The best prepaid phone plans are perfect for keeping your monthly costs under control. With a prepaid phone plan, you know exactly what you’re going to spend on wireless service. And it’s easy enough jumping to another carrier if a better plan turns up elsewhere.
It is our goal to assist you in locating a more suitable plan. We track the finest cellular service providers and plans, including prepaid choices. And our analysis shows that prepaid plans may save you a lot of money compared to alternative monthly options.
Prepaid service may save you money, but it requires certain sacrifices up front. In terms of network coverage, though, you won’t have to make any sacrifices since you’ll be on the same network as those with more costly mobile phone contracts. (If there is too much traffic on a network, your speeds may decrease.) These days, 5G data is included in most of the top prepaid phone contracts.
Your data is another item that won’t have to be given up. Although there are inexpensive prepaid plans with low monthly data quotas, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that some of the greatest unlimited data plans are really very reasonable in price when purchased through prepaid providers.
If you’re looking for a free trial of a streaming service or the option to utilize your monthly data allocation while abroad, you’ll have to spring for a more costly plan. You may, at best, learn about certain hotspots. Only a few of the plans below provide savings on additional lines, so if you need more than one, you may want to seek elsewhere for the best family mobile phone plan.
If you want to save money on your monthly mobile phone bill but are willing to make the aforementioned concessions, then you should check into the best prepaid phone plans. Our top choices for the best prepaid phone plans are shown below, followed by a discussion of the criteria we used to make these selections.
The best value prepaid cell phone plan:
Why you can trust Tom’s Guide Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
- Mint Mobile | 10GB | $20/month – Best value prepaid plan
Mint Mobile offers the most cost-effective prepaid service because to its discounted rates for large purchases. If you sign up for a full year of service, you’ll lock in a discounted cost for the first three months (between $15 and $30, depending on the size of your plan). If you’re looking for the greatest value in data and pricing, the Mint 10GB plan is your best bet at $20 per month, and if you’re adding other lines for a family plan, each additional line is charged the same low rate. If you purchase a plan for at least three months, you will get the fourth month at no additional cost.
Very affordable price, free hot spot
Best prices require a longer commitment
Best prepaid plan for coverage:
Verizon | 15GB prepaid | $35/month – Best prepaid for coverage
Verizon has shuffled up pricing on its prepaid plans, lowering the starting price of its 15GB offering to $45/month. But that’s just the starting price — enroll in autopay, and Version takes $10 off your monthly bill. Unfortunately, the loyalty discounts Verizon applies when you keep your prepaid account can no longer be combined with the autopay discount — it’s either one or the other. But $35 is still a low rate, and it includes nationwide 5G coverage.
Pros: Lots of data, great coverage and speeds, 5G coverage included
Cons: Not the cheapest prepaid around; Ultra Wideband 5G requires a more expensive plan
Best unlimited data prepaid cell phone plan:
Visible | Visible Plus| $45/month – The best-unlimited data prepaid on a budget
Verizon-owned Visible offers a cheaper unlimited data plan that now costs $30. (That’s the same as Mint Mobile’s unlimited plan, only without the year-long commitment.) But we like the $45 Visible Plus plan for all the perks it includes. Visible Plus subscribers can access Verizon’s faster Ultra Wideband network for 5G coverage, and they can make calls to more than 30 countries from the U.S. at no extra cost.
Pros: Very affordable, 5G unlimited data
Cons: There are cheaper prepaid plans, no more discounts for multiple lines
An assortment of cheap prepaid options:
Tello Economy | 5GB | $19/month – Low-priced cell phone plans
Like Mint, Tello offers a range of plans at different prices and data allotments, especially now that Tello has expanded the number of plans available. While bargain hunters who don’t need much data will jump at Tello’s 1GB plan — it’s just $10 a month — most of us will find the 5GB plan to be enough data for our needs, at only $19 a month. An extra $5 each month doubles your data to 10GB, while Tello’s unlimited plan costs just $29. Tello occasionally runs promotions where you get half off the first month of service so check to see if that option is available when you’re looking to change carriers.
Pros: Wide range of plans including the cheapest option, unlimited calls and texts
Cons: Limited phone selection
Great value from a major carrier:
AT&T | 16GB 12-month prepaid | $25/month – Great value prepaid on AT&T
Usually, the big carriers don’t offer much in the way of prepaid plans, leaving that to the MVNOs instead. However, AT&T has stepped up with this 61GB plan, which costs just $25 a month when you prepay for a full year. (It’s also double the amount of data that AT&T used to offer at this amount.) That adds up to $300 in up front costs. AT&T’s plan offers some perks — hotspot data, HD video streaming and the ability to roll over unused data for a month. 5G service isn’t among them, though, as that only comes with the carrier’s unlimited prepaid plan.
Pros: Outstanding amount of data for price
Cons: Requires you to prepay for a full year, no 5G coverage
Low cost-plan from T-Mobile:
T-Mobile Connect | 3.5GB data | $15/month – Low cost cell phone plan from a big name carrier
The amount of data in the T-Mobile Connect plan has gotten its annual 500MB bump, so you’re now getting 3.5GB in this $15 monthly plan. If you can get by with less data, you can drop your bill to $10/month with the 1GB plan, while the $25 monthly plan now features a generous 6.5GB. Just be aware that once you use your data for the month, you have to wait until the next billing cycle for more data; other prepaid plans usually just slow down your speeds when you hit your cap.
