Best Cell Phone Plans 2022

Cindy F. Cape

Popular Cell Phone Plans

With the rise of 5G wireless technology, some cell phones can now access data faster and more reliably than ever before. But how will you know if your wireless provider has a 5G network, unlimited talk time and texting, or other features you might want?

To help you compare cell phone plans and costs, we’ve rated the Best Cell Phone Plans of 2022. Read on to learn about plans from top providers like Mint Mobile, Verizon, and T-Mobile with data, talk time, and texting options to meet your needs.

(Moyo Studio)

Your cell phone plan is as important as your smartphone itself. A good plan will provide you with the texting, data, and other features that work for you and fit your budget. See which top-rated cell phone plans made our rating for 2022.

Best Cell Phone Plans of 2022

Mint Mobile 4 GB »

4.2 out of 5

Monthly Cost $15 and Up
Plan Type Prepaid (3, 6, & 12 Month Plans)
Network Type 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide
Data Unlimited
Talk Time Unlimited
Text Unlimited
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

T-Mobile Magenta »

4 out of 5

Monthly Cost $70
Plan Type Contract
Network Type 4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide
Data Unlimited
Talk Time Unlimited
Text Unlimited
See Review »
Google Fi Flexible »

4 out of 5

Monthly Cost $20 +$10/GB
Plan Type Prepaid
Network Type 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide
Data Varies
Talk Time Unlimited
Text Unlimited
View Plans »
Visible Unlimited »

4 out of 5

Monthly Cost $40
Plan Type Prepaid
Network Type 4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide
Data Unlimited
Talk Time Unlimited
Text Unlimited
View Plans »
Mint Mobile 4 GB »

4.2 out of 5

Company

$15 and Up Monthly Cost
Prepaid (3, 6, & 12 Month Plans) Plan Type
4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Unlimited Data
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Learn More

T-Mobile Magenta »

4 out of 5

Company

$70 Monthly Cost
Contract Plan Type
4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Unlimited Data
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
See Review »
Learn More
Google Fi Flexible »

4 out of 5

Company

$20 +$10/GB Monthly Cost
Prepaid Plan Type
4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Varies Data
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »
Learn More
Visible Unlimited »

4 out of 5

Company

$40 Monthly Cost
Prepaid Plan Type
4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Unlimited Data
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »
Learn More
T-Mobile Essentials »

3.9 out of 5

Company

$60 Monthly Cost
Contract Plan Type
4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Unlimited Data
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
See Review »
Learn More
Mint Mobile Unlimited »

3.9 out of 5

Company

$30 and Up Monthly Cost
Prepaid (3, 6 & 12 Month Plans) Plan Type
4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Unlimited Data
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Learn More

Google Fi Unlimited »

3.7 out of 5

Company

$70 Monthly Cost
Prepaid Plan Type
4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Unlimited Data
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »
Learn More
Tello Economy »

3.4 out of 5

Company

$10 Monthly Cost
Prepaid Plan Type
4G LTE Network Type
Unlimited Data
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »
Learn More

Company

Monthly Cost

Plan Type

Network Type

Data

Talk Time

Text

Learn More

Mint Mobile 4 GB »

4.2 out of 5

$15 and Up Prepaid (3, 6, & 12 Month Plans) 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Verizon Shared Data 5 GB »

4.1 out of 5

$55 Contract 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide 5 GB Unlimited Unlimited View Plans »
T-Mobile Magenta »

4 out of 5

$70 Contract 4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited See Review »
Google Fi Flexible »

4 out of 5

$20 +$10/GB Prepaid 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Varies Unlimited Unlimited View Plans »
Visible Unlimited »

4 out of 5

$40 Prepaid 4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited View Plans »
T-Mobile Essentials »

3.9 out of 5

$60 Contract 4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited See Review »
Mint Mobile Unlimited »

3.9 out of 5

$30 and Up Prepaid (3, 6 & 12 Month Plans) 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Metro by T-Mobile Unlimited Prepaid (5 GB Hotspot) »

3.8 out of 5

$50 Prepaid 4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited See Review »
Google Fi Unlimited »

3.7 out of 5

$70 Prepaid 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited View Plans »
Tello Economy »

3.4 out of 5

$10 Prepaid 4G LTE Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited View Plans »

5G currently available only on compatible devices and in select locations. Some restrictions may apply. See our review for details.

