Best Prepaid Cellphone Plans

Last Updated: January 20, 2017 by

Welcome to our current guide to the prepaid cell phone plans available from mobile network providers in the US. Here, we go deep into what’s on offer from the big players in the business to help you choose the plan that best suits you. Are you tired of contract plans? Are you looking for another prepaid plan to jump to? Are you in the hunt for a non-contract cell phone? If you answer at least one of these questions with a YES, then this guide is for you.

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T-Mobile

The days of contract phones and post-paid plans are gradually fading away, and as a major wireless network provider in the US, T-Mobile has not relented in coming up with revolutionary prepaid plans for the general population. A short while back, T-Mobile made the bold move of completely doing away with contracts. Now, whether your interests lie with simple individual plans or family plans, they’ve got you well covered on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Pay-As-You-Go Plans

T-Mobile has flexible pay-as-you-go plans. For starters, $3 per minute gets you any combination of 30 minutes of talk or 30 texts. If you want more, you can get additional talk and text at a low flat rate of 10 cents per minute/message (sending and receiving). The $5 per day plan gets you daily unlimited talk & text and up to 500MB high-speed 4G LTE data while the $10 per week plan offers weekly unlimited talk & text and up to 1GB of 4G LTE data.

Monthly Prepaid Plans

The cheapest here is $40 per month for unlimited talk and text and up to 3GB 4G LTE data, which will drop to 2G after hitting the 3GB data limit. $50 per month ups the high-speed data to 5GB and $60 per month will earn you 10GB high-speed data.

Data plans

Whether you desire a monthly plan, or just data to get you through the day, T-Mobile has a ton of prepaid plans to choose from. Day, week and month passes range from $5 to $30, and to ensure you are always connected, they also have auto-renewal monthly plans, ranging from $20 to $95 per month.

Family Plan

Getting multiple lines for the whole family is very well discounted on T-Mobile. On their family plan, unlimited talk, text and up to 2GB 4G LTE data for the first line is $50 per month, $30 per month for the second line and $10 per month for each additional line. Additionally, now new from T-Mobile is a plan that gets you 4 lines with 6GB of 4G LTE data for just $30 each per month. So, If you are in a family that loves being online but hates sharing networks, all you need to do is figure out how many lines you want and then head over to T-Mobile.com to select the plan that is right for you.

It is evident from these offers that T-Mobile have done pretty well in offering reasonable prepaid cell phone plans which are versatile enough to be widely acceptable. However, critics argue that they have gradually become more complicated over the years and because of the many offers available, selecting a plan takes too much time. Nonetheless, once you have found what you are looking for, you are in for a nice treat. Data allotments are fairly large for the price and because of the widespread upgrades, T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network is one of the fastest in the country.

T-Mobile One and T-Mobile One Plus for unlimited 4G internet

If you are one of those cell phone users that demand data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, then the new T-Mobile’s $70-a-month “T-Mobile One” unlimited plan is the best choice for you. In addition to limitless 4G LTE connectivity in the US, you get free calling and texting in Canada and Mexico, free data roaming in more than 120 countries as well as generous weekly giveaways from T-Mobile.

Of course everything about this plan sounds peachy. However, be aware that with the One plan, T-Mobile throttles video streaming to a maximum quality of 480p and hotspot data to 3G speeds. While 480p might be good enough on a phone, but if you own a mid-to-full-sized tablet, you would be better off adding the extra $25 required to join the “One Plus” plan for higher quality streaming and unlimited hotspot data sharing.

Nonetheless, T-Mobile One serves up very commendable value for your money. Moreover, the carrier has an ongoing limited-time offer for multiple-line purchases where you pay $70 per month for a single line and $50 per month for a second one. Lines three through eight are $20 per month per line, and lines nine and beyond are $30 per month per line.

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AT&T

Unlike T-Mobile, AT&T has been busy making sure their prepaid plan offers remain as simple as possible. Their plans – currently called GoPhone plans – are a more direct approach that the average customer can understand easily. If all you want is a provider with few but reasonable pay-as-you-go, daily, or monthly prepaid plans which you can get on quickly and easily, AT&T has got you taken care of.

Pay-as-you-go rate– 25 cents per minute, 20 cents per message and 1 cent per 5KB data.

$2/Day– A full day of unlimited talk and text. You can purchase data at 1 cent per 5KB or buy a data package $1 per 100MB. This plan is especially prefered by tourists who need temporary SIM card connectivity.

$30/Month– Unlimited talk and text in the US, unlimited texts to Mexico, Canada and over 100 countries, and if you need data, you can buy a package at $5 per 100MB.

$45/Month– Unlimited talk and text in the US, unlimited Messaging to Mexico, Canada and over 100 countries, and up to 3GB high-speed data. Conveniently, AT&T has integrated its rollover data feature here, where if the month ends before your data, the remainder is added to the next month’s data allotment.

$60/Month – Unlimited talk and text in the US, unlimited talk & text from the US to Mexico and Canada, talk, text & data usage in Mexico and Canada, unlimited messaging to Mexico, Canada and over 100 countries, and a high-speed data package of up to 6GB with monthly data rollover.

As you can see, AT&T’s prepaid plans are simple and clear. They are also reasonably priced and although many providers offer better pay-as-you-go options, the daily and monthly plans are well worth considering. Furthermore, you can save $5 monthly with AutoPay which brings all monthly-plan prices down by $5. Impressive discounts are also available for multiple SIM purchases.

