Best Prepaid Phone Plans

Metro by T-Mobile offers affordable plans and fun perks

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Phone customers used to be locked into lengthy contracts, leaving few options for switching providers if your current one wasn’t working. But, prepaid phone plans were a game changer. Consumers could prepay for minutes to use with their current or new cell phone. Today, prepaid plans come in all shapes and sizes, giving people access to the same features and options found in postpaid plans. 

The best prepaid phone plans offer unlimited data, text, and talk. They provide fast connections via 4G or 5G networks and offer reliable nationwide coverage. Some providers offer discounts when adding a line or paying via autopay. Other prepaid phone plans come with perks, such as a free streaming subscription or rollover data.

Best Prepaid Phone Plans of 2021

Best Overall : Metro by T-Mobile


Metro by T-Mobile

Metro by T-Mobile

  • Price: $30 to $60 per line per month
  • Amount of data: 2GB to unlimited
  • Number of plans: Four plans
Why We Chose It

Metro by T-Mobile has upfront pricing with no hidden fees and great prepaid options that offer rewards and perks. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Great rates for families and individuals

  • Fast 5G download speeds

  • A standalone rewards app

Cons
  • All video streams at 480p

  • Unlimited plans throttle data at 35GB

  • No unlimited international calls

Overview

Metro by T-Mobile’s nationwide coverage, fantastic rewards program, and low-priced packages make it the best overall prepaid phone plan provider. T-Mobile is one of the top three telecommunications providers, and its 5G network covers more than 9,100 cities. T-Mobile has owned MetroPCS since 2013 and in 2018 changed its name to Metro by T-Mobile while unveiling partnerships with Google and Amazon. 

Although the T-Mobile network isn’t as large as Verizon’s, it has the most extensive 5G coverage, meaning more users can access superfast speeds. It offers four prepaid plans, perfect for individuals or families. 

Depending on your plan, features may include:

  • All packages provide discounts when adding two to five phone lines
  • 5G coverage via T-Mobile networks is included with all plans
  • Music Unlimited lets users listen to over 40 streaming services without using your data allowance
  • A Google One membership with 100GB of cloud storage
  • A free Amazon Prime membership
  • All plans come with voicemail, call waiting, and caller ID
  • Access to T-Mobile rewards, such as T-Mobile Tuesdays

Overall, Metro by T-Mobile customers are pleased with the service and appreciate being able to stop into a local store for assistance. But, T-Mobile coverage can be spotty in rural areas, so it’s important to check coverage maps before selecting this network. The company offers four plans with unlimited calling and texting:

  • $30 per line per month for 2GB of high-speed data
  • $40 per line per month for 10GB of data and Music Unlimited
  • $50 per line per month for unlimited data, 5GB of hotspot data, and a Google One membership
  • $60 per line per month for unlimited data, 15GB of hotspot data, a Google One membership, and an Amazon Prime membership

Best Value : Mint Mobile


MintMobile

 MintMobile

  • Price: $15 to $30 per line per month
  • Amount of data: 4GB to unlimited
  • Number of plans: Four plans
Why We Chose It

Consumers appreciate the low prices and free hotspots with all Mint Mobile plans.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • No overage costs for data

  • Save money with longer commitments

  • Good coverage via T-Mobile networks

Cons
  • No talk-and-text-only plans

  • Requires a three-month upfront payment

  • The unlimited plan restricts the hotspot to 5GB of data

Overview

Mint Mobile is a fairly new mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), in operation since 2016. It gained notoriety in 2019 when actor Ryan Reynolds purchased a part ownership stake. Unlike other prepaid phone plans, Mint Mobile gives all users a free hotspot and free international calls to Mexico and Canada, making it our best value choice. 

Mint Mobile packages come with features such as:

  • Free mobile hotspot
  • Three-in-one SIM card kit or eSIM for eligible devices
  • Bring your own device (BYOD) and current phone number
  • Use 4G and 5G networks
  • Voicemail, visual voicemail, caller ID, and call waiting

It’s important to note that unlimited plans throttle speeds after customers use 35GB of data. Furthermore, it doesn’t offer high-definition (HD) video streaming. All data plans offer unlimited data at lower speeds after reaching your limit. 