Your cell phone plan is just as important as your smartphone itself. A good plan is much like having gas in your car. The car can be a beauty on the outside, but without gas, it won’t run. We rely on cell phone plans in the same way. The best cell phone plan for you will combine must-have features with features that are less critical but suit your lifestyle. See which top-rated cell phone plans made our rating for 2022.

Mint Mobile 4 GB  »

Mint Mobile 4 GB

Best Overall

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Monthly Cost
$15 and Up

Plan Type
Prepaid (3, 6, & 12 Month Plans)

Data
Unlimited

Verizon Shared Data 5 GB: Verizon’s Shared Data 5 GB plan starts at $65 and gives you 5 GB of high-speed data and unlimited data at slower speeds. You can add 1 GB of high-speed data for $15 per month. A Verizon plan gives you access to the largest network in the U.S. and reliable 4G coverage. Although 5G provides the fastest connection, note that 5G service coverage is not yet widespread.

Google Fi Flexible  »

Google Fi Flexible

Best Pay-As-You-Go

Monthly Cost
$20 +$10/GB

Plan Type
Prepaid

Data
Varies

Some restrictions may apply.

Google Fi Flexible: The Google Fi Flexible cell phone plan places No. 3 in our rating of the Best Cell Phone Plans of 2022. The Flexible plan starts at $20 per month, plus $10 per GB of data used. The plan allows up to 15 GB of high-speed data usage before speeds slow down. Once you reach the 15 GB threshold, you can continue using high-speed data at $10 per GB.

The plan doesn’t require a contract, which makes it good for budget-conscious shoppers and those wanting to limit fees or unused data. If you have a 5G compatible device, you can get 5G coverage for free.

T-Mobile Magenta  »

T-Mobile Magenta

Best Nationwide Coverage for 5G

Monthly Cost
$70

Plan Type
Contract

Data
Unlimited

Some restrictions may apply.

T-Mobile Magenta: The T-Mobile Magenta plan offers coverage for up to five lines and includes 100 GB of high-speed data along with 5 GB to use as a mobile hotspot. The plan starts at $70 a month (with taxes and fees included) and has plenty of optional add-on features like extra hotspot data, international data, and streaming services.

Visible Unlimited  »

Visible Unlimited

Best for Unlimited High-Speed Data

Monthly Cost
$40

Plan Type
Prepaid

Data
Unlimited

Some restrictions may apply.

Visible Unlimited: Visible’s Unlimited plan is $40 per line per month. If you build a plan for at least four people, your per-line cost drops to $25 per month. The plan includes unlimited talking, texting, and data, hotspot capability with data speeds of up to 5 megabits per second, Wi-Fi calling (on a compatible device), and calls and texts to Canada and Mexico. Visible runs on Verizon’s network.

T-Mobile Essentials: T-Mobile Essentials cell phone plan starts at $60 a month and gives you 50 GB of high-speed data. You can cover up to six lines under this plan, which makes it appealing for families. A mobile hotspot comes with the plan and includes unlimited data at 3G speeds. You will have access to T-Mobile’s 5G network, which is the largest in the country.

Mint Mobile Unlimited  »

Mint Mobile Unlimited

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Monthly Cost
$30 and Up

Plan Type
Prepaid (3, 6 & 12 Month Plans)

Data
Unlimited

Mint Mobile Unlimited: Mint Mobile Unlimited is No. 6 in the Best Cell Phone plans of 2022 rating. It starts at $30 per month and gives you 35 GB of high-speed data along with a mobile hotspot with 5 GB of data. You’ll have access to 4G LTE networks as well as 5G networks in certain areas with a compatible device.

Metro by T-Mobile Unlimited Prepaid (5 GB Hotspot): This plan starts at $50 and gives you unlimited high-speed data, 5 GB of hotspot data, and a Google One membership (which gives you 100 GB of storage for images, videos, and files within Google Workspace). The plan ranks No. 8 in our rating of the Best Cell Phone Plans of 2022 and No. 5 in our Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans of 2022 rating.

Google Fi Unlimited: Google Fi Unlimited starts at $70 per month and is a more robust plan than Google Fi Flexible. You can add up to six lines, and customers receive coverage on 4G LTE and 5G networks with compatible devices. With the unlimited plan, you can make free calls from the U.S. to more than 50 countries and territories.

A bonus feature of the plan is that it comes with a Google One membership. This allows each person on the plan 100 GB of cloud storage.

