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Best prepaid wireless plans for 2018: US Cellular, Tracfone, FreedomPop and more

When you don't need to call that much, or don't want to pay a lot for wireless service, a prepaid calling plan may be just what you need. We break down the options from a dozen carriers.

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Kent German/CNET

Two weeks ago I showed you the prepaid plans from the "Big Four" US wireless carriers and the largest prepaid-only carriers that have nationwide service. But as some readers on that comparison noted in the comments, I didn't include every provider in the country. That was intentional -- I wanted to keep the chart manageable to peruse -- but those readers had a good point. Carriers like US Cellular, C Spire and Total Wireless have a wide range of prepaid plans, many of which undercut the big kids on the block.

So, to give you even more options in your search for simple and affordable mobile phone service, here are the plans from a dozen more carriers. Most of the bullet points that I listed in my previous post also apply to these providers, but there are a couple of additional things you need to know.

  • Unless otherwise stated, all plans listed below include unlimited calling and texts. 
  • Many of the below plans also include calls and texts to Canada and Mexico. Outside of international service, though, additional features are limited. Check with each carrier for specifics. 
  • Like with postpaid plans, taxes and fees aren't typically included in the monthly plan price.
  • Though I didn't list them here, Net10 also has five plans for talk and text only.
  • Yes, FreedomPop's "Free" plan really is free.

How the carrier plans compare

Plan Monthly price Included 4G data allowance
C Spire Simple Talk & Text $37.50 N/A (you can access data at 2G speeds)
C Spire 6GB $50 6GB
C Spire 12GB $55 12GB
C Spire Unlimited $70 Unlimited
FreedomPop (includes 200 minutes and 500 texts) Free 500MB
FreedomPop 500MB $14 500MB
FreedomPop 1GB $23 1GB
FreedomPop 2GB $25 2GB
FreedomPop 3GB $30 3GB
FreedomPop 4GB $35 4GB
H2O 500MB $20 500MB
H2O 2GB $30 2GB
H2O 3GB $35 3GB
H2O 6GB $40 6GB
H2O 8GB $50 8GB
H2O 10GB $60 10GB
*Lycamobile 500MB International $19 500MB
*Lycamobile 1GB International $23 1GB
*Lycamobile 4GB International $29 4GB
Lycamobile 6GB $35 6GB
*Lycamobile 5GB International $39 5GB
Lycamobile 7GB $45 7GB
Lycamobile Unlimited $50 Unlimited
Net10 2GB $35 2GB
Net10 4GB $40 4GB
Net10 8GB $50 8GB
Net10 10GB $60 10GB
*Net 10 8GB International $65 8GB
Pure Talk 500MB $20 500MB
Pure Talk 1GB $25 1GB
Pure Talk 3GB $30 3GB
Pure Talk 5GB $35 5GB
Pure Talk 10GB $45 10GB
Republic Wireless Talk & Text $15 N/A (4G data costs $5 for each 1GB)
Straight Talk Basic (Includes 1,500 minutes and unlimited texts) $30 100MB
Straight Talk 2GB $35 2GB
Straight Talk 10GB $45 10GB
Straight Talk Unlimited $55 Unlimited
*Straight Talk International $60 10GB
Total Wireless Talk & Text $23.70 N/A
Total Wireless 5GB $33.20 5GB
US Cellular Talk & Text $30 N/A
US Cellular 3GB $40 3GB
US Cellular Unlimited $55 Unlimited

* Includes calling to select countries

Wait, there's more

I listed Mint Mobile and Tracfone separately because they have prepaid plans that last more than just a single month. Also, Tracfone's plans have different allowances for calling minutes and texts.

Dissecting Mint Mobile's plans

Plan length Monthly price Included 4G data allowance
3 months $15 2GB
3 months $20 5GB
3 months $25 10GB
6 months $18 2GB
6 months $24 5GB
6 months $30 10GB
1 year $15 2GB
1 year $20 5GB
1 year $25 10GB
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Dissecting Tracfone's plans

Plan length Monthly price Included calling minutes Included texts Included 4G data allowance
30 days $15 200 500 500MB
30 days $20 300 1,000 1GB
60 days $25 500 1,000 500MB
60 days $35 750 1,000 1GB
90 days $45 750 1,000 1.5GB
90 days $50 750 1,500 2GB
1 year 125 1,500 1,500 1.5GB