Guide to the Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans in 2024

Want the cheapest cell phone plan that still fits your phone service needs? Check out these prepaid and postpaid options.
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Written by Tommy Tindall
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Co-written by Lisa Mulka
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The cheapest cell phone plans are typically prepaid, which means you only commit to the month(s) of service you pay for upfront. There’s usually no credit check to sign up and you have many choices.

What’s more is that these cheaper cell phone plan providers typically run on one or more of the three nationwide networks (those from Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T). 

Cheaper plan, same nationwide coverage, what’s the catch?

Prepaid plans tend to come with fewer perks (e.g., that Disney+ or Netflix subscription you probably don’t need), can have less access to live customer service, and sometimes the fine print suggests network speeds may be slowed in favor of postpaid plan customers. Plus, an overwhelming number of options can make it challenging to choose a cheap plan in 2024. 

We’re here to help you map out the cheap cell phone plan landscape. We evaluated plans offered by popular cell phone service providers, considering brand ownership, nationwide network affiliation and monthly plan prices before taxes and fees.

When choosing a plan, lots of catchy marketing and fine print make it a windy road. But if you explore the options, you’ll likely save money with a prepaid plan.

Note: Most prices in the lists below are before taxes and fees.

Cheap(er) cell phone plans from Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T

If you want to buy cell phone service directly from one of the big three wireless companies — Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T — try one of their prepaid plans to save over a single-line postpaid plan.

Big three prepaid plans

Each offers a set of prepaid plans with unlimited talk and text and varying levels of data. Plans with a set amount of data run the lowest.

AT&T prepaid: Unlimited talk and text, 5GB of data for $30 per month. Notable: If you order online, you avoid a $15 activation fee. Some plans are eligible for automatic payment discounts, which vary by plan and may be higher with limited-time promotion deals.

T-Mobile prepaid: Unlimited talk and text, 10GB of data for $40 per month. Notable: T-Mobile prepaid plans don’t come with autopay discounts, but they do include other benefits like scam-blocking features and deals for discounts on food, gas and entertainment.

Verizon prepaid: Unlimited talk and text, 15GB of data for $35 per month (with an autopay discount). Notable: Verizon prepaid customers get a $5 per month loyalty discount after three months of service on eligible monthly plans. The discount grows to $10 per month after nine months of service.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You may have to hunt around for the “prepaid” section of these cell phone companies’ websites to bypass the flagship plans and get to cheaper stuff.

Cheap cell phone plans from brands owned by the big three

Each of the big three carriers has introduced or acquired competing sub-brands in the prepaid wireless space. Confusion aside, more competition means more opportunities for you, the consumer, to lower your cell phone bill.

Consider these popular options that are owned by the big three national carriers. 

Brand

Owner/Network

Check them out for

Cricket Wireless

AT&T.

A talk-and-text plan with 5GB of data for $30 per month.

Note: You’ll have to step up to Cricket’s priciest unlimited plan to get mobile hotspot included.

Metro by T-Mobile

T-Mobile.

A talk-and-text-only plan (no data) for $25 per month, plus plan options with data.

Note: Some plans, like the one mentioned above, are only available for purchase at a T-Mobile store or by contacting the customer care line.

Visible

Verizon.

An affordable baseline unlimited data plan, with mobile hotspot included, for $25 per month. Note: Customer service is mostly by web chat with Visible, which could make resolving issues tedious.

Tracfone

Verizon.

A super basic 30-minute talk, text and web plan, starting at $9.99 per month.

Note: Tracfone has a range of other plans (more than most) that include additional data options. You can save on the cost of some plans by setting your payment to “Auto-Refill” ahead of a new billing cycle. Note the Auto-Refill discount only applies to the first two months of service for some plans.

But wait, there’s more 

Total by Verizon and Connect by T-Mobile are two lesser-known wireless spinoffs that may be worth a look. The latter boasts a $10-a-month plan that includes 1,000 minutes of talk time, 1,000 texts and 1GB of data.

Cheap cell phone plans from brands that resell network service

Wireless service brands not acquired or started by Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile typically purchase and resell service on one or more of the big three’s nationwide networks.

Consider these options.

Brand

Network(s)

Check them out for

Consumer Cellular

AT&T.

A talk-and-text plan with a little data (1GB) for $20 per month, and a few lower-tech device options for those who don’t want a smartphone.

Note: Plans are compatible with techier iPhone and Android devices, too.

Google Fi

T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular (a regional network).

A pay-by-the-gig plan for $20 per month, plus $10 per GB of data.

Note: iPhones are compatible, but phones specifically designed for Fi, like Google’s Pixel 8, switch between T-Mobile’s and U.S. Cellular’s networks, as well as secure Wi-Fi connections. Phones not designed for Fi use the T-Mobile network.

Mint Mobile*

T-Mobile.

A talk-and-text plan with 5GB of data for $25 per month, billed for three full months upfront.

Note: If you like the service, you can get this plan down to $15 per month by renewing and paying for a full 12 months of service upfront.

US Mobile

Verizon and T-Mobile.

A build-your-own plan that can be as low as $6 per month (when paid annually) for unlimited talk and texts plus 1GB of data.

Note: If you need more data, you can use the Top Up feature, which allows you to add 1GB or more data to your plan mid-cycle.

*Mint Mobile won’t be on its own much longer: In 2023, T-Mobile announced plans to acquire the budget carrier. Mint Mobile says the option for a $ 15-a-month plan will remain.

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But wait, there’s more

There are too many more to list, actually. A few other cheap cell phone plan options that might be worth a look: Ting and Tello, as well as Ultra Mobile (which also will be acquired by T-Mobile, along with Mint, and makes a similar promise to retain its pricing). As well, you can explore whether you're eligible for the federal Lifeline program, which provides discounted phone service for low-income households.

Things to consider

With so many choices available, how do you decide which plan is right for you?

While the best plan is one that will fit into your budget, consider other factors, too. For instance, how much data do you use each month and how many lines will you need? Are there times when you’d like to use your phone outside the U.S.?

Assessing your data and usage goals, along with your budget, will help you narrow the many choices into a few that will work best for you.

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How to switch plans and keep your number

Perhaps the most daunting factor in jumping to a new plan is the fear of losing your original phone number. But the Federal Communications Commission notes that consumers staying in the same geographic area can take their number to a new service provider, and sets rules on charges and speed of service.

Many providers are making this easy now. For example, Mint Mobile offers detailed instructions for how to switch from all the major carriers while keeping your number intact. Likewise, Consumer Cellular also states that it is easy to bring your number with you, though you’ll need to wait to cancel your existing plan until the transfer process is complete.

The bottom line: Read the fine print from your existing provider and the one you’re switching to before taking any action. The odds are good that you’ll be able to carry your phone number over, but you’ll need to follow each provider’s instructions.

Methodology

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