There are a lot of things to consider when looking for the best cheap phone plans in 2021, whether you need a ton of data or just enough to get by when you’re away from Wi-Fi. One of the most important considerations is coverage and phone compatibility. Mint Mobile’s 4GB plan offers great coverage with 5G support and enough data to get you by with a little discipline.
Best overall: Mint Mobile 4GB
T-Mobile’s network is home to some of the best cheap phone plans in the industry, and Mint Mobile takes things a step further with great discounts for those who are willing to pay a little more upfront. Mint Mobile comes with unlimited calling and texting in the U.S., and mobile hotspot is enabled if you need it. With the 4GB plan coming in at a low $15 per month when you buy 12 months, it’s hard to find a much better value.
While the total cost of $180 for a year will sting once, it can be a great way to take advantage of times when you have a little extra cash on hand, such as getting a tax refund. Plus, it’s nice not thinking about your phone bill for a year. You can go for a shorter duration with a six-month plan coming in at $20 per month and three months at $25 per month. With Mint, you start with three months at the $15 per month price and can then renew for whatever length you feel comfortable with.
Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile’s growing network with coverage that’s always improving especially if you have one of the best Android phones with 5G like the Samsung Galaxy S21, which supports both of T-Mobile’s sub-6 5G bands. 5G is included with Mint Mobile for free.
- Multi-month savings
- Hotspot enabled
- Great T-Mobile coverage with 5G
- Unlimited calling and texting
- Must buy at least three months
- No physical stores
- From $15/mo. at Mint Mobile
Just enough data on a big network
Mint Mobile’s 4GB plan comes with unlimited talk and text as well as unlimited 2G speed data if you use all of your data.
Best value: T-Mobile Connect with 2.5GB
T-Mobile Connect is the cheapest of T-Mobile’s first-party prepaid plans. It comes with unlimited talk and text with 2.5GB of high-speed data. Not only that, the plan grows every year by 500MB, meaning it grows with you. Still, at $15 per month, this is easily one of the best ways to get solid phone service with no risk of overage and no minimum term requirements. A mobile hotspot is even supported as long as you have data. T-Mobile’s new scam-blocking protection is present to reduce scam calls as well.
However, this service wouldn’t be a good fit for heavy use. It doesn’t have unlimited music streaming or even international calling; it’s for people who want to get online quickly and cheaply, and for that, it’s hard to do better. It’s also worth remembering that you’re covered by the entire T-Mobile network, which is consistently turning in some of the country’s best speed and coverage results.
- Large T-Mobile network
- Data amount grows with time
- No overages
- Hotspot included (as long as you have data)
- Scam-blocking included
- No unlimited data (data capped)
- No international service
T-Mobile Connect with 2.5GB
- $15/mo. at T-Mobile Prepaid
Data that grows with you
T-Mobile connect is a great and cheap way to get unlimited calling, texting, and 2GB of data that grows by 500MB each year.
Best custom plan: US Mobile
US Mobile can be very cheap if you are a light user. US Mobile doesn’t have a traditional set of plans, instead allowing each customer to put together exactly what they need and nothing more. You can check your current phone bill to see your usage so you can pick the right plan and minimize waste. US Mobile also has a totally unlimited plan starting at $40. For an additional $10, you can add on 20GB of hotspot data.
With service on either the Verizon or T-Mobile network, there’s an excellent chance you’ll be covered by US Mobile’s network. If you bring three or four lines, you get to choose from a list of services to get for free like Disney+, Apple TV, or even PS Plus. If you were already paying, this is a great way to save some money.
If you build your plan right and make great use of Wi-Fi networks for data, you can create a very cheap plan. It’s also worth noting that US Mobile is one of the few companies to still sell a flip phone.
- Create your own plan to save
- Unlimited plans are available
- Verizon and T-Mobile networks supported
- Streaming perks with multiple lines
- Actually still sells a flip phone
- No physical stores
Best custom plan
- From $2/mo. at US Mobile
Create your own plan and save
US Mobile cuts all the right corners to keep your prices low while offering great coverage and even an unlimited plan.
Best unlimited: Visible
Visible easily has the best cheap phone plan with unlimited data. For $40 per month, you get unlimited talk, text, and LTE data on the Verizon Wireless network with no contract. While Verizon-based MVNOs aren’t going to get top priority on the network, in most places, there’s plenty of capacity to keep you going more than fast enough. On top of that, mobile hotspot data is enabled at 5Mbps, and it’s also unlimited.
One thing to consider with Visible is that it only uses the Verizon LTE network. That means no roaming, international or local, and no 3G if LTE lets you down. This will be fine for the most part, but be sure to make sure you’re covered on Visible’s coverage map even if you have awesome Verizon coverage. 5G coverage is also absent, although, on Verizon, that’s not a big loss.
One of Visible’s best features is Party Pay, which lets you join a party for free, and if your party has at least four people, your bill comes down to just $25 per month. You can even join a party from the community page on Visible’s website. Keep in mind that Visible also has a much smaller list of supported phones than most MVNOs, but it has most of the big names, including most newer iPhones and the Galaxy S21 series.