The plans require three-, six-, or 12-month upfront payments. The prices below are an introductory offer for your first three, six, or 12 months. Afterward, prices may increase to the regular price. The packages include:

  • 4GB: $15 per line per month for unlimited talk and text, a hotspot, and 4GB of data 
  • 10GB: $20 per line per month for unlimited talk and text, a hotspot, and 10GB of data 
  • 15GB: $25 per line per month for unlimited talk and text, a hotspot, and 15GB of data 
  • Unlimited: $30 per line per month for unlimited talk, text, and data and a hotspot with 5GB of dedicated data

Best for Seniors : Lively


Lively

Lively

  • Price: $3 to $59.99 per line per month
  • Amount of data: 100MB to unlimited
  • Number of plans: Numerous configurations
Why We Chose It

From flip phones to senior-focused services, Lively offers data, text, talk, and health and safety services.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • U.S.-based phone support

  • User-friendly mobile phones

  • Offers medical alert packages

Cons
  • Fees for going over monthly limits

  • Slower phone app loading times

  • Activation fee

Overview

Lively began in 2012 as a connected health platform for older adults, GreatCall acquired it in 2015, and Best Buy took Lively over in 2018. It’s an MVNO using the Verizon network with nationwide coverage. Lively is our top pick for seniors because it offers user-friendly devices and safety packages. 

Unlike other prepaid providers, Lively provides health and safety services alongside à la carte data, text, and calling plans. Consumers can purchase a health and safety package and add phone services or purchase standalone versions. Depending on your plan, the features may include:

  • Calling plans come with call waiting, caller ID, and free long-distance calls
  • Phone integration with Amazon Alexa
  • Cell phones with large keypads, list-based navigation, and a magnifier
  • An urgent response button to get immediate emergency assistance
  • Access to a doctor or nurse 24/7 via the Urgent Care option
  • A Lively Link app to alert family members if the phone user requests an urgent response
  • Fall detection that immediately sends help if a fall is detected
  • A personal live operator to help users get a phone number or make a call
  • Lively works with Lyft to help seniors schedule a ride

Lively offers a variety of plans to suit your needs. The health and safety versions range from $19.99 to $34.99 a month, and consumers can purchase talk, text, and data for an additional fee. However, you may find better deals by going through Best Buy. Plus, this gives you a chance to try out the devices and make sure they’ll work for you or your family member. 

Prices for standalone phone services are:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data for $59.99
  • Unlimited talk and text for $39.99
  • Unlimited texts for $15

Best for Unlimited Data : Visible


Visible

Visible

  • Price: $40 per line per month
  • Amount of data: Unlimited
  • Number of plans: One plan
Why We Chose It

Use Visible to get unlimited and uncapped data for a low monthly price.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Unlimited data with no throttling

  • Free calling to Canada, Mexico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico

  • A hot spot with speeds up to 5 Mbps

Cons
  • Doesn’t work with CDMA phones

  • Speeds may slow during peak hours

  • Only one calling plan

Overview

Verizon launched an MVNO called Visible in 2018, giving them access to the expansive Verizon network. Visible provides a no-contract plan, hotspot, and no data caps, making it best for unlimited data. 

Visible offers one plan that includes service on Verizon’s 4G LTE, 5G, and 5G Ultra Wideband networks. The plans come with features such as:

  • Unlimited data, texting, and calling
  • Voicemail, caller ID, and call waiting
  • Free calling and texting to Mexico, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico
  • A free hotspot with unlimited data and speeds up to 5 Mbps
  • 24/7 live chat with customer service
  • A Party Pay option to save money by adding friends to your plan

Unlike other unlimited plans, Visible doesn’t throttle data, regardless of how much you use. The 4G coverage is excellent across the U.S. 5G coverage isn’t as widely available as T-Mobile's is, but Verizon networks remain a solid option regardless of your location.

