Want to save serious money on your cell phone plan?
Of course you do. Nobody in their right mind is wishing it could be more expensive. The fact is, Americans spend an average of $127.37 every month on their phone bills.1 Whoa. That’s more than $1,500 a year! That’s some Peloton-level money spending!
And I know you want to be way better than average. So if that sounds like your bill, you might be overpaying to send all those emojis, GIFs, memes, selfies and videos of your dog being a very good boy. The good news is companies are aggressively competing to get your business, which means researching the cheapest cell phone plans will put more cash in your pocket.
So, who should you switch to? Easy tiger, we’ll get there. It’s not that simple. First, you need to know a little about the cell phone industry so you can make a smart decision. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are the elephants in the room everyone has heard of—the 800-pound gorillas in the cellular industry. Choose whatever zoo animal analogy makes you happy. And if you’re wondering about Sprint, T-Mobile actually bought them in a $26 billion deal in 2020.2
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Sometimes the headlines call AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon the big three—and they own every bit of the network you need to send a text, get online, or make a call. (P.S. I really should call my mom. It’s been a while. Remind me to do that later.) But did you know there are over 100 discount carriers that could fit you and your budget even better? Discount cell phone companies save on their expenses by piggybacking on the major carriers. That gets them out of paying for stuff like radio towers, satellites or fiber optics.3 Cha-ching for you.
And since you’re a savvy cell phone shopper, you know you can’t just consider cost—you also need to factor in the features like data, messages, minutes and coverage so you can find the right plan for your life.
I know what you’re thinking. George, I’ve been with my cell phone carrier since I was 13. I loved that Nokia brick phone. Yes, your relationship with your cell phone provider is very sentimental. It’s like that credit card you got back when you were in college that you had to cut up. It can be emotionally and physically taxing to switch. But freeing up those wasted dollars will let you live a life of no regrets. More margin in your budget will let you spend your money on the things that really matter to you, like expanding your family with a French Bulldog, traveling to Fiji, or finally paying off those pesky student loans.
So, it may be time to make the switch. Plus, how fun will it be to honestly be able to text back “New phone, who dis?”
Cheapest Cell Phone Plan From a Major Carrier
Plenty of us love our major carrier plans. In fact, the cell phone plan I personally have is Verizon’s unlimited data plan through my employer (thanks for picking up the tab, Dave). But allow me to do the research on the best option for your budget. Survey says: The cheapest cell phone plan from a major carrier comes from T‑Mobile.
Cheapest Cell Phone Plan: T-Mobile Connect
- Cost: $15 per month
- Data, messages and minutes: But in exchange for putting a ring on it, T-Mobile will boost your data by 500 MB each month until 2025! That’s great . . . since you start with just 2.5 GB of monthly data. Let me do the math on that for you: With 2.5 GB of data, you can browse the internet for about 36 hours, stream 500 songs, or watch 5 hours of SD video.4 Bingeing The Office is going to be tough with this plan, but hey, you do get unlimited talk and text, so there goes your excuse not to call your mom! (P.P.S Leaving this second reminder here for me to call my mom.)
- Coverage: T-Mobile’s coverage is pretty solid, covering 62% of the lower 48 states. For comparison, coverage heavy-hitter Verizon spans 70% of that same area, so T-Mobile isn’t far behind. Plus, T-Mobile’s download and upload speeds beat Verizon.5
At just $180 for the year (or as they market it, $15 a month), T-Mobile’s prepaid Connect plan is the cheapest one you’ll find from the big guys.
By the way, the big three will try to lure you in with low price offers—but you have to read the fine print (that wasn’t meant to be a reference to my podcast, The Fine Print, but I’ll take this opportunity to tell you that it exists). None of the offers I researched tell you the real price you pay. Instead, they show you an imaginary price for each phone line while you’re forced into a contract, maybe even with multiple lines. Not cool, man. Not cool.
If you click and sign up without reading all the terms, you and your French Bulldog are going to have seven lines between the two of you. May I point out only one of you knows how to text?
Let’s move on to my favorite type of plan: unlimited.
Cheapest Unlimited Data Plan: Mint Mobile Unlimited
If I could uninstall the phone app from my smartphone, I would—but hey, data is another story.
I’m heavily invested in an unlimited data plan so I can watch all the YouTube, Netflix, TikTok videos and Instagram Reels I want. Data limits are the last thing I want to worry about. There’s too much to worry about in life already—why add one more thing to the list?
