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Article updated on March 3, 2024 at 6:00 AM PST

Best Cheap Phone Plans for March 2024

Looking for a reliable phone plan on a budget? Here are our top picks for the best cheap phone plans, not just from the Big Three carriers.

Our Experts

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Written by 
Eli Blumenthal
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
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Eli Blumenthal Senior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
Expertise 5G, mobile networks, wireless carriers, phones, tablets, streaming devices, streaming platforms, mobile and console gaming,
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Our Picks

See at US Mobile
US Mobile logo on a phone
Best for a single line with unlimited data
US Mobile Unlimited Starter for $23 per month (annually)
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See at Visible
Visible logo on a phone
Runner-up: $25 per line
Visible Unlimited
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See at Boost Mobile
boost mobile
Second runner-up for single line: $25 per month, per line
Boost Mobile unlimited for $25 a month
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See at Google
Google Fi logo
Best for a family of four: $80 per month for four lines
Google Fi Wireless Simply Unlimited
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See at US Mobile
US Mobile logo
Runner-up: $100 a month for four lines
US Mobile Unlimited Starter
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See at Cricket Wireless
Cricket Wireless logo
Runner-up: $100 a month for four lines
Cricket Unlimited
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See at TextNow
textnow-free-plan
Cheapest option without data: As low as $0 a month
TextNow
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See at Boost Mobile
boost mobile
Cheapest option with limited data: One year with 1GB per month for $100
Boost 1GB Plan
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No one ever wants to pay more for something than they feel they should. Cutting expensive streaming subscriptions and resisting the temptation to eat out are a couple of ways to lower your regular costs, but there are a few things you can't compromise on, like cellphone plans. Luckily, you don't need to get rid of your service -- you only need to find a cheaper one. 

There are plenty of ways to do just that, from prepaid carriers such as Mint Mobile to cable companies' mobile endeavors, like Comcast's Xfinity Mobile and Charter's Spectrum Mobile. All of them could be more affordable than an unlimited plan from AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile. Cheap phone plans now also have many of the features traditional plans offer, including an unlimited option, and they often run on a larger carrier's network.

There are dozens of phone plan options out there, and after covering the wireless industry for over a decade, I've listed a few for you to consider, as well as some other ways to save on your bill. Since there are so many options, things can quickly get unwieldy, so as with some of CNET's other wireless carrier coverage, I'll focus on options for a single line and for those looking for four lines.

cricket-mint-boost-metro-tracfone-google-fi-wireless-carriers-cnet-2021
Sarah Tew/CNET

Read more: Best Prepaid Phone Plans

Know your area and which carrier runs on which networks

To get the best deal, you need to make sure you have the coverage that you need. Cutting costs won't help if it means the service won't work for you. 

The US' complex geographic variables make it hard for us to give a blanket recommendation of any one carrier. T-Mobile's service in New York may be excellent, but if you're in rural Iowa, Verizon could be more reliable. 

While your mileage may vary, the good news is that these networks are growing and improving all the time, particularly as the three major players continue the race to blanket the US with 5G. It's quite possible that, a decade ago, you left a network complaining about its sparse service, but now it's been beefed up because of that race to acquire customers.

If you know any friends or family in your area that already use the carrier you're considering, ask about their experience. You could also go to a carrier's store and see if they offer any free ways to try out the service before switching over, such as T-Mobile's Network Pass. Verizon now offers a similar 30-day "Test Drive" program, while the Cricket prepaid service has its own trial program that lets you sample parent AT&T's network.

Read more: Best Unlimited Plans

When it comes to prepaid carriers and mobile options from cable companies you should also check to see which network they are using. Mint Mobile, for instance, runs on T-Mobile's service (and will soon be acquired by T-Mobile), while Comcast's Xfinity Mobile and Charter's Spectrum Mobile use Verizon. In these cases, downloading either of the two apps above could be a quick and easy way to try out T-Mobile or Verizon's coverage in your area before you switch.

We have a list of a few of the major alternative providers and which networks they run on broken down here. Now onto the picks. 

Best cheap phone plans of 2024

Single lines with unlimited data

See at US Mobile

Best for a single line with unlimited data

US Mobile Unlimited Starter for $23 per month (annually)

US Mobile, which runs on Verizon's network for its "Warp 5G" service and T-Mobile's for its "GSM" offering, has updated its plans again. Now its cheapest Unlimited Starter option starts at $23 per line, per month when purchased annually. That's slightly cheaper than our previous pick in this spot, Boost Mobile's $25 per month unlimited plan.

Taxes and fees are included in the sticker price, and you will now get 35GB of high-speed data and 10GB of hotspot data. To add more high-speed data, international roaming or streaming perks, you'll need to step up to the carrier's pricier Unlimited Premium plans.

If you don't want to prepay for a year, you can get Unlimited Starter for $29 per month.

See at Visible

Runner-up: $25 per line

Visible Unlimited

Verizon's Visible restructured its unlimited plans last year, dropping the price for its base offering from $40 per month per line to $30. In doing so, it also tweaked some of the features, perhaps most notably removing access to Verizon's fastest Ultra Wideband 5G network (for that you'll need to pay $45 a month for the Visible Plus plan). The carrier also removed its Party Pay family-plan-like option, which allowed for rates as low as $25 a month. 

The company has since brought back the $25 monthly rate for the base Visible plan and the company will no longer be capping speeds for those on its base plan to 200 Mbps (though it still won't take advantage of Verizon's fastest networks).

All that said, if you don't need Verizon's fastest possible speeds but want to be on Verizon's network, it's hard to beat this price. You still get an unlimited hotspot (capped at a maximum of 5Mbps speeds) and unlimited talk, text and data in the US. Taxes and fees are also included in this price.

