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Android Central's guide to U.S. prepaid wireless plans

The best prepaid phone plans eliminate the things you don't need while keeping all the features that matter most. The days of being locked into a lengthy wireless contract are over, as there are a plethora of prepaid options that allow you to pay for your phone service on a month-to-month basis. We've taken the liberty of breaking down the top prepaid wireless options for you in this handy guide.

Check your coverage

One of the first things you should consider when deciding on a prepaid carrier is the coverage provided in your area. Prepaid carriers often have a smaller coverage map than postpaid carriers because of their limited roaming agreements, so it's good to re-check your area, even if you've used the carrier before.

Your phone will need to support the network your prepaid carrier uses as well. Luckily, most of the best Android phones are unlocked and support these networks. Getting an unlocked phone also makes it easier to switch carriers if you ever need to.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: AT&T Prepaid

AT&T's prepaid option lets you choose from a selection of phones specifically for their prepaid plans, or you can purchase a prepaid SIM card if you'd prefer to bring your own device. But be sure to check your coverage before signing up.

Price

AT&T prepaid plans include unlimited talk and text in the U.S. as well as unlimited messaging to more than 100 countries. For data, AT&T offers several types of prepaid plans:

  • 5GB of LTE, with rollover data — $30/month
  • 8GB of LTE, with rollover data — $25/month (12-month) or $33/month (3-month)
  • 15GB of LTE, with rollover data — $40/month
  • Unlimited LTE data — $65/month
  • Unlimited Plus LTE and 5G + 10GB hotspot — $75/month

The Unlimited Plus plan comes with the extra perk of 10GB hotspot data, 100GB of cloud storage, HD video streaming, and 22GB of premium data. In a nutshell, you'll have 22GB of data before being subject to slower speeds due to crowded towers. You're guaranteed to get the most out of this plan, though it isn't the most affordable.

But if you're willing to sign up for a few months at a time, the multi-month 8GB plan is a great way to save some extra cash. Available in three or 12-month terms, this plan comes with HD streaming and a lot of the same features as a more expensive prepaid plan.

In fact, all plans except for the 5GB plan include unlimited talk and text within and between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada and allow you to use your high-speed data allotment from your plan when in Mexico or Canada. You can also save $5 per month (plans less than $50) or save $10 per month (plans $50 or higher) by signing up for AutoPay.

How to reload

Pay online via your myAT&T account using a credit card, debit card, or checking account, use an AT&T PREPAID card (includes GoPhone Refill cards) that is available online, at AT&T wireless stores, and more than 200,000 retail locations, or call 611 anytime from your phone (or 1-800-901-9878) and follow the prompts for Refill.

International texting

AT&T Prepaid

From $25/mo. at AT&T Prepaid

One of the best LTE networks

Access one of the largest and fastest networks around with plenty of high-speed data and multi-line and multi-month savings.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: T-Mobile Prepaid

T-Mobile's prepaid service gives you access to T-Mobile's growing nationwide network and features some of the best T-Mobile plans that offer great coverage without putting a dent in your wallet. With a prepaid plan, you have the option to buy a prepaid T-Mobile phone, or you can bring your own device for only the cost of the SIM card. Be sure to check your coverage before going all in.

Price

T-Mobile offers prepaid plans for individuals and families, including its Simply Prepaid plans and the cheaper T-Mobile Connect option.

Simply prepaid plans include:

  • 10GB of LTE + hotspot — $40/month
  • Unlimited + unlimited 3G hotspot — $50/month
  • Unlimited Plus + 10GB LTE hotspot — $60/month

Each of T-Mobile's Simply Prepaid plans includes unlimited talk, text, and data on T-Mobile's nationwide network, with data speeds slowed to 2G upon reaching your monthly data allotment. On the unlimited plans, data is deprioritized at a massive 50GB.

The plans also come with hotspot data and music unlimited, meaning that music streaming won't count toward your LTE data allotment. If you want international features, you can add 5GB of 4G data in Mexico and Canada for $5 per month to any plan. You can also add international calling from the United States for an extra $15 per month.

