you.
Republic Wireless is one example. They don’t have their own towers, but operate on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks. This allows them to pass savings on to us as customers. Each of the cheap cell phone plans on our list operate in similar fashion.
As I said in the beginning, there weren’t many cheap cell phone plans to choose from even a decade ago. That has changed a lot over the years with the competition that no-contract cell phone plans bring to the market.
If you’re looking to spend less on your monthly cell phone bill, there are plenty of options to choose from. Since we’ve moved to Cricket we now have an extra $100 per month we can allocate elsewhere in our budget, which is a great problem to have.
I firmly believe reducing your cell phone bill is one of the easiest ways to save money every month – especially if you’re not a heavy data user and don’t care much about what kind of phone you use.
How much do you pay for your cell phone coverage each month? What do you look for when you’re shopping cheap cell phone plans? What other carriers did I miss?
John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.
Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.
Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.
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