AT&T’s Unlimited Plan

To get onto AT&T’s new unlimited data plan, the carrier requires you to have eligible TV service, which can either be DIRECTV or U-verse TV. If you do use either service, you’ll get:

  • Unlimited data for all devices on your plan.
  • Unlimited talk and text including calls to Canada and Mexico.
  • Talk, text, and data usage in Canada and Mexico when you add the AT&T Roam North America feature to eligible devices on your AT&T Unlimited Plan for no additional charge.

Plan pricing includes a $60 per month plan charge plus a $10 to $40 per month access charge which varies with your device. A budget-friendly family plan has also been incorporated, where total monthly charges for a family of four amount to only $180 per month.

While not nearly as cheap as T-Mobile One, AT&T’s Unlimited Plan still brings admirable value to the table.

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Sprint

Sprint has surely taken its time to get in line with the competition, as far as prepaid cell-phone plans are concerned. It wasn’t until only recently that they made the leap from having only two simple prepaid plans, to offering a variety of versatile plans for their customers to choose from.

Unlimited Freedom Plan

Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom Plan competes well with unlimited plans from major carriers, offering unlimited data, talk and text for just $60 per Month. Getting the plan on multiple lines is also well discounted with 2 lines being $50 per month each, and lines 3-10 being $30 per month per line.

High-speed data plans

There are a good number of offers here to choose from depending on your internet needs. To start with, Sprint has the $20/Month plan which gives you 1GB high-speed data and is convenient for users who only browse the web occasionally or are mostly on Wi-Fi. If you need more data, you can alternatively get on the $30/Month plan for 3GB data, $45/Month for 6GB, $60/Month for 12GB, $80/Month for 24GB and $100/Month for 40GB. These plans all include unlimited talk and text and unlimited 2G browsing beyond the high-speed data limit,

Family plans

With one convenient family prepaid plan, you can share your data while on Sprint by simply choosing the amount of high-speed data you want shared and the number of lines you need. $45 gets you 6GB, $60 12GB, $80 24GB and $100 40GB. All these offers come with unlimited talk and text for all lines.

International travelers also have a reason to smile, since all plans now include Sprint Global Roaming, which offers unlimited talk and text, and unlimited data at up to 2G speeds in select destinations. Sprint might be well invested in contract phones and post-paid plans, but judging by these offers, they are equally serious with their prepaid customers.

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Verizon Wireless

As another big fish among network carriers, Verizon boasts one of the most solid networks in the country. LTE speeds on the network are also among the fastest. But even with robust and reliable infrastructure, their prepaid plans have remained relatively simple over the years. However, recent updates have seen Verizon plans getting more versatile and data allotments getting bigger, to the delight of their customers.

Individual Monthly Plans

Verizon’s new individual plan has five simple data sizes, each with unlimited talk and text. $35/month gets you 2GB LTE data, $50/month 4GB, $70/month 8GB + 2GB bonus and $110/month 24GB + 2GB bonus. Heavy internet users can even go as far as the jumbo data pack of 60GB for $270/month and with data rollover, the data you get is yours to keep.

Family Plan

Verizon might not have the most enticing family plan, but it is still reasonable. For $150 per month, you get unlimited talk and text, plus 16GB data for sharing across four lines. Simple, yet efficient.

Add-ons

If you exhaust your high-speed data before the month ends, you can get an extra 1GB data boost for $15. This will not be part of your monthly plan and the data will expire 30 days after the time of purchase.

Regardless of the plan you choose, Verizon promises to offer you the most reliable wireless network service around. Small data packages might be relatively expensive compared to what the competition offers, but for heavy internet users requiring large amounts of high-speed 4G data, Verizon’s prepaid plans are very much worth it.

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US Cellular

Although an independent wireless network provider, US Cellular remains in the shadow of the four major carriers in the US. Nonetheless, it has manages to keep the competition healthy with reliable and consistent LTE national coverage, decent prepaid plans and access to the latest smartphones, all without a contract. However, if you are used to carriers that offer a million prepaid-plan options, you are in for severe disappointment. The choices here are few and simple.

$30/Month– This gets you 500 minutes of talktime and unlimited messaging. US Cellular says the plan is meant specifically for basic phones and because of that, you get no data.
$35/Month – With this plan comes unlimited talk and text and 500MB high-speed data which drops to 2G thereafter.
$45/Month – Unlimited talk and text and 2GB high-speed data which drops to 2G thereafter.
$60/Month – Unlimited talk and text and 5GB high-speed data, again dropping to 2G thereafter

US Cellular could clearly use more prepaid plans and larger data allotments for its growing number of customers. It is best to keep eyes open for any future upgrades they may be cooking up.

Conclusion

That wraps up our guide, and it is our hope that the curiosity you had regarding prepaid plans from big network carriers is now quenched. However, it is worth mentioning that while these five operators are the major players in the wireless network game, there are other smaller operators in the business that offer very impressive prepaid plans. These operators – known as MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) – use infrastructure owned by the major networks to deliver low-priced services to customers looking for a bargain. Admittedly, the network service offered by these underdogs is not as solid or as reliable as from major carriers, but because of their pricing, many people are opting to go the MVNO way. One MVNO that is worth mentioning here is T-Mobile-based Simple Mobile, whose $55 per month plan will give you unlimited talk and text in the US, unlimited text internationally and 10GB 4G LTE data; outmatching T-Mobile’s own 10GB plan which currently costs $60 per month. For a more comprehensive look at MVNOs and the prepaid plans they offer, have a look at our guide to the best cheap prepaid cellphone plans. Also, are you thinking of buying a smartphone to use with your new prepaid service of choice? Check out our Best Unlocked Smartphones and Best Cheap Unlocked Smartphones guides. We’re certain you will find what you desire.