The Cheapest Cell Phone Plans Available

September 10, 2017

We are currently part of a so called “family plan” offered by AT&T with a total of 5 lines. Lady Cash Cow gets a big work discount that reduces the cost of the plan, but if her family wasn’t already committed in the contract, we would look elsewhere.

The cost of cell phone plans (namely the big brand 2 year contract plans) can be staggering. I’ve recently discussed my cell phone plan findings with a few friends and almost fell out of my chair when I heard what they were paying.

The good news is that the market has recently opened up. You no longer have to sign on for 2 years of wallet devastation through the major providers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint). You can simply pay for what you use, no contract required. Meet the MVNO.

A Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) is a company that offers cell phone services by reselling the mobile services of another carrier, often with certain limitations, at a lower cost. In the U.S., there are MVNOs that resell AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon services at a lower cost than you can obtain service directly from any of them. There are usually very few differences between the services provided by an MVNO and the services provided by the major carriers. What we’ve found is that the MVNO providers often carry the cheapest cell phone plans.

Hardware:

As you probably know, most major cellular services now utilize a sim card. All MVNO providers which use their services will also use a sim card. This makes switching plans really easy.

If you need a phone, you can get good unlocked phones on Amazon or Craigslist. If you have a compatible phone, you just need to buy and install the correct SIM card.

  • Example:  You decide to switch from AT&T to AirVoice Wireless (see below). You buy an AirVoice sim card on Amazon and put it into your existing AT&T phone. It works perfectly because AirVoice uses AT&T towers.

Cheapest Cell Phone Plans:

Unlimited Use:

Republic Wireless: (Update: This is the plan my parents were using. Read my detailed Republic Wireless review for more info) A relatively new idea, the provider leverages the power of Wifi to cut costs for users. They offer an integrated VoIP and cellular service for a discounted price. The have recently redone the the WiFi and cellular integration, which has greatly enhanced the service. Voice and text is through Sprint, but free roaming is allowed on Verizon.

  • Cost: Plans range from $5-$35 per month. The $10/month plan includes unlimited talk and text with Wifi for data. Or $25/month for unlimited talk and text with some data. No contracts required.
  • Phones: Republic Wireless allows you to bring your own Android phone, or purchase one directly from Republic.

Cricket Wireless: Runs on the AT&T network and uses AT&T phones, but recently redesigned their plan options. They offer the best family plan on the market right now because each additional line is discounted. Plan options are as follows:

  • Unlimited Talk and Text: $25/month for unlimited talk and text. (Note this is $15/month more expensive than Republic Wireless for the same service)
  • Unlimited Basic: $35/month with autopay discount for 1 line, with additional discounts for additional lines.
    • First 2.5GB of data at 4G LTE speed, after which download speed is throttled to 128kbps
  • Unlimited Smart: $45/month per line with autopay discount, with additional discounts for additional lines.
    • First 5GB at 4G LTE speed, after which download speed is throttled to 128kbps
  • Unlimited Pro: $55/month per line with autopay discount, with additional discounts for additional lines.
    • First 10GB at 4G LTE speed, after which download speed is throttled to 128kbps

Basic Talk/Text:

AT&T

Airvoice Wireless : Probably the cheapest AT&T cell phone plan for basic voice/text service. No roaming allowed.

  • Cost: 4¢ a minute, 2¢ a text, and 33¢ MB data with 30 day refills. OR $30.00 unlimited talk and text plan.
  • Phones: Airvoice offers a SIM card that will work in any unlocked GSM phone or any AT&T phone.

Verizon

PagePlus: Not the best overall option, although one of the only available through Verizon.

  • Cost: $12/month for 250 minutes, 250 text messages and 10MB of data. Other higher priced plans aren’t great.
  • Phones: You can bring in a few clean Verizon phones, or buy from their site.

Breaking down the Savings

Someone transitioning from a $80 per month AT&T plan to a $10/month Republic Wireless Plan saves roughly $70 per month. Compounded over 10 years at 7% interest, that individual would save $12,390.

I’m certain that our readers have valuable input on the subject. Did I miss any cheap cellular providers? What are the cheapest cell phone plans?

