While most users will be signed up with one of the major carriers like Verizon Wireless and AT&T, there are other, more competitive offers available in the market. Also, most of the choices available from the major carriers come in the form of contract phones, where you get phones at a discount but are locked to one network. You will need your own (unlocked) cell phone if you want to use prepaid plans. However, there are no contract commitments; you pay as you go, or by the days you use it.
These carriers are known as MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), and they work by piggybacking on the major networks, allowing them to deliver lower prices on their plans. This is especially convenient for individual users who do not wish to be tied down by contracts or who are not looking to be a part of a family plan.
It is worth looking at our Prepaid Phone Plans Guide, as all the major carriers offer low-cost versions of their plans as well. However, for those looking for a bargain, or maybe just something different, these are the best brands out there.
As their homepage states, “Unlimited Plans Are Expensive, and they are not for everyone”, US Mobile do not offer unlimited plans. Instead, they offer sort of “create your own” plans, where you are presented with a “Menu” of Talk, Text, and Data plans, and you get to choose the ones that suit you best. For example, the minimum all-inclusive plan costs $9, and it includes 100 Mins ($3), 100 Texts ($2), 100 MB Data ($2) and a $2 monthly service charge. This is very impressive indeed, and of course, you can opt to forego any of the services you will not require (Talk, Text or Data) to further bring the price down.
The plans can further be scaled up from there, with an option of up to 5000 Mins at $15, Unlimited Texts at $7, and 6GB Data for $35. The carrier uses T-Mobile’s LTE network with any T-Mobile compatible phone, and it offers great value for money.
This service is dedicated entirely to messaging through various apps like WhatsApp. It comes at an unbelievable 12$ for the sim card and 12$ per year. Honestly, any cheaper and it would be free. It works in over 150 countries making it ideal for frequent travelers or for chatting with friends abroad.
You need to have an unlocked cell phone to use the sim, and manually input ChatSim’s settings for it to work. You also need to have a Wi-Fi connection to log in on ChatSim’s site. After that, sending messages on apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, LINE, Telegram and many other Instant Messaging apps.
The one question you will ask yourself is, “Do I really need it”, and rightfully so. The sim does not support standard text messages, voice calls, and requires constant Wi-Fi connection to work. Messaging apps also use very little data, which you can get on other carriers who offer calls and data as well. Nevertheless, ChatSim offers a very inexpensive way to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe.
Established as an independent MVNO, Cricket Wireless stayed cowering in the shadow of already established companies for a while until AT&T acquired it in March, 2014. Currently, the mobile service giant has positioned Cricket as its value-priced prepaid brand. Cricket subscribers get more data for less money than AT&T’s own-founded GoPhone, but the data speeds are lower. With high-speed data throttled to a maximum of 8 Mbps for LTE and 4 Mbps for 3G, Cricket Wireless is mostly preferred by casual internet users. For multiple-line purchases, Cricket offers a $5/Month auto-pay discount and a group save discount of $5 to $20 per line.
Current Cricket phones use the AT&T network, and although Cricket products are not available at AT&T stores, you can get their SIM cards and phones online and at third-party retail stores like Walmart, Target, GameStop and other authorized dealers.
This carrier provides wide rural coverage and uses the AT&T network. It targets the senior market, and most users give it stellar reviews for amazing customer service. It focuses mostly on voice calls rather than text or data and starts at 15$ per month for 250 Mins of talk time up to 50$ per month for unlimited talk time. Users can also opt for the 10$ plan and pay 25cents a minute. They also offer Connect Plans which include data and texts ranging from 300 texts and 30MB for $2.50 a month, to Unlimited texts and 4GB for $40 a month. You are automatically upgraded to the next plan if you exceed the plans usage.
You can switch from other carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile, and keep your current (unlocked) phone and phone number. A wide range of affordable and easy-to-use phones are also offered in case you have no phone or are using a contract (locked) phone.
Consumer Cellular have targeted the senior market and have the services and offers to match. With their affordable plans, easy-to-use phones, and excellent customer service, they guarantee a pleasant and fully satisfactory experience. They even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with their services.
Krew Mobile sells itself as a cellular service for parents and kids. It is a family plan targeted at parents who want their children to be able to keep in touch with them, but at the same time have control of the child’s usage.
Each $40 plan comes with three lines for everyone in your “Krew”. The “Krew Captain” line for the parent with 2GB of 4G LTE Data (unlimited 2G speed after exhaustion), Unlimited Nationwide Talk and Unlimited Worldwide texts. The other two “Krew Mate” lines for children share 60-one hour blocks total of Talk and Text that are allocated using parental controls on the parent line, and the main line can be used to share data via Hotspot tethering to provide data to the two child lines.
Krew Mobile tries to offer a great family plan at an affordable rate and is ideal for parents who want to give their children the freedom of a phone plan but still keep their usage/access in check. It also provides a great bonding and learning experience for you and your kids.
ROK Mobile sells itself as a hip and fresh service for music lovers and the young at heart. They claim to have the largest LTE network coverage in America, which is true, but that is because they are an MVNO piggybacking on Verizon’s network.
On their main plan, you get Unlimited Talk, Unlimited Text and 5GB of LTE Data for $50 a month, which is great value. On top of that, their ROK Music App gives you access to over 20 million tracks which are free to stream much like Spotify or Amazon prime. They also offer some phone leasing options, but you end up paying a lot more than what the phones actually cost. ROK Mobile offers great value for money with the added bonus of great coverage and a free music streaming service and is sure to gain a lot of traction in the music community.
