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7 Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans for 2019

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Cheap cell phone plans are a great way to save money. I share the cheapest no-contract plans to look at if you want to ditch your high-priced carrier.

Cheap cell phone plans are one of the best ways to save money in a budget. While you get quality service through 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 just $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.

1. 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 out there 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.

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 30-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.

2. Tello

 

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 even 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

Check out the plans at Tello and start saving today. For a limited time only, get 50 percent off any plan for the first month of service!

3. Twigby

 

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

Check out the plans at Twigby and start saving now. Read our Twigby review to learn more about the provider.

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.

5. Ting

 

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 significant savings over a traditional contract plan.

Frugal Rules readers receive a $25 credit when signing up, effectively offering your first month of service for free.

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

Check out plans at Ting and see how much you can save.

6. xfinity mobile

 

Xfinity Mobile is a new 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.

7. FreedomPop

 

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 get 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:

  • AT&T
  • Sprint
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon

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.

Cheap cell phone plans are a great way to save money. I share the cheapest no-contract plans to look at if you want to ditch your high-priced carrier.

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?

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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.

41 Comments

  • Amanda W says:

    Our family did the same search recently, and we choose Cricket Wireless. I tried out Net 10 while waiting for my husband’s phone contract to expire, and between APN setting woes and their buggy website, they were a headache though the price was great. Cricket has a few stores in our town, and it was nice to have person-to-person interaction with an MVNO during setup. Their current prices are competitive- we pay $90 for three people, each with 2.5G data per month. Oh, and the husband tells me to say from him… EMAW!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Good to know on Net 10. I like their family pricing but it sounds like from your experience they’re not that different than our experience from TracFone. We’ve heard relatively good things about Cricket so they’ll be ones we consider as well. Ah, fellow K-Stater…Go State! 🙂

  • Alexandria says:

    We are personally thrilled with Ting. We were paying $180/month on Sprint (4 people) and now pay just $50/month on Ting for 4 people. They use the Sprint network so is basically the same identical service. We could even keep our phones. But you can buy a Moto G for under $100 to use for Ting but they are also expanding their network this month so that you can bring over a lot more phones.

    Anyway, Ting’s customer service is exceptional and they give a lot of credits for switching over, referring people, or just because. Technically we pay $50/month but there are several months we have paid $0 due to credits on our account.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Thanks for the great feedback on Ting! I’ve heard good things about them. I don’t believe the Sprint coverage is that good in our area but are planning on looking into that more. Good to know about the customer service – that’s something I like to look for.

  • Thomas Sterling says:

    RingPlus is a Sprint MVNO. Plans start at $1.00 no charge For BYOD. I have a $29.99 that includes unlimited talk and text plus 2.5 gigs of Data and a plan for $19.99 unlimited talk and text 400 megs of data.

  • I use Walmart Family Mobile. 4G. All you can eat, text, voice data.

    I get charged $72.85 for two phones. That includes all taxes and fees. It’s great and is powered by T-Mobile.

  • Jason says:

    Thanks for your post John. It took me quite a while to research and choose my carrier, but finding a good one is well worth the time. In Toronto, Canada the two cell phone plan carriers that seem to offer the best value are Mobilicity and Wind Mobile (which I think is available in the US). I chose to go with Wind Mobile and have been happy so far

    With a BYOD device, unlimited talk text and data plans start at around $40 a month. This is less than half the price offered by major carriers like Bell, Telus and Rogers. The major difference is that Wind Mobile supports a 3G network. If a 3G network is fast enough to meet your needs, you can save a lot of money.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I agree Jason, it’s well worth the time especially when you’re looking to slash your bill in half.

      4G is nice and all, but with us working from home we’re on Wi-Fi the large majority of the time so having a relatively good 3G would serve us well.

  • I second a previous comment – Walmart Family mobile just cut their prices again – unlimited talk/test/data for just under $30 a month per phone. It runs on the T-Mobile network, and you can buy a phone or bring your own. I was floored to find that for $40 you can buy a cheap smart phone (ZTE Zinger) – it’s no iphone or Galaxy S model, but it’s android based and can everything I need a smart phone to do (I tried it out for a review). Great option for people not wanting to spend a lot on their mobile phone service!

  • Jo-Ann O'Neil says:

    I’m new to the ‘cell phone ‘ game. Currently I’m on my daughter’s plan with T-Mobile. I want to have my own coverage. This plan that I am on has everything, including a camera and international calling. Any suggestions? Thanks, Jo-Ann O’Neil

    • John Schmoll says:

      Good question Jo-Ann. I’d say it depends on if you want the international calling and what your data needs are. Personally speaking, we’re looking at Straight Talk since you can bring your own phone and is a MNVO and Republic Wireless the most seriously. I’m also hearing good things about Ting.

  • Raunda says:

    I also recently left Verizon due to high prices and poor customer service. I went with straight talk and now only spend $45 for unlimited everything. It is only 3g, but I use it mostly at home on WiFi anyways. I love the savings!!!!

  • celeste says:

    I switched from Verizon to Straighttalk over 2 years ago now! I love the savings and the service is just as good as Verizon. I don’t mind the 3G service…I only had 3G when I left Verizon so I never really knew the difference….

    Love the bring your own phone option! I specifically got the AT&T chip and have been able to get great deals on AT&T phones.

  • Jason B says:

    I currently have the Verizon prepaid plan. I pay $50 per month.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Not bad at all Jason. I think the continued growth in the pre-paid space is only going to force Verizon to offer more plans like that.