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150 Comments on "The Cheapest Cell Phone Plans Available"

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Stephanie
Stephanie
Gosh, so much info that truthfully, I didn’t read it all. But I did notice that you are knowledgeable and highly responsive – so here goes. I live in an area that gets limited coverage and I was given an I-phone 5 so I don’t want or need to purchase a new phone (so no Republic). I currently use straight talk and it works shockingly well but is way more than I need at $45 a month and 5gb of data. I’ve never used more than 100 mb and usually it’s more like 25mb. I use my phone on wi-fi… Read more »
brian boehm
brian boehm

Im 59 y/o, dont need all the apps and junk, just talk and a minimal number of texts. I have virgin mobile. I get 1000 min., which they just increased from 300 of talk. And unlimited texts. I pay 20 bucks a month,

anonymous
anonymous

is there any way that i would be able to buy a smartphone from straight talk and not hook it up but just down load and app like pinger and make that work

Darrell
Darrell

There are free apps available, such as textnow, that work on WiFi only and allow unlimited calling and texting. They will assign you a new phone number, so you have service without the need of any cell carrier. You will get banner ads, but that is the cost of a free service.
I’ve tried the app on an android phone, and it does work. Just create a google account, using any wifi connection, and download it.

Morry
Morry

I have a AT&T Samsung bluetooth flip phone that I mostly use just to keep in touch with my wife. I”m 82 & don’t need most of the things most younger people require. However I would like to have ability to store a few photos to show friends and perhaps rarely to check my email. Would one of the under $100 (79.88) smartphones like the AT&T Samsung Galaxy Express 3 be a good choice. I understand they are loaded with bloatware which I don’t think I would want. Thanks for a very useful & interesting column.

Mario
Mario

We bought a new T-Mobile Galaxy S4 on eBay and needed a micro sim card (the old HTC Amaze phone had the larger size sim card). We purchased this sim card on the internet, put the sim card in the new S4, logged into our online T-mobile acct and entered the sim card number and the new phone was ready to go.

David
David

Informative. Thanks for that.

Ted
Ted
My daugher and I just switched to FreedomPop! So far really good. We bought refurbished LG g2 phones from newegg.com, $70 each. They are high end smartphones with 32gb of memory quad core processor and 13MB cameras. Version 5 of Android too. Free, yes FREE, plan includes 200 minutes talk, 500 texts, and .5 gig of data each month. It is real and it works, and cusotomer support was good. I do pay $2.50 a month for voicemail for my daughter. Also, they offer a premium voice plan for about $3 per month, which I’ve heard helps but if we… Read more »
CAN'T STAND FREEDOM POP
CAN'T STAND FREEDOM POP
PLEASE….PLEASE DONT BOTHER WITH FREEDOM POP …..THEY HAVE A HORRIBLE SERVICE. THEIR CUSTOMER SERVICE IS WORSE THAN THEIR SERVICE…..AND IF YOU HAVE A DISAGREEMENT WITHOUT WARNING THEY WILL DISCONTINUE YOUR SERVICE WITHOUT NOTIFYING YOU. WHAT IS WORSE THEY DO NOT ALLOW YOU TO REACTIVATE. THIS SERVICE SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD MONEY SAVER AND GOOD IDEA, IS ACTUALLY NOT WORTH THE HASSLE. ONE MORE THING BE SURE TO GO THROUGH YOUR SETTING BECAUSE WHEN YOU PURCHASED THE PHONE I AM SURE YOU HAD NO OTHER CHOICE BUT TO GET THEIR PREMIUM SERVICE. BE READY TO PAY AN ADDITIONAL $5-10 TO STOP… Read more »
Robert M.
Robert M.

Thank you for your comments, I am ordering a couple of the LG G2 for my son and I and wondered if the $80 for one year service through Freedompop is renewable after the year runs out?

Barb
Barb

Hi all. I didn’t read all the comments. However I have an iPhone 5. I was able to move it to straight talk. I get unlimited everything for 40 permonth. Service is awesome. No problems at all.U get the sims from Walmart. U can stay w whatever provider u want. There are atleast six to choose from.I use straight talk. But but I Bing off att towers. It is awesome.Check it out.Straight Talk any phone can be transferred as well

Vanessa
Vanessa

Cricket is actually a better value at $35 per month with autopay. Republic Wireless is even better if you don’t need much data.

Laurie
Laurie

Thank you for the breakdown. There are getting better options for those who are looking for cheaper phones/plans which is great.

KD
KD

Anyone reading this, Ptel is shut down

Sherry
Sherry

does republic wireless still offer the 10 dollar talk and text plan ?

Claire
Claire

Not as of October 2016. Lowest plan is $15 and includes only Wi-fi Data.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

But will only work with a smartphone, which rules me out. I like my dumb phone only and have no use for a smartphone.

