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How to Find the Most Affordable Cell Phone Plans

This article was written by in Consumer, Frugality. 4 comments.

Over the past few years, cell phone providers have declared an out-and-out war to win over consumers. This spells good things for the consumers, who can now take advantage of more low-cost cell phone plans than ever.

These days, even the “big four” cell providers — Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon — are lowering their prices. And there is a host of other companies jumping on board with cheap voice, text, and data services.

Finding the right plan for your needs requires some research, though. First off, the provider you choose should have decent coverage in your area and areas to which you travel often. Saving $15 a month on your cell phone bill doesn’t mean much if you constantly drop calls in your own living room!

Plus, you’ll need to ensure that the plan you choose has what you really need in a cell phone plan. That might mean unlimited voice and text, or a hefty amount of data for your business.

Whenever you are ready to lower your cell phone bill, check out these 20 low-cost plan options.

Sprint Unlimited Freedom and Family Plans

This plan offers two lines with unlimited data, talk, and text for $100 per month. It offers unlimited 4G LTE data, and allows you to add up to 10 additional lines for $30 each. Or you could opt for a cheaper family plan with limited, shared data and $20 per line access.

T-Mobile ONE

The ONE plan offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $70 for the first line, $50 for the second line, and $20 for up to two additional lines — so $140 per month for four lines. Or you could get four lines for $120 per month when you use Auto Pay. The plan offers unlimited everything in Mexico and Canada, and unlimited text and data just about anywhere else in the world.

AT&T Mobile Share Advantage

This customizable plan allows you to choose how much data you want to share, from 1GB for $30 a month to 100GB for $450 per month. Then, add smartphones for a monthly access fee of $20 per month. If you don’t use much data, this plan would be a great way to cut your expenses down to as little as $70 per month for two lines and limited data access.

Verizon Plan

This giant is known for its great coverage, but has started to lower its prices to stay competitive. The plan comes in five “sizes” from S to XXL. As with AT&T, this plan allows you to customize your data to what you’ll actually use, which can save low-data users some money. There’s a $20/month charge per phone, and data costs anywhere from $35/month for 2GB to $110/month for 24GB+2GB per line.

Metro PC

Launching into the smaller providers, we’ll start with Metro PCS, which offers nationwide 4G coverage. Its “unlimited” data, talk, and text plan really comes with 1GB of 4G data before kicking you down to lower data speeds. Still, the plan is a good deal at just $30 per month, or $25 per month as part of a family plan. For just $50 per month, you can get unlimited talk and text plus 5GB of 4G data.

Cricket

Cricket’s Basic plan runs just $40 per month, and includes unlimited nationwide text and talk plus 2.5GB of high-speed data access. Or the $70/month Unlimited plan offers unlimited high-speed data, unlimited nationwide talk and text, unlimited international texting, and data access and unlimited talk and text to and from Mexico and Canada. Cricket also offers group pricing and discounts for signing up for auto-pay.

Page Plus Cellular

Page Plus Cellular is a no-contract provider that still offers super-cheap plans with restricted minutes and text. The cheapest plan is just $12 per month for 250 minutes, 250 texts, and 10MB of data. Or opt for the largest plan at $69.95 with unlimited calling, unlimited national and international texting, and 7GB of 4G LTE data, which is then restricted down to 2G.

Virgin Mobile

This provider is gaining in popularity, and not without reason. Its main plan is just $40 per month and includes 4GB of high-speed data. Plus, it allows you to stream music from services like Pandora and Slacker without tapping into your data.

Boost Mobile

Boost’s Unlimited Starter package starts at just $30 per month and includes 1GB of 4G LTE data. You can add additional data for $5 per GB per month. Like Virgin, Boost offers unlimited music streaming through certain music apps. For more data, check out the $50/month Unlimited Unhook’d plan, which offers optimized streaming for videos, gaming, and music, and unlimited 4G LTE data for everything else.

Straight Talk

Available plans for Straight Talk depend on your phone and current phone number, so you’ll have to check availability. But some example options include a 1-year unlimited plan for $495 total. This one offers unlimited nationwide talk and text and 5GB of data per month at 4G LTE, restricted to 2G service after that.