If you want to reduce your monthly bill, you can add multiple lines to your T-Mobile plan. Or, if you prefer to pay as you go, T-Mobile has partnered with Ultra Mobile to offer a plan that starts at $3 per month for 100 minutes of talk, 100 texts, and 100MB 4G LTE data. You can also add high-speed for $5 per day for up to 500MB of LTE data or $10 per week for up to 1GB of LTE data.

How to reload

To reload your account online, head to your My T-Mobile account and set up a payment, or you can call T-Mobile's Refill Center by dialing ADD or 1-877-720-5195. If you don't want to pay via credit or debit, you can use a T-Mobile Refill card, which can be purchased at participating third-party retailers.

T-Mobile Connect

T-Mobile also offers its low-cost T-Mobile Connect plan, which starts at just $15 per month. For that price, you get unlimited talk and text as well as 2.5GB of data and hotspot data. For $25 per month, you can get 5.5GB of data. Not only that, these plans are designed to grow with the customer, so each year, the data cap will increase by 500MB.

Big on data

T-Mobile Prepaid

From $15/mo. at T-Mobile

A big network with a lot of data

T-Mobile Prepaid has some of the best prepaid plans you can get with a ton of data and hotspot support on every plan.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: Verizon Prepaid

Verizon's prepaid option gives you full access to Verizon's nationwide LTE and 5G network without locking you into a lengthy contract or postpaid plan. You have the option of buying a prepaid phone from Verizon or BYOD. As with any carrier, make sure to check your coverage before signing up.

Price

Verizon offers monthly smartphone plans, featuring no annual contracts, no activation fee, and no credit checks. Here are your options:

  • 5GB LTE and 5G Nationwide data $40/month
  • 15GB LTE and 5G Nationwide data — $50month
  • Unlimited LTE and 5G Nationwide data — $65/month
  • Unlimited LTE, 5G Nationwide, and 5G Ultra Wideband data — $75/month

Verizon's prepaid plans all include data on Verizon's 5G Nationwide network, along with unlimited talk and text in the U.S. and unlimited texting to more than 200 destinations. The 5GB plan is the cheapest, but once you've used up your 5GB, you'll see 2G data speeds. The same goes for the 15GB plan after you've used up your allotment.

On the bright side, almost every plan includes mobile hotspot data (except the lower-tier unlimited plan). The top unlimited plan comes with unlimited hotspot data on Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband network, or 10GB of hotspot on its LTE or 5G Nationwide network. These unlimited plans also come with talk, text, and data to and from Mexico and Canada.

Fortunately, all plans qualify for a $5 per month loyalty discount that's applied after three months of service. After nine months, you can save an additional $5 per month if you're on a plan that's $40 or higher. Along with the option of an AutoPay discount, you can easily reduce the total cost of your monthly bill.

How to reload

You can reload your plan by heading to My Verizon online and through the app or using a refill card from the Verizon store. You can also check your account balance and expiration by calling #BAL (#225) or (888) 294-6804.

No contract network

Verizon Prepaid

From $40/mo. at Verizon Wireless

Data and 5G

Verizon offers a great way for anyone to save through its prepaid plans while still getting coverage on its fantastic LTE and 5G network.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: Cricket Wireless

After being acquired by AT&T, Cricket Wireless has supported devices that use AT&T's HSPA+ and LTE network. You can purchase a phone from Cricket or BYOD. Just be sure to check your coverage and ensure you'll get good signal strength in your area.

Price

Cricket Wireless offers four plan levels, from talk and text to unlimited data.

  • 2GB of LTE, unlimited talk and text — $30/month
  • 10GB of LTE, unlimited talk and text — $40/month
  • Unlimited data at up to 8Mbps — $55/month
  • Unlimited data +15GB mobile hotspot — $60/month

All plans except for the 2GB plan are eligible for a discount with up to five lines, making this a great family plan. You can also receive a $5 credit on your monthly bill by signing up for AutoPay. But fortunately, with so many options, it's easy to pick which plan is best for your data needs.

Cricket's unlimited data plans include unlimited texts to 37 countries, as well as unlimited calls, texts, and data to and from Canada and Mexico—though Canada usage can't exceed 50% of your overall usage for the month. But only the top tier unlimited plan comes with 15GB of mobile hotspot data, 150GB of cloud storage, and no data speed caps (except for times of congestion).

