28 Jun

Cheap Cell Phone Plans in 2017 (And How to Choose the Best One)

cheap cell phone plans

Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with ads from various cell phone companies promising the best and cheapest plans compared to everyone else. Even if one plan seems like a great value, it may not be the cheapest one for you and your needs.

Cell phone plans vary greatly and are dependent on factors such as amount of data, coverage, the type of plan you select (family vs. individual), and prepaid or monthly billing. We will help you find the cheapest cell phone plan that makes the most sense for your lifestyle.

Which Plan is Best for Me?

Cell phone companies, and perhaps even your friends and family, think they know what plan is best for you. You’re the only one who truly knows what kind of cell phone plan is best for you; what works for some doesn’t suit everyone.

What is Important to You?

As soon as you start shopping around for the perfect cell phone plan, you’ll come across features that are more important than others (or even none). Some cell phone users chew up data like it’s going out of style. Others use their phone very sparingly. It’s important to utilize a plan that won’t have you paying for features or usage you don’t need.

Fair Plan Pricing and Flexibility?

When you’re making a financial commitment to a cell phone plan, you should have some say in how much you want to spend. The price you pay should reflect your needs. Flexibility is also important so you can sign up for only the amount of data you need, rather than having to pay for data you won’t ever use.

Good Performance? Broad Phone Selection?

There’s nothing worse than getting a new phone and not have consistent service or clear and crisp voice quality. If you’re planning on using your cell phone as your main source of communication, you probably want to make sure that you have excellent and interrupted service.

Additionally, if you’re like most cell phone users, you want to have a choice in selecting the type of phone you buy. Choices are always nice when it comes to choosing a cell phone.

Helpful Customer Service?

A great and reliable cell phone plan should always have helpful customer service that’s available 24/7. Even if you consider yourself to be relatively tech-savvy when it comes to cell phones, you never know when you’ll need some professional help.

Do Your Research to Know What You Want

Before you sign a contract for the first phone plan in your budget, take the time to think about the things you need and want from a cell phone plan. Choosing a plan without giving it much thought may work out well, but you could get stuff with service and phone that gives you nothing but a headache.

Doing a little research, choosing wisely, and knowing what you want before committing to a cell phone plan will save you money in the long run. You’re less likely to get overcharged on your monthly cell phone bill. 

Choose a Service Before Choosing a Phone

For many cell phone users, getting the most up-to-date phone is more important than the phone plan. If having the cheapest cell phone plan is important to you, a service plan should be more important than a phone.

If you have unreliable service it then you’re stuck with an expensive, top-of-the-line phone that you can’t use and enjoy.

Estimate the Amount of Data You Need

Coming up with an estimate of your data use will determine the cost of your plan. How will you use your smartphone? If you plan on using a lot of streaming services, you will probably want to consider an unlimited plan. Low data plans can work for many cell phone users if they watch their usage closely.

Check Data Overage Charges

Although it can be difficult to estimate the amount of data you’ll be using, it’s important to read the fine print regarding data overage charges. It’s not uncommon for cell phone users to exceed their data now and then but it can be costly. Be sure to consider things like roaming and reduced browsing speeds when you exceed your data plan.

Check the Coverage Area, Especially Where You Live

Many cell phone carriers have great coverage in large cities, but they may be less than reliable in suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. Even if you live in the heart of a metro area, it’s a good idea to make sure you will have good coverage.

Geography is everything and buildings, or even a tree can affect the quality of your coverage. Don’t forget to check the coverage for places you frequent like your place of employment.

Do You Travel Internationally?

These days, more cell phone providers are becoming more accommodating to international travelers. If you travel abroad often or even a few times a year, you want to select a plan that will be reliable wherever you go.

Check for Discounts

Most companies don’t advertise that they offer discounts, but if you do a little extra research and ask, you may find that you can qualify for a discounted plan. Many cell phone carriers will offer a discount to members of participating companies, schools, and even those in the military. Not sure if they offer discounts? It never hurts to ask.

Consider a Prepaid Cell Phone Plan

Often, prepaid cell phone plans are some of the cheapest plans around. Although you may sacrifice some services and data speed, most prepaid plans are comparable to postpaid plans.

You may have fewer choices when it comes to choosing a phone, but it’s a good option if you have poor credit.

Cheap Prepaid Plans with Data

Rather than getting a monthly bill from your provider, a prepaid plan is a good option for someone who doesn’t want to sign a contract. Prepaid plans requiring for services upfront or as you go and when you go with a prepaid plan, you don’t have to sign a contract.

We have found some of the cheapest prepaid plans with data so you can download, use streaming services, and browse the Internet.

Ting

If your monthly usage varies from month to month, Ting might be an ideal prepaid plan for you. The minimal amount you pay is $6 per month, and the most are $81. As a Ting user, you have the choice to customize your plan for as much, or as little data and minutes, you need.