Tello Economy  »

Tello Economy

Monthly Cost
$10

Plan Type
Prepaid

Data
Unlimited

Some restrictions may apply.

Tello Economy: Economy is Tello’s base plan, which comes with 1 GB of high-speed data, unlimited talking, and unlimited texting. At $10 per month, it’s the least expensive plan to make our list. There is no contract or setup fee, and for compatible cell phones, the plan comes with free tethering of your phone as a mobile hotspot.

One key feature is the ability to restructure your plan at any time. Tello Economy has both 4G LTE and 5G cellular networks.

Data Thresholds of the Best Cell Phone Plans

Mint Mobile 4 GB »
Data Unlimited
Data Threshold 4 GB / Month
Hotspot From Monthly Data Allowance
Hotspot Threshold Not Applicable
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Mint Mobile 4 GB » Company
Unlimited Data
4 GB / Month Data Threshold
From Monthly Data Allowance Hotspot
Not Applicable Hotspot Threshold
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Learn More

Mint Mobile Unlimited » Company
Unlimited Data
35 GB / Month Data Threshold
5 GB Hotspot
Not Applicable Hotspot Threshold
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Learn More

Tello Economy » Company
Unlimited Data
1 GB / Month Data Threshold
From Monthly Data Allowance Hotspot
Not Applicable Hotspot Threshold
View Plans »
Learn More

Studies show people are using their cell phones for everything from family life, to work, to entertainment. A report from market research firm App Annie found that mobile use, in general, skyrocketed in 2020. According to Lexi Sydow, App Annie’s senior market insights manager, “COVID-19 propelled mobile usage forward – achieving growth that would have otherwise taken two to three years.”

All cell phone plans in our ratings offer unlimited data. As generous as that may seem, there is a catch: data speeds often slow down after a certain point. You may get unlimited data, but only a certain amount may be high-speed data.

The average amount of high-speed data offered by the plans in our rating is 32 GB. When you use the allotted amount of high-speed data, your data speeds begin to slow, which is also known as throttling.

The more high-speed data you have access to for the cost of your plan, the further your money will go. Your data plan connects you to the internet when Wi-Fi isn’t available. Checking email, browsing the web, streaming videos, and playing online games all use different amounts of data.

If you consider plans with lower data allotments, you may want to find out how much it will cost to add more data during the month. For example, Tello Economy’s $10 a month plan comes with the least amount of high-speed data among the plans in our rating at just 1 GB. As a result, this plan isn’t the best choice if you enjoy watching lots of shows or videos every month.

However, some plans (like T-Mobile’s Essentials plan) include unlimited standard-definition streaming that doesn’t take from your high-speed data, or simply come with more high-speed data that can accommodate your needs.

Add-Ons of the Best Cell Phone Plans

Mint Mobile 4 GB »
No. of Lines Up to 4
Add-Ons None
Video Streaming Varies
5G Coverage 6,000+ Cities
Included International Services Free Calling to Mexico & Canada
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

T-Mobile Magenta »
No. of Lines Up to 5
Add-Ons Netlifx Basic
Video Streaming 480p
5G Coverage 8,300+ Cities
Included International Services Unlimited Talk, Text, & Data in Mexico & Canada, Data & Text Available in 210+ Countries
See Review »
Google Fi Flexible »
No. of Lines Up to 6
Add-Ons None
Video Streaming Varies
5G Coverage Varies
Included International Services High-Speed Data, Unlimited Texts in 200+ Countries
View Plans »
Visible Unlimited »
No. of Lines Up to 4
Add-Ons None
Video Streaming 480p
5G Coverage 1,800+ Cities
Included International Services Free Calling to Canada, Mexico, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico
View Plans »

Company

No. of Lines

Add-Ons

Video Streaming

5G Coverage

Included International Services

Learn More

Mint Mobile 4 GB » Up to 4 None Varies 6,000+ Cities Free Calling to Mexico & Canada View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Verizon Shared Data 5 GB » Up to 10 None 720p 2,700+ Cities None View Plans »
T-Mobile Magenta » Up to 5 Netlifx Basic 480p 8,300+ Cities Unlimited Talk, Text, & Data in Mexico & Canada, Data & Text Available in 210+ Countries See Review »
Google Fi Flexible » Up to 6 None Varies Varies High-Speed Data, Unlimited Texts in 200+ Countries View Plans »
Visible Unlimited » Up to 4 None 480p 1,800+ Cities Free Calling to Canada, Mexico, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico View Plans »
Mint Mobile 4 GB » Company
Up to 4 No. of Lines
None Add-Ons
Varies Video Streaming
6,000+ Cities 5G Coverage
Free Calling to Mexico & Canada Included International Services
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Learn More