That’s why Mint Mobile takes home the gold for the cheapest unlimited data plan.
Cheapest Unlimited Data Plan: Mint Mobile Unlimited
- Cost: $30 per month
- Data, messages and minutes: Mint Mobile gives you unlimited talk, text and data (sweet!), but streaming, downloads and uploads do slow down to 4G speed after you use 35 GB (not as sweet). But 4G just stands for fourth generation, and up until 2020, it was the fastest thing available. So don’t get too bummed. I’m old enough to remember the days of dial-up internet speed on desktop computers using an AOL trial disc. I’m just saying, it could be worse.
- Coverage: Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile to power its network. If you’re not sure about T‑Mobile’s coverage in your area, pop your zip code into Mint Mobile’s interactive coverage map to see if it works for you. There’s no sense in getting a cheap, unlimited phone if you’re living on a prayer and one bar of signal.
Honorable Mention: Visible
Heard of Visible yet? They’re a discount brand owned by Verizon, and they offer just one plan with unlimited everything. It’s cheap, and Verizon’s network can’t be beat, so I’m giving them the honorable mention.
- Cost: $40 per month
- Data, messages and minutes: Visible’s plan sounds good, right? It is good, but you should know this full-speed bonanza is only for on-device data. What data could you use that’s not on your actual smartphone? Your hotspot data. This is when you generate Wi‑Fi from your phone to connect another device to the internet, like your laptop. Visible limits hotspot data to 5 Mbps (Megabits per second). Don’t worry, though—that’s actually fast enough to stream Netflix in HD.6
- Coverage: Visible gives its customers access to Verizon’s powerhouse network for a fraction of the cost. However, depending on your location, you may be on Verizon’s 4G network instead of the 5G superhighway.
Best Value Cell Phone Plan: Tello
The easiest way to trim down your cell phone bill is to opt out of the data and minutes you don’t use. If you’re a millennial like me, chances are you don’t talk on the phone much, so why pay for minutes?
Tello wins the best value cell phone plan because it’s the only carrier that lets you buy exactly what you need.
Cost: Tello’s cost ranges from $5 per month to $39 per month.
Data, messages and minutes: Tello is like a good pair of stretchy pants. It can constrict your plan down to just 100 minutes, or it can expand to include unlimited talk, text and data, or anything in between. Truthfully, I wish all plans would be this flexible (and I wish all pants would be a little bit stretchy).
Coverage: Tello is on T-Mobile’s super fast network.
Honorable Mention: PureTalk USA
I like PureTalk for a lot of reasons. In addition to their affordable options, they have real live customer service with actual humans! The cell phone industry as a whole isn’t exactly known for quality customer service, but PureTalk makes it a priority. One other carrier (I won’t name drop here) actually wrote in their terms of service, “No calling customer service to complain about anything.” Dang!
- Cost: $20 per month
- Data, messages and minutes: PureTalk’s basic plan gives you unlimited talk and text. And after 60 GB of data, your streaming will slow down. But let’s be real here—that’s still a lot of data, even for a data fiend like me. Bonus point: There are no overage fees. Like I said, if you go over your data, it will slow down. But once your month resets, you get your speed back!
- Coverage: If you think PureTalk’s affordable plan means less coverage or lower speeds, you’re more wrong than raisins in potato salad. PureTalk is on AT&T’s network, so you get access to their fastest network speeds.
Overall Cheapest Cell Phone Plan: Tello
The overall cheapest cell phone plan is from Tello. Like I said before, their options let you customize your plan for your life. You could shave your bill down to just $5 a month if you really wanted to go bare bones—that’s pretty unbeatable in this wild wireless world we find ourselves in.
Look around, do some research, and make the switch. That’s the secret to saving money on cell phone plans. But picking a winner from my list of cheapest cell phone plans isn’t all your money can do.
Imagine how you’d feel if you could dump debt, save for emergencies, and build Jeff Bezos-level wealth. Sound too good to be true? Okay, okay, I’m not promising you’ll be able to go to space for Spring Break, but you will be able to live a life without regret once your money is fully in your control. Let me help you take your first step with Ramsey’s Get Started Assessment. It’s totally free and takes like 90 seconds to complete. Seriously, I timed myself. So, what are you waiting for? Tap that link and get started right now.