Andria
Andria
Ok, we have 7 of us in the family. Right now, 6 of us have iPhones and my 8 year old uses the iPad (that was supposed to be mine for work) we have tons of old phones and really got screwed switching because we had to get other phones. Last months bill was nearly $1500!!!! And I hadnt had a paycheck since June. And the “normal” amount is $300ish or more, I think – rarely had “normal”.) I want to switch but DONT want to have to get new phones too. We are not out of Contract yet, but… Read more »
Dwayne S.
Dwayne S.

dont bother with Verizon. They over charge. My wife signed a contract for $50 month. three months into plan she recieved a letter from Verizon. We know you signed a contract for $50 month but…….. $900 month sounds better to us. She drop them next day as for the early term fee dont bother paying it. Take them to court and Verizon knows they were wrong.

Darrell
Darrell
TextNow offers a $13.99 monthly package with unlimited talk, unlimited Text, and 100 MB of 4G data. Once the 100 MB is hit, it is unlimted at 2G speeds. They are a Sprint MVNO, so if you have any unlocked Sprint phones, you can get a sim card from them. If you have home WIFI, then the higher speed data can keep flowing at home. NextPlus Go has a $9.99 monthly package with unlimted talk &text, no data included at that price. You can use WiFi for data or buy data packs that don’t expire. They are a T-Mobile MVNO,… Read more »
Mr. Obvious
Mr. Obvious

If you are spending $300-$1500 a month on phone service, you’re a moron…

Stacey
Stacey
I live in south central Wisconsin and currently have U.S. Cellular. They used to be cheaper than the major 5 carriers but in the last few years they are running neck & neck for pricing. My husband and I are looking for something with good coverage throughout the state and need about 4GB of data each (along with unlimited talk/text). We have our kids using TextNow which uses Sprint towers and that’s fine for them but when we travel Sprint does not have good coverage throughout Wisconsin. We need our smartphones for navigation purposes so coverage area is extremely important.… Read more »
Linda
Linda

I am presently on my son’s ATT plan. Being forced off by his wife so I’m shopping for best deal for me. I have an IPhone and would like to keep it and my number. My phone is used for calls, texts, playing games, shopping, and emails. What are your suggestions?
Thanks for what you do.

Darrell
Darrell

PureTalk USA has some reasonable plans, and they are an AT&T MVNO, so you should be able to keep your phone, and get the number ported.

Judy Wood
Judy Wood

I am in the same situation as you… Single user of expensive AT&T plan $150 mo … I rarely call anyone, retired and on SS .. I mainly text and email….have iPhone 5c and need the cheapest plan with reception in Middle TN areas.

Kel
Kel
Hey, Could you help me with how to choose a good plan for me. I would like to get a “pay as you go plan,” to call my wife VERY rarely on and only for a minute or so at a time. I’m a little confused with your recommendations being like 4 cents a minute but when I go to the site it says 10 cents… Anyways, I would love to pay as little as possible to talk/text per minute without using any data as I won’t use a smartphone. Update: So I figured out how the minutes were broken… Read more »
catsissie
catsissie

Check out Tracfone, bring your own phone. They do smartphones, and feature rollover minutes, and, if I read it right, you can get triple minutes on many phones and double minutes (as I do) on others–mine is a basic cellphone. I’ve had mine with them for nearly five years, haven’t got a smartphone right now. But you might check them out. It’s worth the time to look.

daltonmorran
daltonmorran

puretalkusa works on att and can be had for 5 bux a month for 80 to 120 minutes but no rollover. ten bux a month gets you rollover on flex plan. But you can have page plus for 80 bux a year [ verizon network ] and that gets you 2000 minutes that rollover al long as you buy more time before expiration .

Lori
Lori

I bought my smartphone through QVC it came with 1200 minutes of talk 1200 text and 1200 megabytes of data and one year of service. It was $120 and is a tracfone. Any cards I buy for the phone is tripled and I use a free texting program with wifi when I’m at home so it takes nothing away from the phone when I’m away from home I switch to data for texting and it takes very little data as a matter of fact I will not be buying another card for the first year I won’t need to

Den
Den

AirVoice charges $10 per month for any combination of 2¢ text, 4¢/min talk or 0.66/MB data. If you renew on time your unused balance accumulates. Using AT&T towers is far better than Sprint or T-Mobile. PagePlus which uses Verizon towers has a $10 plan that lasts 90 days.. Ting will give you a reasonable option too as the roaming deal with Verizon makes up for Sprint’s poor coverage, especially in places like South Dakota, but switch off data use.

Bob D
Bob D

I have had AirVoice service for a few years now and no problems, good customer service, I use the $ 10 month plan, 2 cent text, 4 cent talk, they have now an auto pay renewal each 30 days to your credit card, if you have extra minutes, it rolls over to the next month. Very happy with it.

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