Are you looking for an affordable cell phone plan with no long-term contract? Prepaid plans offer flexibility and budget-friendly pricing. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll outline the 7 cheapest prepaid plans and help you find the best deal to fit your needs.
What is a Prepaid Cell Phone Plan?
With a prepaid phone plan, you pay upfront each month for a set amount of minutes, texts, and data. There are generally no credit checks or long-term contracts required.
Prepaid plans differ from standard postpaid (contract) plans in a few key ways:
No long-term commitments – Prepaid plans are month-to-month with no early termination fees if you decide to cancel.
Upfront payments – Instead of getting billed at the end of each month, your payment is due before the new month starts.
Pay only for what you use – Most prepaid plans have set data amounts. You don‘t pay overage fees, but speeds slow down once you hit the cap.
Bring your own device – With prepaid you can usually bring your existing phone or buy a new device outright rather than leasing.
No credit check – Since there’s no credit check, prepaid plans are easy to qualify for.
Prepaid plans appeal to budget-focused consumers and those who value flexibility in their wireless service. Next, let‘s explore some of the cheapest prepaid plan options out there today.
How Much Data Do You Need?
Before choosing a prepaid cell phone plan, it’s important to think about your data needs.
According to a recent Consumer Cellular survey, the average smartphone user consumes less than 5GB of data per month. But usage can vary widely based on your habits.
Here are some typical data usage amounts to help estimate how much you’ll need each month:
Light usage (1-2GB) – Basic web browsing, email, social media, music streaming. Good for those who primarily use WiFi and are on their phone less.
Moderate usage (3-5GB) – Web browsing, streaming music/video, gaming, social media. The average usage for most smartphone users.
Heavy usage (6-10GB) – Streaming HD video and music, mobile gaming, hotspot usage, frequent app usage. For those always on their phone.
Extreme usage (10+GB) – High definition streaming, mobile VR, hotspotting, downloading large files. Advanced users who need unlimited data.
To check your actual usage, most phone settings have a data usage section that tracks monthly usage andRemaining and remaining data for the cycle. Knowing your habits will prevent paying for data you don’t need.
Now let‘s cover the key details on some of today‘s cheapest prepaid cell phone plans.
7 Cheapest Prepaid Phone Plans
1. Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile is owned by ultra-budget carrier Ryan Reynolds and operates on T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G network. It consistently offers some of the lowest rates in the prepaid space.
Here’s how Mint’s pricing breaks down:
|Data||Regular 3 Month Price||Price Per Month|
All plans have unlimited talk & text. Mobile hotspot limited to 5GB/month.
Mint‘s pricing is for a 3-month plan paid upfront. You can also pay for 6 or 12 months upfront, with gradually increasing discounts. For example, on the 4GB plan the 12-month price is $135 ($11.25/month).
According to a 2022 umlaut audit, T-Mobile ranks highest in overall network quality compared to other major U.S. carriers. With Mint Mobile you get access to T-Mobile‘s nationwide 5G for a fraction of the price.
Mint also makes it easy to set up your service online with free shipping of SIM card. Bring your existing phone or buy a new device outright.
- Rock bottom rates, especially when you prepay for 6-12 months
- Reliable 5G network coverage through T-Mobile
- Easy online signup process
- Use your existing phone or buy new device outright
- No contracts or hidden fees
- Must prepay for multi-month savings
- Maximum 5G download speeds capped at 35Mbps
- No family plans available
- Customer service lacks compared to major carriers
With prices starting at just $15/month, Mint Mobile is hard to beat for discount prepaid service, especially if you prepay for a year. It’s a great fit for individuals who don’t need tons of full-speed data.
2. AT&T Prepaid
AT&T Prepaid offers reliable nationwide LTE coverage through AT&T‘s extensive network. Discounts are available for signing up for auto pay or prepaying for an entire year of service upfront.