Plans

If you go directly to the Ting website, you can check out their savings calculator and customization tool but here are the basic details about plans.

Lines are $6 each (for one to five lines) and an additional $6 per device for six lines or more. 100 minutes ($3), 500 minutes ($9), 1,000 minutes ($18), 2,100 minutes ($35), more than 2,100 minutes cost 1.9 cents/minute.

Global text messages cost $3 for 100, $5 for 1,000, $8 for 2,000, $11 for 4,800, and ¼ cents per text if you have more than 4,800.

For 100MB of nationwide data, you can expect to spend $3, 500MB ($10), 1GB ($16), 2GB ($20), and $10/GB if you want more than 2GB of data.

With Ting, you get free voicemail, picture and video messaging, 3-way calling, and caller ID. There are also about 26 phones to choose from, and the cost of your plan will vary depending on the phone you select. There are extra charges for international calling or travel.

Republic Wireless

If you always have a Wifi signal available, Republic Wireless is a cheap prepaid plan. Republic Wireless users are encouraged to keep their costs low by using WiFi whenever possible. If no WiFi is available, service runs off of the 4G network.

Plans

All plans have unlimited talk and text. Republic Wireless only offers one line (no family plan options), and you cannot make international calls, and if you exceed your plan, you can upgrade to the next plan.

The monthly data plans (with unlimited talk and text) include: $20 for 1GB, $30 for 2GB, $45 for 4GB, $60 for GB, $90 for 10GB.

Like other prepaid plans, you can either use your existing cell phone or choose one from Republic Wireless’ collection. If you buy a device through Republic Wireless, you may qualify to pay for your device in 6, 12, or 18-month installments.

Metro PCS

All Metro PCS plans have unlimited talk and text with $5 to $10 add-ons for calls and texts to Canada, Mexico, and international travel options. If you like to use music streaming services, like Spotify or iTunes Radio, Metro PCS allows users to have unlimited streaming without using any 4G data.

Plans

There are options to add lines, which is perfect for family plans, and the plans also include unlimited 2G speeds after the data cap. Metro PCS monthly plans (with unlimited talk and text) include: $30 for 1GB of data, $40 for 3GB, $50 for 8GB.

If you want unlimited talk, text, and data, it costs $60 per month. A mobile hotspot allows you to use your Metro PCS data on other devices that you use. You have the option to use your own device or purchase a device from Metro PCS (phone must be paid in full at time of purchase).

Project Fi

Much like Ting, Project Fi offers a customized service for customers. Although Project Fi offers cheap plans, it doesn’t offer a lot of variety and it currently only offers service to Pixel and Nexus devices, which you need to purchase on your own. Project Fi does have international calling and texting options. If you are interested in learning more about Project Fi, take a look at our Project FI review

Plans

Rather than a variety of plans, Project Fi has one basic plan. For $20 a month, users have unlimited talk and text in the U.S., unlimited international texts, WiFi tethering for hotspot use, and cell coverage in over 135 countries.

The $20 plan does not include data, but it costs $10 a month for 1GB of data. Additional data is calculated at $1 per 100MB. Like other plans, Project Fi recommends using WiFi as much as possible to keep your costs low.

You’ll see the best savings with Project Fi if you already own a compatible device (like a Nexus) and stick to WiFi networks.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile is a well-known cell provider, and it may surprise you that they offer prepaid plans. You can choose multiple lines, which are perfect for family plans. Since T-Mobile offers many options and add-ons, it’s best to visit the provider’s website to get all the details, but we will give you the basic plans.

Plans

The cheapest plan is $3 a month and “pay as you go.” This plan includes 30 minutes of talk or 30 texts or any combination up to 30. The cost of additional minutes or messages (sending and receiving) is 10 cents per minute or message. This plan has no data.

For $30 a month you can get a plan with 100 minutes, unlimited text, and 5GB of data. Monthly plans with unlimited talk and text include $40 for 3GB of data, $50 for 5GB, and $60 for 10GB. For an additional $10 a week, you can get 1GB of data.

$5/month add-ons can get you unlimited calls to and from Mexico and Canada. $15/month add-on will allow you to have unlimited international texting and unlimited calls to and from more than 30 countries.

Multiple line plans may vary anywhere from an extra $5 to up to $300 a month; again, it’s best to go directly to the site to see how those plans work. There are a variety of devices available for purchase from T-Mobile, but payment must be received in full upfront.

Cheap Post-paid Plans with Data

A post-paid cell phone plan typically requires the user to sign a contract committing to service for one to three years. Unlike pre-paid plans, users who want a post-paid plan usually need to have a good credit history to be eligible for a plan. Rather than paying as you go, you receive a monthly bill which includes a flat-rate and any additional charges for overages.

While post-paid cell phone plans are common among most cellphone users and can also be expensive. That’s why we’ve found some of the cheapest post-paid plans with data.