T-Mobile Magenta » Company
Up to 5 No. of Lines
Netlifx Basic Add-Ons
480p Video Streaming
8,300+ Cities 5G Coverage
Unlimited Talk, Text, & Data in Mexico & Canada, Data & Text Available in 210+ Countries Included International Services
See Review »
Learn More
Google Fi Flexible » Company
Up to 6 No. of Lines
None Add-Ons
Varies Video Streaming
Varies 5G Coverage
High-Speed Data, Unlimited Texts in 200+ Countries Included International Services
View Plans »
Learn More
Visible Unlimited » Company
Up to 4 No. of Lines
None Add-Ons
480p Video Streaming
1,800+ Cities 5G Coverage
Free Calling to Canada, Mexico, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico Included International Services
View Plans »
Learn More
T-Mobile Essentials » Company
Up to 5 No. of Lines
None Add-Ons
480p Video Streaming
8,300+ Cities 5G Coverage
Unlimited Talk, Text, & 2G Data in Mexico & Canada Included International Services
See Review »
Learn More
Mint Mobile Unlimited » Company
Up to 4 No. of Lines
None Add-Ons
480p Video Streaming
6,000+ Cities 5G Coverage
Free Calling to Mexico and Canada Included International Services
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Learn More

Google Fi Unlimited » Company
Up to 6 No. of Lines
Google One 100 GB data Add-Ons
480p Video Streaming
Varies 5G Coverage
High-Speed Data, Unlimited Texts in 200+ Countries, Free Calling to 50+ Countries and Territories Included International Services
View Plans »
Learn More
Tello Economy » Company
Not Applicable No. of Lines
None Add-Ons
Varies Video Streaming
Not Applicable 5G Coverage
Calls to Canada, Mexico, China, and Romania included Included International Services
View Plans »
Learn More

Company

No. of Lines

Add-Ons

Video Streaming

5G Coverage

Included International Services

Learn More

Mint Mobile 4 GB » Up to 4 None Varies 6,000+ Cities Free Calling to Mexico & Canada View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Verizon Shared Data 5 GB » Up to 10 None 720p 2,700+ Cities None View Plans »
T-Mobile Magenta » Up to 5 Netlifx Basic 480p 8,300+ Cities Unlimited Talk, Text, & Data in Mexico & Canada, Data & Text Available in 210+ Countries See Review »
Google Fi Flexible » Up to 6 None Varies Varies High-Speed Data, Unlimited Texts in 200+ Countries View Plans »
Visible Unlimited » Up to 4 None 480p 1,800+ Cities Free Calling to Canada, Mexico, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico View Plans »
T-Mobile Essentials » Up to 5 None 480p 8,300+ Cities Unlimited Talk, Text, & 2G Data in Mexico & Canada See Review »
Mint Mobile Unlimited » Up to 4 None 480p 6,000+ Cities Free Calling to Mexico and Canada View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Metro by T-Mobile Unlimited Prepaid (5 GB Hotspot) » Up to 5 Google One 100 GB data 480p 8,300+ Cities None See Review »
Google Fi Unlimited » Up to 6 Google One 100 GB data 480p Varies High-Speed Data, Unlimited Texts in 200+ Countries, Free Calling to 50+ Countries and Territories View Plans »
Tello Economy » Not Applicable None Varies Not Applicable Calls to Canada, Mexico, China, and Romania included View Plans »

Most plans in our rating have various options, including high-speed data, mobile hotspot data, and streaming services. Although unlimited data is included in all the plans, most cell phone service providers offer additional high-speed data, charging by the GB. For example, Google Fi offers additional data for $10 per GB. This is a convenient way to pay only for the data you use.

App-based streaming increased by more than 40% in 2020, reported App Annie. Streaming services are in high demand. For that reason, you’ll now find them as an option in many cell phone plans.

Some plans include the cost of the streaming service, such as T-Mobile does with its Magenta plan, and allow you to increase the number of screens from which you can stream. Others, like Verizon, offer discounts on streaming services such as Disney+, Hulu, or ESPN.