Here‘s a breakdown of AT&T Prepaid‘s monthly plan pricing:
|Data||Monthly Price||With Autopay Discount|
Unlimited plan gets 30GB of high-speed data then slowed speeds. Mobile hotspot not included on plans.
AT&T offers a 25% discount when you prepay the full year on a monthly plan. For example, with autopay the unlimited plan is $45/month, or $324 if prepaid annually.
AT&T has the second largest wireless network by coverage in the U.S. next to Verizon. The prepaid plans give you wide access to AT&T‘s reliable LTE service. Just note 5G is not included.
- Widespread LTE coverage through AT&T network
- 25% discount for prepaying full year upfront
- Rollover data and unlimited talk to Mexico/Canada on some plans
- Mobile hotspot can be added for $5/month
- No access to 5G service
- Video streaming resolution capped at SD
- Prepaying for the year is expensive upfront
- Customer service not as robust as postpaid AT&T
AT&T Prepaid is a good option if you want coverage from one of the major networks but don‘t need 5G capabilities. Prepaying for the full year nets nice savings if you can swing it.
Tello is a low-cost provider running on T-Mobile‘s 4G LTE network. With Tello, you can build a customized prepaid plan that fits your exact needs.
- $5/month base price
- Unlimited talk & text for $8
- Data options:
- 1GB for $6
- 2GB for $10
- 4GB for $17
- Unlimited for $29
- Mobile hotspot available for $5/month
With Tello, you select only the minutes, texts, and data you need. Add options like unlimited talk, extra data, or hotspot to create the perfect plan. Basic plans with talk, text and 1-2GB of data run $10-$15/month.
Tello uses T-Mobile‘s nationwide 4G LTE network for connectivity. Speeds are capped at 25Mbps. While not the fastest, T-Mobile LTE provides reliable coverage virtually nationwide.
- Customizable plans to fit your usage
- Low base pricing with option to add extras
- Bring your own phone or buy from Tello
- Uses T-Mobile‘s robust LTE network
- No 5G network access
- Slower 25Mbps maximum data speeds
- Limited options for family plans
With its customizable plans and low rates, Tello is perfect for light to moderate data users who want a barebones prepaid option at rock bottom pricing.
TextNow has some of the most affordable basic prepaid wireless plans on the market, thanks to an ad-supported model. It uses Sprint and T-Mobile‘s networks for solid nationwide connectivity.
TextNow‘s pricing options include:
- $0/month – Unlimited talk & text
- $9.99/month – Unlimited talk & text + 1GB data
- $19.99/month – Unlimited talk & text + 5GB high-speed data
For calling and texting only, the free ad-supported plan is an unbeatable value. Data allotments are limited for the price, with full speed data capped at 1GB or 5GB depending on the plan.
TextNow utilizes Sprint and T-Mobile‘s combined LTE networks to provide coverage reaching over 98% of Americans. Bring your existing phone or buy a device from TextNow.
- Free unlimited talk & text option
- Incredibly low pricing for individuals
- Reliable nationwide coverage
- Easy online signup
- Very limited data amounts
- Video streaming not available
- Calling uses app or WiFi
- Heavily throttled speeds after data limits
TextNow is best for those with extremely light usage who want basic calling/texting and skimpy amounts of data for the cheapest price possible.
5. Metro by T-Mobile
Metro by T-Mobile operates on T-Mobile‘s nationwide 5G network and offers prepaid plans with generous amounts of high-speed data. Multi-line discounts are available too.
Here is Metro‘s monthly prepaid pricing:
Unlimited plan gets 35GB high-speed then unlimited at lower speed. Mobile hotspot is 10GB on the $50 plan.
As a T-Mobile-owned brand, Metro provides access to T-Mobile‘s fast 5G and wide LTE networks. Metro also includes extras like unlimited music streaming on its plans.
