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Best Basic Cell Phone Plans 2019

Oct. 2, 2019
Cell Phones, Utilities
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Sometimes you just want to go back to basics, even with your cell phone. That’s where the basic cell phone plan comes in.

These plans come with minutes and texts but no data, so they’re not for smartphones. And they’re almost always prepaid, since none of the major cell phone carriers offers traditional basic plans.

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Best basic cell phone plans: unlimited minutes

Republic Wireless and Google’s Project Fi give you unlimited minutes and messages for rock-bottom prices. Both carriers employ a Wi-Fi-first approach, so calls and texts route through Wi-Fi networks whenever possible, using cellular service only as a backup.

  • Republic Wireless (No data)
  • Price: $15 per month
  • At a glance: Unlimited minutes and texts; not available on iPhones

  • Project Fi, Fi Basics
  • Price: $20 per month
  • At a glance: Unlimited minutes and texts

 

THINGS TO KNOW

Republic customers fall back on Sprint’s or T-Mobile’s network, depending on their phone. You can buy phones and plans via Republic’s website. Former T-Mobile and AT&T customers may be able to use their own phone if the device is unlocked.
Project Fi partners with Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular, so customers use those networks when Wi-Fi isn’t available. Unlimited international texting is included with all plans.

 

Best basic cell phone plans: limited minutes

No sense paying for unlimited minutes when you really just need a few. With Tracfone, unused airtime rolls over each month, as long as you top up your balance. Prefer a more traditional monthly plan? Consumer Cellular offers a flexible, no-frills plan and boasts stellar customer service ratings.

  • Tracfone 30 minute airtime card
  • Price: $9.99 per month
  • At a glance: Any combination of 30 minutes or texts (sent or received) or megabytes of data

  • Consumer Cellular Talk Plan
  • Price: $15 per month
  • At a glance: 250 minutes; text messaging packages available

 

THINGS TO KNOW

One of the largest prepaid cell phone companies, Tracfone contracts with all four major carriers, so you can access a top-rate network without the top-tier price tag. The network you’ll use depends on where you live and the phone you buy. The 30 minute airtime card expires after 30 days if your don’t add more airtime.
Consumer Cellular doesn’t own its own network, instead contracting with AT&T and T-Mobile; most customers will be on AT&T’s network. You can buy phones and service via Consumer Cellular’s website or at Target and Sears stores.

 

Best build-your-own basic cell phone plan

Customize your own plan to fit your needs. Ting and US Mobile both charge a set monthly service fee each month, but usage is billed in tiers. If you use a lot of texts one month but none the next, your bill will reflect that. The same goes for minutes and data.

  • Price: Base price is $6 per month, with minutes, data and texts billed separately
  • At a glance: Usage is divided into levels, and you pay only for the level you reach

  • Price: Base price is $2 per month, plus selected tier of minutes, data and/or texts messages
  • At a glance: Usage is divided into levels, and you select the number of minutes, texts and data you want

 

THINGS TO KNOW

With Ting, you pay for what you use, and minutes and texts are billed separately. The $6 per month assumes you don’t use your phone at all. Any usage is billed in addition to that, and minutes, texts and data levels are assessed separately. Ting contracts with Sprint and T-Mobile, so you’d use one of those networks.
US Mobile is a prepaid carrier, so you pay for your plan at the start of the month. You can build your own plan, selecting the amount of minutes, texts and/or data you want from the available tiers, which are set by the carrier. Tiers start at $2.50 for 40 minutes, $1.50 for 40 texts and $2 for 100MB of data. You can change your plan from month to month. US Mobile runs on Verizon’s and T-Mobile’s network.

 

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Basic cell phone plans: summary

CarrierDetailsGet started
Plan: Republic Wireless No Data plan

Best for: Basic plan with unlimited minutes

Monthly cost: $15
Plan: Project Fi, Fi Basics

Best for: Basic plan with unlimited minutes

Monthly cost: $20
Plan: Tracfone 30 minute airtime card

Best for: Basic plan with limited minutes

Monthly cost: $9.99
Plan: Consumer Cellular

Best for: Basic plan with limited minutes

Monthly cost: $15 base price
Plan: Ting

Best for: Build-your-own basic plan

Monthly cost: $6 base price

Plan: US Mobile

Best for: Build-your-own basic plan

Monthly cost: $2 base price

 


METHODOLOGY

We evaluated more than 200 cell phone plans offered by the following carriers: AT&T, Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Cricket, GreatCall, Google’s Project Fi, MetroPCS, Net10, Republic Wireless, Sprint, Straight Talk, T-Mobile, Ting, Tracfone, Verizon Wireless and Virgin Mobile.

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