If you frequently travel internationally, you may want to extend your service to your destination. Many wireless companies allow you to do this. For example, Mint Mobile lets you purchase credits to use when you’re abroad. This helps keep you from racking up unexpected international roaming charges by paying as you go.

Some extras can help you stay secure while online or using your cell phone. T-Mobile offers Scam Shield, which helps block scam calls, for example. Google Fi offers a virtual private network (VPN) for devices that have an Android 8.1 or higher operating system. A VPN helps hide your personal information from prying eyes on the internet.

Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans of 2022

Mint Mobile 4 GB »

4.2 out of 5

Monthly Cost $15 and Up
Network Type 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide
Data Unlimited
Hotspot From Monthly Data Allowance
Talk Time Unlimited
Text Unlimited
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Google Fi Flexible »

4 out of 5

Monthly Cost $20 +$10/GB
Network Type 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide
Data Varies
Hotspot From Monthly Data Allowance
Talk Time Unlimited
Text Unlimited
View Plans »
Visible Unlimited »

4 out of 5

Monthly Cost $40
Network Type 4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide
Data Unlimited
Hotspot Unlimited
Talk Time Unlimited
Text Unlimited
View Plans »
Mint Mobile Unlimited »

3.9 out of 5

Monthly Cost $30 and Up
Network Type 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide
Data Unlimited
Hotspot 5 GB
Talk Time Unlimited
Text Unlimited
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Mint Mobile 4 GB »

4.2 out of 5

Company

$15 and Up Monthly Cost
4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Unlimited Data
From Monthly Data Allowance Hotspot
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Learn More

Google Fi Flexible »

4 out of 5

Company

$20 +$10/GB Monthly Cost
4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Varies Data
From Monthly Data Allowance Hotspot
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »
Learn More
Visible Unlimited »

4 out of 5

Company

$40 Monthly Cost
4G LTE, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Unlimited Data
Unlimited Hotspot
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »
Learn More
Mint Mobile Unlimited »

3.9 out of 5

Company

$30 and Up Monthly Cost
4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Unlimited Data
5 GB Hotspot
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Learn More

Google Fi Unlimited »

3.7 out of 5

Company

$70 Monthly Cost
4G LTE, 5G Nationwide Network Type
Unlimited Data
From Monthly Data Allowance Hotspot
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »
Learn More
Tello Economy »

3.4 out of 5

Company

$10 Monthly Cost
4G LTE Network Type
Unlimited Data
From Monthly Data Allowance Hotspot
Unlimited Talk Time
Unlimited Text
View Plans »
Learn More

5G currently available only on compatible devices and in select locations. Some restrictions may apply. See our review for details.

Seven plans made our Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans of 2022 list, with Mint Mobile’s 4 GB plan ranking No. 1. Paying for service ahead of time is a great way to stick to a budget. According to RescueTime, people check their phones on average about 58 times a day. If you’re not careful, this level of use can trigger data overages and other fees. Prepaid plans can keep your phone use in check by limiting your data access based on what you can afford.

Another advantage of prepaid plans is the ability to easily change your plan if it no longer suits your needs. Prepaid plans usually last for a fixed amount of time, don’t require a contract, and often don’t require a credit check. With most companies, the plan renews according to the schedule you pick, whether that’s monthly or every three, six, or 12 months.

Prepaid plans get you up and running quickly, and some of them have more flexibility than a typical monthly plan or contract. On the downside, most prepaid plans don’t include extra services that you get with a cell phone contract, such as discounts on streaming services. Still many prepaid plans in our ratings have unlimited data and come with extras. For instance, Metro by T-Mobile’s Unlimited Prepaid 5 GB Hotspot plan includes a Google One membership with 100 GB of cloud storage.

Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans of 2022

Mint Mobile 4 GB »

4.2 out of 5

Monthly Cost $15 and Up
Network Type 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide
Data Unlimited
Talk Time Unlimited
Text Unlimited
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

Mint Mobile Unlimited »

3.9 out of 5

Monthly Cost $30 and Up
Network Type 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide
Data Unlimited
Talk Time Unlimited
Text Unlimited
View Plans »

Limited Time: Buy 3 months get 3 months free

5G currently available only on compatible devices and in select locations. Some restrictions may apply. See our review for details.

Our list of the Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans of 2022 consists of prepaid plans only. Prepaid plans usually cost less per month than contract plans for a few reasons. First, prepaid plans typically offer fewer extras. Second, contract plans often include an agreement that covers a new device or cell phone.