Conveniently, there are many add-on features available to let you customize your plan to your liking. These include features such as Cricket International, mobile hotspot, extra data, and so forth.

How to reload

Log in to My Account on the Cricket Wireless site to pay your bill or sign up for AutoPay, or download the My Cricket app for Android and iOS. You can also head to Quick Pay on Cricket's website to pay with credit, debit, or a refill card.

AT&T for less

Cricket Wireless

From $30/mo. at Cricket Wireless

Access to the AT&T network for less

Cricket grants access to AT&T's massive wireless network through a range of plans that can be customized to most customers' liking.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: Metro by T-Mobile

Metro is one of the best MVNO carriers you can join. Because it's owned by T-Mobile, it can offer customers T-Mobile's LTE and 5G network along with great coverage. You have the option to purchase a phone through Metro or bring your own device that's compatible with the T-Mobile network. But first, make sure you get good coverage by checking the coverage map.

Price

Plan pricing is based on how much high-speed data you think you'll use monthly. There are no annual contracts, and taxes and fees are included in each price.

  • 2GB of high-speed data — $30/month
  • 10GB of high-speed data — $40/month
  • Unlimited LTE and 5G + 5GB hotspot — $50/month
  • Unlimited LTE and 5G + 15GB hotspot — $60/month

Music streaming is unlimited on the 10GB plan, which can be a great way to keep data from being consumed too quickly. With this plan and, in fact, all Metro plans, you'll also get access to T-Mobile's nationwide 5G network as long as you own a compatible phone.

The unlimited data plans include a free Google One membership, which includes 100GB of cloud storage on Google Drive, and the $60 plan even throws in an Amazon Prime membership. However, you'll only get hotspot data with the $60 plan (15GB) and the $50 plan (5GB), so if that's something you're interested in, you'll need to stick with those options.

Besides, Metro includes taxes and fees in its pricing, meaning the sticker price is exactly what you'll pay each month—a carryover from T-Mobile and a first for the prepaid industry. You'll also be able to take advantage of multi-line discounts when joining Metro, as well as new customer offers.

How to reload

Log into the Metro website to make a payment or set up AutoPay. You can even make one-time payments online without having to log in, and you can always pay in person at a Metro store.

Big on data

Metro by T-Mobile

From $30/mo. at Metro by T-Mobile

Cloud storage and the data to use it

Metro by T-Mobile offers access to T-Mobile's massive LTE and 5G network with a ton of data and multi-line savings.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: Boost Mobile

You can check your coverage on the older, Sprint-based nationwide network that Boost uses, though most new customers will sign up on the T-Mobile-based expanded network map.

Dish currently owns Boost Mobile following T-Mobile's purchase of Sprint. In the past, Boost Mobile used Sprint's network exclusively. Boost Mobile refers to this network as its Nationwide Network, and it's still available with its own selection of plans, yet most people will be steered towards the T-Mobile-based Expanded Network.

Price

Boost Mobile offers four types of monthly prepaid phone plans featuring LTE high-speed data. Once your plan's data allotment has been reached, speeds are reduced to 2G for the remainder of the billing cycle.

On the Nationwide Network based on Sprint, plans start at 3GB and go up to 35GB. Up to five lines can be added to one account, which brings down the cost per line. Please make sure you have great coverage on this network before signing up because it's unlikely that the coverage or speeds will be improved in the future.

  • 3GB of LTE with hotspot — $35/month
  • 6GB of LTE with hotspot — $35/month (Walmart exclusive)
  • 35GB + 12GB hotspot — $50/month
  • 35GB + 30GB hotspot — $60/month

On the Expanded Network, Boost Mobile is making the most of T-Mobile's LTE and 5G network. There is a range of plans available under $50 from 1GB up to 15GB with unlimited 2G speeds after your data is used. This includes the Shrink-It plan with 15GB of data and $10 per month of savings with six consecutive payments.

For $50 or $60 per month, you get 35GB of data, with the main difference being HD streaming on the more expensive plan and more hotspot data (30GB versus 12GB). Lines can be added to either for a reduced rate.