- Generous high-speed data amounts
- Unlimited music streaming
- Access to T-Mobile‘s 5G networks
- Multi-line discounts available
- Pricing higher than barebones options
- Video streaming resolution limited
- Just 10GB of hotspot data on unlimited plan
Metro by T-Mobile is a great choice for individuals or families who need plenty of high-speed data and extras like music streaming.
Visible offers a simple, single prepaid plan with unlimited data, minutes and messages. It runs on Verizon‘s 4G LTE network.
Pricing is straightforward at just $30/month for:
- Unlimited data
- Unlimited minutes
- Unlimited messaging
- Mobile hotspot included
There are no contracts and no surprise overage fees. Party Pay discounts are available when you join a group of Visible members.
As a Verizon-owned brand, Visible provides wide access to Verizon‘s reputable nationwide 4G LTE network. Just note Visible does not provide access to Verizon‘s 5G networks.
- Single basic unlimited plan
- Straightforward flat-rate pricing
- Uses Verizon‘s widespread 4G LTE network
- Party Pay group discounts available
- Speeds capped at 5-12Mbps
- No 5G access
- Video streaming resolution limited to 480p
Visible has simple, unlimited pricing on the back of Verizon‘s top-ranked coverage. It‘s a great choice for individuals who want unlimited data at a reasonable price.
7. Verizon Prepaid
Verizon Wireless also offers their own prepaid plans directly on the Verizon network. Pricing is as follows:
Mobile hotspot data included. Video streams at 480p quality.
Verizon prepaid includes mobile hotspot data with all plans. You also quality for multi-month discounts up to $5 off per month when you pay for 3-12 months upfront.
Verizon has the largest and most reliable 4G LTE coverage in the country. Verizon prepaid gives you direct access for far less than standard Verizon plans.
- Access to Verizon‘s industry-leading network
- Mobile hotspot data included
- Multi-month discounts available
- Reliable domestic and international coverage
- Pricing not as low as some MVNO options
- Throttled video streaming resolution
- Doesn‘t unlock full speeds of Verizon‘s 5G
Verizon Prepaid is perfect if you want the coverage and reliability of the Verizon network for an affordable prepaid rate.
Key Things to Know About Prepaid Cell Phone Plans
There are a few key considerations when choosing a prepaid wireless plan:
Network compatibility – Prepaid providers use the major carrier networks like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. Make sure the service offers coverage that works for your device.
Data amounts – Look at the plan allotments for full speed data, throttled data and mobile hotspot usage. Pick one that fits your needs.
Speed caps – Some prepaid plans limit maximum download speeds. This won’t impact most usage but can affect video/music streaming quality.
Discounts – Auto-refill discounts and bulk pre-payment savings can make prepaid very affordable. Look for ways to save.
Limitations – Prepaid services often cap video resolution, impose hotspot restrictions or exclude 5G access relative to postpaid plans.
WiFi usage – Connect to WiFi whenever possible to conserve your mobile data amounts. WiFi doesn‘t count against monthly allotments.
Understanding these factors will ensure you pick the right prepaid plan and are satisfied with the service.
Recommendation: Best Cheap Prepaid Phone Plan
So which prepaid wireless plan offers the best value? Here is my top recommendation based on pricing, coverage and plan features:
For the tightest budget, Tello is my pick for basic affordable talk, text and light data usage. Plans start at just $10/month and you can customize your perfect data allotment.
The prepaid brand Mint Mobile has rock-bottom rates when you prepay 3-12 months upfront. It offers up to 15GB of monthly data on T-Mobile‘s 5G network at a fraction of standard costs.
Verizon Prepaid is great if reliable coverage is your top priority. You get access to Verizon‘s leading network at a reasonable monthly price point.
Any of these three cheap prepaid options provide an excellent combination of affordability, flexibility and features. Do some research on coverage in your area, and you’re sure to find a plan that fits your budget and needs.
I hope this guide has helped explain the world of cheap prepaid phone plans! Let me know if you have any other questions.