Pro: Low costs, 500MB data boosts annually, includes 5G service
Con: Out of data once you hit your cap
A plan worth a second look:
Cricket | 10GB | $40/month – No more speed caps on data
It was hard to recommend Cricket Wireless in the past, even though the carrier benefits from using the network of parent company AT&T. But Cricket slapped speed caps on every plan but its most expensive unlimited data plan. Those caps are gone now, making the 10GB plan for $40/month much more attractive than before. Even better, 5G coverage comes with the plan and you can knock $5 off this plan by enrolling in autopay.
Pros: No more speed caps, save additional money with autopay
Cons: Few perks
Most flexible prepaid for families:
Metro by T-Mobile | Unlimited data plan | 4 lines | $100/month – A good option for families
Families looking for unlimited data should turn to Metro by T-Mobile, now that the T-Mobile-owned carrier is running a promotion that gives you a discount on a four-line unlimited data plan. Normally $160/month for four lines of data, T-Mobile’s entry level unlimited plan has been discounted to $25 a line. With this plan, you not only get unlimited data but 5G coverage from T-Mobile’s nationwide network and access to T-Mobile Tuesday giveaways for customers.
Pros: Uses T-Mobile’s network, includes 5G, big discount right now on multiple lines
Cons: Fewest perks of any Metro plan
Best prepaid plan for students:
AT&T | Unlimited data plan | $40/month – Best prepaid phone plan for students
Normally, AT&T’s prepaid unlimited data plan costs $50/month after a $10 autopay discount. But students who sign up for the plan before January 31 can save another $10/month for the next 12 months. In addition to unlimited data, you’ll also get 5GB of hotspot data in this online-only deal.
Pros: Unlimited data at a discounted rate
Cons: Only available to students
Best free prepaid plan:
TextNow | 0GB | Free – Free calling and texting
It’s hard to beat a monthly fee of zero dollars, but that’s what you’ll pay for unlimited calling and texting with TextNow. You will need to pay 99 cents for a SIM card and download an app for your iPhone or Android device, but once you do, you’ll be able to call or text using T-Mobile’s network. There are some additional caveats — the app features ads, and if you want data, that costs extra. But data costs are fairly reasonable with 1GB of data costing $8.99 a month. You’ll pay $15.99 for 2GB, but at that tier, TextNow gets rid of the ads in its app. The service won’t be for everyone, but bargain hunters can use it to stay connected for cheap.
Pros: No charge for unlimited talk and text
Cons: App features ads, data costs extra
How to pick the best prepaid phone plans
The most important factor in choosing a prepaid phone plan is, of course, cost. That’s because postpaid mobile phone plans often provide more perks than those offered by prepaid plans. However, certain carriers like Metro by T-Mobile and Boost do include a few bonuses, so keep that in mind when choosing a package.
Pay close attention to sales and promotional pricing. A greater autopay discount is one way that major carriers like AT&T and Verizon may make their more expensive plans more competitive. With each additional line of data service, Metro by T-Mobile has been known to enhance discounts.
One of the most crucial factors, besides cost, is which provider provides the finest coverage near your residence and place of business. That holds true regardless of which of the “Big Three” carriers one chooses. Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) provide wireless service by reselling access to the infrastructure of major carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. (Some MVNOs turn to multiple carriers.) This means that MVNOs that rely on Verizon’s network will also have great performance if Verizon’s network is exceptionally robust in your area. Keep in mind that if a carrier’s network becomes overloaded, MVNO traffic may experience delays.
Many MVNOs currently provide 5G service to their customers. Customers of Metro and Mint Mobile who have compatible devices may use T-Mobile’s 5G network. Cricket subscribers may now utilize AT&T’s 5G connection with any of that MVNO’s plans, while Visible has enabled 5G access on Verizon’s network to certain phones.
Find out which budget carriers utilize which parent networks by reading our guides on AT&T MVNOs, T-Mobile MVNOs, and Verizon MVNOs to learn more about MVNOs.
How we pick the best prepaid phone plans
Even though AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all offer prepaid options, we need to go elsewhere to get the finest prepaid phone deals. We are also looking at smaller carriers that rely on the Big Three’s cell towers yet provide their own unique deals. The bulk of the contenders we analyze for best prepaid phone plans are smaller carriers since they often provide their service at a discount.
We prioritize monthly costs when selecting plans, but we also consider the amount of data provided. After all, even if a carrier doesn’t overcharge you for data, that doesn’t mean it gives you enough of it to satisfy your need. We’re selecting plans with the optimal balance of price and data capacity. We also take into account a broad range of data limits, since some users are quite content with only a few gigabytes each month, while others need an unlimited plan.
Prepaid plans, as previously mentioned, don’t have many bonuses. The finest prepaid plans sometimes come with extra perks that are worth more than the monthly fee, so we keep an eye out for such.