Affordable cell phone plans don’t require a long payment term, and many let you bring your own device. If you’ve already paid off your cell phone and you’re looking for good service without a long-term commitment, maybe it’s time to consider a low-cost cell phone plan.

A cell phone plan is a service that charges a monthly fee for a certain amount of talking minutes, texting, and data for activities like using social media apps and web surfing. The plans may come with the option of adding additional services such as more data, hotspot tethering, or streaming services.

For a cell phone plan to work, you need to initiate service with a wireless phone company. After you select a company and choose a plan, the company provides access to its network and keeps up its end of the service agreement as long as you pay as agreed. If your plan includes talk time, texting capabilities, and access to high-speed data, you will be able to use the services and they will renew with your billing cycle, as long as you continue to make your payments.

There are different types of cell phone plans such as prepaid, pay-as-you-go, and postpaid (most contract plans). Prepaid plans require you to purchase service for a certain amount of time, like each month, three months, or more.

Pay-as-you-go plans allow you to use the service and pay for it on an incremental basis like each month, or you can add talking time, texting, and data within the month.

Postpaid plans allow you to set up service with a provider and then receive a bill for the cost of what you used during the plan’s billing cycle.

A mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, is a small wireless provider that runs on a larger provider’s network. For example, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are considered large networks. They allow small companies like Mint Mobile, Visible, and Tello to use their cell towers to send customers’ phone signals.

MVNOs are popular because they offer affordable wireless plans and flexible billing options. Normally, there is no contract required to purchase a cell phone plan with these companies, thus saving time and money.

However, one potential downside to MVNOs is the deprioritization of high-speed data. That means customers of the large networks can be prioritized over MVNO customers during times of congestion or high traffic. In other words, MVNO customers might see their data speeds temporarily slow down.

Some companies even practice deprioritization between different plan tiers. In some cases, customers that pay for higher-cost plans may receive access to faster data transfer speeds than other customers, as well.

The average cost of cell phone plans in the Best Cell Phone Plans of 2022 rating is $43 per month. The average cost of a prepaid plan making our list is $35 a month, and the average cost of the Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans is just over $21 per month. Prices for all plans we reviewed range from $10 per month to $70 per month for a single line.

There are many cell service providers, and one provider may offer several plans. How do you determine the best plan for you? Here are some steps you can follow to get on the right track.

  1. Decide how many lines you need. There are different needs for a single cell phone line versus multiple lines. There are often benefits or discounts on plans for multiple lines that may not be offered under other plans.
  2. How will you use your device? Is it more for emergencies, or will you use it regularly? This will help determine what kind of data limits, talking time, texting, and other services you’ll likely want.
  3. How much can you afford to spend per month?
  4. Do you already have a phone, or will you need to purchase a new one? Several companies will assist you in transferring your phone or phone number, and there can be cost savings if you are willing to work with the phone you have.
  5. What discounts might you qualify for? Some cell phone service providers offer discounts to first responders, members of the military, and senior citizens.
  6. How reliable is the service? You want to choose a company that has an extensive and reliable network of towers. Reliability is especially important if you’re using the wireless plan for a hotspot or business calls.
  7. What type of wireless technology does the service use? Is it 3G, 4G LTE, or 5G networks, and is your cell phone compatible with it?
  8. Does the company have a trial period or a money-back guarantee?
  9. Do you travel internationally? If you are a frequent overseas traveler, look at what the company offers for international calls, texts, and data before you commit.

Note that companies like Mint Mobile, Visible, Metro by T-Mobile, and Tello function as mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) on other cellular networks such as T-Mobile or Verizon. MVNO customers may experience slowed data during high traffic times due to data prioritization. This can mean a cheaper plan but potentially slower data speeds from time to time, as T-Mobile and Verizon customers will be prioritized for high-speed data.

Some companies, like Mint Mobile, don’t have brick-and-mortar stores. Here’s how to buy a cell phone plan from one of these companies:

  1. Go to the company’s website or speak to a customer service representative on the phone. Other companies allow you to get the service in person if they have stores. 
  2. Keep in mind that different cell phone companies may have different compatibility requirements when it comes to your device working with the network of your choice. For example, if you want to set up a new cell phone service and bring your own phone.
  3. Be sure to check for compatibility and that your phone is unlocked before starting a new cell phone plan. An unlocked cell phone is a phone that is not linked to a contract with a specific cell phone carrier and can potentially be used with other carriers.
  4. For prepaid plans, be prepared to pay for one or more months of service in advance. Understand that some cell phone plans may require a contract for a certain amount of time.

