If you're in the market for an inexpensive no-contract GSM carrier, Cricket Wireless has one of the best deals going: $40 per month for unlimited everything and 2.5GB of 4G LTE data. Even better, that rate drops to $35 when you sign up for auto-pay.
Looking for an even cheaper option? If you're open to the idea of prepaying, check out newcomer Mint SIM (an Ultra Mobile spinoff). The company offers some serious discounts when you pay up front.
For example, $250 buys you unlimited everything and 2GB of 4G LTE data for one year -- a rate of $20.88 if you break it down by month.
That's the Small plan. Opt for Medium ($365 per year, equivalent to $30.42 per month -- still below Cricket's best price) and you get 5GB of data. The Large plan comes with 10GB and runs $500, about $42/month.
I like the idea of making a single payment and not seeing another carrier charge for an entire year. Of course, Mint SIM recognizes that some of those sums may seem intimidating, so it also offers plans based around six months, three months and the more traditional month-to-month.
The aforementioned Small plan, for example, would run you $150 for six months, the equivalent of about $25 if paid monthly. The company charges no activation fee and requires no contracts. All you need is an unlocked, GSM-compatible phone; Mint SIM will ship you a SIM card you can pop in to activate your service.
If you need more data for any given month, you can buy a "bolt-on" of either 1GB or 3GB extra -- though the prices for these aren't listed anywhere that I could find.
The bigger issue, at least for me, is that Mint SIM doesn't currently offer any kind of family plan. Perhaps that's understandable, as it would be scary indeed to pay, say, $1,250 all at once if you needed five lines. For the moment, Cricket still has a slight edge, giving me five lines of service for exactly $100 per month.
For an individual, however, it's hard to argue with Mint SIM's value proposition. As long as you can manage the up-front payment, you stand to save a lot over the course of that year. Think that's something you'd consider?