How to reload

If you find you need more data, Data Packs are available at $5 for 1GB. Alternatively, you can pay in-store at any Boost Mobile location.

The data hogs

Boost Mobile

From $10/mo. at Boost Mobile

A wide range of plans on the T-Mobile or Sprint network

Boost Mobile has a great new network and a plan to fit every user, starting small with just 1GB all the way up to 35GB.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: Mint Mobile

Mint Mobile is a T-Mobile subsidiary owned by Ultra that sells its plans in multi-month bundles. You can buy a phone from Mint or bring your own T-Mobile-compatible or unlocked GSM phone. Be sure to check your coverage before signing up.

Price

All of Mint's plans include a 7-day money-back guarantee, along with unlimited talk, text, and at least 4GB of data, international calls to Mexico and Canada, and a free mobile hotspot. The unlimited plan specifically has 5GB of high-speed hotspot data included, and all plans come with access to T-Mobile's 5G network.

4GB 10GB 15GB Unlimited
3 months (introductory price) $15/mo. ($45) $20/mo. ($60) $25/mo. ($75) $30/mo. ($90)
3 months $25/mo. ($75) $35/mo. ($105) $45/mo. ($135) $40/mo. ($120)
6 months $20/mo. ($120) $25/mo. ($150) $35/mo. ($210) $35/mo. ($210)
12 months $15/mo. ($180) $20/mo. ($240) $25/mo. ($300) $30/mo. ($360)

If you try out one of the 3-month plans and decide to stick with Mint, you can retain the introductory pricing by buying a whole year at a time—otherwise, there's a slight price increase.

How to reload

Sign in to your Mint Mobile account online or download the Mint app to renew your plan manually or set up automatic re-ups.

Bundle to save

Mint Mobile

From $15/mo. at Mint Mobile

Pay more upfront to save more

Mint Mobile is willing to reward you for your commitment by offering discounted plans when you pay for a few months upfront.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless is an MVNO that uses Wi-Fi calling by default and utilizes both the T-Mobile and Sprint networks. You can purchase a phone from Republic or bring your own phone, provided that it's unlocked and GSM-compatible. Check your coverage on Republic's map before signing up.

Price

Republic has some of the simplest pricing around—in fact, there's just one plan. You pay only for the data you need, maxing out at 15GB a month, and of course, you can increase your data plan mid-cycle if necessary. You can also save some money by paying by the year instead of by the month.

  • Unlimited talk and text — $15/month + $5 per GB

Republic's plan includes mobile hotspot, Wi-Fi calling, and free domestic roaming. There's no international calling, but you can call back to the U.S., Canada, or "per call countries" (which may cost up to $0.50 per minute) from anywhere in the world over Wi-Fi.

Should you exhaust your data allotment for the month, you can add a GB for $5. But once you've used up your data, your speeds won't just slow down, they will stop working, and you'll need to pay for more data or wait until the next month.

How to reload

You can pay your phone bill online by visiting the My Account portal or on your phone with the Republic Wireless app.

For lighter users

Republic Wireless

From $15/mo. at Republic Wireless

Simple plans for traditional phone usage

Start low with unlimited talk and text and add data as you need it. If you don't need a ton of data, you can save a lot of money.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular operates off of T-Mobile and AT&T's towers and focuses on retirees—it offers a 5% discount on monthly services for AARP members, as well as other benefits, including 30% off on accessories and an extended risk-free return policy. Check your coverage before signing up.

Price

Consumer Cellular sells popular devices, or if you prefer, you can bring your own phone as well.

Talk only plans include:

  • 250 minutes for talk and text — $15/month
  • Unlimited minutes$20/month

Unlimited talk and text plans nclude:

  • 500MB of data — $25/month
  • 3GB of data — $30/month
  • 10GB of data — $40/month
  • 15GB of data — $50/month
  • Unlimited data — $60/month

You can add up to three lines to your account with shared data at a reduced rate per line. All of Consumer Cellular's plans include caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting, 3-way conference calling, voicemail, and international calling at no extra charge, though there's no mobile hotspot feature.

How to reload

You can log into Consumer Cellular's site to pay your bill online or set up Autopay.