Republic Wireless uses Wi-Fi in addition to cell for talk and text to cut down on costs and provide access even in areas with no cell coverage. What this means is, you can call and text while on Wi-Fi regardless of network coverage at your location, including abroad. Of course, they hope you do most of your calling and texting over WiFi, which allows them to keep their costs down.
Even though their original Unlimited Talk and Text plan was increased from $10 to $15 monthly, it is still a bargain. They, however, reduced their 1GB plan to $20 from $25, making an already good deal even better. They also offer higher usage plans, but they overall do not offer the value these two do.
Republic Wireless use of Wi-Fi makes it perfect for International travelers, they piggyback on Sprint and T-Mobile giving them great coverage, and they now even offer phones.
Most Tracfone devices run on the AT&T network, providing a pretty decent network coverage. While its charging and bonus system is somewhat confusing, once understood, can offer some pretty fantastic deals. This is especially true with its talk deals, where some of its devices have a “triple minutes” offer. This can be combined with some of their voice-only plans to offer great value. For example, they offer a 400-minute voice-only one-year prepaid card, which translates to 1200 minutes on “triple minutes” device for only $99.99. They also have some data offers, but they do not offer great value for money, and better deals can be found elsewhere.
Simple Mobile is a T-Mobile based carrier and Tracfone subsidiary with some great plans. One, in particular, made it make this list: Its $55 a month plan which includes 10GB, Unlimited Talk and Unlimited texts (both national and international). This plan provides great value and blows some competing plans away, like T-Mobile’s own 10GB plan which costs $80. Add $5 to the already modest $55 price tag, and you get unlimited data as well. Other carriers simply cannot compete. Straight Talk Wireless comes close with the same $55 and $60 plans, but its cheaper plans are not as compelling. Net10 Wireless, which is also a Tracfone subsidiary, offers the same features of the $55 plan for $50 but has no unlimited data plan.
Airvoice Wireless is an AT&T MVNO that aims at offering simple-term pre-paid plans which not only offer good value, but are easy to understand. The MVNO offers an array of reasonable unlimited voice and text plans with varying amounts of data priced from $5 per month for 25MB to $50 per month for 5GB. There is also a $10 per month pay-as-you-go value plan with prices of 4 cents/minute, 2 cents/text and 6.6 cents/MB.
To get on Airvoice, all you need is an unlocked/AT&T enabled phone and an Airvoice Sim Card. In addition to laudable plans that give the competition a run for their money, Airvoice Wireless is also notable for having highly regarded US-based support
Red Pocket uses three of the top four service providers: Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T. Therefore, a wide range of devices, virtually any which can work on any of the above-mentioned carriers, can support the Red Pocket SIM card. You get to keep your phone and phone number.
Red pocket has a range of plans, which are not really compelling as some of the ones on this list. Two, however, stand out. They offer a 1000-minute card that runs on AT&T for $100, and a 2000-minute card running on Sprint for the same amount (Texts “cost” one minute each). These are one-year-pay-as-you-go talk cards, meaning you are not rushed to burn through the allotted time in a month. Also, I have no idea why the difference in price, I just know they are both great deals.
Page Plus was Verizon’s first MVNO, and it has some pretty competitive prices for its plan. Ironically enough, undercutting Verizon itself. For example, Verizon’s lowest data plan (Unlimited calls/texts inclusive) costs $45/month for 2GB, while Page Plus offers 3GB for just $40/month. It also offers 1GB and 1500 minutes with unlimited text for $30/month which is also great value.
Page Plus is consistently ranked high among wireless providers for low rates, flexible plans, and exceptional customer service, and is worth serious consideration.
Ultra Mobile targets users who make frequent International calls. Its cheapest offering is 100MB of 4G LTE Data, Unlimited Domestic and International calling to 30+ countries, and Unlimited Global and Domestic Text for $19/month. There are various plans which cost depending on the number of countries Unlimited calling is available to, data size, and some plans even have 1000 extra minutes for a few specific countries. They also offer “Call Me Free” service on all their plans, where users can call a local Ultra Mobile operator who will connect them to the Ultra Mobile number they want to call. In this way, the international leg of the call will be free, but the caller may face local charges (for calling the local Ultra Mobile operator), depending on the details of their plan.
Ultra Mobile’s main competitor is Lyca Mobile so it may warrant a look, but Ultra Mobile overall is a bit more affordable.
That brings us to the conclusion of our guide for The Best Cheap Prepaid Cell Phone Plans. These plans are great for phone users looking to squeeze every last minute, text or data from their budget while not compromising on quality. Most of these carriers offer great deals, but usually in one particular price range, so choose wisely and read the fine print. For example, most carriers offer only one or two plans that are truly outstanding, like Simple Mobile’s unlimited everything $60 plan. Some plans are highly circumstantial like ChatSim and Krew Mobile. Hence, you might want to look at our guide for The Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans if you are more of a general phone user.
Also, you will need an unlocked cell phone to use most of these carriers, but most of their phone deals are total rip-offs, with monthly payments accumulating to more than triple the price of the device. We recommend you take a look at our guide for the Best Cheap Prepaid Phone Plans and also The Best Unlocked Cell Phones and the Best Cheap Unlocked Cell Phones for more info.
Did you like our guide? Do you know of any other bargain plans that we might have missed? Please let us know in the comments section below.