      • celeste says:

        the verizon plan only give you 1 GB of data but unlimited talk and text. ST is 3 GB and unlimited talk and text. ST better deal.

        • John Schmoll says:

          Good to know Celeste. I admittedly don’t know much about the pre-paid plans from Verizon. That said, we only get 2 GB with our current contract, so that alone shows ST is a better deal. Not that they really need any more to sway that though since the price is so much better. 🙂

        • Victoria says:

          My Verizon prepaid plan is unlimited talk/text with 5 GB of data for $40 bucks a month. I’ve had it for a year and love it.

  • Debt Hater says:

    I’ve switched over to Republic Wireless for about a year now, and haven’t had any issues with the Sprint coverage in my area (from Verizon). I didn’t even have a smartphone before so the 3G plan works perfectly for me. I also recently convinced my parents to switch over from Verizon and their bill went from $80 a month with flip phones and it’s now $20 a month! The only issues I’ve found is that MMS is unreliable.

    My girlfriend also uses Ting which is a pay for what you use, since she is around WiFi most of the time. Her bill usually averages around $20 a month. They have AMAZING customer service which is a big plus with them.

  • Aaron says:

    I had Net10 for a few years and the best thing I liked about the service was rolling over unused minutes each month. But their phones gave out after a year or so.

    I’m now a Virgin Mobile customer, and while I’m happy with their phones and service, it can be hard to get good customer service from them. They also run out of iPhones, making it difficult, and expensive, to upgrade. And with autopay, Virgin offers a $5 monthly discount.

    Great post, and one that gets me thinking again about changing carriers.

  • Bryan says:

    If you REALLY want Verizon, they have a decent pre-paid plan for $45 (BYOD). Unlimited talk / text, and 1GB of data (1.5 if you set up auto pay if i recall) http://www.verizonwireless.com/prepaid/

    • John Schmoll says:

      You’re not the first one to mention that Bryan. I’ll have to take a look at that as an option as well. I’d hate to stay with them – but am open to it. We never come anywhere near that for the data so it could work.

  • Addi Ganley says:

    Thank you for this post. Verizon giving up their contracts made us think about switching as well. Comparing different cell phone providers is definitely worth the time before jumping into another relationship with a cell phone provider.

    I have heard from several people about switching to Cricket and they don’t have any complaints.

    Thanks again for this information!

  • We just switched to Cricket Wireless. $100 for a family plan of 5 people! They use the AT&T network which is the one I was on previously so I knew that service shouldn’t be an issue.

  • LaNita Young says:

    We have a family plan with Verizon and it is not bad but their customer service is terrible. They do not care if they do you right or not. I am not for sure but I believe I was just sold an iPhone 6plus as new when I think it was a refurbished. The reason so is it has someone else’s name in the place where mine should be for Siri to talk to and that is what she calls me! But we have our house phone (wireless), our mothers, my husbands and mine on the plan. I am the only one with an iPhone 4 LTE. We have unlimited talk/text. I have 6 GB of data and I am paying monthly for my phone and our bill is only $249/mo. We can call anywhere without any extra charges also.

  • Al Finley says:

    I just switched my daughter to Twigby within the last year, and my wife and I switched last month because of how great it has been. They are a Sprint MVNO and you get to roam to Verizon for talk/text. Low price, free overage protection, and customer service thru chat. All great factors. I’ll be sticking with them for a while.

  • Mother Fussbudget says:

    I *was* on Airvoice Wireless for many years- their $10/month 250 minutes metered service plan.
    Anytime Minutes $.04 per minute
    Text Messages $.02 per message
    Data $.066 per MB
    MMS $.10 per message
    International SMS $.10 per message
    International MMS $.10.per message.

    My iPhone SE works with any provider, so this worked great for me – using wifi at home & work and minimal cellular service in non-wifi areas. (Airvoice = AT&T MNVO – uses AT&T’s network)

    Recently needed more cellular service, so moved to MetroPCS and their $30/month unlimited talk/text + 2GB LTE data plan. BONUS… MetroPCS (and T-Mobile) automatically gives users unlimited 3G data after reaching the 2GB LTE limit… FREE! (MetroPCS=T-Mobile MVNO – uses T-Mobile network)

  • William Lockridge says:

    Actually You did miss one, sort of. TracFone. I have a Samsung smartphone j7 from TracFone with triple minutes. essentially I buy 60 minutes talk time I get 1GB of data over a thousand texts 180 minutes of talk time and 3 months service time, and what you don’t use just keeps rolling over. Now admittedly I don’t talk on the phone much but my phone bill per month for this entire year has run me around $7 a month. Now they don’t have the triple minutes deal anymore unless you just happen to run across one of those phones in Walmart in which case buy it quick because the plan lasts as long as the phone does. I have excellent coverage, a really decent phone, and a nice app for buying time and sending it to my family, managing my account and so forth. Even when this phone finally breaks and the triple minutes go away, providing of course I don’t run across one of them in Walmart snatch it up and just throw it on the shelf until I need it, I can still keep my cell phone bill under $15 a month easily. admittedly I don’t use my cell phone that much But I’m not one of those people that feels the need to have it. glued to my face 24/7. I believe that’s called being frugal. Thanks for your articles they’re very informative.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I touched on them briefly William. 🙂 They can be a good service if you really don’t need any bells and whistles. I wasn’t impressed with them, but they get the job done if you don’t need a whole lot.

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