Visible charges $25 for your first month on the plan, after which you’ll pay $40 per month. However, you can lower your monthly bill by adding two or more people to your plan. Each person is billed separately, and costs drop for each person added:

  • Two people: $35 per person per month
  • Three people: $30 per person per month
  • Four people: $25 per person per month

Best for Family : Boost Mobile


Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile

  • Price: $15 to $60 per line per month
  • Amount of data: 2GB to 35GB
  • Number of plans: Five plans
Why We Chose It

Families can mix and match plans to save money and earn rewards.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • A rewards program with perks

  • No overage charges

  • Good coverage through the T-Mobile network

Cons
  • Higher prices for solo plans

  • Limited phone compatibility

  • Rural areas may not get great coverage

Overview

Since 2000, Boost Mobile, an MVNO company, has provided cell phone service via the T-Mobile network, and it was acquired by Dish network in 2020. Boost Mobile tops our list for families because it offers mix-and-match plans, including a family favorite of three lines for $90.

Boost Mobile plans come with:

  • Voicemail, caller ID, and call waiting
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • A mobile hotspot
  • 4G and 5G data
  • No overages as data is throttled to 2G speeds

Although Boost Mobile offers BYOD plans, compatibility may be limited, so it’s important to check eligibility for your phone before buying a plan. In addition, some consumers notice slower speeds during peak hours, likely due to deprioritization for MVNOs. Deprioritization means the company that owns the network, in this case, T-Mobile, gives its customers priority over those from the company leasing space on the network (Boost Mobile). 

Boost Mobile users can select different plans for each family member, such as:

  • 2GB: $15 per line per month for new BYOD customers only, unlimited talk and text, and 2GB of data
  • 5GB: $25 per line per month for new customers only, unlimited talk and text, and 5GB of data
  • 10GB: $35 per line per month for unlimited talk and text and 10GB of data
  • 35GB: $50 per line per month for unlimited talk and text, 35GB of data, a hotspot with a dedicated 12GB of data, and the ability to add a line for $30
  • 35GB: $60 per line per month for unlimited talk and text, 35GB of data, high-definition video streaming, a hotspot with a dedicated 30GB of data, and the ability to add a line for $40

Best for Coverage : Verizon


Verizon Wireless

 Verizon Wireless

  • Price: $35 to $75 per line per month
  • Amount of data: 5GB to unlimited
  • Number of plans: Five plans
Why We Chose It

Verizon’s cellular network covers more than 99% of the U.S. population.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Reliable coverage across the U.S.

  • Up to $20 in monthly discounts available

  • No credit check for prepaid plans

Cons
  • No rollover data on prepaid plans

  • More expensive than other providers

  • Only unlocked phones work with Verizon

Overview

Founded in 2000, Verizon is one of the biggest communication technology companies in the world, serving more than 93,980,000 people. Its cell phone coverage includes over 2,680,000 square miles and 5G coverage for more than 2,700 cities, making it the clear winner for best coverage. 

Verizon’s no-annual-contract plans, also called prepaid plans, start at $35 per line per month for unlimited talk and text. All cellular packages include:

  • Unlimited text to more than 200 international locations
  • A $5 monthly discount for people who enroll in autopay
  • Up to $15 in monthly savings after nine months of service
  • 5G nationwide coverage on compatible devices
  • BYOD options
  • Voicemail, caller ID, and call forwarding

Although prices are typically higher for larger carriers compared to MVNOs, consumers appreciate being able to walk into Verizon stores for assistance, and data isn’t deprioritized on the network. For limited data plans, you’ll have 2G speeds once reaching the limit or you can buy a data boost add-on via the mobile application. The five calling packages consist of:

  • Text and Talk: $35 per line per month for unlimited talk and text
  • 5GB: $40 per line per month for unlimited talk and text, a mobile hotspot, and 5GB of data
  • 15GB: $50 per line per month for unlimited talk and text, free calls to Mexico and Canada, a mobile hotspot, and 15GB of data
  • Unlimited: $65 per line per month for unlimited talk and text, unlimited data, free calls to Mexico and Canada, and use of calls/text/data in Mexico and Canada
  • Unlimited Plus: $75 per line per month for unlimited talk and text, unlimited data, access to 5G Ultra Wideband, a 5G Ultra Wideband hotspot, and the ability to use calls/text/data in Mexico and Canada