Republic Wireless

For just $15 per month, Republic offers unlimited talk and text without data (except on WiFi). It’s a good plan option if you’re near a WiFi signal most of the time. Plans add more data from there, up to 10GB per month on the $90 plan.

GoSmart Mobile

This provider offers four service levels, including a $25/month plan that includes unlimited international texting, unlimited national talk, and unlimited 4G LTE access for Facebook. Its largest plan is $55/month and includes up to 20GB per month of 3G data access, as well as the other perks listed.

FreedomPop

This provider actually offers a free Basic Plan that includes 500 texts, 200 minutes, and 500MB of data each month, as well as free calling over WiFi. You may be able to bring your own existing device to this provider, or purchase a device from them.

H2O Wireless

For $30 per month, you can get unlimited talk and text, 500MB of data, and $10 of international talk credit. Or go up to $60 per month of unlimited talk and text, 4.5GB of high-speed data (restricted to 2G data thereafter), and $20 per month of international talk credit. H2O also offers pay-as-you go plans, which let you customize your payment based on how much talk, text, and data you’ll actually use at a time.

Scratch Wireless

This provider, like many other small providers, operates on the “Wi-Fi First” principal. In other words, if WiFi is available, your phone will operate on that rather than using data. When connected to WiFi, you’ll have unlimited text and data. The service is free for three months, and costs just $7.99 per month after that. If you’re typically in places where WiFi is available, Scratch could be the ideal service for you.

ChatSIM

Communicate mostly by text? ChatSIM is a super-cheap way to make that happen. The base plan costs $15 per year and comes with unlimited texts and emojis anywhere in the world. You can also purchase multimedia credits to cover photos, videos, and calls, ranging from $15 to $60 each.

Red Pocket

Red Pocket offers two types of service: its Flagship Plans, which work on all its wireless networks and allow you to keep your phone and phone number, and Device-Specific Plans. Flagship Plans begin at just $29.99/month for unlimited talk and text and 500MB of data. These plans go up to $59.99 per month for unlimited everything with 3GB of high-speed data (and lower speed data after that).

Simple Mobile

You can bring your own phone or buy a phone through Simple Mobile, and then sign up for a $60/month plan with unlimited 4G LTE data. Don’t need the data? Keep it simple with a $25/month unlimited talk and text plan.

US Mobile

This provider offers completely customizable plans, so you only need to pay for the services you actually use. For instance, you can pay $3/month for 100 talk minutes, or $15/month for up to 5,000 minutes. Similarly, texting costs $2/month for 100 texts or $7/month for unlimited texts. And data costs from $2/month for 100MB to $35/month for 6GB. Add on a $2/month service charge, and you’ve got a plan you can completely customize to your actual usage.

ROK Mobile

As with other providers, this one cuts back on the cost of streaming music by providing the ROK Music App. It offers a $49.99/month plan with unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 5GB of 4G LTE data.

So which one wins?

As you can see, there’s some huge variability in plan prices here, from free plans that focus on WiFi coverage to $100/month plans from the “big four.” The key is to ensure that any provider you choose will have good coverage in your area, and that the plan will be sufficient to meet your talk, text, and data needs.

Be sure to read the fine print. Also talk to friends and neighbors about their coverage, especially with less well-known providers. Then, pick a plan and start reaping the financial reward of this wireless war for customers.


Updated November 1, 2016 and originally published October 10, 2016. If you enjoyed this article receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Brandon Snider

We’ve been on Page Plus for almost 2 years, one on the $29/month plan and the other on the $39/month plan, they use Verizon’s network. Both iPhones, couldn’t be happier.

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avatar 2 Bill Talmadge

I can’t believe you overlooked Consumer Cellular. It’s fantastic for low usage users. Check it out.
I pay 25/month for 250 talk minutes 5,000 txt minutes 500mb data. They warn you when your usage is approaching the limit and let you increment the plan immediately and temporarily at low cost.

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avatar 3 Stephanie Colestock

We’ll check them out and add them to the article — thanks for the heads up, Bill!

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avatar 4 yyz guy

Consumer Cellular anyone?

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