Sprint

Although Sprint users can buy a phone from Sprint, they can also use their own phones (as long as they are eligible). Sprint has gone back and forth with multiple year contracts, but they currently appear to offer two-year contracts without a credit check.

Plans

The monthly Unlimited Freedom Plan includes unlimited data, talk, and text with 10GB of hotspot data per line for $60. A second line in the Freedom plan costs $40 and $30 for each additional line. The Single Line Plan includes unlimited Talk, Text and 4GB of 4G LTE for $40 per month.

For an additional $15 a month, you can have unlimited text or talk options to other countries. For more in-depth information regarding family plans or international use, go directly to Sprint’s website.

U.S. Cellular

While many cell phone providers will charge you a fee if you need to terminate your contract early, for any reason, U.S. Cellular will not. You can choose from a variety of basic cell phones to smartphones and iPhones. Unlike other providers, U.S. Cellular participates in the Lifeline Program which offers discounted rates for U.S. residents that are eligible.

Plans

U.S. Cellular offers multiple lines, perfect for family plans, and you save more with each phone you add. For one line plans, the monthly plan with unlimited talk and text with no overage charges includes 2GB for $50, 6GB for $60, and Unlimited data for $70.

There are various data packages for making international calls as well as when traveling abroad.

AT&T

Like similar cell phone providers, AT&T gives you a few options when it comes to cell phones. You can either use your own or purchase one (and make monthly payments) or even buy a pre-owned device.

Plans

Like other plans, you can select a plan that works for your needs and add-on more features if needed. The Unlimited Choice Plan is $60 month for one line and has unlimited text from U.S. to over 120 countries. It also includes roaming in and unlimited talk/text to Mexico and Canada. The Unlimited Plus Plan is $90 a month for one line and includes 10GB Mobile Hotspot, unlimited text from the U.S. to over 120 countries. It also includes roaming in and unlimited talk/text to Mexico and Canada.

Basic data plans are as follows (per month): $30 for 1GB, $40 for 3GB, $60 for 6GB, and $80 for 10GB. You will not be charged for overages, but data speed becomes significantly slower. If you have any leftover data at the end of your monthly cycle, it rolls over into the next.

Verizon

Verizon has a variety of cell phones to choose from if you need one and plenty of upgrade options. Additionally, Verizon has special programs for International students, Military discounts, and employee discounts if you work for a company that is eligible.

Plans

Verizon offers multiple lines for the Unlimited Plan. The monthly plans (for one line) include unlimited talk and text, carryover data, and safety mode. The details for the plans are as follows: $35 for 2GB, $50 for 4GB, and $70 for 8GB.

The Unlimited Plan is $80 and has unlimited data, mobile hotspot and service to Mexico and Canada. If you need a data boost for any Verizon plan (excluding the Unlimited plan), it costs $15/1GB.

Cricket

With Cricket, you can use your existing phone (as long as it’s compatible) or buy one from Cricket. There are multiple add-ons you can get for your plan such as insurance, mobile hotspot, and for international use and calls (check the Cricket website for full add-on details).

If you sign up for autopay, you’ll receive $5 off your monthly plan bill (except for 1GB plan).

Plans

The details for a single line monthly plan is as follows: $30 for 1GB, $40 for 4GB, $50 for 8GB, and $60 for Unlimited. All plans have nationwide talk and text. Multiple lines are eligible for discounts as well.

Cheap Plans Without Data

If you’re not planning to use your cell phone for browsing the Internet, downloading, or streaming, we’ve found some cheap plans without data.

TracFone

TracFone is a prepaid cell phone company that works with four major carriers. The network that you’ll be using depends on where you live, but TracFone Value Plan 50 is $9.99 a month and gives you 50 minutes or 50 texts or any combination of the two up to 50. You can add more minutes or texts as needed.

Ting

As we mentioned earlier, in the prepaid section, Ting is a “pay for what you use” provider. You will be charged $6 for one line and depending on how many texts you send or receive or calls you make, you could spend up to $50 a month, but you’re likely to spend much less. Refer to the pricing above as mentioned earlier.

Greatcall

Greatcall is specifically designed for senior citizens and uses the easy-to-use Jitterbug phone. One of the most basic plans includes 50 minutes for $5 and no texts. 600 minutes are $10, 1,000 are $15, and 2,000 minutes are $20. Greatcall has many mix and match options and users aren’t required to pay data if they don’t plan to use it.

Consumer Cellular

Much like Greatcall, Consumer Cellular targets the senior population who may not use a cell phone very often or don’t have the need for texts and data. The plans are fairly simple: $15 for 250 minutes, $20 for 1,500 minutes, and $30 for unlimited talk.

Republic Wireless

As we mentioned earlier, Republic Wireless has one of the most basic plans around (especially if you don’t want or need data). For unlimited text and talk, with no data, users spend $15 a month.