Best on a Budget : Tello


Tello

Tello

  • Price: $5 to $39 per line per month
  • Amount of data: 1GB to unlimited
  • Number of plans: Five plans
Why We Chose It

With plans starting at $5 a month, Tello Mobile is the most budget-friendly cellular provider.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Free international calling to up to 60 countries

  • Can create a custom plan

  • Easy to upgrade or change plans

Cons
  • Only works on unlocked phones

  • Slower data speeds during peak hours

  • Unlimited plans throttle data after using 25GB

Overview

Tello was founded in 2002 and rolled out its Tello Mobile service in 2016. It’s an MVNO that uses the T-Mobile networks. With no contracts or hidden fees and ultra-affordable plans, Tello Mobile is excellent for people on a budget. 

Tello offers ready-made or build-your-own plans, all of which include reduced pricing for the first six months of use. Tello prepaid package may come with: 

  • 4G LTE and 5G data usage
  • A free hotspot with all data plans
  • Automatic plan renewal
  • Balance rolls over when switching plans
  • Free calls to over 60 countries

Although Tello offers cheap prepaid phone plans, the service may not be a great fit if you’re a heavy data user because they throttle service after 25GB. Moreover, coverage can be spotty in rural locations. The Tello Mobile prepaid packages include:

  • Economy: $10 per line per month for 1GB of data and unlimited minutes and text
  • Value: $14 per line per month for 2GB of data and unlimited minutes and text
  • Smart: $19 per line per month for 4GB of data and unlimited minutes and text
  • Data: $39 per line per month for unlimited data, minutes, and text
  • Build your own: $5 to $39 per month for your choice of data, minutes, and text options

Best for Rollover Data : AT&T


The AT&T logo

AT&T

  • Price: $25 to $50 per line per month
  • Amount of data: 8GB to unlimited
  • Number of plans: Five plans
Why We Chose It

AT&T is the only provider offering rollover data and other perks with prepaid phone plans.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • The entry-level plan comes with an HD video

  • Fraud and spam alerts

  • Stable nationwide coverage

Cons
  • No 5G access on most plans

  • Speeds decrease to 128 Kbps after hitting your data limit

Overview

AT&T is one of the top communications companies and was founded in 1983. It offers nationwide coverage that rivals T-Mobile and Verizon. Additionally, prepaid plans let users roll their data to the next month, making it our top choice for rollover data.

Each of AT&T's plans offers features such as: 

  • Fraud call blocking and spam alerts
  • Free AT&T mobile app for device security and breach reports
  • Nuisance call warnings
  • Unknown call blocking
  • Unused high-speed rolls over to the next month
  • Voicemail and caller ID

AT&T generally gets good reviews, and consumers appreciate plans that let them use their cellular service when traveling to Canada and Mexico. Plus, users can go to any AT&T store to get help with their devices or upgrade their package. 

The five prepaid calling plans don’t require a credit check or activation fee. The packages include: 

  • $25 per line per month with a 12-month prepaid plan, unlimited calling and text, 8GB of data, hotspot, HD video, and usable in Canada and Mexico
  • $30 per line per month for 5GB of data, unlimited calling and text, and a hotspot
  • $40 per line per month for 15GB of data, unlimited calling and text, a hotspot, and it works in Mexico and Canada
  • $50 per line per month with new line activation and a discount for autopay for unlimited data, text, and calling
  • $50 per line per month for new line activation online and a discount for autopay for 5G access, unlimited calling and text, 10GB mobile hotspot, 100GB of cloud storage, HD video, and use in Canada and Mexico

Final Verdict

The best prepaid phone plans offer affordable packages for individuals and families or groups. Moreover, top providers cover people across the U.S., don’t charge fees for data overages, and give users access to 4G and 5G networks. Some come with perks, such as cloud storage, free streaming subscriptions, or loyalty rewards programs.  