Most carriers allow you to enter your address or zip code on their websites to see if service is available in your area. If there is a brick-and-mortar store you can ask in person, or you can call the company’s customer support line to find out about service locations and availability.

Learn More

For more information about cell phone plans visit our guides:

Other Ratings from 360 Reviews

The following describes our 360 approach to researching and analyzing cell phone plans to guide prospective consumers.

1. We researched the companies and products people care most about.

U.S. News analyzed and compared a variety of publicly available data, including internet search data, to determine which Cell Phone Plan companies Americans are most interested in. We found 18 companies that stand out in terms of volume of searches and research among consumers, as well as across the different rating sources.

We compared the available cell phone plans provided by our top cell phone plan companies across several criteria, including monthly cost, data and hotspot limits, network types, and add-ons. Research shows that these are the most important criteria for people shopping for a cell phone plan. We then narrowed the list down to the 10 best cell phone plans using aggregate data points with a focus on professional and consumer reviews.

Because product lines tend to launch or discontinue often, U.S. News made the best effort to review active and available product lines as of the date of publication

2. We created objective 360 Overall Ratings based on an analysis of third-party reviews.

U.S. News’ 360 Reviews team applied an unbiased methodology that includes opinions from professional reviews as well as consumer reviews.

Our scoring methodology is based on a composite analysis of the ratings and reviews published by credible third-party professional and consumer review sources. The ratings are not based on personal opinions or experiences of U.S. News. To calculate the ratings:

(a) We compiled two types of third-party ratings and reviews:

  • Professional Ratings and Reviews. Many independent cell phone plan evaluating sources have published their assessments of cell phone plans online. We consider several of these third-party reviews to be reputable and well-researched. However, professional reviewers often make recommendations that contradict one another. Rather than relying on a single source, U.S. News believes consumers benefit most when these opinions and recommendations are considered and analyzed collectively with an objective, consensus-based methodology.
  • Consumer Ratings and Reviews. U.S. News also reviewed published consumer ratings and reviews of cell phone plan providers. Sources with a sufficient number of quality consumer ratings and reviews were included in our scoring model.

Please note that not all professional and consumer rating sources met our criteria for objectivity. Therefore, some sources were excluded from our model.

(b) We standardized the inputs to create a common scale.

The third-party review source data were collected in a variety of forms, including ratings, recommendations, and accolades. Before including each third-party data point into our scoring equation, we had to standardize it so that it could be compared accurately with data points from other review sources. We used the scoring methodology described below to convert these systems to a comparable scale.

The 360 scoring process first converted each third-party rating into a common 0 to 5 scale. To balance the distribution of scores within each source’s scale, we used a standard deviation (or Z-Score) calculation to determine how each company’s score compared to the source’s mean score. We then used the Z-Score to create a standardized U.S. News score using the method outlined below:

  • Calculating the Z-Score: The Z-Score represents a data point’s relation to the mean measurement of the data set. The Z-Score is negative when the data point is below the mean and positive when it’s above the mean; a Z-Score of 0 means it’s equal to the mean. To determine the Z-Score for each third-party rating of a company, we calculated the mean of the ratings across all companies evaluated by that third-party source. We then subtracted the mean from the company’s rating and divided it by the standard deviation to produce the Z-Score.
  • Calculating the T-Score: We used a T-Score calculation to convert the Z-Score to a 0-100 scale by multiplying the Z-Score by 10. To ensure that the mean was equal across all data points, we added our desired scoring mean (between 0 and 10) to the T-Score to create an adjusted T-Score.
  • Calculating the common-scale rating: We divided the adjusted T-Score, which is on a 100-point scale, by 20 to convert the third-party rating to a common 0-5 point system.

(c) We calculated the 360 Overall Score based on a weighted-average model.

We assigned “source weights” to each source used in the consensus scoring model based on our assessment of how much the source is trusted and recognized by consumers and how much its published review process indicates that it is both comprehensive and editorially independent. The source weights are assigned on a 1-5 scale. Any source with an assigned weight of less than two was excluded from the consensus scoring model.

Finally, we combined the converted third-party data points using a weighted average formula based on source weight. This formula calculated the consensus score for each product, which we call the 360 Overall Rating.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.

https://www.usnews.com/360-reviews/services/cell-phone-plans

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