The best prepaid phone plans are your key to fighting price gouging. With a prepaid plan, you can lock in the cost of your wireless service, paying the same amount each month – and you can usually get a plan for much less than what postpaid cell phone plans cost.
You have to compromise when you opt for a prepaid service, but at least you’ll be accessing the same network that customers use with postpaid plans. In some cases, you’ll even get 5G coverage as part of your service. Best of all, you don’t necessarily need to reduce data to take advantage of a lower rate. Of course, the less data you need, the less you’ll have to pay, but even the best unlimited data plans can be surprisingly affordable from prepaid carriers.
Turning to one of the best prepaid plans is therefore one of the best ways to save money on your smartphone bill. And as we learned by researching your options, you can choose from a wide variety of prepaid plans with different data tiers — and prices — that suit your particular needs.
The best prepaid phone plans at a glance
We’ve mentioned some compromises with even the best prepaid phone plans, which don’t offer the same benefits as the more expensive plans from the big carriers. Forget free subscriptions to streaming services included in your plan or using your monthly data allowance when traveling abroad. At most, you’ll probably get hotspot data. And you’re also subject to slower speeds if the network your prepaid carrier uses is congested with traffic. If you need multiple lines, you might want to look elsewhere for the best family cell phone plan, as only a few of the options below offer discounts on additional lines.
Even with all that, though, there’s a lot to be said for a lower monthly bill, especially right now. And whether you’re buying a new phone and need a new wireless plan or just want to make sure your current plan is among the best cell phone plans overall, it pays to consider the best prepaid phone plans as money-saving options. Below are our picks, followed by an explanation of what we look for when choosing the best prepaid phone plans.
The best prepaid phone plans for your smartphone
The prepaid cellular plan at the best value for money:
Best prepaid plan for coverage:
Best Prepaid Cellular Plan with Unlimited Data:
An assortment of inexpensive prepaid options:
Excellent value from a major carrier:
Best prepaid cellular plan with unlimited data at a retailer:
T-Mobile Low Cost Plan:
A plan worth seeing:
Most flexible prepaid for families:
Best free prepaid plan:
How to Choose the Best Prepaid Phone Plans
When shopping for a prepaid phone plan, price is everything. This is because prepaid plans often don’t offer the kind of benefits offered by postpaid cell phone plans. That said, some carriers — such as Metro By T-Mobile and Boost — do work with a few perks, so be aware of those when choosing your plans.
You will also want to pay attention to discounts and special offers. Often, big carriers like AT&T and Verizon will increase the size of their automatic payment discount, which can make a more expensive plan more attractive. Metro by T-Mobile is known to increase the discount size when you add multiple data lines.
Besides price, one of the most important things to consider is which carrier offers the best coverage around your home and workplace. That’s true even if you look beyond the big three carriers for service. Other wireless services – known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators or MVNOs – use the cellular networks of AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon for their coverage. (Some MVNOs look to multiple carriers.) So if Verizon’s network is particularly strong where you are, for example, MVNOs that use Verizon’s network for coverage will also work well. Just be aware that MVNOs can see their traffic slowed down if a carrier’s network is too congested.
5G coverage is now part of what some MVNOs offer. Metro subscribers can access T-Mobile’s 5G with an eligible phone, as can Mint Mobile customers. Visible has added 5G access on Verizon’s network to select phones, while AT&T prepaid and Cricket customers can access 5G with each carrier’s most expensive prepaid plans.
For more on MVNOs, read our guides to AT&T MVNOs, T-Mobile MVNOs and Verizon MVNOs – we’ll tell you which discount carriers use which parent networks.
How we pick the best prepaid phone plans
Finding the best prepaid phone plans means broadening our search beyond the major carriers, even though AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all have prepaid deals. We’re also looking for plans from smaller carriers that use the Big Three’s cell towers to provide their coverage. Since smaller carriers usually offer their service at a discount, they make up the majority of candidates we consider for the best prepaid phone plans.
When we choose the best plans, we put a premium on the monthly price, although we also pay attention to the amount of data that comes with that plan. After all, a carrier might not charge you much for data, but they might also not provide enough data for your needs. We select plans that offer the best combination of cost and data. We also consider a wide variety of data allowances, as some people can do just fine using just a few gigabytes of data each month, while others need an unlimited plan.
As stated earlier, prepaid plans don’t offer a lot of benefits. That said, we take note of any special add-ons included with the best prepaid plans, as these can add value to a plan beyond its monthly cost.