Metro by T-Mobile has an expansive 4G and 5G network, discounts for adding lines, and doesn’t charge activation or overage fees. It comes with a mobile rewards app featuring T-Mobile Tuesdays with exclusive deals and prizes. With low-cost plans and coast-to-coast coverage, Metro by T-Mobile is the best choice for prepaid phone plans.

Compare the Best Prepaid Phone Plans

Company  Price  Amount of Data  Number of Plans  Coverage Offered 
Metro by T-Mobile
Best Overall
$30 to $60 2GB to unlimited 4 4G/5G
Mint Mobile
Best Value 
$15 to $30  4GB to unlimited  4 4G/5G 
Lively
Best for Seniors 
$3 to $59.99  100MB to unlimited  Numerous configurations  4G
Visible
Best for Unlimited Data 
$40  Unlimited  4G/5G 
Boost Mobile
Best for Family 
$15 to $60  2GB to 35GB  4G/5G 
Verizon
Best for Coverage 
$35 to $75  5GB to unlimited  4G/5G 
Tello Mobile
Best on a Budget 
$5 to $39  1GB to unlimited  4G/5G 
AT&T
Best for Rollover Data 
$25 to $50  8GB to unlimited  4G/5G 

How to Choose the Best Prepaid Phone Plans

When shopping for the best prepaid phone plans, there are several things to think about, such as:

  • Coverage: All cellular providers use nationwide networks from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. Check their coverage maps and customer reviews to make sure it works well in your area.
  • Hidden fees: Pay attention to fees for activation, overages, number porting, or international calls. 
  • Phone types: If you want to bring an existing phone, check to see if the cell provider supports it, as some phones may be locked or tied to a specific operator. 
  • Mobile hotspot: Some plans offer hotspots but limit speed or data, so if you need your hotspot for work or school, double-check that your prepaid plan supports it.
  • Perks: When choosing between your top choices, see if you can save money by picking a plan offering a perk like free streaming services.  

Prepaid Phone Plans vs. Postpaid Phone Plans

Prepaid phone plans require payment before your service starts, and some providers give discounts when consumers pay for more than one month in advance. In comparison, postpaid phone plans let you start services first and pay on your due date. Often, prepaid plans are cheaper than postpaid plans, except when it comes to devices.

People select postpaid plans to take advantage of great deals on cell phones, including installment plans. Furthermore, postpaid plans typically offer more perks and promotions than prepaid options.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Prepaid Phone Plans Suitable for Multiple Family Members? 

Yes, the best prepaid phone plans offer discounts when adding multiple family members. Some may even allow people on your package to share data and minutes. Plus, mix-and-match options let you choose cheaper versions for family members who don’t need as much data or minutes and unlimited plans for those who need a mobile hotspot or unlimited data. 

Do Prepaid Phone Plans Have the Latest Coverage, Such as 5G?

Yes, nearly all prepaid plans give users access to 4G and 5G networks. Prepaid providers use networks owned by T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, and all of the big three networks now offer 4G and 5G network coverage. So, when you sign up for a prepaid phone plan, there’s a good chance you’ll also be able to use 4G and 5G, as long as you’re using a compatible phone and live in an area with 5G coverage. 

How Much Do Prepaid Phone Plans Cost?

Prepaid phone plans are usually less expensive than postpaid plans, but the monthly costs can vary widely. Packages for text or calling only can start as low as $3 to $5 per month and go up to $75 per line per month. However, all prepaid phone plans incur various taxes and fees that differ by state. For instance, the Federal Universal Service Fund (FUSF) may increase your bill by 9.8%, and 911 surcharges and other fees can also increase your bill. 

Methodology

We reviewed 14 companies to discover the best prepaid phone plans. We compared providers by looking at the overall costs of plans, including activation fees and overage charges. In addition, we examined plans offering discounts for adding lines, new customers, or auto payments. Next, we checked for a range of prepaid packages, so consumers had options for different family members or needs, as not everyone wants unlimited data. We also looked for companies offering perks, like rollover minutes or free streaming plans. Lastly, we chose prepaid plans with nationwide coverage offering 4G and 5G network access.

Article Sources

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