Customer service focused

Consumer Cellular

From $15/mo. at Consumer Cellular

Something for nearly everyone

Whether you need a simple phone plan or something with a lot of data, Consumer Cellular has a plan to fit your needs.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: US Mobile

US Mobile allows you to build your own plan with exactly what you think you'll need or upgrade to an unlimited plan. US Mobile primarily uses Verizon's network and gives customers access to T-Mobile's network depending on their coverage and phone. To check your coverage, visit the coverage map on its website and put in your zip code.

Price

With US Mobile, you can build your own plan with exactly what you need, or you can opt for an unlimited talk, text, and data plan for $45 per month per line. This price drops down as you add more lines, making it an excellent family plan and one of the best cell phone plans today. If you don't want to go with unlimited, the cost for minutes ranges from $0 to $8, while the costs for texts range from $0 to $6. Data is a bit more with up to 15GB of data coming in at $26 per month. Any more than that, and you'll need the unlimited plan.

On the unlimited plan, your 5G data speeds should remain uncapped and unthrottled. Though this plan doesn't come with any hotspot data included, you can pay $10 extra per month to add 20GB of hotspot data. And if you add a few lines to the unlimited plan, you'll get the bonus of discounts applied for each additional line.

Each line can be upgraded with faster data speeds or hotspot data individually, so you still have a lot of flexibility. But if you sign up for three lines, you can choose from an included subscription service such as Netflix or Playstation Plus. Adding a fourth line unlocks an additional subscription. Best of all, each plan with US Mobile gets up to 10GB of free international roaming.

How to reload

You can sign into the US Mobile site to view and pay your bill or head to the app.

So many choices

US Mobile

From $2 at US Mobile

The entire range of options

Starting as low as just 75 minutes or up to unlimited data, US Mobile offers great service on the Verizon or T-Mobile network.

Advertisement

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: Visible

Visible uses Verizon's vast LTE and 5G network for service. You have the option of buying a phone through Visible or bringing your own Verizon-compatible device. Be sure to check your coverage before signing up.

Price

Visible's main draw is the simplicity of only one plan. Visible is one of the best value plans available with unlimited talk, text, and data with no surprises. Fees are included, so $40 per month is all you are paying. You get 480p video streaming, and Visible reckons you can expect between 5 and 12Mbps.

If you're looking to save some money, you can join up with other Visible members and bring your cost down as low as $25 per month with Visible Party Pay.

  • Unlimited everything — $40/month

Visible allows you to use an unlimited hotspot at up to 5Mbps and includes free international calling to Mexico and Canada. One thing to watch out for is a lack of international roaming options, but this plan still offers a great balance for users in the US.

Unlimited means unlimited

Visible

$40/mo. at Visible

Don't worry about the gigs

Visible offers unlimited LTE and 5G data with hotspot included on the Verizon network with the simplest plan of any network.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans: Simple Mobile

Simple Mobile uses T-Mobile's network and offers options to purchase a new phone or bring your own T-Mobile- or AT&T-compatible GSM phone. Check your coverage before signing up.

Price

Simple Mobile offers five prepaid plans, which all feature no contract or credit check, unlimited talk and text, unlimited international texting, international calling to 69 countries, and roaming to 16 Latin American countries. Rates are also discounted if you use AutoPay (Auto ReUp).

  • 3GB of up to LTE speeds + hotspot — $25/month
  • 5GB of up to LTE speeds + hotspot — $30/month
  • 15GB of up to LTE speeds + hotspot — $40/month
  • Unlimited LTE data + 5GB hotspot — $50/month
  • Unlimited LTE + 15GB hotspot — $60/month

How to reload

ReUp through the Simple Mobile website via credit card or pin. You also have the option to pay in advance with Stash, allowing you to add money to your plan when you have it, so you don't have to worry about re-upping when your service runs out.

No confusion

Simple Mobile

From $25/mo. at Simple Mobile

Keep it simple

Simple Mobile offers competitive plans with international service. Get the right amount of data from 3GB to unlimited.

Updated Aug. 24, 2021: Updated with latest plan info for AT&T and Boost Mobile.



Source: androidcentral

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