See at Boost Mobile

Second runner-up for single line: $25 per month, per line

Boost Mobile unlimited for $25 a month

Boost Mobile has added an unlimited plan that offers unlimited talk, text and data to users for $25 a month with taxes and fees included. Unlike Mint Mobile's 12-month plan, our previous pick in this slot, Boost's plan isn't tied to 12-month increments. You do need to be a new Boost customer, or an existing user who brings their own phone or buys one at full price, to get the offer. 

The plan includes 5G access and 30GB per month of high-speed data (if you blow through that, your data will slow until your next billing month starts). Hotspot is included as well, with that data pulling from your high-speed allotment. One thing worth noting: You need to set up automatic payments to get the $25 monthly rate. Without it, it's $35 per month.

Family plans with unlimited data

See at Google

Best for a family of four: $80 per month for four lines

Google Fi Wireless Simply Unlimited

Google's phone service got a pricing revamp that makes it a much more appealing alternative to major providers. For a family of four, you can now get its Simply Unlimited plan for $80 per month ($20 per month, per line), which includes not only unlimited talk, text and 35GB of high-speed data but also 5GB of mobile hotspot use. There also is free roaming in Canada and Mexico, although taxes and fees aren't included in the sticker price. 

Google Fi Wireless runs largely on T-Mobile's network and its service includes 5G access, now including iPhones, which were previously excluded from the fastest data connection.

See at US Mobile

Runner-up: $100 a month for four lines

US Mobile Unlimited Starter

US Mobile, which runs on Verizon's network for its "Warp 5G" service and T-Mobile's for its "GSM" offering, recently changed its plans again. Now its cheapest Unlimited Starter option starts at $25 per line, per month, which is a $5 increase per line compared with its prior Unlimited Basic offering, which for a family of four would run $80 per month (without including taxes or fees). 

Taxes and fees are now included in the sticker price, and (after another recent change) you will now get 30GB of high-speed data (down from 40GB on Basic) and 5GB of hotspot data. To add more high-speed data, international roaming or streaming perks, you'll need to step up to one of the carrier's pricier Unlimited Essentials or Unlimited Premium plans.

See at Cricket Wireless

Runner-up: $100 a month for four lines

Cricket Unlimited

AT&T's prepaid brand has a decent deal if you're looking for four lines: $25 a month for unlimited talk, text and data. A single line is $55 a month, but Cricket gives a solid discount if you're willing to add more lines to the account. 

Unlike Visible, this is a traditional-style family plan, where one person pays for all the lines, so you may want to do this with people you know and can rely on to pay on time. Although it's nearly identical in price, Visible's plan includes unlimited hotspot data, giving it the edge over Cricket. Like Visible, Cricket includes taxes in the price. 

Cricket's T-Mobile rival, Metro, has a similar four lines for $100 a month unlimited deal. At the moment, it's back online as a promotional offer, but if that disappears, you may need to buy the plan in-store and switch providers to get the deal.

Best for no or limited data

See at TextNow

Cheapest option without data: As low as $0 a month

TextNow

If you're looking for service for a backup phone that's rarely used, TextNow has a free plan. Running on T-Mobile's network, the service offers free unlimited talk and unlimited texting, although ads are placed in its app that you use to call and text people. There isn't any data included with this option, and removing the ads without adding data would run you $10 a month. If you want to watch YouTube, FaceTime or surf the web, you'll need to connect to Wi-Fi. 

Text messages are also done through the company's TextNow app, not through iMessage or WhatsApp, which makes sense as those services require data. 

If you need data, things get expensive quickly. An unlimited data hour pass runs $1 per hour, a day pass is $5 and a month is $40. If you need data, you're better off going with a different provider than TextNow.

See at Boost Mobile

Cheapest option with limited data: One year with 1GB per month for $100

Boost 1GB Plan

US Mobile has a good option for 5GB of data for $15 a month, which beats comparably priced offers from Mint ($15 a month for 4GB of data), Boost Mobile ($15 for 2GB of data) and others. 

Boost has a $100 deal for new customers that offers 1GB of data per month for a full year. That breaks down to $8.33 a month if you prepay for a year. Boost offers service on AT&T and T-Mobile's networks today, although parent company Dish is in the process of building out its own wireless network. 

If you don't have Boost, you largely use Wi-Fi (but still want some data), and price is the biggest driver for you, then this is the go-to pick for a new service. To find this plan, choose the 12-month option on Boost's page.

How we test

Picking a wireless plan and carrier is a personal process. What works for you and your family's needs may vastly differ from what suits your friends or neighbors. Even geographically, some areas have better AT&T coverage while others work best on Verizon or T-Mobile (and vice versa). Our picks are based on over a decade of covering and evaluating wireless carriers, their offerings and their performance. 

Since choosing a provider is unique, we focus on larger plans and the value they provide; as well as calling out ways you can test the different networks in your area for yourself so you can make the best pick.

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Cheap phone plans FAQs

Sarah Tew/CNET

What about carrier discounts?

If you want to stick with a major carrier such as AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile, one easy way to save is to take advantage of its discounts. All of the carriers offer additional discounts that you could be eligible for, depending on your employer, military status, student status or age.

First responders, military members, veterans, nurses and teachers can get discounts on every major carrier. Verizon has discounts for students, while T-Mobile's Work perk could knock 15% off Go5G Plus plan. AT&T offers a similar program for its Unlimited Elite and Premium plans that it calls Signature and has rolled out a promotion for teachers that offers 25% off its latest unlimited plans.

If you're 55 or older, you may also be eligible for a discounted plan: T-Mobile offers discounted plans nationwide for as low as $55 a month for two lines, and Verizon and AT&T offer similar options -- but only for Florida residents.

We've also rounded up the best plans at the Big Three.

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