- Unlimited talk, text, and LTE data in the U.S.
- Massive Verizon LTE network
- Save with Party Pay
- Unlimited hotspot
- No 3G or roaming network
- Fewer supported phones
- $40/mo. at Visible
Affordable without limits, domestically
Visible only has one plan, and it’s a good one with unlimited data and even a mobile hotspot at 5Mbps with Verizon LTE coverage.
Best family plan: Walmart Family Mobile 40GB
Walmart Family Mobile is yet another T-Mobile-based prepaid carrier and is one of the best cheap phone plans for a family. With it, you get 5G connectivity and a ton of unlocked phone options. Plans come in 2GB, 5GB, 14GB, and unlimited sizes. While many people will be able to get by on the smaller plans without issue, you can’t mix and match, so you can pick a plan that will work for everyone.
The best part of Walmart Family Mobile is that each additional line is only $25 no matter the base plan you start with. Of course, the biggest savings will come from the unlimited plan with several lines, but most people will have no trouble getting by on 14GB. Unfortunately, if you or a family member uses up the data, there are no overages, and they stay connected at 2G speeds. This is enough for emails and messaging apps but not much more.
- Great T-Mobile network with 5G
- Great multi-line savings
- Works with most unlocked phones
- Unlimited talk and text
- Find it in a Walmart store
- Single line prices aren’t anything special
- Only one network to choose from
- No overages if you use up data
Best family plan
Walmart Family Mobile 40GB
- $40/mo. at Walmart Family Mobile
Add lines to any plan for $25
Walmart Family Mobile lets you add up to five lines for $25 each to your plan allowing you to get a ton of data for a low price.
Best for basic phones: Tello
Tello’s custom plans make it one of the best options for light users. If you need no data at all, you can get unlimited talk and text on the T-Mobile network for just $8 per month. Currently, you can get the first six months for $6 per month as well. Tello also lets you call Canada, Mexico, China, and Romania, making it a great option for those wanting to keep in contact with friends and family. If Grandma wants to call her friends back home in one of these countries, there’s not a much cheaper or easier way to get it done.
Tello’s plans are fully custom, meaning that you can add data as needed, including an unlimited option with up to 25GB of high-speed data. Hotspot is included on data plans as well. Tello also lets you upgrade or downgrade your plan at any time, so you don’t need to sweat about over or underbuying when you build your plan. Still, it’s worth taking a peek at your last bill to get an idea of your typical usage.
Tello is also one of the remaining carriers to still stock a flip phone on its website.
- Unlimited talk and text
- Custom data plans
- Call Mexico, Canada, China, or Romania free
- Works with most phones
- A bit expensive for data users
- Only 25GB of high-speed data on the unlimited plan
Best for basic phones
- $8/mo. at Tello
Exactly what you need and nothing more
Tello hits the nail on the head with its unlimited talk and text plans with great features and coverage. You can also add data at any time if you need it.
Best postpaid plan: T-Mobile Magenta
T-Mobile’s Magenta plan is by far the most expensive on the list, starting at $70 per month with one line. However, if you have a few lines to connect, there are some savings. Also, when you add a second line, Netflix is included for free. It’s only SD Netflix on one screen, the basic package, but it’s a great addition. To watch your videos, you get prioritized LTE or 5G data with a 5GB high-speed mobile hotspot. The hotspot even has unlimited data at 3G speeds, which can be a lifesaver if you work online and your internet connection goes out.
Magenta is a postpaid plan meaning you have to sign up with T-Mobile proper with a credit check and a billing address. Still, you get access to T-Mobile stores for technical support as well as phone and accessory sales. You can also pay in cash at a store if you please.
You get international texting and data with 5GB of LTE data in Mexico and Canada before dropping to 2G speeds. If you travel a lot, this is a great benefit, and one hour of in-flight Gogo Wi-Fi will make the trip there nicer.
- Priority data on the T-Mobile network with 5G
- 5GB of high-speed mobile hotspot then unlimited 3G speed
- Netflix included with two or more lines
- Taxes and fees included
- Expensive without multi-line discounts
Best postpaid plan
- $70/mo. at T-Mobile
Postpaid benefits with multi-line savings
Get the full T-Mobile experience with Netflix, hotspot data, and priority 5G while multi-line savings keep your cost low.
Thanks to increased competition and constantly improving cell networks, finding the best cheap phone plan is easier than ever. Especially when paired with a cheap unlocked phone. Whether you need a ton of data or just something basic, an MVNO is available for you. If you want the benefits of a postpaid plan, you can still save a lot with multiple lines, and with multi-line discounts, the price becomes even more reasonable.
When it comes down to it, most people will be able to get by with a few gigs of data on a prepaid MVNO plan. At the end of the day, the most important thing is coverage, and with T-Mobile’s growing network, most people will have no trouble with signal strength. Mint Mobile gets the balance of data and savings pretty close to perfect with solid data packages and savings if you can pay more upfront.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Samuel Contreras When Samuel is not writing about networking and carriers, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It’s the Pentium 3.