Owner of the fifth-largest cell network in the country, U.S. Cellular offers fairly expensive pricing and little else. You might not even be able to get coverage on its mostly regional network, but even if you do, other prepaid carriers are definitely worth a look first.
In its home areas, though, U.S. Cellular might offer great coverage that other carriers don’t. A cheaper plan does you no good without quality coverage to back it up.
At a glance
- Plans start at $30 per month.
- Strengths: Strong network in home area.
- Weaknesses: Limited network coverage; high-speed data is capped at 15GB on unlimited plan.
U.S. Cellular prepaid cell phone plans
U.S. Cellular’s prepaid plans have unlimited talk and text and don’t offer shared data between lines.
Available prepaid plans are:
- Unlimited talk and text, no data: $30
- 3GB: $40.
- Unlimited*: $55.
*High-speed data is capped at 15GB per month on the unlimited prepaid plan. After that, your data slows to 2G speeds.
U.S. Cellular’s prepaid plans are cheaper by the month than its postpaid plans, but keep in mind you’ll have to pay for your phone upfront. For postpaid customers, U.S. Cellular offers two-year contracts with subsidized phone prices or installment pricing with phones paid off over 24 months.
U.S. Cellular’s network
U.S. Cellular operates the fifth-largest network in the country, though it’s really more regional than national. It’s mostly focused on the Midwest but has pockets elsewhere, too, especially as it expands its LTE coverage. The company partners with other carriers to provide what is essentially national voice coverage and doesn’t charge for roaming onto those partners’ networks. But it can’t make promises about the quality of the service.
You’ll definitely want to check whether you get coverage in your area before making a decision.
How U.S. Cellular compares on prices
U.S. Cellular’s prepaid plans are competitively priced and, in some cases, are more affordable than prepaid plans offered by national competitors.
Is U.S. Cellular right for you?
U.S. Cellular’s higher prices don’t come with many perks, at least not ones you can’t get elsewhere. Unless U.S. Cellular really hits the sweet spot for you in terms of amount of data and regional coverage, it’d be a better idea to look at other carriers first.
One interesting development: Google’s Project Fi recently added U.S. Cellular to its network partners. If you get great U.S. Cellular coverage in your area but are turned off by the high prices, Project Fi might offer a cheaper prepaid solution.
Stephen Layton is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.