In the United States, prepaid plans have never been as popular as their postpaid counterparts. All of the major US carriers advertise their postpaid plans front and center, with their prepaid options hidden behind the scenes. But that doesn’t mean prepaid plans aren’t worth it.
Prepaid plans offer many advantages, the main one being that they are generally cheaper than postpaid plans. The trade-off, however, is that you’ll often have to buy your phone outright, but there are plenty of amazing budget phones out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, we’ve done the hard work for you. We reviewed pricing, read the fine print, and checked our subscribers’ perceptions on all major MVNOs and store plans. Here are our top picks for prepaid phone plans.
All prices listed in this article apply to single-line plans only.
Connect: ideal for those who do not use a lot of data (T-Mobile)
Connect is a prepaid service offered by T-Mobile, offering four affordable plans. Although there is a $10 per month option, the $15 per month plan is a much better value. You get unlimited calls and data, plus 3GB of data. The data cap is low, but for those who rarely use it, Connect is an affordable option.
For those on $15 and $25 plans, Connect increases your monthly data cap by 500MB each year. Unfortunately, once you hit your data limit, that’s it, and you’ll have to wait until the next month for more data.
Visible: perfect for the data-hungry user (Verizon)
Visible has recently reworked its plans, now offering two different levels depending on your needs. Its cheapest plan starts at just $30, offering unlimited calls, texts, and data on Verizon’s 4G and 5G networks. Visible also provides users with unlimited mobile hotspot at speeds of up to 5 Mbps. That said, if you want the best performance, the $45 plan is where it’s at. Not only do you get access to Verizon’s UWB network for enhanced 5G performance, but you’ll also receive 50GB of premium data every month, providing an experience that isn’t slowed down when network traffic is heavy.
Unfortunately, Visible recently discontinued its Party Pay feature, which caused prices to drop as you added more lines. However, it simplifies the switch by letting you set up a new service right away if your phone supports eSIM.
Tello: ideal for international calls (T-Mobile)
Tello offers unlimited data for $29 per month, making it the most affordable way to get unlimited data on a prepaid plan. The service comes with free international texting to dozens of countries, so it’s a great option if you travel a lot or have family abroad. Tello also offers a “create your own plan” feature, where you can customize your plan based on your call, text, and data preferences. You can technically get as little as $5 a month, although there’s a 500MB data cap and only 100 calling minutes.
Unfortunately, Tello’s definition of unlimited means you’ll get 25GB of 4G/5G data on all plans. Once you use up 25GB, you get unlimited 2G service for the rest of the month.
AT&T: A solid prepaid plan from a major carrier
MVNOs generally offer the best prepaid plans, but AT&T’s prepaid option is worth a look. For $25 a month plus taxes and fees, you get 16GB of high-speed data, unlimited texting and calling, and unlimited international texting. There’s just one catch: you have to pay $300 plus tax and fees for one year of service up front.
Unfortunately, 5G only comes with AT&T’s unlimited plan, which costs $50 per month. However, if you’ve tried out AT&T’s 5G service recently, you’ll know you’re not missing out on much. As an added benefit, the prepaid plan also includes unlimited international calls to Canada and Mexico.
Red Pocket: Flexible and affordable plans (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon)
At $10 a month, Red Pocket offers 500MB of data, 500 minutes, and 500 text messages. If you’re interested in unlimited data, you can upgrade to unlimited talk, text, and data for $20 a month. This also comes with 3GB of 5G data. Even better, you can choose your network to get the best coverage in your area. That’s fine if you don’t know where different networks offer 5G coverage.
US Mobile: affordable 5G data (T-Mobile and Verizon)
For just $12 a month, you can get 1GB of data and unlimited talk and text with US Mobile. It’s a fantastic deal, and if you want unlimited data, you can get it for $35/month. US Mobile offers free international roaming for unlimited plans or from $4 per month for capped plans.
US Mobile has a limited selection of phones, so it’s best to bring your own device. The sheer number of blueprints is also somewhat confusing, so take your time before proceeding.
Google Fi: Perfect if you just want to pay for the data you use
Google Fi’s unlimited plan isn’t particularly competitive, but it offers a unique feature for its flexible plan. It costs $20 per month, with $10 for every GB of data you use. Some prepaid plans have similar features, but Google’s is especially handy. It’s also a great option if you plan to add more lines, where its unlimited plan quickly becomes more competitive.
Choose the prepaid plan that’s right for you
Prepaid plans can be confusing and you’ll want to read all the fine print. Typically, you’ll find that prepaid carriers significantly reduce the Big 3, and the savings are achieved with little compromise. If, however, you’re looking for one of the best flagship phones and want to pay for your device over time, you’ll probably want to stick with the traditional carrier.